Friday 31 July 2009

Peaked out at 106

Looks like we peaked out at 106 page views last night, and we're now back down to 96, I see. Must have been the consistently high numbers of viewers while the Sussex Saga was running. I'm afraid we're now back in the hum-drum of normal work days and walks.

Haggis's 12th Birthday next weekend though.........


Yeurkkk! Rabbit!

We've mentioned before about the ARF diet for dogs (Species-) Appropriate Raw Food. When dad used to go on the Westie Chat forum there was a group of mainly Americans who swore by the system of feeding no tinned food to their dogs because of the cereal/rusk in it, and fed their dogs "chicken backs" and other raw meat of species appropriate to the size of dog.

We know from when we've tried it, that it's true that the food is almost 100% digestible, and the dog's poo comes out chalky white, pretty much just ground-up bone. The ARF lot also say that the firmness of the poo lets the dog effectively strip it's own anal glands (by the extra effort, shall we say, not wishing to upset anyone's tea). Anyway, you can read all about it by Googling ARF or clicking on the link

Anyway, as I've said "we" try it every now and again - and often get the "chicken backs" (spine, rib bases, pelvis and Parson's nose) raw when ever Dad is spatch-cocking a chook to roast it.

Tonight, though, the humans are having rabbit, and although the saddle bit is way too meaty and lovely for humans to pass to dogs, the rib-cage bit and neck end get passed down. They are leapt on with gusto by Meggie and the H man, but I amaze everyone including myself by taking one lick, and then turning up my nose and walking off. Yuck! Rabbits - grand for chasing but don't try to feed me them as dinner. I'm not off my food - I dive into the tinned as soon as it's offered.

There's now't so strange as dogs!

Have a great weekend

Wednesday 29 July 2009

One Hundred and Two

Today we celebrate passing a new milestone in bloggishness. Just every now and then we nip into the Site Meter stats you can link to from this page (top right), just to see how often it's read and where the readers are from. We have several regulars, we know, (recently Mrs S's Ozzie rels have joined us - Hellow you guys!), and then you get one offs from (we notice recently) Germany, Romania, Singapore, all over.

We generally chug along at about 40 visits a week and 50-60 page views. Lately though, with the Sussex saga this has swelled to an all time record of 102 views as of today, in the last week. We are delighted - sometimes it feels as if we are writing into the big black void - it's good to know 102 people have spotted us this week.
Perhaps not a best-seller yet.....

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Miracle of the Legs

With the "Saga of the Sussex" now brought to a close, we resume normal life, or what passes for it in this house. Today, in fact, Mum is off sick (pleading not guilty to Swine Flu... "It's just a cough!") and Dad has the day off to guide the judges round Faversham-in-Bloom's Front Garden Competition. This involves driving the lead car round 30 odd addresses in town, twisting and turning in ever decreasing circles in the back streets, before adjourning to The Sun for lunch. Very nice too, he says.

Prior to that we'd had a quick walk at the Rec, but the H and I had been promised a "proper one" in the afternoon. So we headed for Challock Forest where we planned to do the 2-miler sculpture trail route in reverse. But just below what we call the "rib cage" sculpture (these are Stour Valley Arts sculptures among the trees, made out of mainly local materials) we come across an intriguing A4 paper-laminated temporary sign saying "Miracle of the Legs". An arrow points straight on.

We follow 4 more signs till we are walking northwards above the SVA's "Cloud Chamber" sculpture (a log igloo which works as a camera obscura), where upon the signs run out, leaving us flummoxed.

Dad has a vague memory that at one of the last Friends of Kings Wood Committee meetings he attended, SVA were proposing this sculpture which involved carved wooden legs grafted onto existing trees and wondered whether this might finally be the finished product. Amusingly, at the time, we had learned that the legs were carved as copies of the legs of a lady we know, who also used to be on the Committee (Hi, Mrs B) and was a reguler walker of two rangey springers in the Forest.

However, we could find nothing, so we are none the wiser. Miracle of the legs? Maybe they've miraculously vanished. Nothing for it but to go home and google it.... tara!


