Wednesday 28 April 2010

More on Millicent

More on that Narrow Boat we found at the Iron Wharf boat yard, Millicent Maud. Her normal home is Tring on the Grand Union Canal, but the owner lives in Boughton, just down the road. He has her in the boat yard at present for some major structural stuff which he is well into at this stage.

When he bought her she had doors half way along the sides, none at the front end, and a tiny little front deck without sufficient room to sit and enjoy the view, which Mrs and Mr S, and Mum will attest to being the nicest bit, well away from the smoke and engine noise.

So what he's doing is to cut away 3 feet of the cabin front to fabricate a nice seating area, and creating a bulkhead with door into the first room. This would have effectively shortenend the bedroom by 3 feet, which is nobody's idea of a good thing to do, so he's had to do some jiggery pokery inside the boat to give himself back a sensible layout.

He and Dad chatted for what seemed like an hour, when all we wanted to do was get on with the walk!


Monday 26 April 2010

Another landmark

We pass another landmark today, or rather we pass two. We have, during the course of today, seen our 6000th hit on this blog (now 6008) and our 9000th Page View (currently 9017). We are also keeping up our usual good spread across the world and all this despite the fact that I've not been quite so good lately at posting as frequently.

Some of this is down to a bit of drift in the enthusiasm department - I was struggling to find anything more interesting to say besides "went to the Rec again and met Luca the Lurcher / Theo the Dalmatian / Smudge1 / Smudge2 / Barney / Bailey etc etc". We dogs do not live interesting lives all the time.

A part of it too is that some of the posting drive on this computer is now shared with Dad's other love, the SB Cambria, where he posts every day. If you fancy a quick look visit the Cambria Trust website and look in "Volunteer's Views" - that's Dad posting those. They are all about barges, though, so be warned.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading this stuff and creeping those stats up. It all makes it seem more worthwhile, knowing I'm not just launching these off into the ether to be lost and abandoned.


Sunday 25 April 2010

In disgrace

Remember old Denis? Dad to Rags, and frequent visitor along with Diamond? Well, he's passed away now, but 10 years ago he gave Mum and Dad a small bay tree about 4 feet high. My third pic today shows that this is now more like 15 feet and badly shades the "sun terrace", the kitchen window and even the upstairs bathroom window. It had to go. Coming originally as a gift from Denis it was jokingly known round here as the Denis N Memorial Bay Tree.
This was a job for Saturday afternoon, Dad manning the pruning saw and secateurs, Mum moving load after load of cut-up bay to the tip in her car. We had also booked JW, partner of Diamond, and his chain saw to come and finish off the job with a neat horizontal cut just over two feet from the ground. The plan is to buy a sun-dial here after known as the Denis N Memorial Sundial. JW also sawed the bigger bits into logs, which was handy - these are now stacked in the "log-wall" down by the gravel garden.
Today's main emtertainment was the Friends of Kingswood "bluebell walk" which Dad was due to lead. Unfortunately with the cold winter and slow spring, the bluebells are barely out. Even in the known "best places" you are looking across a blanket of the dark green foliage with maybe half a dozen open flowers spotted about. It will be a good 2 weeks (even if it's as warm as this) before there's a good show, but of course, FoKW can't predict this last October when they are putting together their walks programme.
No matter - we have a good walk in the warm forest and everybody has a good time. We are accompanied by 14 humans and a large ancient shaggy black Alsatian. I am in disgrace now though because at one point I spot a group of 5 sheep in a paddock and I'm gone and under the gate before anyone can stop me. Farmers are allowed shoot any dog worrying their sheep and ask questions afterwards, so my charge (which is admittedly not full-hearted, and only makes the sheep collect together and move a few yards up the field) has Dad bellowing anxiously and grabbing to open the gate and get on my tail.
Unkind spectators have suggested that the farmer, alarmed by seeing his sheep suddenly group and trot up the paddock might have then fallen about laughing at the sight of a rabbit-sized fluffy white westie racing up the grass, and then got more worried by the roaring human risking heart attack in hot pursuit. Dad shouted enough to make me crouch in fear of my life and he grabbed me up and trotted back down to the gate not daring to look behind him at the farmhouse in case he made eye contact with the farmer.
ps - my other pic here is another bit of old junk now owned by Dad, a rotovator, now back in working order, dating from 1967.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Ra Ra

