Monday 28 June 2010


Tonight's write-up has several co-incidental links to the Dam Busters, but starts off with a repeat of me saying how totally mad these humans are. One of the highlights of the 2CV camp to which we have just been is the Saturday night joint barbecue and kazoo orchestra session.

The barbie is fabricated from an up-turned 2CV bonnet and a supermarket trolley and is big enough for plenty of humans to cook plenty of meat all at once. The humans also consume a degree of booze, but not too much and then adjourn to the marquee / party-tent for a mad session where everyone is given a kazoo to play (although this year there was an outbreak of learning to play ukuleles so there were a few of them). There are also various percussion instruments made out of bits of car (cymbals made of hub caps on a proper stand, bongoes from car headlight "pots", a drum kit made of rocker covers etc). Main man Andy produces a Guitaron, which is a big double-bass sized guitar with no frets, from Mexico.

The mad humans then work their way madly, raucously and loudly through cartoon themes (Top Cat etc), Muppet songs, pop songs and war themes as the light falls. Do they not realise our hearing is 40,000 times as sensitive as theirs? Mercy me!

I've already said that over at the Preston Steam Rally, half a dozen fields away at most, there was a fine display of old military kit and vehicles including 2 WW2 searchlights with tow/generator lorries. The Rally goes on till late on Saturday night after all the public have gone with a dinner and dance for the exhibitors, and once it's dark the searchlight crews light their lights and send their fine columns of light upward raking the sky for enemy aircraft. This they did just as we were doing the Dambusters Theme, so you can imagine all the humans ran outside and kazoo'd as loudly as they could, hoping to be heard at Preston.

The camp's 2CV convoy earlier had also been to the Reculver Towers, scene of much of Barnes-Wallis's testing of the bombs in wartime, so we were well Dam-Bustered up and it was a magic moment.

Darrr Dah Dah Dah Dudduddaahh Dah Dahhhhhh


Sunday 27 June 2010

Holiday Romance

Ahhhhhh.... 'tis smitten I am, blown to bits by a holiday romance. Our absence over the last few days has been because Dad has been away with Haggis and I to the annual 2CV camp down in Preston (Kent), just east of Canterbury, north of Wingham. It's been bakingly, stultifyingly hot (which is unusual for a 2CV camp, where Force 8 and driving rain is the norm, coinciding, as it does, usually with Glastonbury weekend).
This camp takes place in a field which is normally a horse paddock, so there was poo to roll in and smear all over my neck (We'd only been there 10 minutes, so Dad was cross) and the heat meant I had to lie up under (oily, old, leaky) cars for shade, so I very quickly got my usual camp oil-slick down my back, only partly removed by an emergency bath in a fire bucket with Fairy liquid as shampoo!
At this camp, Dad met old friends from many camps including J+J, who turn up this year with a new dog, a brown long-haired German pointer of great beauty and youth. He has the old-French name of Artous, as befits a 2CV-dog if not a German pointer. See my picture. Well, the campers could get on with it as far as I was concerned - my mission was straight away to tease him and get him to play, which he was quite happy to do, and which meant I could zip about out-manouvring him and nipping under cars to lose him, but then letting him find me again. There were comments from humans about "outrageous flirting" and being a "tease" and a "tart" but I was lost to all reason.
More on all this tomorrow.
Ahhhh... Artous... will you remember me? Will you write?

Thursday 24 June 2010

Em-J goes sailing

We're excited to learn via a comment from Mr Silverwood, that Em-J has now taken up sailing too, possibly inspired by all these tales of water-bourne adventures from Mum, Dad, 2CV Llew and Derek. Tantalisingly few details at this stage - come on Mr S; Dad's been out in "Lark" class dinghies but there's all sorts - "Mirrors", "Optimists", GP14's etc etc, so we need to know what manner of tub the beginners are let loose in!
Also, tell us more. Lough Derg? That's on the Shannon, right? Was it a school trip? How many went? How did she get on? Was she allowed out single handed? Is she now sold on sailoring?
Here's a pic, just for a taster of a bit-bigger-than-a-dinghy, boat - the "Bonzer", our 30-footer from last Friday. Maybe Em-J will come out as 4th-hand?
Meanwhile, we're all off on our own adventure today, so we'll tell you all about that when we get back. Look after yourselves.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Now they're both at it!

