Friday 31 December 2010

Happy New Year

New Year's Eve and Dad is home in daylight so we get a decent walk, ending up at the Rec where a goodly gathering of Dog Walking humans collect as night falls, to wish each other Happy New Year and compare notes on who had to work when over the Seasonal 'break'. Springers LB and DK are out there and, out of nowhere, Haggis's old chum and 13 and a half year co-puppy Barney-Boy (now still trying to race about but apparently on 'metacam' (?) for his arthritis stiffness.
Meanwhile Dad gets a little flicker of life from Project Erroll as his Boss, in the 2nd last sentence of a 4-sentence chat (the last one was "Happy New Year"!) gives him to beleive that June 29th 2011 might be a significant date. However, no-one in this house is holding their breaths, as this has been so off/on, shambolic and woolly, that we'd equally believe June 2012! You never know, though. perhaps 2011 will see some genuine decisions and actual movement. Watch this space.
Sooooo.... all the best for 2011 everyone and our best wishes to all our readers. Do you realise we have now been going for over 880 posts? No wonder I'm tired.
Happy New Year

Monday 27 December 2010

Cyril's back

A couple of pictures to keep you up to date with how nearly the barge approaches completion; the hull anyway. The Project Managers have even now started to buy paint for the volunteers to slap on (sorry. to apply carefully by small roller in the prescribed order of coats as laid down in the official painting scheme) at an imminent volunteer day.
These two shots though are of inside the hull and show a recent volunteer day where the boys (and girls) were shovelling out the three-years accumulation of sawdust, and also what will be the floor of the aft cabin (the skippers "stateroom" as it was called. In the day, these were quite luxurious being all panelled with dark wood and highly polished).
Meanwhile, we chug gently through the Christmas break not doing a great deal and mainly enjoying not having to go to work. Mum is standing at the back door on one morning idly watching the scenery, when our old chum the female sparrowhawk whooshes in out of nowhere to snatch a starling or sparrow (it happened too fast for Mum to see which) out of the top of the holly, just a quiet thump of heavier bird of prey against light song-bird, a few brief screams of consternation from the victim and it's peers and then silence as the hawk curved away and the rest of the bird population collectively gulped and got itself back together.
Also back is Cyril the Squirrel, or one of his mates, regularly visiting the bird feeders and in particular the peanut dispenser. I like to sit upstairs in the bedroom window now, keeping an eye on my territory and sometimes the little s*d is right up there with me on the sparrow box just outside my window, not 6 inches away beyond the double glazing. That seems to give him enough confidence not to flee even when I give him my best 'I'm gonna get you!' look. I end up glued to the spot twicthing with excitement but unable to do anything.
More fun is when he does scarper off down the garden fence up out of dog range but still fun to chase. The I can squeak, jump off the sill and land with a thump that vibrates the house, tear down the stairs and scrabbling on the laminated floor towards the back door, just a-hoping that there will be a human there to open the door in time before I slam into it.
All the best

Sunday 26 December 2010

Pot Noeldle

This year's award for the maddest, funniest present ever goes to Dad's work colleague "Xena" for Christmas Dinner version of the ultimate student fast-food, the Pot Noodle, now given the seasonal name "Pot Noeldle".
The advertising script around th pot says it is "The Gift that Keeps on Giving" and describes the Pot Noeldle Christmas Experience as a "sprout free zone", says there is a super-deluxe decorative bauble (see under foil lid for details), there's an authentic cracker joke and you can even use the plastic pot as a base for a small tree (tacky fibre optics optional).
We love the maker's complaints blurb, too, which goes "If it's in perfect condition, happy days. If not, have a moan at the customer care dept and don't forget to quote the code on the bottom of the pot so we know who to fire". The foil lid even has a design showing snow-flakes which end in dinner forks. Dad says he can't wait.Thanks Xena!
A beautiful walk today, when Mum and Dad take us into Challock Forest but starting at the 'Jacket's Field' entrance. There's no snow left on the trees, but all the ground is white with either compacted snow (on the tracks) or frozen soft stuff (under trees). The sun is shining brightly so it's a picture. We see no deer but pleanty of tracks and signs. Mum and Dad find it hard work to walk on but from we dogs' point of view the fact that it doesn't cling to out fur in great baubles is a definite advantage.
Hope you're still enjoying Christmas

