The Kingfisher: 2016


It is New Years Eve 2016; this is my last Tea Towel Blog of the year.  I wanted to make this a special Blog, one that reflects some of the really great times I’ve had in 2016, because, let’s face it, 2016 hasn’t been the best of years for me.  Two of my closest, and fondest, work colleagues have died, Liz broke her arm very badly, hospital visiting has been a regular occurrence, theatre dates and holidays have been cancelled and Leonard Cohen died (besides a lot of other great artists).  But out of all this, there have been some memorable moments.

In June this year, we went with Gwyn and Pete on the Nene Valley Railway; not the biggest, nor longest, steam railway line, not even the most well known (although known to @MrTimDunn, I am absolutely positive) but certainly one of the cutest.  It was also one of the last lines to be closed during the Beeching closures. We started at Wainsford, travelled the whole line (7.5 miles long), both ways; there is a choice of five stations so we got off at Ferry Meadows station.  Ferry Meadows station was originally the Goods Office for the line.  Ferry Meadows, itself, (or Nene Park)  was not something any of us had heard about but it looked interesting; opened in 1978, the River Nene runs through it, there are 3 lakes, a miniature railway (also must be known to @MrTimDunn), two cafes, loads of well-signposted walks and a boat ride.  Having had a cup of tea in the cafe, we saw the boat ride advertised and thought we’d give it a go, probably naff but something different.  Well, naff it wasn’t.  There is a small twelve-seater boat, navigated by someone who is so familiar with the bird life that he was a joy to listen to; there were just 6 of us on this trip.  The boatman knew where to see the herons in profusion, the moorhens with their young, swans a-plenty and much more.  The trip lasted 45 minutes and was a ridiculously low price.  We wandered back to Ferry Meadows station, took tea sitting on a patio set on the station platform, watching the world go by.  Needless to say, there was not a tea towel in sight but I bought a key ring, with a picture of a train, to remember the day by.  We finished the day by going to the Loch Fyne Restaurant nearby.  The Jambalaya was exceptional.  We all agreed that this was a truly memorable day.

On the way back to Ferry Meadows station we passed a Caravan Club site.  We all thought that it might be good to go back to Ferry Meadows for a bit longer.  We discovered that you can book a longer, private boat trip.  In July, we stayed on the Caravan Site for three nights, one of the best sites we have stayed on; Gwyn and Pete stayed in a local hotel.  We booked a two hour boat trip starting at 4pm.  It was beautiful; we travelled around the lake and up the River Nene.  We saw so much bird life.  We were told that there were kingfishers around but warned that they are difficult to spot because they are so quick and almost impossible to photograph.  The latter was true but we saw four kingfishers, sitting in the trees, diving for fish, just darting about.  It was so amazing.  I am not a bird-watcher, as such, but the sight of the birds was mesmerising. The boatman had stopped the boat so we could watch for about 15 minutes.  I will never forget that boat ride, the peace and tranquillity, the sound of the birds, watching just in case there was a glimpse of an otter.  This was followed by another meal at Loch Fyne, Jambalaya again.

The third trip to Ferry Meadows was with Liz’s grandchildren at the end of July; we just went for a day. This time we didn’t go on the steam railway or the boat trip but on the miniature railway and made use of the picnic facilities and the sand children’s play area.  How I wished we had known about the sand area in advance and thus avoided the devastation, inside the car, of water and sand but it was a fantastic day out.

We made all sorts of plans about going back to the steam railway, the boat trip, the miniature railway, the walks, later in the year but of course that didn’t happen because of the events of the rest of the year, but we have plans for 2017.

So where does this tea towel fit in to this story?  This tea towel was a Christmas present from Gwyn and Pete and really captures the essence of summer 2016, a highlight of my year.  The fact is that Nene Valley Railway, Ferry Meadows or anything nearby does not have a tea towel; while that may have been a disappointment at the time, this tea towel makes up for that, big time.  The artist is Paul Dyson, a water-colour artist who does a lot of work for the RSPB.  This tea towel is very unusual, because it is based on a watercolour painting, and thus has such fine detailing, of the feathering, of the colours.  I like the way that it is ‘framed’ by the white border.  As I use it, it will certainly bring back good memories of 2016, which I need, so I don’t focus on the negatives.

Do you want a few facts about Kingfishers? No? Tough! There are 90 different species of Kingfisher but the common ingredient is that they all have large heads, long sharp pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails; a Kingfisher has a dumpy body.  Kingfisher legs and feet are bright red.  Kingfishers have a short lifespan; few live longer than one breeding season, less than a quarter survive from one breeding season to the next.  The mating ritual is interesting: the male will catch a fish and approach a female with the fish in its beak; the head of the fish is facing outwards and he attempts to feed it to the female.  If he is unsuccessful, he just eats it himself. Typical!

But actually one other highlight of 2016 has been my new interest in Venery Nouns, started by that great tea towel Fee gave me for my birthday (Blog dated 3/9/16); this year ended with me winning a Perkins and Morley Collective Noun Calendar for 2017.  What a great end to the year.  February is about Kingfishers: the collective (or Venery) noun for Kingfishers is ‘clique’, ‘concentration’, ‘crown’, ‘rattle’  or ‘realm’. What a way to end 2016.  Thank you.

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