Saturday 28 August 2010

Both Sides Now

No, not a story about barge planking, you'll be amazed to know.
As Haggis starts to slow down into the Autumn of his years, he is ever slower to warm up into a walk, stretching his leg muscles and building up speed. So, for the first 200-300 yards he is seriously slow, and seems to think up ever more curmudgeonly wiles and devious tricks to slow the progress, needing to sniff and pee at every blade of grass and brick gate post. We regularly end up with Dad in the middle of a 30 foot "vehicle" with me stretching out front eager to be ahead, and the H dragging along 15 feet behind.
Slowly, though, he warms up and starts to trot and quarter of a mile in he's ambling along like his old self. We've noticed though, that he never really relaxes and gets comfortable till he's had a few "comfort stops" and done his Number-2's. With the roads we walk at first being paved only one side, this mainly means cocking his left leg and peeing that way, but that's not really enough for Haggis, and he seems to need the chance before he can really relax, to nip up a side turn and spin round so that he can also pee with his right leg cocked. We swear it's almost as if he needs to empty both halves of his bladder.
Curious doggy.

Friday 27 August 2010

More J-M

I promised to give you some more on the J-M visit, having covered Harrods, Hamleys and Buck House. There's plenty to tell. The London stuff was Tuesday. Wednesday saw us on a variety of 2CV adventures; first to the allotments where J-M fancied a go at digging some spuds and picking blackberries, and we ended up by pulling onions, picking beans and beetroot, and even a small amount of chard. We headed off to "the horse place" to buy wild bird food, and dropped in on some more blackberry bushes near the boatyard, to fill our punnet.

We head for the "Goods Shed" farm shop in Canterbury to buy meat, cheeses, more veg, cup cakes and nice bread for Wednesday's supper with Diamond and John. That evening ends up with a bit of a drama when the hot tap pipework springs a leak under the sink, and we end up having to haul out the fridge freezer and washing machine to try to get at it to repair it. Plenty of dog sniffing opportunities in nooks and crannies which never see the light of day.

On Thursday, Mum takes J-M off to Canterbury for shopping for outfits and make-up, Mum trying to steer J-M away from the all-pervading favourite pinks, towards purple and "teal". We also have to drop Mum's car off at the Fiat dealer for service.

Today's been a bit more of a quiet day for J-M but that's partly because the planned outdoor swimming pool trip got vetoed by the chilly wind and rain. Also, it's Mum's birthday (Happy Birthday to Mum!). There's the car to collect, and the plumber to entertain - that's our mate Bob S, who we've known for ages and who bought one of Megan's pups from the first litter, Little Owen.

All good things must end, though, and we are coming to the end of J-M's stay. Mr Silverwood pitches up tomorrow for a day when we're all together, but armed with tickets for the flights home on Sunday.

Ah well.

Thursday 26 August 2010

J-M in the House

We are now in the middle of our week of entertaining J-M, currently over here from the Silverwood's domain in Ireland. She is being treated to a week of delights and entertainments. Top of the list is undoubtedly the London trip on Tuesday - the excitement of a train ride up there, underground trains, just being there and walking the streets ("It's not as busy as I thought") and Harrods (mainly the food halls which are truly spectacular, and where J-M bought fudge just for the green Harrods bag), the toy dept and the outrageously priced young-people's fashion dept (tiny ra-ra skirt for £200+ anyone? Little jacket for £1099?).

From there we move on by taxi to China Town (Gerrard Street, naturally) for a Chinese meal at lunchtime (delicious and she fell upon it, but the place would never win any awards for fast service!). From there to Hamley's and circuit after circuit of several of the floors; pink overload in the "girls' floor", and lots of time (and plenty of money) spent in the "Build a Bear" dept.
In Harrods, by the way we'd just missed some celeb 'babe' or other from Girls Aloud in there launch her new make up range, getting only a glance at the back of her head as she disappeared into a area crammed with screaming herberts (who'd all queued, presumably) chased by 20-30 'entourage' people. Mum tried to blag a way through some displays to get closer, but a very polite young shop assistant said "Ahem.... I'm afraid that area of the shop is currently closed, I'm very sorry".