Saturday 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

OK, this one's a bit of a swizz, as the snow round here has, in fact, almost all washed away but I thought you might like a quick picture of our old chum SB Greta all snugged down in her poly-tunnel under the snow, with a smudge of smoke coming from her chimney. Owner/Skipper has a superb heating system down in there paid for by his main sponsor in lieu of a corporate sailing weekend. Looking for all the world like an old fashionned Kitchen Range (even down to the dark green enamel), pull open any of the "oven doors" and you reveal a hi-tech display of buttons, lights, control dials and digital displays. The barge is as warm as toast inside, even when we are reading -11 degrees C up on the Thanet Way.
There's no 'white Christmas' this year, but we're all awake from about 06:30 and the humans are up to their usual silliness ripping presents open on the bed before they have drunk their first cups of coffee. Mum had been to Midnight Mass so we were all a bit surprised she woke up. She'll probably collapse this evening and sleep like a log.
Today we are off to Hastings to visit and feed the Pud Lady and the Stamp Man. I say 'we' - it's actually a joint effort this year. Dad's bro, Tom has got the party started by putting the enormous turkey in before we got there and set the bread/onion sauce going. Our part is to do veg's and the final cooking, serving, carving etc, so we come down armed with allotment spuds, carrots, parsnips, sprouts etc. It's a good drive down on clear roads with only occasional patches of ice. The meal goes well and everybody has a good time. Mum gets Pud Lady well tanked up on sherry and champagne (not both together). We come away with a mountain of goodies - as well as the presents we have half a turkey, a whole salt beef (still frozen), barm brack and a very pink Acacia. J-M Silverwood would love it.
We race back in time for Doctor Who and, with the car now parked up and no longer needed, Dad can also have a drink.
Hope you're enjoying your Christmas

Friday 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

Dad manages to slope off a bit early from work (midday) and so has time to whizz round doing some last minute errands, shopping, dropping off a huge and almost flavourless (I know, I tried it) pannetoni to Diamond's for use in bread and butter pudding or sherry trifle, buying wild bird food etc.

We get a nice walk round the boatyard where the shipwrights seem to be working right up to the wire. We can hear the sharp buzz of an electric plane, the thump of hammers, the radio music and the banter between the guys coming from the enclosed coccoon of Cambria's hull, fighting with the chilly wind noise as we walk through the quaysides. More guys are working on the Lady Daphne's side frames, their pile of big (10x10"?) baulks of timber on the wharf gradually depleting as they work their way along the side of the barge.

Back home and dry and waiting for poor aul' Mum who works in a job where the customers might need access to her building right up to 5pm tonight plus she, as one in a position where you must lead by example, is obliged to carry on right up to the 17:00 deadline. We are still 30 minutes off that, with Dad poised to go collect her and save her a chilly walk up what is by now a road almost devoid of workers returning home.

Well, good readers, we all here wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Enjoy the break and take some time to make a real fuss of your dogs, as well as looking after your humankind.

Merry Christmas

Thursday 23 December 2010

Card of the Year?

It is very difficult to do justice to this card, which is easily our most spectacular Christmas Card of 2010. These are hand-made by Kim, friend of Diamond and they really are a bit special, featuring spangly card and paper of various colours in many layers, as well as assorted accessories like, in this case bells, snowflakes, ribbon and (although you can't see it in the flash-glare across the middle of the circle), the 'CHANEL' logo. They are often themed, so appear in various lady-like guises - handbags, scent bottles, shoes etc. Obviously they will not fit in a normal envelope so they arrive wrapped in equally splendid and elegant tissue paper wraps (with ribbons and accessories also). She must take ages over them, and Mum always looks forward to them. Mum has actually suggested that she and Diamond hang onto both them and the wrapping, so that when there is a Kim retrospective exhibition in some famous art gallery, these can go in it!
Meanwhile Mum, who likes the odd drop of camomile tea is rather ashamed tonight to be drinking a troublesome brand. Mum, staunch anti-Royalist and adherent to the fact that she is an Irish CITIZEN, not a 'subject' of anybody. The brand? Duchy Originals!!!! Bought by mistake in Waitrose where apparently almost the entire 'organic' range is now Duchy Originals, these are now stuffed in the back of the cupboard in an anonymous silver foil pack so that nobody will notice!
Ah well. Only 29 more sleeps to Christmas. Have you never noticed how often dogs sleep?

