Thursday 31 July 2008

R and R, workin' 9 to 5

A day for being spoiled, and allowed to rest and recouperate from my op. Thanks to my "assistant" for giving me the day off. I have not yet started licking my scar or my stitches, so I have been able to put off the day when I have to wear the lamp shade.
Everyone is making a fuss of me and sympathising. Mum is concerned at leaving me behind, so she takes me into the office, where I am greeted by all the colleagues. A small bed is made up for me and a water bowl, and I am attached to the furniture by my lead. I am very quiet and completely charming (natch), and no bother to anyone.
I receive a get-well card from my real Mum (Mollie), Dad (Hector) and bro' Archie. I am told that the longest they managed to make real-Mum keep her lampshade on was about 10 seconds. First-Mum also phones to check on my progress, and everyone at Dad's work is asking. Didn't know I was so famous.
Lastly, sis' Ellie is passing, all glamm'd up for her walk with her red diamond coller - real diamonds! :-)) (she's always all glamm'd up!) as we return, so she comes in to say hello, but no-one's allowed to race me around and play. Anyway, Ellie is definitely feeling like she's on OUR TURF, and rolls on her back while we all sniff her. I get a bit concerned at so much activity near my sore underside, and have a bit of a grouch at her. Sorry, Ellie. We'll make it up to you when we next see you. I'm not myself at the moment.
Back on the road to recovery

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Quick update - Deefer's Op

(Deefer's assistant writes) : "Deefer would like it known by all her readers that she is successfully through her spay operation and is back home and recovering on the spare bed. She is too woozy to write tonight as she is still heavy with anaesthetic and pain killers. She has managed a small amount of supper and has wagged her tail rather pathetically a few times. She has been issued with her very own lamp shade, although she has not tried it on yet. Her scar is two inches long and she has 6 neat little stitches, which come out Saturday week. She has a very pink, shaved belly. She asks that her readers bear with her through this incapacity, and she hopes to return to the keyboard tomorrow"

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Back to reality

Ah well, holiday over and holiday write-up also over. In reality, of course, we have been back 10 days and are now well back into the routine of home and walks, Mum and Dad working etc. Tonight we meet up with (through the garden gate) our 2 mates, liver coloured pointers just up this road, and we're sympathising that one of them is wearing one of those plastic lamp shades. Not anything we've so far had to endure, but read on.

Apparently he is not bothered at all by it, but has no conception of the width of it or of the damage hard plastic can do to house paint when propelled by several stone of bouncing pointer. Their Dad says he has no paint or wall paper left at between 2 and 3 foot high, which equates to pointer neck and head height. The dog had had some "lumps removed" and needs the lampshade to prevent him nibbling the stitches.

I am off to the vets tomorrow myself, to get "done". Not sure what this means but the worst aspect of it seems to be that I've had my supper tonight after our walk but that's now it till I've been sorted - total "fast" - not even a sweetie, and not even any water after 11pm. This seems very drastic, but I gather it's for my own good. Dad's explained all this of course, but I'm a dog, so I have to pretend it's all Greek to me......


Monday 28 July 2008

Foulridge Tunnel and the descent to Burnley

On across the summit today and the rain is coming more convincingly. Dad is often in his poncho up on the back deck while we dogs, who do not need to be out there, are quite often at the bottom of the stairs from the rear hatch, on the double bed, looking up at him from the warm and dry, supervising baby R. There are, though, breaks in the rain where we can get off the boat, and Dad is even sent off on a hike to Barnoldswick at one stage to buy essentials, in which he does not get rained on.

The summit pound is 6 miles long here and brings us past a shopping stop in Salterforth to the famous Foulridge Tunnel. Foulridge is 1640 yards long and takes a good 20 minutes to chug through, so it's controlled by traffic lights. You can start to "go" westward for 10 minutes on the hour, and Eastward for 10 mins on the half hour. We just miss the slot, so we stop for lunch at Foulridge wharf (those beef rolls).

Our chug through is uneventful, but the roof is very drippy, so you are advised to keep rain-gear on - and at the three vertical vent-shafts, it's more like driving under a waterfall. Meg and Haggis retreat into the boat, but I stay out on the aft deck to help Mum and Dad. The photo's give you some idea, but really, that tiny speck of light from the far end, almost a mile away is quite a dramatic clue to how long the thing is.