Now they're both at it, Mum and Dad both leaving us abandoned indoors while they go off and enjoy a day's sailing on board the barge SB Greta, based in Whitstable. Haggis has been out, in the days of Megan and before my time, both of them getting on famously with black and tan barge-dog Alfie, but the theory is I'm a bit too skittish and would launch myself over the side. I was also a bit nervous when allowed to walk the decks of SB Cambria a couple of weeks back, and she was aground and in her dry dock (also aground!).
In fact, thinks Dad now after the event, it might not be so bad, as Alfie has chilled a lot with age and would suit Haggis as a companion - the two could metaphorically smoke their pipes and chat about sailorman days of yore like 2 old salts, and I could be shown the ropes by fresh new, spirited, shout-at-all-other-boats Jack Russell, "Ludo". She's pretty good at chasing towards the rail at the edge of the deck and stopping just in time. I'd soon pick it up. Back when H+M went though, they were invited out of the blue by skipper-owner, Steve, and Dad doesn't like to press him, so unless we get another unprompted invite, we are doomed to wait on shore while the humans sail away.
The other pic here, by the way, is Cambria's dry dock from the "wet" side - the starb'd quarter as seen from Greta in the creek.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Sailing Orphans

When Mum was telling Diamond all about Dad going sailing on Friday, she referred to herself as a "Sailing Widow". On that basis we must be Sailing Orphans by now, as Dad is off sea-faring again. This time he blags his way on board SB Greta for her run from here round to Whitstable where she will (the Skipper hopes) be based right round to October enjoying a successful Summer of chartering.
Dad has to meet the barge at 09:00. They must shuffle ropes and un-bury themselves from behind SB Repertor before motoring gently down the creek to the Swale. It's a lovely warm sunny day with little breeze. That's OK with Dad because in these gentle conditions, Steve the owner-skipper trusts Dad with the helm as he and 1st Mate Rob hoist the topsail and drop a leeboard. Dad reckons he's about 8th Mate behind those two, various family members and the two dogs, Alfie and Ludo (who we've met).
Dad then gets to keep the helm all way down the Swale and Eastwards and then south (including a deliberate "dough-nut" allowing the topsail, which has to be on the starb'd side of the boat to be lowered, to get there with a southerly wind) till they are actually inside Whistable harbour mouth. With big solid walls looming and some jiggery pokery needed with an anchor dropped so that the barge can be swung round the anchor into the correct position for berthing port-side in (head to wind), Steve takes over, and Dad is only too happy to surrender the wheel!
All home safe and sound now - although Dad snuck off again to get some route directions for an upcoming 2CV convoy round Grove Ferry, Reculver and Sarre windmill.
It's all go round here (unless you're a dog!)

Sunday 20 June 2010

Night Shift

Poor old Dad has to work a night shift. EDF Energy, who supply Dad's work with electrons, need to service the substation, so all the power's going to be off from 0200 to 0600 and Dad has to go in to nurse the computer systems safely to sleep, and then gently wake them all up again when the work is done. So we have to see him off at "last out" and then look after Mum in case she gets burgled in her sleep, till Dad gets home at 07:30.
Dad then sleeps through till midday (as do we, all in a heap) and then gets involved in allotment judging round the town, and a bit of harvesting on his own plot, broad beans and artichokes. It's all go, here, I tell you!

Friday 18 June 2010


Some nice pics tonight. First up, we get abandoned again as Dad goes off sailing in the Swale with 2CV Llew and his buddy Derek who owns a slightly tired looking 30-foot sailing boat called Bonzer. This was Dad's first time sailing (except for barge trips) since he used to sail dinghies (Larks) on gravel pits while at University, so he was a bit rusty (and the Larks never had all this posh coffee-grinder winch technology!) but they let him steer for ages and play with a few sheets (ropes) and it all came back to him.

The Swale was a good bit breezy and spotting in the wind, so it was a bit chilly, but he's home now, back in the warm and Mum is cooking his supper. The 2nd pic is of his posh new car, which he's only had a week at this stage.