Monday 20 December 2010

Sinking into the Swamp

A couple more nice snowy pics, the first just a bike in the boat yard which we liked the look of, the second taken a few seconds before yesterday's 'miserable Haggis' one. You can see the H trotting off to stage-right (picture left) to check out the iron paling fence. More snow is forecast for tonight.
Meanwhile, those interested in Project Erroll may be wondering what's going on and why you have had no updates. This is bacause at least one aspect of the possible future is sinking into the swamp, and all the moves and official notices have been put on hold. Dad is therefore carrying on regardless and battling through the normal Christmas peak in business, uncertain when the top bananas will make a move and firm up on any arrangements. Watch this space - there's not a lot any of us can do.....
Having worked both days at the weekend he is, though, able to skank and early finish this afternoon and gets home in time to walk us in the daylight round the Rec where we can have a run around in the snow with old friends Patch and Bindy, and 2 black labs who we see a lot but Dad can't recall the names of.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Yonder Peasant

Here are some pics of Haggis looking a bit like 'yonder peasant' and needing the Sire and his man to walk that way first so that the snow can 'lay dinted'. You can see how the snow clings to the fur around his feet and he also looks a bit miserable in the church one. There is also, for fun, a nice pic taken from the aft deck of SB Cambria, of the temporarily-out-of-commission barge Ironsides covered in snow, with "Chambers Big Building" (as we barge-folk call it) in the background.
This morning Dad is off back into work (it's that weekend) but is home by 10. He heads for the barge to take some pictures but also to help with the job of shovelling all the old sawdust out from between the floor frames prior to the new floor-of-the-hold (actually called, somewhat confusingly, the "ceiling"), bagging it up and carrying it up onto the deck and then down onto the quayside.
That done, and some warm soup inside him, Mum and Dad head off in search of Christmas Trees eventually finding a suitable one at Brogdale Farm, the famous local fruit research station and collection of heritage varieties of fruit trees. This is soon back, erected and covered in the usual bling. Tasteful? Maybe not....
Incidentally, some of my readers are, I know, family, and may have received a Christmas Card from Mum and Dad. If so, did you notice that the picture on the front is of one of out previous trees in our front room, the cards being from a website where you upload a pic and choose wording etc to get your own cards made.
Have a good rest-of-weekend

Saturday 18 December 2010

Winter's back

Winter returns good and proper with an honest blizzard whiting out the sky, laying on roads and dropping a 3-4 inch picturesque blanket all over the town in the space of about 45 minutes. Dad's had to work this morning (it's "that" weekend, just before Christmas) but he's home again before the snow starts. He actually texts Mum telling her to hurry home before she gets cut off, which is not the normal way round.
Rather madly, though, he then decides we should all go for a walk in it down to the boat yard. I love it, and charge about like a lunatic. Haggis is not quite so sure, and starts to look a bit miserable as the frozen snowy klingons start to build up round his feet. Dad has to continuously break them away to give him a chance to walk. It's proper big-flake, sticky, snow-man snow.
Back home we have to be freed of the klingons and this involves a good bit of hand-crumbling, raking with the coarse comb, and finally dipping our feet in a washing-up bowl of warm water; finally we are passed in to Mum who is armed with a huge dog-towel and a roaring coal fire. It's all Christmassy indoors as Mum is 'baking' (none of us is sure that's the right word) the red cabbage. We were going to buy the tree today, but the prospect of choosing one from under 4 inches of snow and bringting it home, shaking all the snow off into one of the cars, was too unattractive. We will go out tomorrow all being well. We are running out of time. Only 7 more sleeps!
But let's not forget a bit of a bitter-sweet memorial day which was yesterday, the one year anniversary of the passing away of our old chum Megan. It snowed all around the 17th and 18th last year too. Dad has her cute face as his screen-wallpaper. We miss her still and she was Dad's first ever owned dog so she'll always be a bit special.
Ah well