A boat full of "tarts" (says Dad) ask us nervously if they might follow us through, and then proceed to make hollering, whooping, echo-ey noises all the way through, which is mildly annoying.. Once through the tunnel, we must begin the descent to Burnley, down the Barrowford flight of (7) locks and here, unfotrtunately, the "tarts" decide to share our water.

You can't really say "no" - etiquette and water-conservation demand that you share locks, but by the time we've been cut up, shoved and delayed for the umpteenth time, Dad is saying more colourful words than "tart" beneath his breath and muttering stuff about "you'd think that after a week of hire they'd be able to steer the thing, and might even have learned some boating- manners". No wonder private owners have such a low opinion of holiday hire crews. Sigh.

Now we're coming to the end of our mission and, sadly, we finish off in the good city of Burnley. Burnley is probably a perfectly nice place to live, but seen only from the canal it is a city of derilect warehouses, gutted factories, graffiti'd underpasses and bridge stanchions, and a rubbish-filled canal. We have to stop several times to un-wedge big pieces opf timber from the bow, we pass pallets and floating 8' x 4' warehouse insulation panels (6 inches of expanded polystyrene with a sheet of tin either side) and a rake of other debris. The poor ol' prop bangs against so many bits of rubbish, Dad worries for it getting fouled and or damaged.

All this is rather depressing and has us worried about what you'd think of canal boating if the Burnley start was your first ever introduction to the activity.

There's one more tunnel (Gannow) before we reach the safety of another locked British Waterways compound, in the sweetly named "Rose Grove Wharf". Here we moor up for the final night, and Mrs Silverwood treats us all to a lovely supper of Chinese and fish'n'chips, which the humans wash down with the fizz Dad bought in Barnoldswick. That's it for another year. Tomorrow we must tidy out the boat and give it back, then meet the taxi-minibus for our run back to be re-united with the cars in Sowerby Bridge (a week by boat - only 45 minutes by taxi!). There we must bid farewell to the Silverwoods and the showery weather of Yorkshire, and head home to a tinder-dry Kent, where it's not rained all week.

It's been a blast. Now we just have to persuade Mum that it doesn't always rain, and we can maybe do it next year. I've seen her plotting routes and checking out Ashton, Manchester and Littleborough in the canal guides, so we might be on for a winner.


Sunday 27 July 2008

Gargrave and East Marton

We have promised ourselves a much less rushed day today, and so it goes, with the ladies getting their chance to wander round Gargrave, shopping, while the boys stay with the boat to keep an eye on we dogs, plus the 3 year old (M) and the baby (R). The ladies return in due course loaded down with goodies including the biggest lump of silverside beef you ever saw in your life

Thank you Mr Ellison - it saw all the crew (including some scraps for white furry crew) through a roast beef dinner, some lovely cold beef bread rolls the next day, and we still had a chunk to bring back at the end of the holiday.

They girls also found a superb old fashioned sweetie shop, with an impressive window display where, presumably sandwiched between 2 sheets of glass, a design including the word "sweets" was made out of all the colours of sweets you could imagine. The word "sweets" in white was done in mint imperials, for example, surrounded by swirls and geometric shapes in reds, yellows, oranges and purples.

They brought home many types which the humans found nostalgic - cola cubes, pineapple chunks, aniseed balls, sherbert dips etc. The girls also found a shop in which to buy childrens' card games (snap and matching (farmyard) pairs which they could just about teach the 3 year old). Plus, of course one of those bright, plastic windmill things you get at the seaside, which spent some time in the bow of the "ship".

Gargrave is the end of the 17 mile 345-foot-contour pound and sees you now climbing towards the summit, climbing another 12 locks to get up there. Here we were lucky again, to team up with another nice boat (part) owner couple called Dennis and Jill (in "Verity"). As we climb the locks together the boys are trading cans of John Smiths, and the ladies are passing glasses of red wine between each other.

We are actually having to re-set each lock as we arrive, because we are being preceded up by partner Rod from the Bingley 5-rise, in "Enigma". This is just one of those things. In an ideal world as you bimble up to an "up" lock, you meet someone coming down. They empty the lock to come down, and sail out of the bottom gates, leaving them open for you, waiting in the pound below, to enter. This saves water and effort. Unfortunately, if you are, instead, following someone up a flight, every lock you come to is full and closed, recently vacated by the previous climber.

