Saturday, 24 May 2014

Rich mud


I've just bought this Peter Ackroyd book on the Thames, and - like Sol - I am looking forward to cosying up and reading it.

I am very bad at reading books these days (I have yet to finish yours, Sarah, which is why I have not said anything about it recently) because there is always something else to do, and I immediately fall asleep if I read in bed. I need to take books on a boring holiday, but H.I. and me have all but given up on those now, ever since we stopped sun-bathing.

The good thing about Ackroyd's books though, is how you don't need to start at the beginning and keep going until you reach the end. His 'biography' on London is like that - you can dip in and out, which is probably what I will do in the Thames.

What I love about Ackroyd is the way he utilises his vast personal experience and research without ending up with a dry product. You would think it impossible to make a book about a river 'dry', but some people manage to. P.A. has read all these books - you can tell from the bibliographies - and just uses the knowledge to supplement his own personal feelings about the subject, so the places and things he writes about are alive with history.

I have always been attracted to anything in book form about old London - maybe because I am the only member of my immediate family not to have been born there. The Thames has always run through my life as well, and still does.

Think of the Thames and you think of London, but it seems to spring from nearby Cirencester before it passes through old haunts of mine, then on to Henley and through the city before widening out into the sea at the East.

Also, in the period of time I would have most like to have been born - the mid 17th century - it was the prime way of getting from place to place in the capital - there were probably almost as many Watermen plying the river as there are cab-drivers today.

Consequently, late-night revellers would drop things overboard as they stepped into their taxis after a heavily refreshing night out, and these objects drifted down and settled into the tidal mud.

No young man in Shakespeare's day would go out on a night on the town without carrying a sword or long dagger loosely attached to his waist - like a fashion accessory - and 15-inch daggers have been pulled out of Thames mud for centuries. They are still being found.

I want one, and I still regret not buying one I saw in a shop some years ago, for a very reasonable price.

You have to forgive my escapist romanticism - it comes in many forms, and the forms come in many prices, from free to a year's income. This book originally cost £25.

Today, I intend to get one of those LED lights that you can attach to the top of a book to read it in bed.

I think I know what is going to happen though. I will get about three paragraphs in, then wake up with the cover of it imprinted on my face, wondering what that eery pool of light is at the top of the pillow.

29 comments:

  1. A few years ago I saw a wonderful exhibit at the Tate Modern of debris found when dredging the Thames. Not sure if it is still there, but I found it fascinating.

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    1. Next time I go, I'll look out for it, but I think they've had a huge re-furb recently.

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  2. I LOVE The Thames Tom …. whenever we go to London, which is a lot as it's only 20 minutes away, we always take the boat whenever possible. If we go to see something at the O2 , we go by boat …. a visit to Kew, we go by boat …. anytime it's possible, we take the boat. It's so much nicer than the tube !! I think that you've got the picture now that we use The Thames whenever possible.
    You need to get a metal detector and permission to use it along The Thames ….. you will probably find a nice 17th century dagger or sword !! There is always lots of booty to be found around The Tower of London and Traitors Gate too. XXXX

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    1. Some East City office workers go to a little beach and sunbathe on it at lunchtime - I think you have to know how to get to it. The further East you go, the richer the mud and the older the finds.

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    2. Visiting football supporters at Craven Cottage have been known to fall in off the south stand when their team scores.

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    3. Some more fortunate generation will be picking up their knives in years to come, then.

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    4. .. and large puzzling knife heaps will indicate visits from neighbouring Millwall fans and will only be solved after a further century of research...

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    5. Do you count Stanley Knives as ordinary knives?

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  3. Oh this book seems super interesting. I am also reading a Clarissa Dickson wright book about cooking through the centuries. Love it. I can only read a few chapters and then give up. If we ever get an intruder in the night I will hit him with this book it is massive.

    Read Willa Carther, My Antonia last night and on to Jane Austen's Emma now.

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    1. Living in Bath as I do, I say fuck Jane Austen, but I did once meet Clarissa (yeah, Wright) Dickson. I told her to tuck her shirt-tails in. I have '600 Years of British Cooking', but it is not as bad as I had hoped.

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    2. Sol must be one fucking fast reader is all I can say.

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  4. Hi Rachael, My Antonia is only about 200 pages. If I couldn't read that in one night I would be very worried. Its a good book, I will read it again.

    Most books take about 4-5 hours of constant reading.

    My kindle tells me how long a book will take to read in the bottom left corner. nifty

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    1. I read a lot too but it is only a few paragraphs a night if I am pissed and tired like tonight is looking like... ...................................

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    2. Your comments will be visible after approval.

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    3. Well I tried that, and it didn't work. They're still there.

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    4. I don't do that approval stuff.

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    5. You can't afford to. I am one of about two people who comment on your blog, and we have both considered blocking you in the recent past. The rest have left voluntarily.

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    6. As if that would worry me.

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    7. It worries you, I know it does. You are not as hard as you sometimes portray yourself to be. People like you for some reason. That's why you are never ignored.

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    8. Oh, and I think that people like me too, for some reason.

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    9. You seem to be the one to know. You tell me why.

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  5. Not sure what the book is about, exactly, but when once in London we noticed people down by the Thames at the bottom of the Millennium bridge. They seemed to collect things. We scampered down to the waters edge and found a couple of bits of broken porcelain and something that looks like fossilized goat poop. I don't know what it is, but it is still in my collection of London souvenirs.

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    1. You have a collection of London souvenirs which look like goat-poop, and you don't know what they are? Why did you keep them?

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    2. It's just the kind of girl I am.

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  6. I trust that 'Billie and Charlie' feature strongly.

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  7. You don't need to tell me that you are an escapist romanticist Tom - I would have had you under that heading.
    I have a friend who, in her days living in London, found some really interesting things in tje Thames mud.
    Do you blog with Art Propelled? Robyn is on my side bar and she did an interesting post recently on findings. I am sure you would be interested in her wonderful work - she is a South African artist. Go over and have a look (on her blog I mean, not to S A!)

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  8. Art Propelled? Eh? 'Tje' Thames mud sounds Dutch to me - dodgy!

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