Thursday 16 December 2010

Correct Forecasting

It seems that the weather forecasters may have it right this time. We are currently sitting through the "rain and getting very much colder" piece, and leading inevitably, it seems, into the freezing hard and black ice which should be followed on Friday or Saturday by the heavy snow falls. Winter is back. Even though it's dark when he gets in from work though, Dad still insists on trotting us out for a splash through the cold puddles.

It's all OK for him, of course, Barbour coat, 'thinsulate' gloves and Donegal tweed (ancient and disreputable) flat cap, warm dry boots, but we come back with our under-carriages lathered in mud and wet, and have to stretch our in front of the fire to dry out. At least he's home tonight. Last 2 nights we've been deserted again. Tuesday was a meeting of the 2CV cronies for their Christmas Dinner over in the pub in Bramling. Wednesday Mum and Dad did a silly fun-quiz for the aul' wans of the town's Horticultural Society - just daft questions about Christmas and the words of Christmas songs, plus some about the town.

It always goes down well with the club members and is followed by a huge cold buffet (ahhh those cheese straws baked by the ol' ladies!) and the a sing-song of Christmas songs, which then infect Dad as 'ear-worms' for days afterwards. Sleigh bells ring..., are yer listn'ing? etc.

We're getting there

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Must be Close

It must be getting close to Christmas now - we noticed that even the Regular dog walkers on the Rec are starting to say "Ah well, if I don't see you again before Christmas, have a good one, now" as they part company.

Dad is doing some long crazy hours too, and only twice because he was stuck in the snow. Snow's all gone now although it's very cold and there is more white stuff forecast. The gang had a load of Mum's friends and colleagues over Friday night for a major meal and party. We love all that - plenty of extra people to make a fuss of dogs!

From there Mum and Dad headed for Isleworth to visit another of Mum's friends, and forgot to come home that night. Must be their ages. There were rumours of lots of walking around Richmond by the Thames looking at the big-scale weirs and locks , Thames stylee, the occasional beer in riverside pubs and then on Sunday an extended walk round Kew Gardens. In the latter case Mum armed Dad with the birthday present video camera, so there may be some footage to check out soon, on You Tube.

We were left behind because the friend, Maisie Lou is a dyed in the wool cat person, having a very fluffy black boy-cat by the name of Beau. Normally quite chilled, he does not take to dogs apparently, and especially fast chasing type dogs, so we were abandonned to the tender mercies of the Angel B and Uncle Jim.

Then it was back to the grind stone with, for Dad at least, an extra quick night shift on Monday night where a server needed re-booting which couldn't be done while it was powering the day job at the 'New Shed'.

Enough for now

Thursday 9 December 2010

MUST SEE You Tube Video

Dad interupts my musings to tell you about a fantastic thang which has appeared on You Tube, namely the 3 and a half minute trailer to a film being made locally by a friend of his, one Mike Maloney, he who made famous and popular local fims "Sideways Launch" (about our town's boat building industry) and "A Dream of Flight" (about early British flight based on the Isle of Sheppey). Mike is now making a film about Dad's beloved sailing barges ("Red Sails") and you can see the trailer on

or by plugging "Red Sails Trailer" into your search engine. Dad says if you are not stirred by the opening shots of a barge in a heavy sea or the old black and white footage of our own SB Cambria (white haired skipper in jumper and skinny 'mate' in specs) her last Captain (Bob Roberts) and mate 'Ginger' (Phil) Latham, then you are some kind of Philistine and you have a heart of cold cold stone.

Ahhhhhhhhh .... deep sighs of contentment. Wonder in Mum thinks she'll get away with not being SHOWN it tonight!


