r i v e r b o r n e

[ 18:56 sunday 2 august – river stort, roydon, essex ]

sitting in the saloon of volker’s barge as the evening sun filters through the trees and sparkles on the river outside. it’s an old dutch barge to which a superstructure was added in the seventies. there’s lots of light and space. most of the time volker lives on a mooring at springfield marina on the river lea at clapton in east london. when he gets sick of london he just unties and takes the boat somewhere else for a week or two. in the nineteenth century railways were often built close to the routes of canals constucted in the eighteenth century. as a result it’s generally possible for volker to moor close to a station and commute back to london for his work lecturing at university college london. it’s an excellent way to accommodate elements of nomadism within the vicissitudes of urban life.

yesterday afternoon i took a train through the grimy north london suburbs and out to cheshunt in hertfordshire. from there a short bike ride brought me to the river and volker’s boat. we chugged upriver for the next few hours. the leaden sky became progressively heavier and heavier as we went. finally they opened and unleashed a downpour. volker sprang out on the foredeck and scrubbed it down in the rain, getting soaked in the process. i always loved to be by water in the rain.

near hoddesdon we turned onto the river stort which quickly became narrower and wilder. many of britain’s rivers were canalised in the late eighteenth century. in some cases the natural character of the river survives more or less intact. in others the imposition of man was more intense and the river feels like an artificial creation. we went a little way then moored under some trees. then we walked a little way to a secluded lake where we stripped and swam. it was bliss.

this morning we continued up to roydon in essex until a modern railway bridge thwarted us. the coach-house roof was just a couple of centimetres too high to pass beneath. we considered inviting some plump fellows from a pub to clamber aboard or opening the cocks and letting water into the bilge to lower the boat so we could pass beneath. but finally we admitted defeat, moored by the railway station and continued our exploration by bike. by this time the sky had cleared and the sun was shining so it was a pleasure to unhitch our bikes from the taffrail and set off across the fields.

we just returned to the boat and opened a couple of peronis. later this evening i’ll get the train back to london.

this trip marks my first outing with a new solid state video camera i had shipped from tokyo. it’s been interesting to use it in parallel with my stills camera. it will take a while for me to develop habits and style with it but already i find myself starting to parse subjects for still or moving capture. it will be interesting to see the results back in london.

: c :

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