So here it is, Merry Christmas (Match) 4/12/21 Todber Manor Hillview lake.

I can't remember being quite this stressed about a Junior match since we began 3 years ago. But with 16 shrimps booked in to fish, the stakes were high to get things right. Jerry Christmas (new seasonal nickname for Sgt. Bracey) and I puzzled long and hard about who should have what and who needed this or that. Ultimately we drilled ourselves into a deep and confusing hole trying to work it out. So we decided to just keep it simple and allocate prizes to finishing positions. We eventually sorted it out and I have to say a huge thank you Jerry for his continuing support to make the Juniors a success on this and many other subjects.

As I left Jerry did say that he would be popping round to Château Howard in the morning (Friday) I nodded, slightly confused, and just went along with it... I labelled the bits and pieces accordingly the following morning with labels and numbers as Jerry arrived with a box under his arm. I greeted him in the usual manner (Baring a left buttock, pulling my right lower eye lid down, and exposing no more than an inch of tongue from betwixt tightened lips) and looked questioningly at the box. Jerry went on to say that he was going to talk to the parents, had not got round to it and decided to by me a Crimble present anyway... The box contained a Preston Innovations Deluxe Pole Roost. Something that I'd mentioned to him in conversation only a few weeks earlier... Stunned, I adopted the look of a Guppy fish at feeding time. Wide eyed, opened mouthed, and speechless... Jerry said that I had done so much for the shrimps this year that I deserved something in return. Obviously I thanked him until my eyes bled and made a mental note to talk about a new Daiwa Air Z pole more often... Much appreciated in all seriousness, Thank you mate... Car fuelled, packed, and with the thought of cleaning it firmly pushed to the back of my mind (It's the thought that counts). I received the distressing news that our very own Mud Monster was unable to attend the match. This was gutting news because Jake and Glenn definitely deserved to be at this last match of the season...

I excitedly slipped into a deep sleep that night, dreaming of prizes, happy anglers, rainbow coloured ponies.

I was up to kick the Cockerel in the morning (early) having been woken/scared into consciousness by my mind buzzing with the excitement of the coming day. The journey to Todber was a delightful trip with the watery sunshine of an early winters morn. Upon my arrival at Todber, I found the car park full of anglers milling around with coffee and bacon rolls hanging from their faces. It turns out that there was not only the regular open match clientele, but also some tent anglers that were going to spend the night out in these cold conditions... I'll just leave that there for you to digest for a moment...

The bliss of the journey was soon sobered by simply opening the car door to the icy breeze that was forecast for the day. All thoughts of doing anything without copious layers of clothes evaporated instantly and I got fully waterproofed up...

With the equipment set up and now sweating like a Dog in a Cats only night club, I awaited the arrival of the troops.

The night before, Trudie had inserted the idea into my mind that it might be nice to bring some festive mince pies for everyone to munch on when they arrived. She is usually right so, in my divine wisdom, I had toddled off to the local shop and bought SEVEN BOXES! Yep, 42 mince pies.... What was I thinking??? It's a good job the Red Fox was there to save the day. You just stand on his foot and his mouth opens like a pedal bin. Many pies disappeared down there and yet he still has the body of a Greek statue. It makes me sick....

I'm sure I'll shift the rest somehow. How was I to know that most people don't seem to like mince pies?


With everyone now present, (Max and mum arrived panting as if they pushed the car there physically because James had told them it was a 10 o'clock draw, and Becky and Carter came into the car park on fire being slightly late) The Fox and I proceeded with the draw.

Just one quick word on the lovely Becks... I had dubbed her 'Black Country Becky'. But it seems that calling her that coming from where she does, is a bit like calling a Scotsman Welsh or a Lancastrian a Yorkshireman. She told me in her usual polite and calm way, but there was a threatening glint in her eye that has persuaded me to now have her known as 'Birminggam Becky'. Not a spelling error (Simon!), say it in your head a few times and you'll get it....

The draw went as follows: (Using the permanent pegs at Todber)

Peg 54: His Lordship, Jo Wells-Parkes

Peg 55: The Meat, Joseph Altuzarra

Peg 56: Mr Messy, Josh Roe

Peg 57: Lewis Softley

Peg 58: Lightning, Thomas Millard

Peg 59: Former Champ, Theo Cox

Peg 60: Numb Knees, Noah Holding

Peg 61: Twiglet, Jack Copp

Peg 34: Aquaboy (Champion Elect), Ollie Smith

Peg 35: Tommy Rees (No show)

Peg 36: Jack Grassby

Peg 37: Carter Lynock

Peg 38: Don't call me Fred anymore, Faith Stone

Peg 39: Farmer Falkner, Max Faulkner

Peg 40: Little Princess, Sofia Altuzarra

It was already breezy when I arrived at 8.30, and I knew the wind was only going to get stronger through the day with a chance of rain towards the end. Already from pegs 34 to 40 the WNW wind was making it's presence felt, making Master Grassby shake with cold and Sofia on the end peg was in the teeth of it. I felt cold just looking at her...

By contrast, and with the exception of Jo on 54, the sunblock and shorts brigade on the Ash bank had the wind to their backs and it felt 5 degrees warmer round there. Surely the fish would be on the back of a wind this cold, right?

I only got to spend a few minutes with his Lordship on 54 and it was cold there. But end peg Charlie had lots of water to shoot at and he made the most of it too. I witnessed some very competent casting during the time I spent with him. Under the watchful eye of his Dad, Josiah managed a brilliantly executed 2nd place on the day with 19lbs 9ozs. Well done young man and congratulations...

The Meat (Joseph) was being looked after by Nice Bloke Tim who underl