Our mooring tonight is just below the double arched bridge of East Marton, which carries the A59 (Skipton to Gisburn). It's double arched as in one on top of the other (see pic) - the new line for the road was higher up the valley than the old, so they constructed a new arch on top of the old, dressed in stone (possibly made of stone?) in keeping with the old. Very bizarre.

Yesterday we were keeping an eye on the darkening clouds - today we are starting to dodge rain showers. Dad has a succession of layers depending on the intensity - waxed cotton sleeveless jacket, same plus waxed cotton hat, and (possibly the least sartorial option) waterproof poncho from camping shop. Poncho has been on a few times today.

Nearly there now. Last full day of boating "tomorrow" (as we write) - through the huge Foulridge Tunnel and down into Burnley


Saturday 26 July 2008

Bingley 5-Rise

Today an amazing experience - ascending Bingley's 3-rise and then 5-rise staircase locks. We pair up with a new chum Rod, in his narrow boat "Enigma" for this. The locks in these things are the width of 2 narrow boats, so if you're on your own and the water starts to boil in on "rapid-fill", through the sluices and paddles, the boat can get a bit thumped about, even if it is tied up. Far smoother to wedge yourself in next to another 56 footer so that there's no banging about.

The lock system itself, I can do no better than to quote verbatim from the excellent canal guide "Canal Companion; Pennine Waters" by JM Pearson and Son Ltd (ISBN 0 9545383 4 X, if you've a mind, or ). He covers the 5-rise thus....

"the 5 rise changes the level of the canal by some sixty vertiginous feet, a thrombotic experience which the canal takes more or less in its stride, even if it leaves most canal users reeling. The staircase has stood its ground since 1774 and must be credited to John Longbotham, the L&L's chief engineer. Two centuries later it's the pride and joy of its resident lock-keeper, Barry Whitelock, an appropriately surnamed man who reminds you forcibly of Brian Clough in his pomp at Derby County, and who has a way of treating boat crews and onlookers (of which there are often hundreds at a time) as if they were taking part in one of Cloughie's training sessions all those years ago.

Most of the time Barry will supervise passage through the 5 Rise, working most of the complex paddle gear himself whilst keeping a paternal eye on proceedings etc etc".

We can vouch for all that - we were shepherded through like very minor violin players in the orchestral movement he was conducting, and we were all on our best behaviour.

A-top the Bingley rise, we spend the rest of the day cruising the 17 mile long, lockless pound following the 345 foot contour up the valley (Airedale). No locks maybe, but 19 (count them) swing bridges to negotiate. Remember yesterday, and the Dorset crew's pride in their "we stopped 2 cars and a van". Pah! We spit on your "2 cars and a van". Mum managed at one bridge at about 5 o'clock, 29 cars one way and 11 cars and 2 vans the other!!!!!!

We stay with Enigma for part of this run - it's easier if boats alternate the work - effectively stopping to open the bridge for both boats, allowing the other boat to shoot through unimpeded and head on the the next bridge, where they will return the favour for you. Therefore, by leap-frogging each other along the pound, we only actually had to manhandle half the bridges. They were fun - some fully mechanised, had Mr Silverwood and Mum starting the flashing "level crossing" lights and bells, and dropping barriers across the road.

It's a tired crew who finally moor up near a place called Thorlby to await the morning and (finally) the shopping opportunity of Gargrave.


