Friday 25 September 2015

Of Projects Past

Sausage pies - sausage meat from our pigs and suet crust
from our lamb suet. 
A bit of our Kent life came back to greet us today when friends Mark and Cathy dropped by on a whistle stop tour of the Republic seeking out cousins and old family roots in Bray, Ballinagare and Tallow (Co.Waterford - so far south you can only go further south by hopping into Co. Cork). These guys are real friends from my 'Cambria' days, the time spent as an active volunteer on the famous Thames Sailing Barge while she was being restored in Faversham.

More baking for the visit. We like to lay out a good 'spread'.
My recent life seems to have been cobbled together as a series of long projects and readers who have been with me for 'ever' will recall the rebuild on the 1961 Citroën 2CV car which had been a twin-towns gift from the French town of La Chapelle d'Armentieres to the Kent town of Birchington (see posts around May 19th 2009). This was followed by my involvement in the Cambria project (posts such as 21 June 2008 and Oct 31 2007). This was all followed, of course, by the biggest project of all, our move here, restoration of the house (Dec 2011 to May 2012) and then creation of the small holding.

Tea Brack. Moist and delicious
Back in the 2CV days I knew little of Thames barges except that there was an old boat yard in my town (Faversham), through which I walked my dogs and where they seemed to be always doing up these "big old boats" - the yard was always strewn with equipment, ropes, folded red-ochre sails and an old crane, and echoed with banging and hammering, the scream of power-planes and drills and the bangs of 'maul' hammers. Then my aul' Mum came to visit and came round with me on the walk. She stopped dead as we turned the corner onto Standard Quay and whooped with delight "Thames BARGES!" Growing up in Bromley by Bow (London) in the 30s and 40s she had seen these lovely craft moving up and down the London River in trade (they were still trading up to the 60's as they could move 170+ tonnes of cargo about with a crew of just 2 men which kept them economic until well into the age of steam, though they stopped making new ones in the 30s).

There will be 'tay' - Mark and Cathy getting ready to tuck in.
My Mum's enthusiasm piqued my own interest in them and I started reading and researching the type. By coincidence the group looking after the decrepit rotting hulk of Cambria had just secured a £900,000 Lottery grant to completely rebuild her in Faversham led by project manager Will Collard and Master Shipwright Tim Goldsack but seeking volunteers to help with unskilled stuff and showing the public round. I had read about it in the local paper and decided to volunteer my services but did not know how, so I kept walking the dogs and knew that eventually I would see someone.

Bearing gifts including these US Deep-South food packets and
rigging parts - see main story.
Step forward, then, Mark, who visited us today. He was the first man I saw, tiptoe-ing through the boatyard junk in a big yellow hi-viz coat. He'd been involved in Cambria for 15 years already by then, when they had no money and used to try to keep out the weather of the beloved wreck using bits of old plank, chains, tarp and concrete. "Excuse Me!" (I might have said) "Are you to do with this barge and how can I get involved?" The rest is history, covered fairly well in this blog - I was put to work in a gang of superb volunteers (including Cathy), a very happy and productive, enthusiastic group working regularly right through to launch day and beyond. I even kept running the website and the Cambria blog on moving to Ireland, right up to this year.

All good things must end, though, and the distance and lack of real contact meant it became harder and harder to keep the website fresh and to keep track of new stories and the website has realistically been superceded by the involvement of the still hands-on, closer members of the team who mainly use Facebook to publish stories and pics of their adventures. Good luck to them, then and I have parked up the old blog that was so much part of the actual restoration process (visit and hover cursor over the 'News' word in the black bar, then click on either 'blog' or 'blog archive'. The restoration took 3 years or so between 2007 and 2010)

So, Mark and Cathy came and enjoyed a bit of a cold buffet. We like to put on a good spread - Liz says she likes the table to say words like 'plenty' and 'ample', though not actually 'groaning'! They also had the farm tour. They are readers of the blog and they both said they were delighted to see the place for real that they had only ever seen in pics. Mark's camera hit over-drive at one stage shooting pics of Towser at a top window, then geese on the lawn and Rambo the ram coming up to the field gate to say 'Hello'. They came bearing gifts too - they had offered as they were coming over from Kent, to bring anything we might need so, among the generous bounty were some Zatarain's (US Deep South) food mixes which we used to enjoy buying from the excellent world-food/deli in Faversham, 'Macknades' (but can't buy over here). Also some yacht-rigging gear which I need to haul the bee swarm lure box into my tree next year; living by the Kent coast they have much better access to yachting chandlers type shops than we do in Roscommon! Thanks very much for all this 'stuff' Mark and Cathy. Safe journey back to your hotel tonight and then on back to the UK tomorrow. We have high pressure weather just now and not a breath of wind, so you should at least get calm seas for your crossing.

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