Wednesday 30 March 2011

Irish Rover

Today we pass a significant date in Project Erroll. If you've been keeping up there is a change to Dad's work situation which had a tentative date of 30th June, but because that was more than 3 months in the future, there was a risk, allegedly, that his employer could extend the time-scale without the need for Dad's agreement. This was a bit unsettling, so as we are now all up for the project around here, it's good to know that this can now only be taken away from us with Dad's say-so. Nuff said. Mind you, we do wonder whether he might be celebrating a bit quick with the pigs' ears he found for us in Morrison's tonight - look at the brand!

I have mentioned already that we got clipped to within an inch or our lives at the weekend. At this Spring clip, which coincides with the local birdies building nests, Mum and Dad like to leave the clippings out in case the birds want soft fur to line their nests with, in this case in an old onion-sets bag. You can see from the white fluffy appearance of the bag that the birds have started on this already, and have been pulling hanks of fur through the net, In Autumn, as Dad prunes and tidies, and clears out nest boxes, he reckons he can identify which dog's fur got used from a familiarity with the texture. The late Meggie's always a bit coarse, Haggis's felt-soft and very dense, mine soft and wispy and fly-away. Not a one of us have the "proper" show dog Westie double coat.

The other two pics are just the garden this Spring, the Magnolia Stellata out front and the primroses under the quince in the orchard garden

Look after yourself


Saturday 26 March 2011


Mum and Diamond have abandoned us again, headed north for Liverpool and another meeting of the chums from what was GU-Talk but is now, I believe called "Not the Talk". We know they arrived safely and have not heard from them since, and the only rioting on the News has been in London, so we assume all is well.

While the cat's away the mice do stuff that's not a bit mischievous. Dad takes the ancient and venerable rotovator up to the allotment and knackers himself chopping up the pre-dug ground for onions and then planting them. It's a job that's long overdue but the barge has tended to eclipse all normal rotas. However, Cambria's 'Boss of Volunteers', Basil, has emailed all the painting gang and laid them off for Saturday, so other jobs can come back into the 'to do' list.

Returning from the allotment and refreshed with a cuppa, Dad heads for the shed again and emerges with the ominous tupperware box, bit of pond liner and extension lead. No, not some weird 'grown-up' game, but the tools of a dog grooming session. The sheet of rubber gives us a non-skid surface to dance about on at terrace-table height, and the tupperware box contains dog clippers, spare blades, clipper oil, scissors and brushes. The clipping was fun - achieved at faster than normal speed as it started to rain. Nobody wants to be waving around 240V clippers in the wet.

We are now as skinny as new born lambs, from being solid woolly bear dogs with shaggy heads. We were also, briefly, fairly white. Haggis still is. The clipping, though, was followed by a walk round the Creek side. We were a bit damp from the rain but the ground was dusty. I found a tennis ball. Dad kicked it ahead for me so I could chase it. I went to grab it, missed my footing going sideways at high speed and barrel rolled in the dust, much to the amusement of some onlookers. I emerged from the spill covered in dust, adhering to my damp fur. Ooops.

Having a good weekend despite the lack of Mum.


Friday 25 March 2011


Cold Roast Chicken

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Crane Out

Dad's final day off (for the moment) so we get the treat of 2 walks, the first being a normal walk to get ourselves out from under Mum's feet at (workday) breakfast time. Then Later Dad must take his car to Standard Quay in Faversham and walk us home, leaving the car there so that when 2CV Llew goes to move his boat from Oare Creek to the Quay they have a car at either end to retrieve cars by (if you get my drift). The plan is to bring Llew's boat, Kestrel, to Iron Wharf for her annual crane-out so she can have her bottom scrubbed.

On the 'drop off the car' mission we get walked back past the SB Cambria's new moorings and very splendid she looks too free from her trusty lighter dry-dock and bathed in morning sunshine. Haggis is wandering past in this pic. The other two pictures are of the Kestrel, one motoring down Oare Creek towards Faversham Creek, and the other in mid crane-out.

The Cambria's refloat is believed to be going on Meridian (ITV South East) news tonight at 18:00. Look after yourself.