Friday 25 July 2008

Sister ship

(Back on Narrow Boat adventures again - keep up!). We survive our night in the Office Lock fortress, protected by our razor wire, and set out early morning through Western Leeds, encountering, on our way, our first "2-rise" staircase flight of locks. Beginners stuff compared to what was to come soon, but novel and exciting none the less.
It's here we meet our sister-ship Dorset. I've said that our holiday was a one-way mission, and is alternated with another group travelling in the reverse direction. We meet at this lock, and wait for them to come down, taking the chance to chat and compare notes on what to expect. They have several children but no dogs. We remember (and the significance of this will come soon) that they are amused by their children's enjoyment of how many cars you can hold up when you have to close one of the many swing bridges en route. They tell us that one of the kids came back all proud to gave "got" 2 cars and a van.
It's another long old day, and we chug on till 8pm, passing westward through Kirkstall, Rodley, Apperley Bridge, Shipley and Saltaire, mooring up eventually just before the Dowley gap 2-rise. It's now that Mum starts to feel she's blasting through many small towns, and potential shopping stops, charging on and on... but more of this later.
We are briefly unsettled by a couple of local herberts who are, apparently, a couple of burgers short of a barbeque and once they start chatting to them, we can't get rid of them. They make a big fuss of me, but then think it's funny to start barking at Haggis and I, which is unsettling, to say the least. Not wishing to be rude, we cope as they cycle along the towpath "helping" us with a couple of locks. The narrow boat will only do 6 mph or so, so 2 guys on bikes are always going to keep up. It is a trying time, and we are all relieved when they eventually turn back and cycle home to their Mums and their teas.

Thursday 24 July 2008

Grass snake

Sweltering heat. No wind. I break off from my tale of adventure on the high seas to bring you briefly back to today, 24th July, when Dad has a day off and we are treated to an early walk in Challock Forest, where it's still reasonably cool under the trees.

Even so we're glad, after a hour, to arrive at one of the man-made ponds in the forest. Most of these are the result of the Friends of King's Wood prying money out of Ashford Borough Council's "Community Chest" grant scheme and then paying contractors with beeeeg diggers and lorries to dig holes, and puddle in 2 feet thick of locally-sourced clay.

This particular pond, though was given to us free by the Stour Valley Arts project, who get oodles of money to make environment-sensitive sculptures and art out of bits of forest. There's one, for example which is a clearing in the shape of a double-sized B52 bomber "aimed" along the flightpaths used in the US bombing of Afghanistan (or possibly the former Yugoslavia - we can't recall).

Another took the form of three huge (30' by 30') baskets woven into the living, outer trunks of old coppice chestnut (that one was superb and very popular; many a Mum used to frighten their kids by saying they were Giants' picnic baskets. Sadly they are all part of the living (and in this case dying and rotting) environment, so eventually they fall into derilection, become unsafe and have to be "de-commissioned").

Anyway, this pond is a bit of such art - intended originally as a round earthwork with a wooden structure at it's centre (adopts pretentious arty voice) ... " making a statement about the super-imposition by man of a geometric shape upon the natural chaos of the living world etc etc". Didn't quite work - the wood had to be removed when the local kids decided it made a great stunt-jump for their mountain bikes and there was a risk they'd impale them selves. Also, in the first winter the natural bowl-shape of it filled with rain and it became a great dog-wallowing pond, filled with thrown sticks and bits of tree.

An excellent free pond then, for "us" and the local Fallow Deer, not necessarily great "art".

Now then, at risk of sounding like Ronnie Corbett, I digress. Back to our arival , hot and gasping at the pond for a wade, where-upon a big (say 3 feet?) grass snake uncurled from a half-sunken log and charged for the bank and safety. I had not seen one of these before, so I was round there, "bouncing at" the nose end and woofing at it to stop. The snake stopped, swung round and baled back into the pond, heading for the too-deep-for-westies water in the middle and another half-sunken log. Impressive sight. Eventually though, when we couldn't get at it, and it wasn't about to move, we all got bored and left each other alone.

More narrow boating later.


Wednesday 23 July 2008

Washed in the Calder, Dried in the Aire

Monday - and another hard-charging day. There is a chunk in Leeds where due to the risk of vandalism (mainly the local Herberts leaving lock-paddles open, to drain the lock pounds and ground the boats - har har... very funny I'm sure!) the British Waterways officials lock everything up at 15:30pm overnight, so if you're not into this stretch by 1pm, you have to wait till next morning. The advice is to take Monday gently, moor up at Office Lock in Leeds, and do the restricted bit in the morning.
Mrs Silverwood, however, calculates that if we toe it, we might just sneak through, so we're under instructions to go-go-go, grabbing food and coffee on the hoof, as we steam on through the Aire and Calder Navigation, turning North at Wakefield and up towards Castleford and Leeds.
The Calder and the Aire are good wide genuine rivers (my 1st picture) and we can get a bit of speed on (I'm talking about "just faster than walking pace" here, so don't get a picture of speedboats with creaming wakes in your head!) and the Rivers are alive with swans, ducks, grebes, kingfishers, even cormorants and terns (!) plus we've seen 2 mink.
We must turn left at the traffic lights (I kid you not) just West of Castleford; it's here we join the Aire (upstream) so from now, till the summit, all the locks are "uphill", and many are big and mechanised (so the Lock-Wrangling team are reduced to pushing buttons).
We power on through Woodlesford and Stourton, having come out of the river at Lemonroyd Lock, and chug gently into Leeds - boating through the town centre is really bizarre, and we smile and wave (or woof) at the suited office workers chatting in plazas or eating sandwiches on benches overlooking our canal.
However, we don't make the cut-off for the restricted bit, so we end up moored in Office Lock pound, stopping the night in a safe, but not very promising looking Waterways compound with a strip of grass for dog exercise, bordered by a derilect warehouse, a huge railway bridge and a tower crane building a new sky scraper (and the canal of course). Of course we have keys to get out through the "handcuff" locks, but no-one can get in.
More tomorrow