Monday 27 July 2009

Citron Brioche

Dad is driving a work-mate home today to Ashford, and she is going on about "Citron Brioche" but in a dog context, and leaving him completely confused. It's only when he says "But isn't Citron Brioche a kind of lemon flavoured pain-au-chocolat thing?" that she stops, and realises she is actually talking about the dog breed "Bichon Frisee". Easy mistake to make?

Meanwhile our saga of the Good Ship Sussex comes to a close. No more dramas. Just an early start for the boys climbing the 2 locks out of Salterhebble, and then chugging back along the 45 minutes of well wooded canal to Sowerby Bridge. Here we kill the speed completely and execute a very nifty reverse turn to dock back alongside an sister-ship at the wharf, to be greeted "home" by Susan and all the team at Shire Cruisers.

It's been a fantastic week of energetic and relaxing fun and, as usual we are already talking excitedly about doing it all again next year. While we've been chugging along the ladies have finished the packing (all the Silverwoods' stuff arrives "packed" in black bin liners (nice and squishy to fit in the weird shaped cubby-holes and lockers on these boats - no place for rigid suitcases here!- so it's simply bagged back into those for the move back to the cavernous boot of the S's people carrier.

We dogs are disembarked and tied to a handy bollard, the younger kids carried to the cars and strapped in, while the grown ups and the older children chain-gang the stuff up out of the boat and across the right car. Mum executes a lst blitz of tidying and wiping down ( we just KNOW the cleaning gang is going to be fearsome Yorkshire gals, who probably were up at 05:00 scrubbing their front steps, and we don't want them to think the worst of Kentish domesticity).

Then we buy a few bits from the company shop, say our goodbyes to each other and to Susan and co, and we go our separate ways, the Silverwoods heading for the Thomas the Tank Engine land of Drayton Manor (that one mainly for young M's benefit), we off across to the M1 and down South again.

It's been a blast

Sunday 26 July 2009

He's Fallen in the Water!

Our last full day of Narrow Boating and unfortunately a day of almost ceaseless rain. Mrs S tries hard to out-psyche the clouds with her "Looks like it's brightening up" but Michael Fish is having none of it. None the less, we have to move the boat - we have to get it back into range of the Sowerby Bridge basin for 09:00 on Saturday.

Dad and Mr Silverwood dress for the conditions (Dad's in poncho, straw hat, shorts and sandals again!) while everyone else hides "indoors", emerging only briefly now and then. Dad has to do "Chief Engineer" - the boat had been handling oddly at the end of yesterday and a fouled propellor was suspected. To sort this the back deck lifts up and there are hatches and access holes to let you get at the shaft with hands and, if required a junior hack saw. Dad pulls a great tangled mass of plastic sheet out, which explains the lumpy, unresponsive drive.

With the prop freed, we set off, chugging down from Brearley, through Luddenham Foot and down the tall Tuel Tunnel Lock (where the Waterways guy, tee shirted in his warm dry office asks our drowned-rat forms "What are you doing moving a boat around in weather like this?" (but he's happy enough to don hi-vis waterproofs and work the lock.).

Now it's only 2 locks to Sowerby Bridge, where we do not really plan to stop. It's not the end of the holiday till tomorrow and we don't want to give it a premature sad end by just mooring up here all afternoon and overnight. We are hearts set on a gently (45 minute) chug down to Salterhebble for our overnight, and then a 7:30 start Saturday to give us a bit of boat action before we hand in the old girl.

So we're between locks 1 and 2 and Dad has an attack of muppetry. He and Mr S had been hauling bits of tree out of the pound with the boat hook while lock 1's chamber filled, and Dad found himself at the bow of the boat (which was by then tied to a bollard, the stern sticking out into the pound, too far from the bank to jump across).

The chamber filled, and Dad had to get back to the stern, but the "dining room" is congested with ladies, children and dogs, so he decides it's easier to ignore all the advice and warnings you're given never to use the narrow side "Gunwale" walkway, and to "tight-rope" along to the stern. He almost makes it, his right hand is hovering over the ash-tray right at the back, when he loses his footing and splooshes in feet first.

