Sunday 31 May 2009

Scott the Bees

Another bees pic for you, this one of the couple who came to deliver, and now return to tend to, the allotments hive. That's Scott on the left, and his wife, Jed (we think???) on the right.
They've been down here, too, with an eye to installing a hive in our garden which you can see from the middle pic, is at its most floristic and bee-attractive phase just now. Now, he might have been winding me up, but he said he was worried that we dogs might have problems with the bees - it's the fur thing, he said, making the bees think we were bears. Bears and bees, he said, don't mix, and anything that sets off bear insticts in bees is a BAD THING. He made me promise to not even think about being a bear while close to the bees.
Finally, a pic of the SB Cambria as she is now, in May 2009. This from the starboard bow looking aft, showing progress on the new deck beams and showing the access walkway that the boys now use as a public viewing gallery. Dad met Janie's mum and Dad here before they tootled off down to the barge in their 2CVs, both with their roofs rolled back in the sunshine.
They brought Janie (brindled greyhound, you'll recall) into the garden where we made her welcome (and laughed at her when she briefly fell into the pond before spronging out again on those long legs of hers. Shook herself "at" people, of course, but being a short haired greyhound, the spraying effect was nothing like you'd get from a good wet labrador or a westie.
Hope your weekend is going as well as ours.

Saturday 30 May 2009

Of Bees and Bad things

Our game of footie in the Rec early this morning is frustrated by a complete Police Cordon around the whole Rec. It seems (although the 12-year-old policeman (Dad's words) was not saying anything) that there has been a fatal stabbing in the middle of the Rec. By this afternoon word is out that it's two herberts fighting over a woman.

We have names but this is probably not the place! The victim died in William Harvey Hospital, our "local" A+E. Bad things anyway. Mum comes back in the afternoon, and comments that the feds have been guarding the Rec all day, and fair play to them, nobody's stolen it.

Meanwhile, some pics of our allotment bees coming and going happily in the warm afternoon sunshine. Main pic shows the location of the main hive in a miniature hazel-spinney. The other shows the entrance. There is now, in addition, a smaller swarm housed in a "Nuke" (Nucleus box). We don't know much about bees yet but if I know Dad he will be buying books and reading the subject up. Scott the bee guy is also talking about us maybe having a hive here in the garden, so we need to check with the neighbours that they have no objections.

Enjoy the hot weather.


Wednesday 27 May 2009

A Truth, Universally Acknowledged....

.... that some of the best cooking is stuff that a) comes from the bottom of the fridge and b) can never be repeated because nobody ever writes down the recipe and you'd never have the same stuff in the bottom of the fridge next time.

Furthermore, as Mum learned from the aged Grand-ma ("Nanie") while au-pairing near Toulouse in her yoof, consoled when an early cookery effort (chocolate cake, we think) came out looking like road-kill, "Ah well, if the ingredients were good, then it doesn't matter that it looks like s*** (this is a loose but fairly accurate translation), it will still taste gorgeous". I have visions of Nanie, Mum and the French children scraping the bowl clean, and blow the look of the final product.

So it was with Dad's supper effort tonight, a tortilla espagnol, which broke up on impact. The humans ate it anyway, and we can vouch for the following ingredients, because we got to lick the plates and bowls - good free-range eggs, garlic, red onions, parsnips, salad potatoes peppers, dried sausage from La Chapelle d'Armentieres, Dutchman Tom's genuine Dutch Gouda cheese and good olive oil. Yummy.

Meanwhile, Allotments supremo and one-girl Human Dynamo Sandra, tells us that the bee man has finally arrived at the allotment with "our" swarm and hive, so we'll probably go check that out tomorrow.

Look after yourselves

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Farewell then, Geordie Roofers

We think they've gone, the lads. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet an' all that. Work seems to be 99% complete on the Home for the Bewildered out back and all the lads vanished on Friday. It's all gone quiet. No more Bob Marley music sung in Geordie accents, or brief discussions across the fence as they accepted our cups of coffee, no more scream of stone cutters, chug of diesel engines, or the clunk and clang of excavator bits, or their shouts as they hail each other across the site, or laugh at a bit of banter.

