Friday 26 February 2010

Butterfly Wharf

Dad takes a lieu day back for the weekend cover he did last weekend and, fortunately it's a blue skies, sunny one. We have a leisurely awakening and a long slow breakfast. The garden is full of birds enjoying the spring sunshine. At one point we are let out and we disturb the sparrow hawk down on the ground by the bird feeders. She shoots off down the garden curving away towards the trees round the Rec - we don't get a clear enough view to see whether she has anything in her clutches.
We head for the Terrier Heaven of Conyer creek - all low growing thorny scrub, rabbit-grazed sward and rabbit scrapes. Dad is curious. He knows of two Thames barge hulks rotting away against the seawall, now visible only as the skeletal remains of stem, sternpost and a few bottom frames. He'd been told these were SB Landrail and SB Kestrel (SB is Sailing Barge), but now finds that there are 4 barges listed as hulked at Conyer in the records, 2 "above Butterfly Wharf" and 2 below.
We are not 100% sure where on the ground Butterfly Wharf starts and stops, but it may be the sticky out bit you can see in my 2nd picture, which is on the very end of Conyer Creek before you get into the Swale proper. Dad's two barges are definitely "above" this (ie further from the sea) and might therefore be, in fact SB Dabchick and SB Band of Hope. If there were 2 barges below this "sticky out bit" they are long since almost destroyed by time and tide.
Right adjacent to the lower end of the possible wharf is a sticking up chunk of well rotted serious wood which might just be a stem-post/apron, with a few planks leading off which might just be planking around a barge's stem or transom. One other sliver of metal sticks up which might just be a shroud-eye fixing. Who knows? We're not even sure the sticky out bit is Butterfly Wharf.
Ah well - keeps Dad amused for hours and gives us plenty of time to scurry around the rabbit scrapes and thorn scrub.
Have a good weekend

Thursday 25 February 2010

International Dog of Mystery

Hey! Look at me with my world wide fan base - Mexico, Bahrain, Germany, Ireland, Oz, The US of A and Canada! And that's just on tonight's "last 20"

Mind you, I am convinced that 99% of these bimble in here on some link because of my by-now-very-wide ranging selection of key words / labels, and end up going "what's this old tosh I've stumbled upon?" and go away again, never to return unless by accident.

We've been at this now over 3 years and have covered a huge range of topics, so there are mountains of words and combinations of words, that will bring up little ol' me. I may also be one of the top listed sites for things I talk about a lot which are not covered by other bloggers - the Cambria Sailing Barge for example.

There are, then, a few of you I know who do deliberately pass this way and return, and thank you very much for that, but generally I chug along with about 60 hits a week, slowly slowly racking up my 8500 surfers ghosting through and and 5500 proper click in/out visits.

"Search Engine Optimisation" is a very clever science all of it's own, and when we were learning how to build websites (my Dad and me) one thing they told us that search engines "like" is if your subject matter commonly refers back to the subject / title ( which you obviously don't do if you are a spammer who chooses a respectable site name as cover, but is then trying to indulge in activities which are nothing to do with that subject!). They (search engines) also love regularly refreshed websites which this one, (barring a few gaps), most certainly is.

Nearly the weekend

Tuesday 23 February 2010

How Comfortable?

How comfortable does any one dog need to be? This is Haggis's latest sleeping position of choice, up on the pillows of Mum and Dad's bed, between their heads. He likes his head to be higher up than his body, so pretty much sleeping like a human. Gives the impression that he'd be even happier if someone was to tuck him in, with the duvet tucked under his little chin.

In another first for this blog, this picture contains Dad - well... the top of his head anyway, fast asleep.

Me? I like to be on the bed too, but in my case I hate to be too warm, so there's no snuggling up or being at all "under" the duvet. I like a nice cool, flat stretch out in my own bit, well away from anyone else.

Meanwhile, mildly worrying developments in the Diamond-in-Hospital saga; some new symptoms which might or might not be significant. With both Mum and Dad now snuffling and coughing through man-flu (Dad sold it to Mum as a going concern) there can be no hospital visiting at present, so we've got this from Diamond on the phone. Hang in there Diamond. We're all rooting for you. All except Haggis who is asleep, but he's almost certainly dreaming about rooting for you!


Sunday 21 February 2010

Falling like Flies

Now Dad's given his Man flu to Mum, but it seems to have hit her hard and fast, so she's taken to her bed with the lap-top, newspapers and plentiful supplies of tissues, strepsils and coffee. Dad is thinking his is now on the mend - there are whole chunks of day when he doesn't cough and moop pathetically. We've just been for a rather good walk in one of them - all down the Iron Wharf and back up through town and across the Rec.