Nobody is looking and luckily, because of the rain the pound is unusually completely devoid of "gongoozlers" (boaters term for gawping tourists). Mr S hears the sploosh and turns round to see Dad's head and shoulders in the water surrounded by a big khaki green "lifebelt" of the poncho, which has risen up around him. Dad swears at the cold and the soaking. It's only chest-deep though, so he can wade to the bank where Mr S pulls him out.

There is then several minutes of mad activity where Dad strips off the poncho and coats and races through the boat (the right, safe way this time!) to the bathroom, grabbing a supply of clean dry clothes on the way. Everyone is laughing with relief and genuine hilarity, cracking comments and enjoying a chance to break with normal children's rules about it being rude to "point and laugh". Mum nips into Sowerby Bridge for brandy and hot-chocolate ingredients.

The boat is now being guided into the lock by Mrs S and Mr S, as the chamber is long since filled, so when Dad appears back on his aft-deck (probably the cleanest dryest person on board now!) we just have to close the gates and let ourselves down to Sowerby Bridge basin level, to moor up for hot choc brandies.

Realistically, we were lucky not to have worse damage - you can get badly hurt, crushed by the (7 tonne) boat against something, injured by propellor, pick up an infection from swallowing water and, of course, drowning. Our only casualty is Dad's (work) mobile which he stupidly had in his pocket. Point for next year - all electronics inboard in bags etc, not "topsides" while working.

Much excited babble about how stylishly Dad hit the water, compared to Em-J's "polaris missile" job in 2007 (she lost her footing while black-berry-ing and slid down the gap between boat and (concave curved) bank, where-upon her life jacket exploded out and shot her back up the gap like a missile breaking the surface. Dad and Em-J now consider themselves in an exclusive club - the "Gap Divers". On the basis that you cannot call yourself a dinghy sailor or canoe-ist till you've capsized, Dad and Em propose that you can't call yourself a narrow boater till you've fallen in the water.

Pointing and Laughing becomes a boat-wide sport, and various children are captured on video and even on Dad's voicemail system (he finds out at work much later by putting the still-working SIM card in a colleague's identical phone)

Ah well, Mum eventually asks "Are we moving any further today, or what?". The boys man their stations and we cast off, turning right out of Sowerby Bridge, for the long chug to Salterhebble. It's getting on for 4pm by the time we come down the first two Salterhebble locks and we must moor up facing back up, so there's some gently bank-nosing and rope hanging onto, as Dad tries to wind the boat's 56 feet round turning on a (big) sixpence.

Mr S takes this opportunity to fall into the canal out of solidarity to Dad. He's on a rain-slick grass bank holding the bow-painter (rope), when he spots a big slug (we kid you not!) and only has time to say "Look at the size of that slu...." before he disappears from view from Dad's aft-deck viewpoint, and it is quickly apparent from the ironic cheers (and more pointing and laughing), that he's in too. Luckliy again, we get away with it - he's chosen a bit of bank that's only thigh-deep, so he is hopping about in gales of laughter.

Not a good score - funny but also fairly stupid and dangerous - 2 humans being careless and behaving like muppets, so although we're joking about "Gap Divers" and jokingly pointing and laughing the grown ups are anxious to stress to the kids that this cannot go on, and that "look what happens when you ignore all the safety advice" etc. The ladies and children can all feel justifiably superior tonight, but I'm guessing they are secretly determined not to do anything silly tomorrow. That really would be difficult to live down!

Deefski (I've not been in yet!)