Sometimes they'd play football in the almost-complete car park, so when we found a stitched football behind our shed, we guess it's come over the fence on one of their last kick-abouts last week. It's great - Dad brought it to the Rec for me tonight and Smudge and I had a great game chasing it about. Even Meggie had the occasional playful pounce on it.

Being terriers, mind you, the mission was to leap on it, nip it somewhere vulnerable and shake the life out of it, so it's not the clean, nearly-new perfectly skinned item it was when it came over the fence - there are big chunks ripped in the outer skin (it's not real leather), but that's just a dog-to-ball expression of lurve.

Mind you, after "Toon's" fate at the weekend, maybe they dumped the ball over the fence in disgust....

Look after yourself Lads
We'll miss you


Monday 25 May 2009

Food Miles

I am wondering if food miles count when you buy "local" produce a long way from home and then bring it home when you were coming anyway.

Remember the "Sangliers" post a few posts back, which mentioned a local-produce farm shop near La Chapelle d'Armentieres. There Mum and Dad bought, along with local cheeses and dried salami-type meats and some rillette, some bottles of local apple juice.

Even fewer food-miles has me celebrating the end of Dad's "hungry gap" up at the allotment, bringing home the first of the Autumn-sown broad bean crop. Plenty more where that came from. Big fresh pods and lovely tender beans. Megan and I are sitting at Dad's feet through the podding process - Meggie has always liked fresh raw broad beans even from a pup, and I'm learning. Haggis? No way. He doesn't "do" plants. Ahh beans in the warm sunshine..... Afternoon Delight?

On the Rec a fun fair has been thumping away every night since Friday, and tonight that's joined by a music mini-festival up by the Rugby Club. Sounds of rock music of varying quality drifting across the trees of the old railway line.

Diamond and John (and Rags we guess) over for a bit of lunch on the terrace this afternoon, D+J just fresh back from Poros (Greece).

Sunday 24 May 2009

Pigs' Trotters

Someone at Dad's work swears by giving their dogs raw pigs' trotters in lieu of bones, so spotting some at the "Goods Shed" most excellent farm shop in Canterbury (see also ) Dad bought us one each.

To be honest we were none of us that impressed. I buried mine staright away in the greenhouse (never a good idea as mean old Dad tends to keep watch, suss me, un-bury the stash, and take it off me on the basis that I'll leave it rot a few days and then bring in back indoors all maggotty and skank-some). The H and Meggie gave theirs a brief desultory chew on the cartilege-y end and then abandonned them, so they were also retrieved by Dad.

Being a Dublin city-centre gal, Mum has had them before well boiled down and/or roasted as a gelatinous, soft "delicacy" (in the jellied eels, pie and mash tradition), so she is going to boil them for us and try them again.

My other pics here are just for a bit of fun. We loved the colours on the poppy one and if you look carefully you can just see a bee flying in over the top of the flower. top centre of the picture. The sparrows too, were a bit of fun - just as Dad was about to pull the trigger, a third sparrow tried to fly in and land on their feeder ports, and both these boys look like they're saying "Oy! Find yer own feeder!"

Lovely sunny warm weekend.


Friday 22 May 2009

Röf, Röf

One of the gang who went on the La Chapelle trip is a lovely Hungarian lady called Zsuzsa (the "zs" is pronounced exactly like the French "j" in "je" or "j'aime").