It's all very sloppy and wet underfoot, so every dog we meet and ourselves, all look ready for a bath, especially below the plimsoll line. Dad's been on weekend cover and reports that while it might be mild down here in Kent, much of the Midlands has a fair dump of snow this morning.

The local bird population is doing rather well for sultanas and stuff at present. While Diamond is in the hospital in London, John seems to be either clearing out the kitchen, or maybe decorating. What ever the truth of that, John appeared on pancake day with a carrier bag full of time-expired bakery bits - apricots, dried fruit, candied peel, almonds, coconut shavings etc.

They are sell by 2008, so we expect they're quite safe, and certainly the birds don't mind. The blackbirds definitely appreciate a sprinkling of sultanas or currants on the ground, and the starlings move across the garden like a police finger-tip search or a sanitation crew mopping up every single one.


Tuesday 16 February 2010

Monty and Theo

Two superb new dogs in the Rec tonight, both young and bouncy (almost too bouncy; I had to squeak a couple of times to pre-empt certain death). One a three year old "blue" Shar-Pei (more like a dark smokey brown) called Monty, the other a three month old liver-spotted dalmatian named Theo. They were full of beans indeed, but apparently the dally is keeping the shar-pei entertained.

One small problem - the shar-pei has delicate skin and the dally has sharp, needle like pup-teeth which quite often draw blood. The vets cannot sew the shar up, because of the rish of infection under the stitches. Fun and games!

Meanwhile, Diamond is still in that London hospital. Mum is cooking pancakes for Dad and John W, and Mum is winding Daimond up by texting her about all of us lot eating "her pancakes". She's had her "procedure" and we now await results. She is mainly "tired". As usual with Diamond, nothing runs really smoothly, and there have been problems with "lines". Still rooting for you, Diamond. Knock 'em dead!


Monday 15 February 2010

Mast case

Dad is celebrating that he finally managed to get up on the allotment for what feels like the first time since the wet and winter set in in about October. Realistically it's too wet to work on and the grass still has snow amongst it, but once there with a spade he could not resist lifting a few carrots and spuds (Yes, we know they are salad potatoes (Pink Fir Apple) and should have been harvested back in July but hey, we've got a little behind) and beetroot, plus pulling a few leeks and snapping off some tiny kale and cabbage tops. A nice addition to the normal fare.
And the metal thang? That is, would you believe, SB Cambria's original mast case. The rigging on sailing barges had to be collapsible, so that they could get under the various Thames bridges, so they worked a system where the whole lot collapes backwards along the deck, with the bottom of the main mast sitting in this "socket". To raise the rig there was an enormous winch at the bow (you can see the main outer cog of the winch barrel in this pic, far right), and turning the winch stood the mast up in the mast case, till you could lock it in place with big metal bars behind it.
The smaller winch gear here on the case is for furling (= brailing) the main sail. The plan was to rescue as many of these metal parts as were salvage-able and to have them restored by the engineering students in a school in Gravesend, but shot blasting is a brutal weapon, and if the metal is not up to it (too rusty) the structure gets blown apart by the process. This is what has happened to the mast case, so the guys have painted the "relic" with modern anti-rust coating so that it can be used as a template to fabricate a new one out of sound metal, and the old one can be used as part of our heritage exhibition.
All good stuff

Sunday 14 February 2010

Barge Dogs Feb 2010

Still loving our weekend and all its chances to get out and about. Mixed feelings though as we meet old friend "Storm"s (German Shepherd's) Mum out training a beige-pale GSD puppy to walk to heel. They live just over and up the road here, and Dad delicately asks whether this new dog is "as well as " or "instead of". Storm, who was 11, apparently developed a massive tumour in her chest and had to be put down on New Year's Eve.

This little new guy, Jake is the replacement, actually from the same breeder, and Mum is anxious to teach him to stop pulling on the lead before he's 6 stone! He was doing OK when we saw him, in a kind of loose-limbed, forgetful, distractable puppyish way.

We also say Hello to Ellie (My Sister) but only through the bay window. Her humans are out and she can't come out to play

Our walk takes us down past the barge (SB Cambria) and we are allowed on board. No end of nooks and crannies and interesting smells to roll in. Haggis gets well stuck in, treating the fresh deep sawdust as snow for making snow-angels, and comes up with a superbly orange nose. Sorry about the quality of these pics - they are off Dad's mobile phone.
Look after yourself
SB Deefer

Saturday 13 February 2010

Gardening Blitz

We are on hand to help today in a major gardening blitz, which sees the garden cleared of old, long-since-pecked-clean seed heads and other tall dead stuff, opening up the view and reminding us we actually have a reasonable size garden (25' by 100').