Saturday 25 July 2009

The Rain Starts

Approaching the end of the holiday now, sad to say, and also one day closer to me having to reveal all on a story my Dad (ahhh... my Hero) maybe'd rather I didn't tell... a tale of muppetry and of failing to take one's own advice. Do as I say, not as I do, and all that, but that's for tomorrow. Tonight I am full of the leavings of an allotments barbeque (dubious lamby kebab things, chicken, burger) and rather sleepy, so I will relate only one day's worth.
We were, you will recall, moored under the big impressive railway viaduct in Gauxholme. We must chug gently down through Todmorden, where the gang all disembark to shop, leaving us tied up under a rather inpressive fishy "muriel" - big stainless steel fish on a wall made from "gambion" baskets (baskets of rocks). You can get to the other side of the canal to photo this wall by a rather nifty horse-tunnel let down through the drop from the guillotine lock (Lock 19, Todmorden Library Lock).
Shopped out, we chug on to Hebden Bridge for another quick halt, where all the Silverwoods vanish in a suspiciously orchestrated exit seeking milk shakes, leaving Mum with baby R and a rather noxious nappy to change. Coincidence? The Bio-hazard squad in their space suits did not think so.
It's mid afternoon by now and the bright sunshine sadly gives up on us. In scenes reminiscent of last year, Dad is in his poncho (still keeps the straw hat on though) and Mr S in his Liverpool FC rainwear, while all the women and we dogs are indoors, as the rain comes down in sheets. We moor up in Brearley just as the boys, all very wet and chilly by now, are starting to lose their senses of humour.
Another good day.

Friday 24 July 2009

BOOM! Rattle rattle

I am writing this in the midst of a mahousive thunder storm, which is banging and rattling around, quite alarming. Aside from the wisdom of using a computer in such electrical mayhem, it is also difficult to type because at every bang, the H has to rush downstairs shouting his indignation, and naturally, I have to charge down too to support him. This makes for some distracted typing, but bear with me.... I'll do my best.
It is time to describe the run back over the Summit into God's Own County. This is, as we have said, all carefully controlled and restricted by "Dave" from British Waterways (Westie owner who has a pic of the three of us posing on the aft deck). The runs over and back are carefully controlled and timed to ensure that the boats all meet at the most troublesome pound (below which are two very subsiding locks with very leaky doors. This makes sure that the water "brought down" by the descending boats is used to fill the pounds needed by the ascending boat.
It kinda works - west bound you arrive at lock 33 at 09:00 which gives you time to climb and bimble across the summit, descending to 41/42/43 to meet the Eastbound boat(s) which has been allowed into the sequence at 44 at 11:00. Even so you park in one lock to allow 2 boats down, and move only when the 2nd of the pair is in the pound. You chug forward very tentatively, inching towards the cill (sill?) with your vulnerable prop and rudder, ready to call for more water if you ground.
Once through that bit the rest of the climb is fairly easy, and we dogs help out, as you can see from the pics, by leppin' off the boat at every lock, running around, crossing the bridges and peering down at Dad in the lock chamber from 3 or 4 feet above his head. This also gives the lock wranglers useful exercise rounding us all up before they can leave the lock and carry on. Keeps 'em fit (especially when Meg gets a bit tired of this and Mr S has to carry her back to the boat below the lock.)
It's a full day - it's 9 locks up to the summit, and 9 down again to Walsden, and Grandma Pollard's chippy. As I said, we couldn't start till 11:00 which meant that although we had a nice lie-in and a leisurely breakfast, there was a serious risk we might not make Grandma's by 15:00, and a mutinous rumour had gone round the ship that that was when she closed. Crew members were getting an evil gleam in their eyes, and the Skipper (Dad.... ahhh my Hero) was starting to get a bit edgy.
It seemed that all was lost, and the best he could hope for was a good keel-hauling. 15:00 came and went with us still 3 or 4 locks from Walsden. We moored up at 16:00 in despair, and Mrs S was despatched to try to blag a late extension to the opening times (We've travelled Miles! 4 hungry children (and a crop in the fields?) etc etc. We were starving, so imagine our (and Dad's relief) when Mrs S returned saying "No Problem! The 15:00 only applies to Monday and Tuesday! This is Wednesday - it's open till 20:00! Result! )
Food was taken and good humour restored. We bimble on down some more, to moor up for the night just above lock 21, in the pound that runs under the Gauxholme viaduct. Tomorrow would be another day - Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and the start of heavy rain, but for now we are warm, dry, well fed and enjoying an evening of silly quiz games with the girls, playing holiday-related "Hangman" (Halifax, Staircase Flight, Laugh, etc).
We are exhausted bodies as we take to our bunks, and the humans at least, are with wine taken.
A brilliant day

Thursday 23 July 2009


These anglers use a variety of interesting "foods" as bait, but one that definitely doesn't appeal to we dogs, and is the Silverwoods' bait of choice, is multi coloured maggots. These come in a tupperware box with a close fitting lid, and are dyed somehow (eating dyed food?) into four different colours - red, green, yellow and "normal". There is much discussion while fishing as to which colour is most likely to score a fish.