Have a great weekend


Monday 14 June 2010


With the end-of-May Fairground pantechnicons moved off the Rec we can go a nice walk tonight catching up that favourite route, so that Haggis can stroll, while I race about after the ball.
Dad is a-buzz with an exciting encounter tonight, all be it one which would mean little to anyone not interested in barges. He's been invited down to the barge after work to meet, along with Will-the-Project-Manager a guy who actually served on the Cambria as "Mate" during her last years of trade. This guy is a brilliant, down-to-earth bloke although he's so famous in barge-circles that he's like a "celeb" and Dad is worried he'll be all tongue-tied and awe-struck. More so when Will gets hospitalised by gastro-enteritis, and Dad must host the guy on his own, although Master Shipwright Tim steps in to greet the guy in case Dad can't get there in time.
In the event Dad needn't have worried, as the guy is so un-assuming and chatty and natural, it's dead easy to chat away and the hour-plus whizzes by. He's full of stories and anecdotes; a real old salty sailorman.
I managed to wheedle out of Dad a bit of an anecdote of his own about Cambria this weekend. Dad was juggling camera and lenses as he came down the gang plank with his "oppo" Richard and managed to fumble a lens cap which fell and landed flat on the sloppy tidal creek mud, 6 feet below and 6 feet out from the quay side. Dad was happy to write it off, with the tide racing in, but Richard hatched a cunning plan to "borrow" one of the shipwrights' ladders, let Dad and he down onto a wooden fender-block and then lay the ladder almost horizontal from the block out across the mud, scramble out along it and retrieve the lens cap.
It nearly went pear-shaped, as the ladder started to gloop down into the mud, and also to slide away from the bank and fender block, but with Richard holding the slide, and Dad scrambling quickly before the ladder could sink, the cap was recovered, the guys climbed back up the now-quite-muddy ladder to the quayside and , whistling innocently, returned the ladder to the place it came from. The tide came in and quickly covered the ladder-shaped scar in the smooth tidal mud. They wonder if the shipwrights were curious as to how the ladder got muddy.....
We're not telling!

Saturday 12 June 2010

Broad Beans

I've been asked why there was a picture of a nightjar in yesterday's post, and no mention there-of. Well, we put the nightjar in fully intending to talk about nightjars, but then got all carried away with tales of heroic battles with bay trees and jasmine arbours.

Dad had done his annual leading of a guided walk with the Friends of Kingswood, this one the Nightjar walk. It was a good one. They'd had a good turn out and not lost anyone in the dark, and the nightjars had done their stuff churring and flapping about. They also saw and heard (via the bat-box) plenty of bats but there was no sign of deer, glow worms or woodcock, which are usually seen on this walk)

Ah well, the jasmine is now all gone, bagged up and lugged up to the tip in 5 car journeys, all in Mum's little Fiat because Dad picked up his brand new car yesterday and didn't want to be filling it with skanky old jasmine.

Up at the allotment, Dad gets a good cut of spinach, a couple of artichokes and the first broad beans. Back at home he pods these out into a bucket and is that a tear I see come to his eye? He's welling up a bit missing Megan. Megan used to love a broad bean straight out of the pod (the gnarlier and older, grey skinned the bean, the better) and used to sit at Dad's feet every time they podded hoping for Dad to occasionally give her a bean, or accidentally ping one out across the terrace. Haggis and I hate beans, so we're no use to him here, and I think it brought it all back.

Poor ol' Dad

Friday 11 June 2010

Garden heroics

The weather's gone all change-able so quite often our walks are snatched between rain showers but we still seem to get about, covering all the usual favourite routes - "cemetery and rec", "back of the allotments", "boatyard and town", "boatyard and school fields", "high ridge path" etc. There are plenty of people about so we keep track of all the friends.
Mum and Dad occasionally get "one on them"; that look in their eye about some aspect of the garden which is slowly but surely starting to over-power their veiw on how it should be; a small tree which is now starting to block light to the sun-terrace, a climber led up a trellis which now threatens to collapse the trellis with its weight, a nice spot-plant which has now started to merge with its neighbours on all sides, that kind of thing.
Last month it was the Denis Memorial Bay Tree which came to us from Denis when he was alive, as a very healthy 3-stem tree about 5 foot high and quickly established itself. At some point Dad cut down 2 of the stems to reduce its bulk, but the one left, relieved of competition really started to motor. Soon there was no sun on the terrace at the vital 4-6pm time, and the top of it was on the level with the upstairs toilet window. That had to go, lopped clean of branches and then chain-sawed down to 2 foot by John to become the post for a Denis Memorial sun-dial. The terrace is a sunny place again.
Next up, this weekend, was a massive thatch-thick jasmine which started life as a nice shady cover for an arbour, giving you dappled coolth as you sat on the gravel garden looking at the pond. By now, 10 years later the trunks of it, all gnarly and wound round each other go 4 inches thick, and the top of the arbour has layer upon layer of dead, decaying "thatch" going about 2 feet, with this year's new growth hooping out of the top another 2 feet. The timbers of the arbour are twisted and bowed by the weight and growth-forces of the jasmine, and the whole rocks alarmingly in a cross wind.
Or it did. Mum and Dad got that look in their eye again and soon they were armed with secateurs, pruning saw, grass-hook and bill-hook. The floppy sides of the "roof" were first cut back to the perimeter of the arbour, but then roof "panels" were cut away one by one. Now there is a great pile of cut jasmine on the gravel, and a naked, twisted, weak looking arbour waiting to be taken for recycling when it's not actually tanking down with rain. We had just under an inch of rain last night. It's hammering down.
Look after yourselves