The project car already has a name, as you know, "Mademoiselle", but the other car they took didn't. It's a very rare (as in, there are only 3 left in UK in roadgoing condition) UK-built 2CV. They were made only for a few years (1955 to 1958, I think; correct me if I'm wrong) in the Citroen factory in Slough. For the anoraks among you, they are identifiable by three things - rear opening windows (flap-up style, like the normal 2CV front ones), the round Citroen bonnet-mascot, and the Morris 1000-style flick-up "trafficator" indicators (see photo).
When he/she had completed the La Chapelle run, the humans all decided that he/she should be Christened with a proper name like "Mmle", so that she could not just be "the Slough-built", and the task fell to Zsuzsa. She, commenting on one of the noises that the car makes was reminded of a Hungarian children's nursery rhyme where-in a pig who normally makes the noise "Röf Röf" ( it's pronounced kind of "rerf" (like the vowel sound in surf)) but when rootling and snuffling for truffles etc, is reckoned to be saying "Töf Töf"
Don't tell me you don't get culture on this blog
Have a great weekend

Thursday 21 May 2009

Concours de Petanque

We are told that one of the sights of this Twinning Celebration worth seeing was a massive Petanque tournament, called a "Concours de Petanque". Petanque (Boules) is hugely popular in France, with many houses having courts in the back yard, many children starting to play from a very young age and most older people (mainly men, but plenty of ladies also) spend a lot of their leisure time playing.

Dad saw a kiddie who can't have been more than 6 or 7 casually lobbing boules about (and then much less casually when he noticed Mum, Dad and their fellow " foreign visitors" watching him) but in such a way that the first casual lob went 15 feet with feirce back-spin and landed "thock" flat with no bounce, and the second casual lob would hit it with unerring accuracy every time.

The "concours" was something else. This one was part of the Twinning (Jumelage) weekend but apparently they go on most weekends anyway. You can see from the pic it takes up the whole of a double soccer hard-pitch and there are dozens and dozens of matches going on all the time. the bar is open and the lads are in and out of there on a regular basis. As it gets dark the flood lights come on and the drinking, playing (and by then singing and tomfoolery) and larks carry on way past midnight and into the small hours.

Sometimes this is still going on at 4, 5 or 6 in the morning, by which time the average player is completely tanked, can barely stand, never mind see the boules or throw accurately, and nobody knows who's winning, or even cares.

My only experience of petanque was on a 2CV camp, where Dad was playing friends Cliff and Shelley, and where either I, or C+S's collies Ben and Nellie spent most of the time trying to nab the jack-ball and run off with it.

A tout a l'heure

Le Deefer

Wednesday 20 May 2009

And the Winner is....

We mentionned that following "our" leading of the Carnival parade through the main street of La Chapelle d'Armentieres, "we" were presented with a small trophy by the Mayor as a momento. Here, indeed is the same, proudly displayed on the bonnet of the car while she was on show. It even has a little plaque naming the event. Cute, huh?


Tuesday 19 May 2009


OK.... who's a fan of the Asterix books? We all are here, and especially Mum, who's good at French anyway, so she has a collection of Asterix books in French.

If you are, you'll know of the big guy, Obelix, and his love of hunting and eating "Sanglier" (Wild boar), so you'll be as impressed as Mum and Dad were at spotting this trophy head on the wall of the local farm-shop; the same place they bought the cheeses.

Actually, they tell me, the walls of the place were a veritable menagerie of stuffed animals - badgers, geese, ducks, deer; anything the average French countryman loves to annihilate in the hunting season.


Deefer (running for cover as not very well camouflaged)

Monday 18 May 2009

Smelliest Cheese in the World

These two have got to be the smelliest cheeses in the world. Got by Mum and Dad at a farm shop right near the Belgian border, east of Armentieres, they are "Maroilles" (you need to be able roll the "r" like a Frenchman to say them correctly; we dogs would rather roll in them) and Vieux Lille.
As such they are now confined to the fridge to reduce the release of volatiles and essential oils, and locked within an airtight tupperware box. This might have something to do with Megan and I being glued to the kitchen and getting under every one's feet when they were out on the worktop.
Not sure how you pronounce "Fauquet", maybe a bit like what Dad said when he tripped over us because we were under foot in the kitchen.