The tupperware box "must" be stored in the fridge according to the Silverwoods, to keep the maggots fresh. So far so good.

On one of the days the boat was left to the dogs, and Mum and Dad, while all the Silverwoods went off strolling or shopping. We dogs were out on the deck admiring the view, and enjoying the peace and quiet (a rare commodity with the 4 children around in a confined space) with Dad when we suddenly became aware of Mum, down in the galley starting to have absolute conniptions. "Ahh! Ahh! Nooooo! and assorted more fruity epithets". Dad raced down to see what was up.

Mum had gone to start cooking, so was trawling the fridge for likely ingredients, and had spotted a maggot crawling determinedly across a packet of goods. This rapidly escalated into lots of maggots as she quickly whipped each pack or salad ingredient out, her voice rising and anguish ringing around. It was obvious that the maggot box had not been closed properly and the little blighters were everywhere!

The fridge was rapidly emptied and the beasts either hunted down and corralled from closed food, or the open food thrown into a big bag with no holes in it, held by Dad. Then the fridge started to be picked apart, as they turned out to be behind shelves, under the wire racks, in among the rubber seals, and Mum was yelling and fretting throughout. She even found some frozen to the back plate of the fridge and had to scrape them off with a knife. Some had got behind and under the fridge too.

Right! That's It! Said she - No more maggits in the fridge! New house rule! The maggots (now sealed down) were confined to under the seat on the front deck. The food was mostly thrown away in the carefully sealed bag. One tub of minced beef which was recently open but had at least one maggot in (on the blood-pad) was quickly fried off for us dogs (so this was a good thing as far as we were concerned). Dad restrained Mum from hoying (good Northern word meaning to "throw". Diamond uses it in context of "Hoying it over the wall") the whole lot into the canal.

The Silverwoods (well some of them) protested on their return "But we neeeeeeed maggits for fishing...." but one look at Mum's face and they could see that the jokey "New House Rule" sign on the fridge, was about as far as this joke would run, and the maggits stayed on the front deck there-after. there was not, anyway, much appetite for fishing after Mrs S had been so badly mozzie'd and I don't think they got another airing, before they were indeed hoyed into the canal on the last morning as we were packing up.


Wednesday 22 July 2009


I was talking about the impressive Gauxholme railway viaduct. This first photo will give you some idea - very imposing above you on the sky-line as you climb the locks towards it, and perhaps even more so as you drop down under it on the way back.
Day 4 (Tuesday) and we have to submit to the knowledgeable and safe shepherding of "Dave" from British Waterways. He turns out to be a really nice bloke who also owns a westie, so we can charm him up. In fact he goes home from work Tuesday telling his wife all about this boat with three westies on, and she insists he get a photo on the Wednesday as he brings us back over, so we have to be lined up on the back deck to pose for a pic.
Dave sees us through the dodgy locks (leaking gates, bellying, subsiding chamber walls, shallow pounds), leaving us to chug gently along the mile long summit pound (my 2nd photo is of Heckle and Jeckle's boat "Warwick" following us along - gives you a good idea of the summit scenery, the moors and the width of the canal).
We also see, coming up towards us, a genuine old horse-drawn barge being run by the Horsebarge Society. It's moored below a lock as we come out , so once we've gone the guys have to pole it in. They tell us that if the locks are set the horse is unhitched while the barge is still under way, and the momentum of the barge would glide it into the lock.
In the early days of the trip the Silverwoods were keen to try out the fishing, and it became a bit of a competition between Mr and Mrs S and Em-J. Unfortunately, Em-J caught one first (the fine stripey beastie you can see in the pic), which made Mrs S even more determined. As dark fell, the mozzies started to buzz around her, but she was fierce determined and blind to all entreaties to give up, and to the dangers of being bitten to death.
Result was she was eaten alive by the little varmints, and spent several days with her face bloated and swollen with joined up bites, like some kind of horror film elephant-man. The photographer left her alone so there are no pics, and by the end of the hols she was restored to her former beauty. Next year, says Mum, we are remembering the insect repellant, and indeed a "Boating 2010" list has already been started!
Mind you, on fishing, it nearly came to a sorry end as a hobby but more of Mum and maggots in the fridge tomorrow!
My final pic today was at a lock called Benthouse after we had summitted, bidden farewell to Heckle and Jeckle, shopped in Little borough, and climbed back up a few locks to overnight just short of the (Western) summit. A superb idyllic location in the sun, with a small off-canal berth (some kind of loading quay for stone blocks) with hard standing and a nice picnic area for an al-fresco pasta supper (and more fishing - this was pre-"maggots-in-da-fridge")
Enough for today
(the maggots were definitely NOT my fault)