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Captain's Log...

Day 1 of the holiday, and we make our way to Sowerby Bridge to meet up with the lovely people at Shire Cruisers, and to get our briefing and take over the boat, the good ship "Gloucester".
We are experienced boaters by now, but there are still things they need to tell us about the Aire and Calder Navigation - flood locks, getting on and off the river, wrangling locks with your "Calder Spike" etc. We take careful note and then get let loose to do battle with the Salterhebble flight, supervised, before we are signed off.
It's a fairly busy mission we have assigned ourselves and the Canal Guide (book) is be-stickered with dire warnings about "Must get to here by Tuesday" etc. Not too much time for leisurely lunches and stopping at pretty Yorkshire villages to shop and potter. (This turned out to be a mistake - next year we'll give ourselves an easier time, and more time in the pubs and towns). Tonight though, a reasonably easy target. We must get towards "Ramsden's Swing Bridge" just outside Wakefield in a small village called Kirkthorpe.
My pics today are of me strolling round the lock chamber rim "supervising" the humans as they mess with the sluices and paddles, and a scenic one of the boat in the dawn light, moored at the target spot - it's been a beautiful sunny day and we are all risking sunburn, followed by a lovely relaxing exhausted, fresh-air'd out night's sleep.

Monday 21 July 2008

Are you wondering....?

Were you wondering where we'd all got to, not posting a blog since Friday last? Ah well, we can now reveal that we have once again escaped to Yorkshire to go narrow boating. Once again we hired from Shire Cruisers, whom we can heartily recommend (no vested interest - just a brilliant service and lovely boats)

Again, too, our start point was Sowerby Bridge, but this time our mission was to head down the Aire and Calder navigation canal system towards Wakefield, then north to Leeds and onto the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, climbing over the Pennines to Burnley. Don't be put off by the city names - all canals were built to link cities - the buzz comes from the country bits and small towns in between - and the lock-wrangling.... like the 3-rise and 5-rise staircase locks at Bingley, and the loooooong tunnels (You're in Foulridge for a full 20 minutes of chugging).

We were there for the full week, from Saturday to Saturday, and spent the time with the Silverwoods, including new Baby-R. So look out for the next few posts as I relate tales of sea-faring derring-do and adventure, and post a few heroic pics of we three dogs.

Cap'n Deefski

Friday 11 July 2008

Home for the Bewildered

We've all been amazed at the speed that the Home for the Bewildered, is going up out the back, and by the design. I suppose we'd all thought it would be some kind of timber "framed" building, and had visions of some kind of impressive "Grand designs" stylee structure.

Timber it is (well "wood" anyway - the word "timber" evokes big baulks of oak and planks, like S.B. Cambria is getting; these are more like flat-pack mdf sheets with window holes cut in them) we guess.

Starting with a beeeeeg concrete base the boys have used the huge crane to swing these flat pack sheets into place, some orientated North-south, some east-west, nailing them together with a big hand held nail-gun where they touch. In this way they've whizzed up a single storey looking for all the world like a house of cards, each sheet relying on all the rest to stay upright.

Across the top of this went an array of on-edge planks to form the ceiling joists, and then, perpendicular, more planks laid flat to form the floor of the 2nd storey, again, with blokes running about like a swarm of ants with nail guns ("Ptoof - ptoof - ptoof" all day long).