Rumour has it that it's Mrs Silverwood's Birthday and that she is selflessly spending it with daughters Em-J and J-M down in Co Mayo at the National Baton-Twirling Championships, where the girls are covering themselves in glory, medals and trophies. Well done all you Silverwood ladies, and Happy Birthday to Mrs S. Take some time for yourself, make sure you do!

I don't know if this might be one event that Mr Silverwood has swerved by volunteering to babysit toddler-M and even-more-toddler-ish-R, but I suspect it might. Hope it all went seamlessly for you too, Mr S. By the way, Mum and Dad will expect a demo of baton twirling skill on the tow-path at Sowerby Bridge. Not too near the edge, mind. We don't want J-M joining the exclusive Society of Canal Baptists.

Outside here all day has been a broken down black Vauxhall, sometimes blocking both our and Jim's drive, sometimes attended by assorted boyfriends while Lady owner hovered, chatting into mobile phone continuously. People came and people went. Jump leads were tried and assorted tinkerings under the bonnet. Finally at about 7pm, after it had been there for at least 9 hours somebody looked at the petrol guage and had a light-bulb moment. Half a gallon from a red plastic "can" and away she went, good as new. Made Dad feel not quite so silly about the diesel-in-2CV episode.

Happy Birthday Mrs Silverwood

Saturday 17 April 2010

Raw Fish 'Eads

Although he did spend a huge amount of today up at the allotment rotovating and the planting spuds, onion sets, broad beans and peas, there was time for a good walk and it turned into quite an interesting one.
Passing through the boat yard we tracked down the construction job on SB Cambria's "leeboards", the big flaps that attach to the side of the barge and can be lowered down to vertical to form a keel on the leeward (downwind) side of the barge. This stops the barge slipping to leeward when wind comes from the side of the boat, which is flat-bottomed. Cambria has a huge sail area (5000 sq feet) so these boards are 20 feet long or so, and will also have an aerofoil shape to help give "lift" (sideways force in this case, into the wind). Spot the two little dog-faces centre right in the picture
Coming back past the church we even came across an old Routemaster London Bus being used as wedding transport. Nice day for the wedding - skies blue (and devoid of jet-plane vapour trails!) although bit of a chilly wind still.
Back home, Dad cooks trout, which is good news for westies who like to crunch up a raw fish head. The humans tend to insist we do this out on the terrace and that they do not necessarily have to be there. Can't think why. We leave nothing - just lick-marks on the block paving.

Thursday 15 April 2010

Barely a ripple

Dad sneaks a birthday through with barely a ripple - a couple of cards and a text from Neice Madeleine, plus (of course) some prezzies from Mum. He had left a few unsubtle hints on the "Birthday Present Ideas" board just in case she was feeling uninspired; these were mainly barge-book flavoured; he needn't have worried.
Mum is constantly appalled by the big gaps in Dad's "education" born out of growing up in a house which didn't have a TV (it still hasn't), he has whole chunks of "culture" missing. The original old St Trinians films, for example. Dad was watching the new one, bought recently by Mum (Russell Brand, Rupert Everett etc) and professing ignorance of any previous incarnations. This ends up as a rich vein of Birthday Present ideas for Mum to mine, as you can imagine!
The evening is also a dead loss as Dad has to be at a Hort Soc speaker's night (subject greenhouses - think the earlier scenes in "Calendar Girls" where they are yawning to talks on broccoli) to take money off all the little old ladies who are going on a coach outing. So there's no chance of a special meal, and that gets postponed to Friday Night when there is a chance of the obligatory Calvados.
And today he's busy, too, bound for the Hilton Hotel (no less) in Bristol, for a meeting. He reports enjoying the sight of buzzards and red kites soaring above the M4 in the clear sunny blue skies, while the volcanic ash from Iceland sneaks in at even higher level and closes down all the airspace. The kites and buzzards are not listening. On one Radio 4 programme the presenter is taken out into the back garden of a lady who lives under Heathrow's flight path to record and transmit the silence (!). M4 and M25 Matrix boards all proclaim Heathrow Closed, or Gatwick Closed.