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Wild Goose Chase

This was one good entertainment on the holiday. The banks of the Rochdale Canal are well populated with groups of Canada Geese, which I discovered early on that if no-one was looking I could suddenly charge, and they'd all take to the water with much honking and whooshing. This game lasted quite well into the week, but suddenly came a cropper in Hebden Bridge on the journey home, when I tried it with 4 big white thuggish semi-domesticated geese.

I charged them, and they looked like they'd make good their escape into the canal, but one seemed to suss out how tiny I am compared to their great towering Rugby-player shapes, and turned and shouted and tried to bite me.

Yoiks! A dog had to turn tail and run back to her Daddy with her tail between her legs and dignity abandonned. Hooligans! Pick on someone your own size.

I wasn't so keen on the game after that, even with the smaller Canada geese.


Grandma Pollard's Chippy

As rude as we were inclined to be about Heckle and Jeckle, the combined crews of our two boats made for some great "lock wrangling" team work. Leaving Todmorden's "blue wall" at about 9 we attacked lock after lock, the 4 wranglers swarming all over gates and paddles, running ahead to set the next lock before we'd left the previous one. We climbed rapidly through Gauxholme, under the impressive castellated railway viaduct and on up to Walsden where.......
...we decided to try out a chippy noted in the excellent "Canal Companion" books (JM Pearson and Son Ltd), Grandma Pollard's Chippy. Without doubt the BEST fish and chips any of us had ever tasted, and we dogs can vouch for that and the fried potato-slice "dabs" that came with them, because of the amount inadvertantly dropped or deliberately fed to us by the children when Mum and Dad weren't looking.
In fact, so much "stray" food did we get on that holiday that we seemed to be "off our food" to Mum and Dad, until the reason became clear!
All parties determined to stop back at GP's on the way back down, but we knew we'd have to watch our timings - GP shuts at 3pm some days and isn't open at all at weekends. We strongly reccommend Grandma Pollard's if you're in the Gauxholme or Todmorden area!
That done, the tillermen were back at their helms, and the boats charging on once more towards the summit. We actually got to the first rstricted lock (No 33) by 1pm, and phoned the Waterways people to see if we could blag an early crossing. No, they said - they were sticking to their single booking per day (1 pair of boats either way), and to be fair, when we did go over, we could see why, but more of that later.

Monday 20 July 2009

Heckle and Jeckle

I've mentionned that this summit canal and locks are closely controlled by the British waterways guys due to the shortage of water at the summit. Etiquette and the Rules of the Road (plus common sense) dictate that to conserve water you move two boats with each lock-full if at all possible and this tends to mean that you pair up with another boat and go up or down together.

As two boats were booked out of Sowerby Bridge on the same day, and both due to cross the summit on the same day, this made it inevitable that we were "stuck with" the other boat for at least 3 and a half days. Needless to say you want these to be "nice" people or it can ruin a holiday. We were lucky then to be paired up with a couple from Leeds with whom we could get on (ish).