Next a repeat of the ground floor - more north-south and east-west sheets, and at that point they stopped (we know not why). Mum is un-impressed by the (lack of) sturdiness of it all. The walls are so thin, says she, that if one of the old girls coughs in one room (I think it was "coughs") they'll hear her 4 rooms away.

Suddenly we have a 2 storey building 30 feet from our back fence (in places), and we are pleased that the Paulownia is so tall, the ash and scots pine doing their bit, and happy at our decision not to manicure the beech hedge. The beech is rapidly turning into a row of trees, and giving useful cover from being suddenly overlooked.

They do squeeze 'em in on these modern sites, do they not. We know we've been spoiled. When Meg and Haggis were pups, there was a massive fruit packhouse on that site, chilled HGV's a-rattling, forklifts tearing up and down with their tines a-clanging when they were unladen, as they hit the expansion joints and drainage gulleys in the concrete yard.

Then about 5 years ago it was all pulled down and we've all enjoyed having waste-ground behind us as far as the railway line (850 feet away) - foxes, pheasants, rabbits, wild flowers, birds. Now suddenly, bam!, and we are back in town.

Ah well


Thursday 10 July 2008

Megan and the Long Bridge

For the first time in her whole, 12 year puff, Megan gets lost. We are walking on the Rec. Meggie is old, so she tends to amble along with a unique rolling gait, her hips and back end seemingly unwilling to trot since the bad times of her Cushings (before she was diagnosed and put on the Vetoryl). So she is never going to "run off" in the traditional sense, but she can roll along at a fast human-walking pace when the mood takes her.

We are at the top of the Rec (south east corner) and turning, as usual across the top takkin' the "low road", prior to turning back along the "high road" above the bowls and tennis courts. Megan, as expected, is bimbling near the basketball court to save herself the loop, seemingly intending (as usual) to rendezvous with us when we've done the loop.

Half way along the low road, out of the corner of Dad's eye, he sees her head up the bank, but this is not cause for concern, as she's probably just seen a squirrel. But it is cause for concern when she doesn't meet us back at the basketball. Our increasingly frantic circling about, looking round bushes and diving among buildings, with Dad whistling, fails to find her, and everyone Dad asks just looks blank.

Suspecting she may have taken off up the famous "Long Bridge" (longest railway footbridge in the UK... ) towards the cemetery, Dad phones Mum to get her to check the "walked back home option". Dad takes off over the bridge with us, while Mum comes from home to the Rec, cutting off that exit.

We speed-walk across the bridge and back through the graveyard (poor Haggis is too old for all this fast stuff) to home.

We get dropped at home, while Dad returns to the Rec, hoping to close the "pincer movement" with Mum. Everyone's praying by this stage. Megan has never "run off" before.

Blessed relief then when a kind stranger phones Dad's mobile from the number on her collar. 4 small children have found her and asked the man to phone the number. She is, indeed across the Long Bridge, but has gone on from there rather than looping back through the cemetery, presumably given up, and is now ambling home. The kind man tells us he'll hang on till Dad arrives, and there is a happy re-union. Mum, Dad and Megan walk slowly home. Megan is exhausted. What a relief.


Wednesday 9 July 2008

New Hoppers Website

Our wagtails pics are a hit with the Cambria Trust boys, who sing their praises and ask could they show them on the Trust website and newsletter. Of course they can, especially if they then treat the nest with the appropriate respect and allow the babies to fledge before too many more visitors disturb them.

Dad finally finishes his web design course at the local Grammar School and, along with all the other "students" has a rather beginner-ish website up and running, plus the skills and knowledge to keep it going and improve it. Go look, if you like, on

A lot of the stuff on it, you'll find fairly familiar. The "Hoppers" are Dad's 2CV cronies - the name of the local group of the National 2CV club, and the Cambria stuff you've seen before. None the less there's some rather nifty features - a scrolling collection of 30 pics of "Mademoiselle" being restored, via a link to our Flickr gallery, plus some video of 2CV racing via embedded html code. Plus pictures, google maps, stories and plenty more.

Monday 7 July 2008

Wagtails on the starboard bow

Thought you might like these 2 recent pics of the Sailing Barge Cambria, currently under restoration. The barge hull is now well under way, with all the frames in making up the parallel rectangular part of the hold in place, and the boys starting now to form the more intricate curved sections at stern (you can see in the distance) and in the bow (under the camera man).