The French Adventure

We are abandonned again, while Mum and Dad go off adventuring in the old project restoration 2CV, "Mademoiselle". After the short test to Birchington and the shake-down run to Brighton, the old girl is finally ready for "the big one". You'll know she was a twinning gift from the French town of La Chapelle d'Armentieres (near Lille), to the Kent town of Birchington, it so happens 20 years ago almost to the day.

So the La Chapelle Twinning Committee have invited Dad and his 2CV cronies down to join in the fun, show off the car(s) and lead the carnival parade. Dad is driving Mademoiselle, accompanied by Andy in his old UK-built 1955 car and supported by Mum in the modern car in case anything happens. The 2 2CV's have less than 900 cc's and more than 100 years between them. The word has gone out, too, to the 2CV crowd that if anyone else is in the area and wants to join up, they'd be most welcome.

They give us a sweetie at 7am on the Friday, and that's the last we see of them, left as we are to the ministering Angel B and Uncle Jim. They (Mum and Dad) return at 11pm pm on Sunday buzzing and laughing with the sheer fun and crazy happiness of the weekend. They were welcomed in by the French, feted and treated like celebs, greeted by the Mayor, invited to Civic Receptions, a show by local school children and a gala cabaret night. The cars just caused universal delight where ever they went (the French just LOVE a "Deu' ch'vaux" (2CV) - most of them seem to have owned them, or learned to drive on them and they have a warm place in every French person's heart, it seems.

It was insisted that the visiting 2CV's lead the carnival parade, a bizarre and crazy event with more people in it than watching, huge groups of school kids, fitness classes, people dressed up, marching bands, Morris Dancers from Birchington, footballers, kick-boxers, old people - just everyone and anyone seemed to be in the parade. They just go mad for that stuff.

Delighted too that the cars performed well and made it there and back with no problems. Mademoiselle and the "Slough-built" are now safely back in the lock up near Blean. The next outing is to the Birchington "home leg" of the celebrations on June 21st.

It's nice to have Mum and Dad back.


Thank You Lionheart

A reader we didn't even know we had writes with more info on the barges rotting to skeletons in Conyer Creek, to whit....

Hi DD, Megan & Haggis
The name one of the barges is 'Landrail' hulked at Butterfly Wharf in 1953, built at Lower Halstow in 1894, for Eastwoods.
Regards, etc.........

Thank you for that.
More soon

Thursday 14 May 2009

Greenbacks, and all that Jazz

There is an affliction that affects any dog of around 11 inches to the shoulder, who inhabits the Rec, called "Green-back". The dog's fur along its back takes on a powdery green look which can cause concern and consternation among owners.......

....till they spot that the dog is given to running under the Rec's wooden park-benches, which are green with dried algae all over the bottoms of the planks, where not polished by the bums of weary walkers.

We have a good run around in the Rec this morning, Dad having a day off to amuse himself with errands prior to an adventurous weekend (more of that later), chasing a ball, and romping with mainly-white young Staffie bitch "Jazz" (actually Jasmine). Jazz has a very fetching white leather collar with girlie emblems on it, and a pink leather lead. Makes you look twice, on a Staff, where your eye is almost more tuned to expect a macho look.

We pass Mollie the Beagle's house on the walk, and there's Mollie, sparko in the front bay window, oblivious to our passing, the picture of contentment. Wish we had a camera.