Mum and Dad had not met BuildaBear before but they have now - you buy an empty soft toy bear "skin" and you take it to the stuffing dept where a friendly assistant talks the child through stuffing it, giving it a little heart to stuff inside, and letting him/her press the on-switch with a foot, making pledges to always love the bear etc and then, inevitably, there are many many opportunities to spend money on outfits and other BuildaBear related stuff. J-M started the week with a fixed 'spending money' budget and managed to make quite a dent in it just in that one dept.
From there we walked down through some of the posher shopping streets of London, New Bond Street for one, past Cartier jewellery, Dolce and Gabbana, YSL etc - every one of them with doors closed and hefty security men guarding the door. We guess they need to see a Platinum Card before they'll even let you set foot. Our destination at that stage was Buckingham Palace but by then J-M's feet were blistered from walking too long in pinchy-shoes. We'd tried to find softer shoes for sale but could find none in her size.
It was a good day, all be it exhausting.
More on this adventure tomorrow

Sunday 22 August 2010

Challock 6 Miler

The last 2 English Elms on our Rec have had it, victim of Dutch Elm Disease. The Swale boys will come and fell them soon with their chain saws. The disease, vectored around by beetles kills by blocking or disrupting the water channels within the tree, so the poor things die of drought, not helped this year by the real drought. We've been told that the beetles tend to fly at about 15 feet up, so elms are safe till they get to that tall, and doomed there-after. It's just a matter of time till a beetle happens upon them.
Today, a real treat. Dad is leading the Friends of Kingswood 6 mile walk. Haggis, at 13, is a bit to old for these now, so I'm on my own, but one of the walkers has a 1 year old whippet called Stan who is a superb substitute, racing about and trying to make me chase him. We get on really well and both dogs are severely tired out by the end of the walk. The drought has left the forest nice and dry, so walking is relatively easy, but it's still a bit mountain-goat in places and even the humans long legs are aching a bit by the end.
We drop back via the Cambria for a check up on progress and to take a few pics, Then we hed home (for BLT's if we happen to be human) and a bit of a kip to await the arrival of J-M Silverwood, who is heading this way even as I type.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Looking forward to J-M

Early morning , Mum takes off the airport on a mission to fly to Dublin and travel on to the Silverwood's to collect and bring back J-M. This is J-M's first holiday-away-from-the-parents (we did the same to her "big sis" Em-J when she was that age). Mum brings her back here and she gets a week of being spoiled and treated to stuff, taken to London or France (her choice) and generally enjoying being with her Uncle and Aunt (and Haggis and I, of course!).
That gives us most of today and tomorrow with the undivided attention of Dad so another nice long walk and, later, a trip to the allotment to dig some spuds and pick beans.
Hope you're having a great weekend.

Friday 20 August 2010

Boat Yard Dotty

Dad has a day off work in lieu of the weekend he just worked, so we get a nice long morning walk, taking in all the old favourite locations - the boatyard where the work's going on on the barge, and back through town and the Rec. At the boatyard we have a new, firm friend, boatyard dog Dotty. As we approach Dot's motor-home residence (where also lives Dad's mate Jan, a Swedish guy), we are let off the lead and race ahead round the craned out boats on their blocks, to be greeted by Dotty shouting from the top of the motorhome steps, wagging her tail in greeting.
She comes down the steps to greet us, and we all wander around peeing in the dust and kicking up the dirt behind us, making sure all of our scents out-scent every one else's. When we're all satisfied with that we can move on threading our way between the boats to check on progress of the painting of Cambria's leeboards, and seeing who's moored up in the creek.
Have a good weekend

Sunday 15 August 2010


Just to show you Summer is coming towards its end here, a picture of a nice ripe fig which Mum and Dad enjoyed from our little barrel-grown 'brown turkey' tree.
And a pic of me in the frequently adopted "Meerkat" position used, in this case, to beg for the dog end (hence the name) of a bacon buttie being brandished by lady volunteer Chris at the SB Cambria Visitor Centre. We dropped in on the way through on our dog walk and although she held out for a good long while under Dad's instructions I eventually contrived to be so picturesque that Dad had to take this pic, and then Chris felt I'd posed so well, I needed to be given the baconny treat