Sunday 11 April 2010

These are not just eggs

These are not just eggs. These are Sandra's allotment chicken, free range, organic eggs. This is not just a westie. This is a westie whose cheeks have been treated (the day after she was shampoo'd) with Thames Sailing-Barge sail dressing, a noxious mixture of fish oil, linseed, red ochre and usually something like horse-piss. A sailing barge keeps her sails up in the rig all year. They are never taken off the masts and stowed in a nice dry sail locker, so they are treated each year to preserve them from a year's worth of sea and salt and sun and rot, with this sloppy, oily mixture.
But they are beeeeeg. The SB Cambria had 5000 square feet of sails. So they guys spread them out on the quay side and paint the ick on with sweeping brooms. They go right to the edges and , inevitably, slop some on the surrounding grass and dirt. This is very attractive to westies, who can get a quick slither in on their cheek and chest before their Dad susses out what they are at.
Deefer 1, shampooers nil!

Saturday 10 April 2010


Off down to Hastings today to the Pud Lady's house. Mum and Dad are cooking for them and, because we don't know for sure how many guests there will be, we are "feeding the 5000". 2 whole chooks get roasted, which is good news for us.
As well as Pud Lady and Stamp Man, we know that T-Fer will be there, as well as Pud Lady's even older Sister (Sylvia), a guy called Mike, and one of Dad's cousins, Don, who comes with a big solid boy dalmatian callede Mylo. We get on Ok mostly. I am a bit restrained in Pud-Lady's garden because I have a history of vanishing through holes under the fence and treating all the gardens within "The Crescent" as my home, but Mylo is let off the lead and we make friends.
Back indoors, this doesn't necessarily stay the distance as he woofs at me if I try to nick one of his treats and I am forced to leap on Dad's lap and shout at him a few times from there, much to the amusement of all comers.
Back home, Mum and Dad both decide I am a bit "minging" from my exploration of Llew's rat-shed so I am shampoo'd to within an inch. It's not fair!

Friday 9 April 2010


I was walkin'.....
Now I'm travellin' in style
(as the song goes)
Dad inherits from 2CV Lew, an old rotovator which is older than he is. Lew was using it regularly up until about 2 years ago when he gave up his allotment, and now has no further use for it, so he offers it to Dad but on trying to start it, cannot get it to spark up. Dad decides to take it anyway, but via the mower-doctors we used before.
The easiset way to transport it is going to be in the 2CV, pushed in throiugh a back door with the back seat taken out (an easy job in a 2CV, 2 bolts and it hinges forward and slots out). This means we get to sit down in the passenger footwell for the trip over to Lew's but at least Dad chucks a hi-vis coat in there for us to lie on. The pic has me on the left looking slightly anxious, Haggis looking as chilled as ever. These days, as long as he's with his Dad he's happy. He don't need no seat in the back of his car.
The mower-docs are intrigued. Dad introduces the job with "As you did so well on the mower, I thought I'd give you a challenge this time" and leads them to the car. "We like a challenge" they say. "It's not the car", says Dad. "That's good", they say - "that would be a challenge!". Cheeky s*ds! The guys haul it out of the car and get a good look at it. They scratch their chins and call an old mechanic over. "He's good with the old stuff". "How old is it?" asks Dad. Old guy looks at the registration plate numbers.... "January 1953" he says. It's older than Dad! We leave it with them, to see if they can do anything.
The white flowers pic is the Magnolia stellate in the front garden, which is at its magnificent best.
We go exploring at Lower Halstow, but more of that tomorrow
Have a good weekend

