Friday 25 September 2009

Autumn in the Garden

While we've all been rushing about dealing with Daimond's "release" and Meggie's vet visits, Autumn has quietly come to the garden. We have some lovely clumps of white cyclamen, planted more in hope than in certainty, from small dig-ups taken from the pud-lady last year. Mum and Dad had thought they'd faded and died with the up-rooting, but here they are flourishing in the wild-stawberry-y bit at the base of the birch.

We also have many roses doing a late flush after the drought and a serious amount of dead heading, and a good crop of apples (goldens and coxes) and half a dozen good sized quinces turning yellow. Also coming out is a nice clump of Sedum spectabile, actually the two surviving separate halves of one plant which Haggis liked to sit in the middle of, in his youth,
Dad has been away in Stoke for a night picking up some kind of works award (zzzzzz) but is now back, and tonight it's Mum's turn - off on a "leaving do" for a colleague. What rock and roll lifestyles we lead, to be sure.
Dad nips Meggie back to the vet's for a check up and Meg takes the opportunity to bleed onto the vet's table from her pad-scar - not before or since, just for the couple of minutes she's on the vet's table. Other than that we are declared good to go.
Have a great weekend y'all. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of some video footage taken on the narrow boating holiday, and now saved by Mr Silverwood, to CDs. Happy memories.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Home for the Bewildered

The Home for the Bewildered out the back, finally finished, is now accepting "customers". A bevvy of carers and nurses has arrived, and the first residents are in. We watch developments with interest. The Management are saying that locals can get a guided tour of the building. The Angel B says she is going to get her dirtiest clompy boots on and tread some mud into their new furnishings, see how they like it! Go Angel!

Diamond is home. We met John this afternoon walking home to his own house, from having just delivered Di into the tender care of fiersome Stockton-on-Tees friend of the fambly, Joan (quake, tremble). House has to be kept really really really clean because Di's immune system is still under par, so there must be absolute minimum risk of infection. One gets the impression Joan is the one to do it! No Ragworth allowed yet, so he's still at his "hotel" and no little white furry dogs yet either. Good to have you home though Diamond!
As promised, some recent Cambria pics. First a view you'd never see unless you owned one probably and had it up in dry dock to scrape barnacles off the bottom. This is taken with a wide angle under the port bow. You can just see the aft end of one of the new inner planks. the pale grey paint is the only "original" wood preserved in the restoration - the very bottom boards, pickled in salty mud since at least 1970 and almost certainly well before. At some stage in the barge's 103 years the underside may have been "doubled" (covered with a new layer of planking over (outside) the old) but we have no way of knowing, and these boards may actually be truly original 1903 wood.
Next, again with the wide angle, is a nice shot of the framing under the port bow. Finally is one of the hold with Dad's colleague Richard wandering about for scale. Running along the top of the shot above the camera and out to the right ( port side, as we're looking aft from starb'd bow) are the 2 new, 90 foot long "marjin planks", which form the sides of the hold hatches, take the hatch coamings, and support the long-ways, short "carling" beams.
All good stuff. Meggie, meanwhile, has spent a day at the vets having her feet poked and prodded. Turned out she had no grass-dart (which had been a possibility) and a small pink growth on her pad (which has been there ages and is just part of being an old girl) which might have been causing pain was cut away and cauterised, and sent away for biopsy. So she's on anti-biotics and mild pain killers, and has to wear a lamp shade for a few days. Wonder what is the price of NOT taking her pic for my blog....... mmmm... perhaps I prefer to live long and be poor.

Tuesday 22 September 2009


We take our evening walk along the path to the north of the allotments and back through them. It's about an hour these days at Meggie speed, and just about at her limit. She gets home OK but shortly afterwards, is lame, favouring her front left foot. Dad bathes her in salty water and nibbles very gently around with the scissors, but can find no sign of grass darts or other injury.

