It's Mersea Cadet Week this week - with a programme of sailing events for youngsters aged between 8 and 18. None of my tribe is involved, but some of their friends are, and all the little dinghies make a very pretty spectacle as they gather each morning, ready for off.
The Mersea Session on Thursday nights is always entertaining - one never knows who is going to turn up. The Thursday before last, it was my great misfortune to be chained to my desk by The Book From Hell (or one of them - they crop up from time to time in my line of business), and thus unable to nip down to the Coast Inn for even half an hour. Just my luck, because who should turn up and join in, in my absence, but Billly Bragg.
I was contacted by text with the exciting news, but in my jaundiced mindset at the time, I simply thought it was a ploy to soften my resolve and get me down there for half an hour and half a pint, so I ignored the summons and consequently missed possibly the most memorable Thursday since the sessions began last October. Arggh! But I have nobody by my own doubting-Thomas self to blame. Pictures of the evening's music-making can be found here.
Anyway, The Book From Hell was duly finished a day or so afterwards, and my in-tray is filled with mostly rather enjoyable-looking jobs for the next few weeks. Which means that I was able to go along last Thursday, accompanied by IM, freshly released from school for the summer. I'm sure that some would not necessarily approve of my taking my 8-year-old daughter to the pub of an evening, still less that I publicly broadcast this lapse in Responsible Parenting on the internet. But she loves the music, and taking photographs and drinking CocaCola with ice in it, and is now busy polishing up her own little party pieces on the piano, so that she can join in next time.
With the Muddy Island's week-long sailing festival - Mersea Week - coming up next month, we thought it would be fun to hold a special nautically themed musical evening on 12 August. We're calling it Shanty Night and one of my tasks for the week ahead is to pin posters advertising it to every lamp-post on the island and inveigle it into shop windows by one means or another. It's certainly not going to be restricted to traditional sea shanties - 'La Mer' and 'I Am Sailing' will undoubtedly feature, amongst others. IM wonders whether 'Row Your Boat' qualifies, since it involves a stream, rather than yer actual sea. If it does (and who's going to quibble, with all that merrily merrilying and life being but a dream, after all?) she's up for playing it on the night.
Great excitement last weekend, as Stella number 62, Toucan, made the long journey to Mersea from Dundee.
Stellas were originally designed and built on the Essex coast, 50-odd years ago, but as their popularity increased, some were built further afield. Toucan herself was built in Scotland, so while this isn't exactly a 'homecoming' for her, she will surely enjoy the company of so many other Stellas in her new location.
Toucan is shortly to be the star of her very own blog, which will recount her history, her 13-hour road-trip south and, with any luck, her slow - but steady and loving - restoration and eventual (fingers crossed) re-launch.
Meanwhile, here are some pics of her journey and the condition she's in. Quite a project. Probably a mad one, but . . . . well, we'll see what happens.
And the Toucan/Guinness connection is certainly going to be a source of entertainment on various levels. Incidentally, on a literary note, it's a little-known fact (and one I had forgotten until recently researching toucanalia on the internet) that the original advertising slogan for Guinness which employed the toucan was none other than Dorothy L Sayers:
“If he can say as you can
Guinness is good for you
How grand to be a Toucan
Just think what Toucan do”
To find out more about Stella Class yachts, click here.
Lots of interest already from local venues and bands and it's rapidly filling up with news of forthcoming events. The more it's visited, the easier it will be for people to find it via the usual search engines.
If you live on or around Mersea and know of anything which should be listed but isn't, do please get in touch.
Well, a whole week has gone by (as they frequently do) when I haven't set foot off the island. Not since returning from the most delicious fish and chip supper on the Quay at Maldon last Saturday night. And this is a huge part of the charm of island living for me - the wonderful self-contained, self-sufficiency of it all. (OK, admittedly, I sailed across the Blackwater to Bradwell and back yesterday evening, but I don't think that counts. It wasn't by car and I didn't land anywhere!)
I used to refer to my children here as Small Doyles (SDs) 1, 2 and 3. But since numbers 1 and 2 are now no longer smaller than me (in height, if not girth!), I'm going to have to change the terminology. They'll doubtless object to any clever acronyms I might devise, so for now they can simply be O, elder daughter, freshly emerged from the rigours of GCSEs, looking forward to a summer of music festivals, unrestrained Facebook interaction and never having to do another physics or German exam again in her life; H, pining slightly for rugby but rejoicing in his new-found prowess in javelin and triple-jump, living a Swallows and Amazons existence whenever he can, rowing 'Sea Pig' (of which more soon) with his mates around the creeks and tiny islands off Mersea; and IM, uber girly girl, owner and wearer, by default, of my entire collection of high-heeled party shoes (not items of attire I need much, if ever, these days), obsessive hair-stylist and The One With The Performing Gene.
Much of the weekend was taken up by IM's appearance in Mersea Island Youth Player's' ambitious summer production, The Junction, with performances on Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday, O and H accompanied me to the island's theatre at the MICA centre, seated cabaret-style, for an interesting, if sometimes unsettling experience. The gritty urban storyline, devised by some of the older members of the ensemble - and all credit to them for their imagination - was hardly bedtime story fodder for the 8-year-olds (IM, for example) in the cast, in my view, but maybe that's because I'm an Older Mother and not a hip, cool, whereitsat one. But the dancing, costumes, lighting and general spectacle were superb, and the months of rigorous rehearsal were well rewarded. Directed, produced and musically devised by a dedicated team of islanders, all regular performers at The Mersea Session, The Junction was a splendid showcase of young Mersea talent.
What weather we are having! Today was another cloudless scorcher - but here we have the sea breezes to mitigate the otherwise oppressive heat. I had stacks of work to do, but luckily it was of the scribbling-with-red-pen-on-piles-of-paper kind, so I was able to sit in the garden (paperweights to the fore) for five hours and got through another few chapters before the insistent siren wail of the ironing mound could be borne no longer, and in I came to wrestle with sheets, shirts and skirts, and got a bit steamy.
After hearing IM read another chapter of Matilda aloud, do her guitar practice and finally, after a good deal of prevarication, get into bed, I zipped out for a quick circuit of West Mersea on my lovely 1964 green Triumph Ladies' Bicycle (with basket, naturally) to take the night air and stretch the creaking legs before night fell (the bike being unilluminated, since H 'borrowed' and subsequently broke my last set of lights - and not for the first time, either). Here are the resulting TBTE pics, the first two featuring the historic Oyster Sheds, soon to be demolished, despite vociferous local oposition, to make way for a 'fine dining' restaurant (all highly controversial - more soon) the latter two taken from the Best Office On The Island.