Thursday, 9 January 2014

Twigging, Gigging and Tug O’ War

The festive season has been and gone and looking back now in the second week of the new year it seems a long time ago.
Not that we had a wild, reckless Christmas and New Year. In fact it was anything but, and very different to Christmases of late – just Pat and me – a large turkey and a boatful of booze, accompanied by the rocking of the boat as we endured the stormy conditions shared by most of the population.

Turkey time on The Cat's Whiskers
 I must say that considering how isolated and open we are here at Mercia, the recent spell of storms and windy weather has hardly troubled us at all. The only issue we have had has been that our TV aerial keeps getting blown off course and we lose the signal. I must invest in a digital magnetic option.
The water is up a bit, about an inch “in old money”, and the Trent down the road has flooded into the water meadows on each side, but no homes have been flooded around here, as far as we know.
I try to keep abreast of local news, and we are bombarded with the successes of Leicester FC and the fortunes of Derby and the Nottingham teams on the regional news. Last night we watched the BBC six-o-clock news and one of the features on “East Midlands Today” was.... Mercia Marina; its success and the investment it is making, which I have written about in previous blogs. Lots of shots of Robert, the Marina Manager, being interviewed floating around the marina on a hire boat, and I am hopeful of downloading it from i player, if the broadband signal stands up to the task.

The marina features on the BBC news programme "East Midlands Today"
All this rain, though, has really affected the towpaths, and they are very, very muddy. The marina about 100 yards from the canal, so we don’t have to use it to get anywhere, but on the 27th December we ventured down into the village via the towpath, to watch the annual Christmas tug o’ war, between two of the village pubs over the canal – the feature being, that somebody always gets a ducking. Amazingly, those who did go in did not seem to mind too much. It drew a big crowd and seems to be a bit of feature of village life over Christmas in these parts.
The teams get set to see why gets wet
Looks like an early bath
Last night we had our first “Mercia” acoustic evening in the Green Man, in the village. My uke was joined by Northumbrian pipes, banjo and guitar, for a bit of a get-together to see if this loose association of instruments would work. I have been really keen to get this going since we arrived, and now it looks like it has some legs, we are off to New Zealand in a couple of weeks.
The inaugural meeting of the Mercia Minstrels
The same is for the regular quiz nights they have each month. I have been asked to organise the next one at the end of the month, but we will be in the other side of the world by then.
Despite all the stormy conditions of late, we have kept nice and cosy. Our cratch cover, usually an area of rest and contemplation, in summer months, is now our fuel storage area and we are burning both logs and coal. It also houses the bird food. We have our own robin on this pontoon, various tits and finches, and the marina also has its own kingfisher, which we have seen flashing past us on a couple of occasions. Pat fills up all the feeders at the top of the pontoon, and she is kept busy.  There is no shortage of customers. In addition she also goes out “twigging” every 10 days or so, and brings back a bag of dead wood, that we dry out on the top of the stove and then use as kindling. The last two or three days have been quite mild though, so we are not igniting until mid-afternoon.
Our storage area for wood, coal, bird food (and my boots)
And I have finally got a brewery visit around Marstons. They have suggested that any imbiber worth his or her salt, should visit the place on a Wednesday when they brew their flagship beer “Pedigree”, so I have a tour booked for next Wednesday. I’m not their biggest fan, but they do have a unique way of brewing so it should be an interesting tour.

So that’s about it. We have really enjoyed our time here and grown fond of the area. I think we are agreed that Mercia will be our base again next winter – if they’ll have us.
Toodaloo folks

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