Sunday 10 May 2009

Conyer Creek

For a change we head off to Conyer Creek, just west of here, now a chi-chi creekside sailing resort with a good pub (The Ship and Smuggler) but formerly an important barge-port and barge building place (among other things). Walk eastwards out of the village and along the creek side and you're soon in terrier heaven - rabbits running everywhere. There's also the creeks and inlets to wade (or swim) in to cool down.
At one stage we meet the biggest pair of Rottie's we've ever seen, Sadie and Bosley. They are hot from chasing rabbits, panting with lolling tongues. "They look warm" says Dad to the family in general, and the small boy pipes up "Yeah, they chase rabbits and Bozz catches up with them and puts his paw on them, then lets them go.".
From the size and heatedness of these big dogs, I doubt he catches many unless they are myxie, plus we have visions of cartoon rabbits flattened by steam rollers, but we don't argue. With us they are gentleness and politeness personified. Haggis needs a few nice dog-greeting experiences to settle him after Polly's snap yesterday.
My final pic is of the rotting skeletal outline of a couple of barges. 15 years back when Dad first moved here there was more barge visible, and we've seen in a barge book somewhere an older pic of them almost complete moored there when they were first decommissioned - Dad says it even gave the name of these barges if he remembers right - but now the weather and storms have done their work, and pretty much all that's left are a few ribs, some transom and a bit of the rudder post, a red bouy to mark the "wreck".
Nice walk though

Saturday 9 May 2009

Sleeping like a dog

Here we all are, kippin' on the bed. We're tired out here from a good chase around on the Rec. Dad's been involved all day in the plant and cake sale run by the local Hort Soc, and then up at the allotments talking to a (potential) bee keeper, who might be installing bee hives at the site.
Very complicated, this bee keeping, apparently - bees need a clear-ish flightpath on leaving the hive while they gain height - a bit like the end of Heathrow's runways - and if you "aim" the hive at heavily used paths, walkways or at anywhere an allotment holder is likely to be working, you interfere with the bees taking off, at your peril.
Naturally, this is all wrapped round with Health and Safety Regs now and failure to observe them can cause claims of negligence when bees "likely to have come from your hive" sting anyone. Also bees don't like vibration, such as caused by passing mowers, so open grass areas which the Management team feel should be mowed, are a no-no. Finally, hives and swarm combined have a value of £3-400, and are subject to both vandalism, and "rustling" if in line of sight from public footpaths. Ah well, Dad says they found between them three or four possible hive locations and pending swarm availability, the man should be able to deliver "our" hive(s) and bees soon.
So we're all tired out, and the H is also a bit out of sorts because "friendly" grey and white greyhound Polly for no apparent reason took exception to Haggis as he mooched below her head, and suddenly snapped at his ear, taking a chuink out of him and causing real blood to flow! Haggis was most put out, as well as surprised. The lady was very apologetic, but it wasn't her fault - they've always got on OK up to now. Polly was obviously having a grumpy day and H got in the way. Only once - he gave her a very wide berth there-after.

Monday 4 May 2009

Minor Miner

Fortunately for me no pictures exist of me after this... um... incident. You know those dalek shaped plastic compost bins. A good compost maker will have them choc-a-block full of rich, sweet, fruit-cake sticky compost. This is shovelled out of the bottom via a trap door, leaving, sometimes, and arching roof tunnel of compost right through to the back. Occasionally a dog might pass by looking for a place to bury a choice bone, and the dark recesses of this cavern can look quite attractive as a hidey hole.

But if that dog had more experience, she'd know that with time the compost "arch" sags and collapses, the "mine shaft" not being as it were propped up with pit-props. What is a miner to do then, when she knows that buried behind the roof collapse is her precious bone. Surely worth getting a bit... um .... grubby to retieve it?

Meanwhile, in Challock Forest the bluebells are just about at their peak. Unfortunately the leaves in the beech and chestnut are also racing to expand and the light levels are falling fast. It'll soon be over. It also being Bank Holiday Monday the car-park is choc-a also, and there are people everywhere..... WITHIN 100 yards of the car park. Yep, it's a bit like the Lake District. You'd think it would be crammed, the number of cars crawling nose-to-tail along the roads, but stop and walk 100 yards, and you've left 99% of them behind.

So it is in the Forest, and with our local knowledge of the back-ways and secret paths we can be alone in minutes, and able to enjoy in-interrupted bluebell walking. Hope these pics do it justice.