Ish? She was an absolute diamond, ex vet, now accountant, rescue dog owner and a demon around the lock-wrangling. He was just a tad less "easy" - a bit of an un-reconstructed old boy with a high, nasal Leeds voice that had you reminded of George Formby and who our lot were soon making sly comments about Ukulele players.

Totally useless domestically, apparently (we blame the parents) and given to expressions like "t'Dragon" (every time he was talking about "t'wife", and while totally glued to the back deck and his tiller, very generous with his advice on what she should do differently, an all round "expert" on everything. We were all waiting for a proper "domestic" to break out, but it never did.

These two were secretly named "Heckle and Jeckle" and the name stuck.


Getting there and Tuel Tunnel

Day 1 of the adventure, and Mum and Dad have us up, fed and walked at an early hour because it's a 4-5 hour run in the car. Also Mum's been running yet another OU essay right up to the deadline and has been typing away till 2 am, so there's a bit of a last minute packing crisis. Mum doses up on some rocket fuel vitamin mixture and manages to be awake for enough time to pack her stuff and get as far as the car. She can then sleep for the journey (and she pretty much does!).

We hit Sowerby Bridge at about 1pm, to find the Silverwoods are already on site, gathered round a caff and thinking about lunches and coffees. That's Mr and Mrs S, of course, then Em-J (11), J-M (9), M (3) and baby R (18 months). This boat is going to contain 4 adults (well "grown ups" anyway - more on how "adult" some of them are soon), 4 children and we 3 dogs. As is the law around these boat hires, Dad is nominated "Skipper" (someone has to be), and for fun all the rest are allocated tasks and ranks - Mr S is "Chief Lock Wrangler", for example and Mum is "Galley Slave and Baby-wrangler". Baby R is "Ballast".

At 2pm they release the boat to us, and give the humans their briefing and training/refresher (electrics, engine, gas, central heating, cooker etc) plus show them through the first couple of locks - probably more to assess them than to train them. Would you let this lot loose with £100,000 and 7 ton of boat? Nor would I.

This also neatly gets us through one of Sowerby Bridge's more famous loacks , the Tuel Tunnel double-height one, nominated numbers 3/4. When the canal pretty much went out of use and was abandonned in the 50's, some councils took the opportunity to widen main roads by filling in the canal and building over the top.

When the campaign to re-open them started with the explosion of tourism around waterways, this meant that some sections of canal had to be re-invented along slightly different lines. In Manchester (we think it is) there is even a new right angle bit around a fairly new Supermarket. In Sowerby Bridge, locks 3 and 4 had been demolished, and the solution was to tunnel under the road (the Tuel Tunnel) and then create a hugely tall lock chamber with massive tall gates that lifts the boats up the equivalent height (19 feet 4" total) of the two original locks.

This lock is manned by the British Waterways officials, and you "rope on" by feeding a loop of rope through vertical slidey cables set in rebates in the lock wall, so that your loop of rope comes up with the boat.

Then we had lots of paperwork to sign and we were free to go!


Sunday 19 July 2009

The Summit

Longterm followers of this blog will know that this narrow-boating thing is now in its third year, and that in 2007, our mission to climb up the Rochdale canal over the summit and down to Littleborough (in Lancashire) was thwarted by a water shortage and some canal "pounds" with too little water in them, forcing us to turn back.
We climbed up through Todmorden but the shallow run-aground pound that thwarted us, between locks 25 and 26 (Smithyholme and Pinnel) meant that we got only 100 yards past lock 25 and had to reverse out (then reverse all the way back to Todmorden (not easy in a 56 foot boat - a matter of much roping and poling).
In 2008 we chose a different kind of route - a hard charging one-direction mission through Leeds to Burnley, but this year we opted to try again at the Summit. The guys from British Waterways have now got it a lot more organised so that numpty tourists can't leave paddles open and fail to close locks correctly, so water is conserved much better up there. You have to book passage over, and the numbers and slots are severely restricted.
Their man (In our case a westie owner called Dave) then collects you at the bottom of the restriction (lock 34) at the allotted time and pretty much shepherds you through, helping you with locks and letting extra water into the pounds to make sure you get through. You must also go in pairs of boats to maximise efficiency (of which more later). You then part company with him on the way back down, as you drop out of the poorly locks (subsidence, bellying sides and leaky doors) back into better maintained bits of canal.
So - we made it, and had plenty adventures on the way, which I will regale you with as we go through the next few days.
Look after yourself

