It’s funny how I’ve lived in London for 20 years, my first mudlark jaunt was ten years ago, yet I’ve not returned to do it again between now and then.
Funny, because mudlarking is my most favourite thing in the world to do, couldn’t be more of a ‘me’ pastime, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about it if I tried. What the fuck was I thinking? Where have I been all this time? Perhaps there is a more supernatural reason, the planets aligning to show me there’s much more of the smoke I’m yet to experience.
We’ve been talking about getting out of London for a while now. The usual ‘let’s get out to the country’ stuff. But, just as I was beginning to think Dr. Johnson might be right, I took myself to the foreshore of the tidal Thames and London opened up to me once more. Now I spend most of my time by the river.
Back to that first river trip, ten years ago. The first thing I picked up was a worn nub of brick, the lettering in its frog reminding me of an old tapestry sampler. I wanted it, needed it, had to have it immediately. I still have it today. I don’t suppose when I was a little girl my elderly relatives hoped for me to grow up to be a young woman excited to marvel over mounds of bricks. My father, I suspect, is quite glad.
The intention with this Diary of a London Mudlark is to record as many of my visits to the Thames as possible. My initial idea was to write up each trip in a physical notebook. I even bought one, lovely black leather, but after a few pages of notes and ideas, the reality of my romantic notion – sitting on a rock post-mud trawling, fancying myself as a Lady Pepys – is that it’s just not practical.
When I mudlark, I get clarted. That is to say, covered in mud. One way or another, as prepared as I’ll ever be, the mud and silt gets all over. And I like it that way.
Looking out from London Bridge to Southwark Bridge, City of London.