The baby wagtails are cunningly concealed near the starboard bow, down a cavity between the inner and outer skins of the starboard topsides, between 2 of the rotten frames. The shipwrights are aware of their presence and are studiously avoiding them, but think there might also be wrens nesting somewhere on the barge, as they keep seeing wrens nipping about with full beaks. There are so many likely holes in what is a seriously rotten, deteriorating old wooden structure, I'd not be surprised.


Friday 4 July 2008

When, Oh When....?

When, oh when will "they" ever fix the 2CVGB website,

It's where Dad writes (or used to write) his blog aboutt the Mademoiselle, Project 2CV restoration, but it's been down for ages - about 2 months now. Click on it by all means - be my guest - but you'll just get the default page which sings a sad song about "hackers". Just as well Mum and Dad have been tied up with all this judging of Village of the Year and "Wild about Gardens 2008", so they've not had much chance to work on Mademoiselle, and not had much to write about.

Dad's gone back to school, taking in a web design evening classes (ho yus - knows more about embedded html code and web crawler algorythms than it is probably healthy to know). When we know it's "out there" we'll let you know the (fairly beginner-ish) website address. Dad has designed it and registered the domain, and has since tried to get it publicised by Nominet and hosted, but so far, there's no sign of it.

But now it's the weekend. Diamond and Rags are here - we are all chewing on chunks of pigs ear and fighting over the remnants, while the humans move from pink Pinot Grigio, to a rather nice Rioja (without fighting). Tomorrow Dad is manning the S.B.Cambria and her interpretive centre in town as part of the town's "Open House" scheme. Drop in if you're about.


Thursday 3 July 2008


Mum and Dad have finally finished the Village of the Year judging tonight, finishing on fine form with the very impressive efforts of one village (no names, no pack drill) in wrestling back their local chunk of ancient forest from industrial-scale fly-tipping, herberts on quad bikes, 4-wheel-drive nuts and trials riders.

Dad is slightly ashamed to admit that he may now be a holier-than-thou judge, but was once that mildly irresponsible Land Rover nut, member of the All-Wheel-Drive-Club (AWDC) and keen "Green-Laner". OK he was never that brave, and never had all the knobbly tyres and winch equipment that the serious boys have (Just good old Dunlop Town and Countries), so he used to stick to the easy, dry-ish stuff, but he did like a chunk of off-roading, so got tarred with the same brush as the "ripping through the sphagnum bogs" brigade.

They are walked round the village by the main-lady (Vanessa) and her goldie "Thomas", and shown the chalk grassland, the restored paths, the new coppicing, the 4WD-proof gates, the signage, the orchid meadows, the areas that used to be piled with 100 tonnes of tyres, builders rubble, burned out cars etc, the 400-year-old rights of way, the kissing gates and new fencing, the bridle ways re-built by the Royal Engineers, the planters full of drough-resistant plants and on and on and on.

There's still time though, for a walk for us, up round the allotment where Dad has to give the newly planted yam-slips a second settle-in watering. There are a bit of fun. Really a tropical plant, you can just about get away with them in Kent if you get them as cuttings (slips) in June, keep them warm, and then plant them out and keep watering through the hot waether. They are related to the bind-weed (Convulvulus) and that's exactly what they look like at present - little spirals of bindweed seedlings just emerging, only with stems a bit thicker than the UK weed version.


Wednesday 2 July 2008

Lola, India and Bacchus

Finally it rains, after a run of hot sunny (but breezy) days. This seems to send all the normal dog owners scurrying for cover, so we meet precisely nobody out on our dog walk.

Dad and Mum have more luck out after supper, assessing gardens for "Gardening for Wildlife", and come home smelling strongly of Creek and even more strongly of Lhasa Apso. They were down by the creek at a garden and welcomed enthusiastically by Lola (She was a show girl), India and Bacchus.

The lady, unusually, got the "Deefer" thing straight away. Most people look at Mum or Dad a bit strangely, and try out pronounciations around "Diva" just in case "we" are saying it wrongly. Not this lady - she was straight in with "Ah... as in "D" for Dog ?"

That's the garden assessing all done for 2008. Now just one village to go in Village of the Year (Environmental Action), and we can have the undivided attention of Mum and Dad back!