At the allotments, Scott-the-bees has relented and decided to bring back the bees, but as long as he can site them slightly differently, in a disused, brambly bit more off the main pathway and out of the sight of the herberts who kicked over the hives last time. Practically speaking, you can't just move a hive 30 feet to the side. The rules of thumb say move hives either less than three feet, or more than 3 miles.

Bees have a strong homing instinct and build up a good visual map of their patch as they fly to and from from the hive, and their territory can be 3 miles or so in radius. So if you move them less than 3 miles, they will come across bits of the "map" they recognise and fly back to the old location, milling around uselessly confused till they either swarm and are carried off, or they just fade away and die. 3 feet, they can cope with because as they fly back in to land at the old site, they spot the new location.

So moving a hive 30' has to be accomplished by moving them 3 miles out, then keeping them there about a week, while they forget the old map, then moving them back to 30' from the start point, where-upon they fly about as if they never knew the old map anyway. Also, of course, individual bees don't live very long, and you'll get a good % turn-over, so many bees now foraging are young and never knew the old map anyway. Clever stuff. So we currently have no bees, while they're on their holidays at Scott's house.

Meanwhile, good news from the Diamond camp, as the single word "Remission" is flying about in texts and emails. We can not be sure (nobody can) what this means in terms of final outcomes for the poor patient, but it has a much nicer ring than "Complete renal failure" and "hospice" which were the story a few weekends ago. Hang in there, Diamond.

Rumour has it she's well enough to be allowed out at the weekend, and is dreaming up foods she's going to have that she'd not been allowed (fish fingers, Diamond? ... are you sure? She says it's like soul food, the food of your childhood, like Campbell's Cream of Tomato Soup, or Salad Cream. Mind you, it's Mum she's sending out to buy the fish fingers because she knows Mum will head for Marks and Sparks - she doesn't want any "chav fish fingers!").

There is also talk of a possible trip to her beloved Poros Island (Greece). That would be quite a "home-coming" to see. Diamond has been going to the same place in Poros since she went with her Mum as a teenager, she knows everone, and quite a few of the guys who are now cafe owners, she bounced on her knee in nappies when their Dads owned the cafe. They have been kept in touch and up to date on Diamond's progress, of course, and the Jungle Drums are thundering. Half the village will fall on her neck as she arrives.

Happy Days

Sunday 20 September 2009


It's the anniversary of the passing away of our old chum Denis, "Dad" of Ragworth, so Mum takes herself off to Mass to pay her respects and "cover for" Diamond, who is still in hospital. Dad is on call this weekend, so he has to work the Saturday and his life is ruled by the mobile phone and text messages.

With a certain inevitability, Friday night sees a 3 lorry pile up on the M25 close by the firm's Waltham Point site, so it's never going to be an easy one as the operation makes adjustments and rescues itself from the chaos.

In the middle of all this we get a buzz-cut. Yes, readers, all those lovely flowing locks of the previous posting are gone, and I am a felty-bodied, narrow faced animal which looks more like a lamb than a westie. Cooler though - and this is the final Autumn cut. We are now allowed to grow ever more shaggy and warmer through the Winter, round to out April cut.

Dad is doing his stint on the Sailing Barge (SB) Cambria today, so more photo's of that soon. Either side of that we get the new format double walk. In the morning a gentle one to the rec with Meggie, where we get very wet froma surprise shower of rain. Then when Dad's back from Cambria, Haggis and I get a good circuit through town and past Cambria, round the creek bank and back here.

Very satisfying
Rest in Peace, Den

Thursday 17 September 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday, too, of course, to brother Archie (thanks for the card, Arch') and Sister Ellie. Nice picture of a dog - looks a bit like the "H". First-Dad tried to get me to write "Archie Parchy Poo-Pah, Dinky dog, Baby-Boy darlin' " on Archie's card because that's apparently what First-Mum calls him, but I wouldn't be that cruel to someone on their Birthday!

