Monday, 13 October 2014

Black Shuck at The Waiting Room, St Botolphs.

East Anglia has its very own ghostly malevolent beast, a giant black hell hound, as big as a horse with fiery saucer like eyes. It is often referred to as 'Black Shuck', shuck deriving from an old English word for 'Demon'. He has been prowling the countryside of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex for at least 500 years, striking terror into the hearts of the local people. It is said he floats on a blanket of mist and his howls will curdle your blood. If you catch sight of him you will be dead within the year. However, we met him on Saturday afternoon with The Colchester Morris Men and he seemed most amenable, even stopping to have several pictures taken with my son. The reason for his outing was because he is a new addition to the Colchester Morris Men, having replaced Wilfred, the Dancers' previous dog, and he was being introduced into society. A bit like a Debutantes coming out party really, at the 'Waiting Room', St Botolphs .

There is a great place, I think it would be called a Community Space, in Colchester called the 'Waiting Room'. Basically the old Bus Station Waiting Room, and a group of very pro-active locals have taken it over for as long as the Council will let them. They have managed to get it up and running with minimal financing and most of the renovations that have taken place have all been achieved by volunteers. They host really interesting talks every Wednesday (topics have included Pinhole Camera workshops, Cookery classes, Gin Distillery, Brewing, Letterpress, various craft workshops) and there is also a tool lending library and a wonderful letterpress which can be used by anyone that wants to use it. Unfortunately due to childcare issues I have never been able to make one of the 'Maker Wednesday' nights but I think they would have been a great way for us to meet like locals when we moved here. It reminds me a lot of The Russet in Hackney Downs but with more varied and regular events.

We go to there quite regularly as despite the fact they don't have high chairs (a minor thing), its an easy place for us to take our toddler, lots of space, the food is usually great (and the local liquor is delicious too). For example, on the first Friday of every month it's local Mersea Island fish and chips, other Fridays the kitchen is run by a Chef serving World Food, 'The Gamekeepers Daughter' uses the Kitchen on the weekends and they have lots of other interesting people using the place like a pop up restaurant. We have taken our neighbours there, our friends have come with us when they have stayed at ours and we have always had excellent food. On Thursday mornings they now have a Children's story time session which my son loved. £5 for 90 minutes of entertainment for the kiddiewinkles (toys, puppets, singing, snacks etc etc) and a coffee for the grown ups. Again, a really useful place to go if you wanted to meet people. My only criticism (apart from the highchair thing) is that they don't appear to market themselves enough. I know about what goes on each week as I signed up to their email newsletter when we moved here but I wonder how they tell other possible customers about how where they are and what events they have. It deserves to be packed every weekend as all the people involved must have worked so hard to get it going.

This weekend was a good example of this, and it may have been the bad weather keeping people from venturing out, but the Colchester Morris Men were at the 'Waiting Room' and it was such a great afternoon that it seemed terrible for there not to have been more people checking it out. 'The Gamekeepers Daughter' was serving up Pigeon + Pistachio Pate, Shin of Beef and a Pear and Gorgonzola Tart, there were puppet kits for the kids along with the history of the Morris Men and pictures of how they had made 'Black Shuck'. Basically lots to see and loads of effort must have gone into the event, it deserved a much bigger crowd. So, anyone living in/around Colchester or anyone visiting the area really should seek this place out, there is more than likely to be something interesting going on and you will definitely have the chance to sample some really great local produce.

Local Liquor

The story of the beastly beast

Beastly Beast bunting

Glove Puppet Kits and a glass of what I hope was apple juice

Completed Puppets

Black Shuck

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