This summer seemed to go on forever, with a record number of February days over 30 in Melbourne. Luckily, I was cooled at times by this year’s beach reading of choice, Caught by the River, a collection of memories and recollections of the place of the river in the English rites of passage.
At times it felt like I was reading the same story fifty times over. The pieces are short, recollective in nature and again and again talk about the river and secret places in the adolescent imagination. But, rather than being simply repetitive, it brought home for me again and again just how important these secret places on the edge of town and the edge of the imagination, are for people everywhere.
The blurb on GoodReads describes it this way, more in terms of fishing, than in the places that fishing happens to take place in.
From Gavin Pretor-Pinney retracing a canoe trip his grandfather made 60 years ago to Jon Savage describing a trip down the Thames with the Sex Pistols, Roger Deakin on the history of ice skating in the fens to Chris Yates on a life spent on the river bank, this is a truly unique collection of nature writing – the perfect companion to a lazy afternoon. With Edwyn Collins hilarious descriptions of being taken fishing by his grandfather, this is an extrordinary collection about the way rivers have shaped our nation, its pysche and leisure time. In an age of blackberrys, mobiles, and time is money, fishing is an increasingly eccentric sport. We often sit for hours and nothing happens. There really is no point to it. Coarse fisherman don’t even ever eat their catch. However, if you fish, you have the time to think again, to appreciate and savour the moment. Fishing enables you to take stock, gain perspective, remember great books, hum a tune you haven’t thought of in years. It makes you human again. Sitting with your own thoughts is good for the soul, and you never know, a float might go under, an alarm sound and there’ll be a flurry of activity. Then again, maybe not. It doesn’t matter, you’ve taken time out of the rat race. That’s the key.