These here are, roughly in order, me licking my chops after the raw-pork-rib-fest that accompanies Birthdays round here. Next up, with a rib in bed, where I always sneak off with them to, to eat them in private (and there's my card). Then one of me unable to beleive that the tray is empty, and finally trying a "Monarch of the Glen" pose on top of the compost heap. Yes, standing in a pile of the dead flowers left from Mum's Birthday bouquets. Her cards have also been swept from the mantle by the Angel Betty. Move over Mum - my turn now! This is all about ME (and Arch and Ellie of course, but mainly ME)

Happy Birthday to Meeeee
Happy Birthday to Meeeee
Happy Birthday to Deefer
Happy Birthday to Meeeeee
Now... where's dessert? Just fancy some jelly and ice cream.
Look after yourselves
Deefski (3 Today)

Wednesday 16 September 2009

...or not to bee...

Only one more "sleep" till my birthday, and I get a nice run around on the Rec tonight chasing ball with Sis' Ellie (whose Birthday is also tomorrow, of course, along with Brother Archie). Dad's not mentionned anything yet about a joint walk, but you never know. We also meet a brown, almost tortoise-shell looking Lhasa Abso called "Cosmo". He's only 3 months old. Cosmo was, coincidentally, the name of one of Mum and Dad's Mississippi Westie-owning chums' Westies, but this Cosmo was named after a fairy in some kiddies' TV show, and was named by one of the lady's children.

Disturbing news from Dad's allotments, where some herberts have broken in and knocked over the main bee-hive. Everyone is very upset, as you can imagine, none more so than Scott-the-Bees, our bee-keeper, who has (for now at least) taken the hives away with him. He says that if they had got any rain water in while lying on their sides, we could have lost the whole colony.

They had been doing really well, too, apparently, with a promise of plenty of honey this autumn, and we'd been looking forward to a jar with the allotments own logo on the label. We don't suppose Scott will be too inclined to do that any more. Dad will be lucky, they think, to get him back in the Spring.

One small silver lining on the cloud. Inspired by Scott's efforts and success, one of the allotment holders had decided to start a hive of our own, funded by the allotments but worked by himself, and he had built the hive (He's a bit of a woodworker), and persuaded Scott to take him under his wing as an apprentice bee-keeper. Scott has agreed to keep going with this, even though his own hive was damaged by the hooligans, and our man will keep his hive there, with its very small "nucleus" colony of bees, getting set up to go through the winter.

Why do the kids need to do this? We have no idea.


Sunday 13 September 2009

Levee loop

With Mum and Dad waking up still feeling like bloaters after their excesses at the Villa Toscana last night, there is talk of exercise regimes and re-instating diets. This can only be good news for we dogs. Since Meggie's become increasingly old and doddery, walks have sometimes been a slow circuit of the Rec at Meg-speed, with Dad throwing a ball around to make sure I got plenty of exercise.

Today, then, we had the slow-Meg walk round the Rec in the morning (which was Ok as we met 2 other westies at once - Barney (as in Smudge and Barney) and always-clean-and-groomed, frequent entrant into cutest dog photo competitions, boy westie from over the road and up the hill, Jock. 5 westies running around - very busy!

But then after a few other chores and events had happened, Haggis and I were taken out again, this time to re-visit that old friend and formerly several-times-a-week route, the "levee loop". This one takes off Northwards from the house and soon reaches the creek bank levee. Here it turns eastward (bit muddy otherwise!) before circling back southwards and west to come in at the back of Dad's allotment site. It's a nice 2-3 miles which we do at Dad's route-march speed.

It's great to be out in the country again and covering some ground. We find at one stage an intact, fresh and clean but dead dog-fox lying across the footpath. No idea why. hadn't been shot as far as we could see, and appeared to be in good condition (other than being dead, of course!).

Some of the walking is hard work. This land used to be abandonned farmland, so was scrubby grassland criss-crossed by trail-bike paths adopted by walkers.

