Of course by the time I was a child the river hadn't been used as a toilet for at least fifty years and the polluted water course had recovered somewhat. In days before there were outdoor dunnies at the bottom of the gardens along the river bank emptying straight out into the water. The ruins of one of these facilities was still in the corner of our garden when we moved in in 1957. The stench must have been awful, no wonder the houses faced the street. Our house has high walls around the garden and a wall at the end to shut out the river and the smell of whatever happened to have been tipped into it.
As the water wasn't fit to drink everyone drank beer, there were three breweries in the town to supply the numerous pubs, coaching inns and thirsty population with liquid that wouldn't make them ill, I suppose that from childhood on everyone just got used to being a bit drunk all the time.
The old, windowless stable over the river with it's two stalls for coach horses and dark upstairs hay loft was damp and full spiders, three hundred years of generations of spiders, they still think it's theirs and I just happen to be a large being amongst them, they live in more comfort these days. My studio above the river is heated and clean these days, but still home to wildlife, bees come and go, on hot days frogs hop in and on autumn nights Glisglis try to eat their way through the facia board to find a winter hideout.
I sleep in great comfort facing downstream, going with the flow and dreaming strange dreams, I used to sleep across the flow of the river, like a bridge but this never felt right.
I went away when I was eighteen and saw many fine and pleasant rivers but the clear chalk streams of the Chilterns are unique, I've never trusted water that I can't see to the bottom of. In the 11th Century church a few miles upriver amongst the old murals is a picture of a salmon. So before the river was tamed with walls and buildings the fish swam up to spawn. It's a long, long way up the Thames Estuary and small tributaries to reach the Chilterns.