Saturday 18 July 2009

The Good Ship "Sussex"

Another week with no postings, but this time for a very very good reason, namely we were away on this year's Narrow Boating Holiday. Regular readers will know that we use Sowerby Bridge (near Halifax) based firm Shire Cruisers, whose boats are all named after counties, and this year we were on the good ship "Sussex".
We are only just back, and we are still unpacking and recovering, the humans de-grunging in the shower and Mum feeding us all, so much much more of all our adventures later, and over the next few days, but for now let a couple of pics suffice, to give you some idea. The 3-dog pic is left to right, megs, my good self and the H, and the single dog posing above the "Sussex" name plate is, of course, H-man.
We had a whale of a time, making up for the shallow-water, no-access disappointments of 2007 by successfully negotiating the summit over to Littleborough, and managed to give Mum all she could need in terms of relaxing, shopping and bimbling after the 2008 hard-charging go-go-go deadlines mission through Leeds to Burnley.
Much more over the next few days.
Aft-Deck Hand and Lock-wrangling assistant, Deefer

Friday 10 July 2009

Allotment Bounty

Just one more pic from the "home leg" of the twinning thing if I may - an oil painting presented from La Chapelle to Birchington (one of many gifts in a looooong ceremony!) and look, down there in the lower left is "our old girl", Mademoiselle d'Armentieres.

Sorry that postings have once again been a bit thin on the ground. It's been mad round here through June and July as Dad has had the Village of the Year judging (we cover the "Environmental Action" category, now called "Sustainability"), and Gardens for Wildlife judging, and Mum has been trying to be there for Diamond who is in hospital.

Diamond update - she's OK and being well looked after; she's in the safest place; but it is quite a long and hard treatment she must go through before she can be pronounced fit and well, so all those who know her will be wishing her well. Rags has been to visit, we know and although he took a while to suss that this was his Mum, he was overcome with excitement and joy when he worked it all out. (Anyone who wants to know an update, email my Dad privately and we'll tell you all).

Meanwhile the allotment has gone from nothing really ready, to glut, all in one hit, but as we are shortly feeding the 5000, this is a good thing, and Dad has been up there tonight to gather in the first French beans, Rainbow chard and baby beetroot, plus some more artichokes, broad beans and peas. More of the 5000 later.

Talking of babies, a lovely sight tonight when a parent goldfinch brought young to the garden and provided food from the sunflower kernel feeders (presumably part-digested). First time we've knowingly seen young gold finches.

Ah well, with all this judging over, we might be able to post more regularly soon (although we must just get through this feeding-the-5000 hiatus.

Look after yourself, and have a great weekend


Saturday 4 July 2009

Came in as Heathcliff....

Mum can sometimes throw in a very literary comment, being of an English Lit educated persuasion. When Dad fled home from the recent 2CV camp all sweaty, dirty and smelly, sneaking home for a shower before returning to the site all fresh and fragrant (Did I really write that?) Mum was heard to say he "came back as Heathcliffe and left as Linton"

We're not sure we want such references made to our Dad (and hero!) especially when you can get quotes like this, below from Wikipedia.....

"(1797, aged 12) [Linton] was asleep in a corner, wrapped in a warm, fur-lined cloak, as if it had been winter. A pale, delicate, effeminate boy, who might have been taken for [Edgar's] younger brother, so strong was the resemblance: but there was a sickly peevishness in his aspect that Edgar Linton never had."

... but we think we know where she was coming from.

Today, Dad's been out most of the day at the barge Cambria, which is open as one of the attraction in Faversham's "Open Houses" festival, whereby local residents with interesting and historic houses open them to the public

They had over a hundred visitors to the barge and they were exhausted - all that declaiming in the hot sun! Rush home and enjoy some Haagen Dazs icecream, would be my advice.

Oh, you already have!