Last year though, it was re-adopted by a farmer, who grew linseed all across it. Now that crop's been cleared away and the gound has been ploughed and disc-harrowed. But it's not rained here properly for 3 months, so the soil is a hard dry crumb structure, quite difficult to walk on. The footpath routes have not been re-instated and only a few walkers have tracked across the tilth, so it's a bit like walking on a cross between snow and a pebble beach.

Good walking

Nearly 3 , you know

Diamond has an old family friend who is famous for telling everyone how old she is, but not quite. She actually says "I'm nearly 83, you know" with great significance but famously changes the age up a year as soon as she passes that birthday. So almost the day after her 83rd birthday you will hear her proclaiming that she's "nearly 84, you know!" Bless her. On that basis, I can get away with being "Nearly 3, you know"; with my brithday on the 17th just 4 days from now.

Talking of Birthdays, Dad has a busy day yesterday having to attend the local Horticultural Society's Autumn Flower and Veg' Show (He's Treasurer) and in the evening take Mum out for her Birthday meal. A bit late maybe, but things intervened on the dates immediately round the day itself.

Mum chose new-ish Italian restaurant, Villa Toscana

which is not a million miles away - easy "staggering distance". They describe this place as reasonably priced but also known for huge portions, and they come back bloated. Mum had had a carpaccio (thinly sliced) of swordfish, a main course of seafood in a superb tomato-y sauce, and cheese-board. Dad had had a sardine paneta (3 splayed out sardines with very garlicky mayo (aioili?) and a salad) and for main course the biggest, most succulent pork-shin you have ever tasted. Cooked as it was, till the meat was falling off the bones, in a casserole-y sauce with tuscan (borlotti?) beans, mashed potato and veg's he could hardly finish it. We'd have helped you Dad if we'd have been allowed in!

He admits that what first attracted him to this on the Italian menu was the word "Stinco" (Italian for "shin") as in "stinco de maiale" (which almost competes with Crappaud for "toad" a few posts ago). But it was a good choice, and he could only manage lemon sorbet for pud. Pathetic effort. They adjourned back here to the terrace for calva and coffee, candle light in the still evening air, and Billy Joel's "Italian Restaurant", while we mooched about checking out the night sounds and smells.

Having a great weekend

Saturday 5 September 2009

There you are - didn't want you to think I was making it up about the buffalo. I have now tried a slivver in the kitchen and it is indeed edible.

Today, Dad is at the presentations for the town's In-Bloom competition which unfortunately clashes with Faversham's Hop Festival (They moved theirs, not "us") so that many of the people up for prizes are otherwise engaged battling the crouds and a million Morris Dancers, live bands, hop-bine sellers, stilt-walkers, and couples of blokes dressed as fighting gorillas.
Certainly, in the hot sun, you can understand all the pub landlords who have decorated their pubs with hanging baskets and planters, are making the most of the crouds and sun, and selling beer "to a band playing" (literally in some cases) rather than closing their pubs to come collect a trophy. So we have a bit of a thin time of it, and most of the certificates and trophies will be delivered after the event, but we do get 50-70 people and they certainly use up all the free wine and soft drinks, nibbles etc laid on.
There is even a 4 month old westie pup, called Bruce, who is gorgeous - just at that scruffy-adolescent satge we go through between being a cute pup and a groomed adult. And of course we have to race round to the side gate to shout at the horse-drawn Shepherd Neame dray as it clip-clops down past our house to the festival in the morning, and home again at half three.
Happy Hoppin'

Friday 4 September 2009

Buffalo 'n' Beans

No, we're not still on the cowboy theme.... we meet a superb dog in the Rec tonight by the name of "Beans" (because he's "full of beans"). He is 8 but still full of energy. He is like a miniature Pinscher, as delicate in the leg dept as a whippet, black and tan but with a white "vest". Full of terrier-ness too by the way he chased down a plastic-tyre toy and shook it to death.