Sunday 4 April 2010

The good ship Kestrel

Some pics then of the good ship Kestrel moored to her recent long-stay moorings at Hollow Shore down by the most excellent pub "The Shipwrights' Arms" (Dad reccommends the Goachers Ship Wreck if you are keen on real ales at all).
Sorry these are only mobile-phone pics.
In the dog pic, I am nearest the camera, Haggis is looking intrepidly out to sea (well out across the creek anyway). The guy in the cockpit earnestly scrubbing is 2CV Llew himself fitter-in-chief of Dad's own "Clara Bow" car.

I suspect Dad may get kinda involved in this boat and go on some sailing missions there-in. He used to whizz "Larks" about on gravel pits in Cambridgeshire as a student, so he knows his way around spinnakers, booms, cleats and gybing, but Kestrel has a load of bigger-boat stuff like coffee-grinder winches, shrouds, auto-helm and a little Mercury out-board (which Llew has yet to service). We'll see. Even Llew's dog Rosie (she of the beer and tea drinking fame) has never been out on a boat with him before, so it could be quite entertaining.
Watch this space

Saturday 3 April 2010

Happy Easter

A couple of vaguely barge-related pics just to keep your appetities whetted. The planky tarry one is SB Cambria from low down on the starb'd bow, somewhere near where the waterline will be when she is (re) launched at the end of this year.

The brushes are just brooms well lathered up with the sail dressing concoction, and the van is
just a good way to advertise the SB Greta
For Mum it's a few days off allegedly for Easter but she is nose to the grind stone trying to complete yet another Open Univ. essay which has run close to the deadline, Dad is having a comparitively easy time and enjoying a rare long Easter break. He took us down to the Hollow Shore where 2CV Llew has just taken ownership of a nice little 20 foot sailing cruiser.
The previous owner of this boat bought her and tried her out once but maybe frightened himself and promptly gave up, and she has been moored up for 2 years un-used. Her cabins is a bit damp from being closed up to condensation all that time, and her decks, sheets and sides are well greened up with algae. Today's job (in between sitting on Llew's "sundeck" (some old plywood boards by his caravan) and drinking coffee) was to give the girl a good scrubbing with soapy water, and to open all the hatches to let her dry out thoroughly.
She is called "Kestrel". 20 feet long, she is described as "very beamy" by those in the know - she must be about 7-8 feet wide at the widest point. She has a fibre-glass hull and aluminium mast and boom. All the sails and gear are intact and in working order (though we guess could use unfurling and airing). Dad is promised some sailing outings in return for his deck-scrubbing. We do not know if we are invited.
Haggis has been out with Megan on the SB Greta, and both of them as young dogs, spent some time on a river cruiser owner by one of Dad's chums (from which viewpoint they shouted at sheep on the river bank apparently). Plus we have all been narrowboating, of course, so we're all clued up on nautical affairs.
Have a great Easter.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Go Theo !

Easter is upon us, which means the end of Lent and therefore Mum and Dad's successful attempt to eschew the demon alcohol for 6-7 weeks (since Pancake Day) is all over and tonight's soul food menu of choice was fish and chips and fizz and red wine.
We are pleased to be able to report that Theo, hubby of Steak-Lady is coming back out of hospital (allegedly his first ever stay in such a place in 82 years!) with nothing more serious than a chest infection. A mad keen fan of the medical drama "House", he was allegedly intrigued and fascinated by all the goings on, especially when his condition did not immediately succumb to easy diagnosis, and he expected Hugh Lawrie to come round the corner at any minute with his entourage and say "Nooooo... it's never Lupus!" We also hear that he was quite taken with a certain lady doctor, and didn't want to come home. Atta boy Theo!