It's long overdue. Mum has pruned the roses and attacked the hollyhocks and old sedum heads etc in the upper "circle" garden, while Dad has cleared Californian poppy and yellow horned poppy foliage, magnolia leaves and died back Erigeron from the gravel out front, plus chopped up the old Christmas tree, and cut away all the sport suckers from the base of the lilac, and the old stems of purple loose strife and asparagus.

Finally they joined up to cut down the tall canes/plumes of the two big ornamental grasses down to 6 inches or so. This act is the real garden opener, because these two tall tufts create a very obvious visible barrier between top garden and what we call the "ha-ha" bank, below which is the pond.

Plenty of time, though, to sit back and chill on the terrace, which was reasonably warm. The pair of robins show their appreciation by swooping down on the disturbed soil and flitting about picking up spring-awakened grubs and creepy crawlies. Mum and Dad are hopeful that the robins will nest.

They tell some awful story of me as a puppy killing a robin which flew into the greenhouse and stunned itself, one of the then breeding pair with a half built nest, which was then abandoned. They have not nested in the garden since. I don't remember this but if it's true then it's probably in this blog somewhere. Think I'd not get away with it again, though, so maybe I'll avoid robins in 2010.


Friday 12 February 2010


Dad blags a "poets", feeling like he's probably done enough hours this week and claiming that working with man-flu is worth more in hours anyway. Good news for us, as we can have a nice long walk in the melting, sloppy snow. We come back relatively clean, which is more than can be said for Springer LB, who was totally lathered up in slushy mud in the middle of a Rec, from chasing a tennis ball round and round, lobbed great distances by LB's Dad's human daughter.

For our Mum and Dad the prospect of the final weekend when wine may be allowed prior to Lent, which Mum and Dad are going to try and do without a drop taken. Not religious particularly, although Mum claims to be a "collapsed Catholic", but the 6 weeks of Lent is a suitably iconic and testing lump of abstention. Sometimes it works, and they stay the distance, other times they crash and burn. I will keep you up to date.

Other than that, one of those superb free weekends, when no-one is booked to visit us, and we're not booked to go anywhere or do anything. Snow, cold and wet are still preventing Dad getting out on the allotment, so I suspect a weekend of leisurely awakenings and maybe some sporadic garden tidying. Dad, I know, has his eyes on the old horned-poppy seed heads and dead Californian poppy foliage out front, and Mum is thinking she must prune the roses.

Have a good weekend

Thursday 11 February 2010

No getting out of it.

As you can see from these pics, we did get a bit more snow over night, it coming down seriously off and on, but realistically it was the East end of Kent that bore the brunt (Dover etc) and we only woke up to an inch. Dad decided he couldn't really cry off a planned trip down to Bristol, getting a few worried texts from Mum before he got there about the state of more snow falling and maybe him not being able to get back.
He is now safely home and we are all safely gathered back into home and hearth. A nice warm pic of Haggis in a recent favourite position, stretched out really close to the fire. That always used to be Meggie's role "official fire-worshipper", but lately Haggis has adopted the position. He does look nice and warm.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Not quite finished

Winter, it seems, has not quite done with us yet, here in Kent, and tonight we are back with the bitterly cold NE winds and the flurries of snow. Some of them are pretty genuine, and in the cold evening air they lay and stay. It's just a dusting for now, but it gives a nice background to some snowdrops, daffs (tete-a-tete) and the Scots pine which had been racing into action thinking Spring had arrived. It also sends Mum and Dad scurrying off back to the farm shop for more coal. They'd been wondering whether coal-buying was done with for this winter.

It's also got me back into the blogging seat after a bit of a break. Haven't been in the mood, and with Dad suffering from man-flu (and we all know how deadly that can be!), he's been unable to chase me to post stuff. Well, here we are back.

Diamond is, meanwhile, now in the ultra-specialist Hospital in London for a bit of a make or break serious one, so our thoughts are with you Diamond. Mum will be up to visit, but Dad, in his current red-nosed, hawking, pathetic state would not even get through the portals before some big ex-Army physio nurse rugby-tackled him to the ground in the name of Infection Control.

So, we have a NE wind, falling snow, a coal fire and Mum creating something delicious in the kitchen. What more could we all want?