Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Vikings have arrived - and I have to eat my words

Retrospective post for Sat 14th and Sun 15th June
(Boat Sickle - posted by Cath, some photos added by Alan, but still "work in progress")

Polishing brasses - Photo: Rob Boler
A month or two before the Stoke Bruerne Festival we were approached by someone on behalf of the museum and festival. Apparently, the usual boat that is used in the 'waterside spectacular' was unavailable, it had been proposed that Sickle would make a good replacement, having a flat front deck, would we be prepared to be part of the 'waterside spectacular'?

"Vikings" - Photo: Diane Whitby
Well, a long time ago I wrote a rather grumpy blog post about Pirates and Morris dancers at the Stoke Bruerne Festival. My main problem had been that the dog had been distressed by the noise, but I got told off by the 'Pirate Captain' in the comments. To be honest, I still do not understand the obsession with pirates on the canal, but obviously, the whole point of this sort of thing is to raise money for the museum. I do however, now understand somewhat better the relationship between the canals and Morris dancers - there isn't one.  I have researched this a bit.... But, before I get a comment from the 'Morris Captain' ("evenin' Squire"), I would say that, while there is no historical link, it is yet another chance to get your bells out in the sun (or rain) and have fun. I know this because I am now a member of a Morris side and go out every Tuesday evening to hop and skip and have huge amounts of fun.

Less well armed "Vikings" - and Odin, God of War
So, before I get accused of hypocrisy, I was mistaken, and I have learned a lot over the last four years.

However, Odin was still very ill when we were approached, and we didn't know whether we would be able to go to the Festival, so we sent a holding e-mail, and waited to see how he was doing.

We set off.
Well, Odin got a lot better, and our vet agreed that he could go away boating at the end of May on Chalice, so before we went we had Liam, from the 'waterside spectacular' team and his brother and mother, come and look at Sickle, which was at Cheddington at the time.  They measured her up, and asked that we got her to Stoke Bruerne a week or so before the festival to allow them to add the necessary structures for the 'spectacular'.  After the BCNS challenge we took Sickle and Chalice up to Stoke Bruerne, then went home for a week. The advantage of having Chalice there was that Odin could be kept quietly on board with David if necessary, and we wouldn't have to try to get him to sleep in Sickle's tiny cabin. The reality was that he was out on the towpath with David while we were doing the 'spectacular', and wasn't in the least concerned by any of it.

The smoke and the high "prow" made steering "interesting".
Early in the week we realised that we would look a bit out of place in jeans and tee-shirts if everyone else on board was in costume, so we went out on Tuesday to raid the charity shops, and I spent two days making viking costumes for us. On Friday evening we went back to Stoke Bruerne.

Saturday 14th June

About to land outside the Museum.
We were sworn to secrecy about the theme for the 'spectacular', and the structures were hidden under tarpaulins on Sickle's deck, but a lot of people asked about them.I spent the morning in the craft tent, demonstrating Tunisian crochet and French knitting. Alan polished brass.

A quieter moment - Photo Diane Whitby
We didn't really know what to expect, but were asked to go up to the tunnel mouth at about 3 pm, which we did. Then, just as we were putting our costumes on, we turned to see a horde of viking warriors walking out of the woodland.  They rigged up the dragon prow, and a sound system to play loud viking music. Then we set off towards the museum with smoke billowing from the dragon's head.

It was huge fun. The vikings were very impressive - yelling 'Give us your gold, all your gold' and 'Odin' (of course!) The people on the towpath followed us along, taking photos, and as we got to the museum there was a big crowd attracted by the noise and smoke.

I was on the front deck, with four warriors, signalling to Alan who was steering because with the prow and smoke he couldn't actually see where we were going very well.

Canal and River Trust CEO Richard Parry chats to Cath
At the museum we pulled in to the side, the vikings jumped off and said that they were raising money for the museum, and went off into the crowd with buckets to collect money.

Sunday 15th June
(Pictures to follow, hopefully!)

Well, we did the same thing on the Sunday, but this time it was even more fun. All the boaters on the historic boats had seen the performance the previous day, and had time to think about what they were going to do as we came past.

We were yelled at, had many boat 'short shafts' shaken at us - one from the passing trip boat, klaxons and horns were sounded, and we were soundly repelled through a megaphone. The owners of Purton threw buckets of water over us, and threatened us with a very large mooring hammer.

I really hope that it helped to raise money for the museum. I had a great time, and would happily do something similar again, given the opportunity.

More Pictures

There is also an excellent Flickr album of the festivities taken by Lynda Payton here.

The "Friends of the Canal Museum's own page for the event is here, and contains links to further photos and videos. 

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