The owner thinks he is Mini-Pinscher cross border terrier or something along those lines. He had a high stepping gait a bit like a circus horse, but as springy as a gazelle. Quite an odd mix, but a lovely friendly dog and we had a good chase around with him, "helping" him chase his toy tyre (yeah, I let him beat me; I could have kept up with him if I'd wanted to....)

Tonight, thawing on the worktop for a major supper tomorrow is a chunk of buffalo (I kid you not). Not sure if we'll see any of this in the dog dept, but it sounds rather fun. It's brisket so Mum says she'll cook it realllll slooooow. Tonight, Dad's cooking a fishy, prawny spanish tortilla when Mum gets back from visiting Diamond (she's keeping on keeping on, by the way, hanging in there and letting the medics do their stuff).

Have a great weekend everyone

Thursday 3 September 2009


A nice pic of the "chuck wagons" around the camp site at night, but then this one. I was trying so hard to keep this quiet but it's just too priceless to let go by, possibly even beating the "Dad falls in canal" story. Yup, we were heading home from the camp and Dad beginning to celebrate the fact that we looked , for the first time ever, to be likely to complete the journey to/from a distant camp without breakdown or incident.

But we were only about 15 miles from home and getting down to the vapour on the petrol tank, so we were forced to stop in the old Farthing Corner (now Medway) services on the M2, where (so goes the excuse put about by Dad) the pumps were unfamiliar BP ones (we always use Shell, because Dad has a loyalty card). Also, allegedly he was tired and winding down nearly home.

Only faintly registering the £1.159 price per litre we fire up and carry on when, 2 miles down the road the car starts to misfire and make all sorts of choking noises. We pull off the motorway, that sinking feeling hitting us. Parked by the side of the M2 Dad realises the horrible truth - he's just put £22's worth of premium diesel in the car. Now a 2CV can run on all sorts of rough old low grade fuels, but diesel isn't one of them.

There is nothing for it but to call the AA for a lift for the last 15 miles or so to home, push the car up onto the drive and call 2CV-Doctor Lew. When he's finished laughing he relieves us all by saying that no permanent damage has been done, but we need to drain off the diesel, drop the tank to flush it out with petrol, take the top off the carb to dry out the float chambers and blow through the whole lot with his compressor. All of that we do last night, and Clara is back in the pink of good health.

It's the other way round you do the damage - petrol in a diesel car, we're told - not only can it strip all the lubrication off the high-pressure pumps and sieze them, it can also detonate when the 27:1 compression ratio goes to work on it. We just had a bad case of indigestion. Dad is philosophical and taking all the gales of laughter in good part, but I suspect he'll be a bit more careful choosing his fuel pump nozzles in the future....

Poor ol' Dad!


Tuesday 1 September 2009

Whippets and a Yorkie-Poo (?)

More lunacy from the 2CV camp, this time a pic of "The Alamo", the name the organisers gave to the shack where we all had to book in and register. A marvellous bit of rustic carpentry, and as I said, resplendent with it's armed guard on the chair and even another cut-out one up on the roof. Good fun.
The camp was rich in new dog company. My pic shows 6 month old, very playful whippets Tommy and William seen here with Megan (left) and Haggis (right). I'm out of shot somewhere. It was probably a good thing that this camp was on-leads-at-all-time because these were very fast dogs, and I don't think I'd have been able to out-run them if I'd needed to.
Also on the case was a very soft looking felty, Yorkie in pastel shades which we had to ask about. Turns out he's called Oscar, and he's a Poodle x Yorkie, which had us all inventing those spoof joined up names like "Labdradoodle". The owner chose "Yorkie-Poo" - we couldn't really argue with that although the poor dog is probably scarred for life.
There were plenty of other dogs too, including a couple of other westies, a couple of independent (different families) but very similar looking sandy coloured border terriers, both resplendent in red and white spotted bandanas, there were labs, alsatians, poodles, JR's and many more. 2CV camps are definitely dog-friendly.
More soon