Along the Riverbank
Mid-Wales, early June. The riverbank. A warm gently undulating breeze. In never-tended undergrowth the low hum of jazz band bees, paid in pollen, jamming unceasingly, have taken up their lucrative late morning residencies. An elderly ex colonel walking stiffly past me in the opposite direction takes the time to come carefully to a halt and explain to me how hundreds of years ago the villagers here destroyed the fish trap a landowner had built upriver to stop their supply of free fish. In the grounds of the long-abandoned now derelict chapel three rows of gravestones, mottled inches deep in lichen, correspond to exactly that time. I pointed out to him the wild Spring garlic all along the riverside. “Yes! My goodness!” he said, “Freshwater trout and salmon with wild garlic. All free! What a healthy diet that must have been. Marvellous!” His two spaniels trotted up at speed covered in riverbank mud and he was compelled to walk on with them. “Cheerio!” he said, beaming. We continued along in our opposite directions, the old colonel chatting away to his spaniels; and me populating my imagination with that riverside community of yesteryear: an entire village living exclusively on trout, salmon, and wild garlic. I was wondering if the colonel was doing the same, when from a distance, he bellowed back, “And the odd duck as well I shouldn’t wonder! Marvellous! Well done them!” I laughed out loud, and hoped he’d heard me. I still do. Years later I discovered he’d arranged to have himself buried, illegally it turned out, at the abandoned chapel, on the end of the third row of lichened gravestones.
I adore luxuriating for hours in a nice hot bath. We have only showers at the exclusive and ruinously expensive private boys’ boarding school perched on the cliffs of the south coast of England, surrounded by pine trees and squirrels and where the all-pervasive ethos of muscular christianity has no effect at all upon my highly personalized, and quite frankly elaborately pimped, moral compass. Here are communal showers where the hot water turns itself off after exactly two minutes. And you see, as I’ve explained, I need to lie down, immersed, to perform my ritualistic ablutions: dreamily pampering and preening myself from head to toe, with a batch of specially imported multiple-scented candles, a cup of exotic herbal tea, reading aloud from the Obscene Publications Act of 1857, the smoke from oriental incense drifting mysteriously through the steam, stretching my hands high above my head, then playing luxuriously with my hair, classical music on my own portable radio, before oiling myself all over and sliding up and down on my bottom in what I fondly imagine to be the style of a berserk Roman emperor, while simultaneously playing an imaginary fiddle with manically deranged intensity. And you can’t do those things in a communal school shower. Well you can, but people didn’t like it, and now I am here, waiting.
TIM GOLDSTONE has roamed widely and currently lives in Wales. Published in numerous print and online journals and anthologies, including 11 Mag Berlin, The Offing, The California Poppy Times, Cafe Irreal, Anti-Heroin Chic, For Page and Screen, Riverbed Review. His prose sequence was read on stage at The Hay Festival, and his poetry presented on Digging for Wales. Scriptwriting credits for TV, radio, theatre. His writing has also appeared on Waterstones, The Royal Court Theatre, and BBC websites.