Sunday 3 May 2009

Shake Down

After the early morning walk, Dad abandons us all day while he and one of his 2CV chums take the "old girls" (as they call them) on the 2CV London Brighton. This is something of a "shake down trial" for Mademoiselle, the project car, now with working electrics, prior to the big adventure down into France.

Unfortunately, not all the "chums" appreciate the mess dogs can make of restored seating upholstery, so we have not yet been allowed in the car, but Dad comes back delighted with the results - the old girl "didn't miss a beat", and even with her 425cc and top speed of 45-50, they did the 83 miles Blean to Hove Park in 3 hours, including scenic stops to take pics. Dad is buzzing.

We kept Mum company - Mum doesn't really do excitement about cars. A car is just a tool to get from A to B. If it works, fine, otherwise we have issues. She's been on the 2CV Brighton run, but seen one, seen 'em all.

He ho. All part of life's rich pattern.


Saturday 2 May 2009

Happy Birthday, Megan

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to Meggie
Happy Birthday to Youuuuuuuuuuu!!!!

...and the humans have managed to co-incide it with a weekend day, so they are around all day to celebrate it with us. We get a nice walk in the early morning Rec, before the hoards of kiddies arrive, and we find a sponge rubber ball which is denser than my tennis ball, so it throws better and is more fun to chase. We meet assorted dogs - Barney the Springer (who "we" have known since he and Meggie were pups), and a new westie called (we think) "Skiboo".

Skiboo lives down the Graveney road and was originally one of three. His Mum had always had three, replacing dogs as they passed away, but 3 years ago, sadly, Skiboo's Dad also passed away, and Mum was finding 3 a handful. Skiboo looked very fine and handsome, a bit like Haggis but is apparently a bit of a nightmare around small children and any other dogs than westies.

In the Rec, the last big English Elm on our corner has finally succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease and produced only a sprinkle of leaves last year and is now officially dead. It's younger brothers and sisters have all gone over the last few years, and been chain-sawed off at ground level. We hear that a different fate may befall this one; its magnificent bole and thick branch-bases being offered to the artistic community for turning into a sculpture.

So for now the tree surgeons have come and lopped it to make it safe, and cut away the wrist-thick ivy stems at the base, so it stands as an ivy-covered statue, the rot inside it evident from the rotted out hollow centres of all the sawn off boughs 30 feet up. Haggis pee'd on it too many times, I reckon.

So, Meggie wins us raw pork ribs for "birthday cake", and we all mooch around the house and garden in the hot sun. Some might say that Mum and Dad are a bit subdued due to pink wine last night, but I'd never suggest such a thing. Megan looks very well on it, and is back in perfect shape (no pot belly) after her Cushings 3 years ago.... well, and now of course, but the Vetoryl every day is obviously working. Her eyes are starting to cloud a bit, but as far as we can tell, she can see OK (when she wants to!), and there's nothing wrong with her hearing (apart from selctive-deafness).

She is surely a testament to the long life giving qualities of being a totally chilled out babe. (Bad news for me, then, says Dad)

Have a Great Day, ol' girl

Friday 1 May 2009

Dead-Eye Dick

OK , not the sort of junk everyone would want on their terrace table, but it floats Dad's boat.

He is mad keen, as regular readers will know, on Thames sailing barges and in particular the SB Cambria, currently being restored here. The restoration involves a fair amount of chopping old wood and old parts to replace them with new (under-statement of the year), and in the process a fair amount of "junk" comes available.

This 'ere is called a "dead eye". It's a part of the rigging of the old barge. There were 16 - 2 to each "shroud", being the main "stay" (rope) from the main mast top to half way along each side of the barge, there to stop the mast falling over side-ways. We have scanned in a pic (actually of the barge "SB Will Everard" from Dennis J Davis's book "The Thames Sailing Barge, her gear and rigging" (ISBN 0 7153 4887 6)) to show the layout of the 4 pairs.

The Cambria Trust were selling these old dead eyes in aid of the restoration, and Dad couldn't resist.

Sad git

Have a great weekend