Monday 7 June 2010


Ahhh here he is, the dashing handsome chap; always suave, debonair, groomed, slick, sharp.... never a hair (or chunk of duckweed) out of place. Who couldn't love the silly old sod?

Meanwhile we hear that both those Yorkie pups you saw in an earlier post, still with their Mum when our Mum and Dad went over to visit the Silverwoods in Ireland, are now happily ensconced with their various human families. The first, smaller, smooth coated (ish) one is named Rameses, Steak Lady being mad keen on all things Egyptological, so is having to cope with prior Yorkies Cracker and Rosie (whom we have also featured previously in this blog) plus the new (ish) Siamese Seal-Point "Seti" (another Egyptian deity)).

The larger, hairier beast, named Coco, is now with the Silverwoods and therefore has to contend with the ancient mongrel "Chance" and the lively children (Em-J, J-M, Toddler M and Wobbly-toddler R) plus any other members of the current menagerie (tortoises, hamsters etc). We wonder whether we will meet Coco over on the narrow boat any time soon, but we suspect not this year. He will be very very small still, and the thought of making sure he survives a week on a boat with we mob is almost a nightmare. A girl could turn white overnight.... Dad says, that'd be a change!

The Nerve!


Sunday 6 June 2010

My 800th Post!

This is a pic of Haggis anointing the new red oxide paint on Cambria's leeboard. You can see from the splash of wee that he's actually re-claiming it for Westie-dom after it's already been pee'd on by boat yard dog (and chum) "Harry", a big old collie cross who is taller than H so can spray farther and wider. H's legs are only 6 inches and the leeboard is about 9 inches off the ground, so H's effort misses completely and goes underneath.

Daimond, John and Northern family friend of Diamond, Joan descend upon us this afternoon for a bit of roast pork lunch. They bring Rags down so that Dad can give him a bit of tidy up round his bits with scissors, and make his "aft" end a bit more fragrant. Rags is happy to oblige but counteracts any attempt to make him clean by diving into the fish pond.

This is very normal for Rags and he loves to emerge looking thoroughly disreputable, his beard and Denis Healey eyebrows turned into sodden rats tails, and his fur liberally speckled with green duckweed. Only a Mother could love him.

I don't, of course and spend the whole visit glaring at him balefully from as near as I can get to Dad's lap, growling when he gets too close, and yapping at him single piercing yaps if he forgets. It makes for a lovely, bucolic, peaceful, tranquil rural scene.

Taxi for Ragworth!

Saturday 5 June 2010

The Heat is On

Summer is definitely here, and we spend most of the day trying to find shade in the garden, only going for a walk once the intense midday scorchio has died down and it comes up humid and all thundery-expectant. 2 nice pics of the front garden here, which currently features the hot orange of Californian poppy (eschscholzia ... as far as we know the only word with schsch in it!) and the towering bursts of Nectaroscordum. They are called "Rapunzel castles" around here because as the flowers get pollinated and set seed the individual heads sheath up and stand up like magical fairy tale castle turrets. It says 'ere.
The walk was out around the back way to the allotments and back through same. It's very very dry up there and could definitely use the thunder-rain. Embarrassingly, when it's so dry, the only thing that performs really well is the very very deep rooted marestail weed that grows in from the nearby railway bank like some kind of dinosaur-forest plant. A true survivor, it stays green and crisp when everything else parches and dies back.
Dad is on weekend cover so he's been in to work today and has picked up the series of texts and conference calls that go with it. A little bit more of same tomorrow and then a final call at 07:30 Monday, after which he can hand the "operation" back to its rightful owners. Interestingly he has also been contacted by a local film maker who wants to pick his brains on the subject of Thames Sailing Barges. taht won't take long then, will it Dad? Oy!