Saturday 14 August 2010

Sleep Deprivation

On our recent adventure into Essex and Suffolk, we loved this village sign for Tollesbury depicting the horse-powered ploughman (2 horses.... deux cheveaux?) but also, top right, a "stackie" barge. Stackies were Thames sailing barges employed in the agricultural sector, bringing hay for horses up to London (all horse-drawn transport in those days, of course) and bringing back the horses' waste products for spreading on the fields.
Most farms near the sea or near to the many creeks and inlets of Essex and Suffolk would have had wharves or "hards" (hard standing at low tide) from which to load barges and unload the horse muck from London. London bound the hold of the barge would be loaded with something heavy like mangolds, but then an entire haystack would be built on the decks, stacked half way up the main mast. The Mate would then have to sit on top and shout instructions to the skipper down at the back about where to steer, as he couldn't see round the hay stack.
For Dad another weekend of weekend cover at work, and another dose of sleep deprivation, not only covering the emergencies across both days, but also in from 0100 to 0800 to nurse-maid a computer outage while some electrical work goes on. Just have to catch up on sleep afterwards, Dad.

Thursday 12 August 2010

The Butt and Oyster

Dad has a day off in lieu of having to work through last weekend, so on a whim he loads us into the car and we drive off in search of barge-related locations in Essex. This seems like voluntarily using the very Thames-crossing which caused him so much grief on the weekend (Lorry fire, Friday night on the Dartford Bridge southbound) but we risk it for a biscuit.
Our mission is to string together a few places we've not been, and at each one we get a nice walk while Dad explores on foot. The first is Tollesbury, near Maldon, where traditional sail making firm "North Sea Sails" are making the "suit" of sails for the Sailing Barge Cambria. From there we head on another 50 miles or so to the village of Pin Mill, near Ipswich, which is where (old) Cambria's last skipper, Bob Roberts lived with his wife and 2 daughters, and also the home of the famous barging pub "The Butt and Oyster" where BR used to drink. The Butt is still there and thriving, now as a touristy waterside pub for the "yotties" from the various marinas round those parts. At Pin Mill we got to paddle on the almost horizontal slip-way as the tide was sweeping in.
All good clean fun.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Closing the Box

We've not heard anything from those Silverwoods lately; we wonder whether they got the Narrow Boating pictures.
Really good progress on the Sailing Barge Cambria lately - as you can see the shipwrights have almost finished with the side planking; they've now worked their way right up to the "wale" (top-of-the-sides; painted white here) at the Starb'd bow (as we Mariners like to say.... the more apostrophes the better). What with that and the bottom finished, decks getting there and hatch "coamings" (boards forming the lip of each hatch) we almost have a complete hull (bashing the last planks on is called "closing the box" in the trade) and there are rumours of dates being fixed for a re-float.
I am thinking this will be done with great ceremony and invited guests after all this work and Grant Money (£1.4m !) with the press gathered and no doubt a few "Great and Good", even though the real relaunch will not happen till she is fitted out and rigged.
We go a nice walk tonight round the Cemetery and Rec, part way round which Dad trips in a pot-hole and lays his ankle right over. He managed not to swear but it was a close thing.
Look after yourself,

Sunday 8 August 2010

Newport Newport Newport

Ah, we don't reccomend you to watch You Tube many times on this blog, but this superb spoof on "New York" is a must

Nice walk today. As we're leaving the house we meet my sister Ellie out with her Mum ('Trish) so we latch on to them for an off-the-lead loop of Rec and Cemetery. She can't believe that Mr H is 13 already!


Saturday 7 August 2010

Happy Birthday, Haggis (13)

How's this for a Barge-Dog? For all of the time the SB Cambria has been being rebuilt, one of the guys has had a dog with him while he works, and Dad's fellow volunteers have seen various dog evidence come and go. At one stage there was even what looked like a whelping box with cuddly toys, so whether the "dog" has actually been a pup at some stages, or perhaps a pregnant bitch, we do not know. Various cuddly toys have also come and gone and been ripped to bits, so they also see headless corpses or body-less heads lying in the sawdust. This little chap is fairly intact, all be it covered in wood chip and sawdust, but at least he'll know it's not just sawdust, it's Cambria's Somerset Oak and Iroqo wood!
Meanwhile, Happy Birthday Haggis, who is 13 today. Hard to believe he's been going on that long, Bless Him. I suspect Mum may be buying the usual pork ribs for a celebration, and as soon as Dad gets off the work conference call, we are off out for a walk, down to the Creek, currently depleted of all the usual barges, because it's the Swale Barge and Smack Race today - they are all out "playing"!
Happy Birthday, H-Man