Tuesday 7 December 2010

Rest in Peace Lady

Tonight we regret to announce the passing away of what might well be our last but one remaining pup from the Megan and Haggis stable, "Lady" who had to be put down a couple of weeks back. Lady lived an 11 year long, happy and very gently life with two very good friends of Mum and Dad, Bill and Pauline.
She suffered in her later years with diabetes and was completely blind but she was still able to wander about because Bill and Pauline's house was so quiet and still, and old Bill always took her on the same gentle walk, same route each day, so she always knew where she was.
We loved having you as a pup, Lady, and it was wonderful to know you lived locally and we saw you regularly in town out with either your Mum or Dad. We will miss you. Rest in Peace
ps - the only remaining Pup we are sure about is another "Lady" who lives in Maidstone with Dad's work colleagues Tracey and Sarah.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Back on Board

Ahhh the hardships of ship-wrightery working with wood, skilled use of draw-knife, adze, pit-saw, steam chest and plane...... long hours, no money yada yada yada. OK, making it up here. Not only do shipwrights no longer use adzes very often or pit-saws ever, but this is just a waffly introduction to the fact that we are here depicted aboard SB Cambria.
In the top pic we are down in the hold, the camera looking forward up the port (left) side. I am nosing about among the cables and you can see Haggis, further off, peering over a piece of the original Cambria panelling which has been brought back for use in the rebuild of the aft "state-room" (the skipper's quarters). In the other two pics we are up on the fore-deck. In one we are fussing around Dad's fellow-volunteer Dave's legs, and in the other Haggis is standing on the recently caulked decking.
This being a Lottery-funded rebuild, Dad's team win more points by making it 'educational' so, alongside the rebuild there has been an apprentice course running and this has been about teaching the guys traditional ship building skills. Hence no modern mastic-guns for us on Cambria's decks. Our guys have learned to rout out a groove between the planks into which is hammered shredded rope (oakum) and then into which is poured molten pitch (known as "hot stuff" for obvious reasons). The whole is allowed to cool and set, before the top dribbly bits are smoothed away and the lot painted.
There you are. More ship-wrightery than you probably needed, but at least you'll have something to talk about if it all goes quiet in the snug tonight....

Saturday 4 December 2010


Some bleak ol' photo's of the boat yard in the snow. Last night, though, mild winds blow in and rain washes most of it away as if it had never been. It's the weekend but Haggis wakes up all moopy and clingy and pleads with the humans to sit on their laps. Mum ends up eating her breakfast one handed with the H lying across her legs.
He's better once Dad is back from Canterbury where he has to buy dog sweeties (and other less important stuff!) and we get taken for a walk. We are now stretched out in front of the fire occasionally having to fend off Ragworth who has turned up with Diamond. Mum and D had been off to a rated local butcher in the village of Luddenham (The Angel B and Uncle Jim swear by it) and return here for a bite of lunch.
Have a good weekend.

Thursday 2 December 2010

...and we shall have snow

Proper snow comes to Kent and Dad keeps getting caught in it and enduring huge journey times to and from the new work site by Dartford bridge. 'More fool you' says Mum who pleads with him to take a 'duvet day' but she, unfortunately works about 5 minutes walk from here, so she struggles to use the 'snowed in' excuse!
The worst was probably Tuesday evening when he took 4 and a half hours to go from Dartford Bridge to the M2 near Bluewater Shopping Mall, a run of normally 9 minutes or so. The other 30-odd miles home took a further 30 minutes or so!. This morning it was a jack-knifed lorry by the Inn-on-the-Lake (Cobham) held him up 2 hours on the way in but a problem-free run home.
While he was gone, the snow came down by the bucket load, so that by the time we got taken for a walk in the Rec there was a good 6-8 inches on the ground. We romped and chased about, picking up large amounts of icy 'klingons' which we then dropped all over the kitchen floor, much to Mum's displeasure. Rona-who-lives-in-the-Forest goes one better, reporting "3 inches of snow on Killiny Beach in South Co. Dublin, the likes of which she's never seen before"