Monday 21 March 2011

Re-floating the Cambria

The Silverwoods make good their escape at the crack of sparrows' on Sunday morning. They may have sussed that they had outlived their welcome by allowing their rugby team to beat Dad's lot whilst still guests in our house. They text us to let us know they have reached first the port, and then home itself. Well done you guys, it was a real pleasure having you.

Life returns to normal and the house gets blitzed of all evidence - washing up, empties, laundry, sweeping up, spare bedding back in the loft etc. Mum dives back into the internet to catch up on all her subscriptions, Dad returns to the barge where last minute preparations for Monday's re-float are taking place, touching up the paintwork, fixing down the pretty green hatch covers, hanging bunting and hoisting flags etc.

And so, today, Dad gets a day off work to see the refloat and rather than tell you all about it here, let me point you in the direction of Dad's "Barge Blog" which is actually the 'Volunteer Views' tab on the website. (There's miles of it there!). We dogs got taken down to the grassy side of the Creek to watch all the action and to run around with Pete's dog Janie, plus a sheepdog, a brown lab and a shaggy springer. The sun shone, there was no wind and the tide came in and did its stuff lifting the barge hull off the lighter 'dry-dock'.

It's been a good day


Saturday 19 March 2011

Three Line Whip

With the Silverwoods still in residence, Dad's on a 3-line-whip to stick around, and not slope off to meet his fellow volunteers down at the Cambria, where the excitement is building ready for the refloat on Monday at 13:37 high tide. Dad has to cobble together a mission by subterfuge (Come on, Dad; you don't think they didn't see through it, do you?). He persuades Mr Silverwood that he should see the barge and can get below decks and likewise with the two elder girls. Em-J and J-M who might like to meet two English girls of similar age who volunteer on the project as painters etc at the weekend, Beth and Han.
He then needs little M to be sold the possibilities of a sweet shop in town, and the rest of the ladies the potential of the flea-market and furniture shops on Standard Quay and we have ourselves a mission. Dad gets to see the Volunteer force who are out mob-handed today and Mr S and the girls get their look-see. The next time they clap eyes on SB Cambria she will hopefully be complete and working, hi-tech classroom in the hold, live-able cabins, rigging an' all.
We dogs are a little off colour at present, maybe because of all the disruptions to our routine and possibly due to high potential for snacking off the leavings of small children, but today the sun shines (why couldn't it have been sunny for Howletts yesterday?) and Mum and Dad can throw open both doors of the French windows and humans can sit outside on the terrace and gravel garden, naturally closely superviving small humans near the pond. Everey dog and pup which we've ever had or has visited has been in there and we don't want to expand the story to include any small Silverwoods.
I am told that peace and tranquility breaks out tomorrow as the Silverwoods are packing up for an early sprint up the Motorway. We always love having them but there's something to e said for a return to normality.

Friday 18 March 2011

Howletts in the Rain

Day 3 of the Silverwoods Invasion and the troops head off for Howletts where they get to see the gorillas, African Hunting Dogs, wolves, elephants and assorted monkeys and where the girls get to do the 'Treetop Challenge" but where it starts raining heavily by lunchtime so that what they mainly see are empty enclosures with animals inside their little sheds, boxes and houses.
Mum and Dad (cheek!) comment that whilst Haggis (pictured here 'mantling' over a 'dead beast') might be related to the magnificent white wolf they see, or the African dogs, I am more likely to be related to a couple of bad tempered lemurs who are screaming abuse at each other because the one had come close to invading the bedspace of the other. The comments are Ragworth related.
The girls 'challenge' is a high level ropeway through the trees with a variety of obstacles and variously-scary surfaces to walk on. They are protected by being in full safety harness, carabina'd to a zip-wire but they won't need that unless they fall. They must negotiate a full circuit of tests between small high safety platforms, sometimes walking a tightrope, sometimes scrambling across tyres, sometimes hanging logs, wobbly platforms or spiderwebs of rope. It's an exciting test and the girls battle through it given 'encouragement' from the grown-ups (bravely safe!) on the ground. It ends with a long swooping zip-wire ride back to ground level, where the girls collect their £10 prize reward and a commemorative 'Treetop Challenge' hat. Go J-M, Go Em-J !!!

Wednesday 16 March 2011

The Covers are Off

A milestone moment is reached down at the barge today, when the big poly-tunnel cover which has kept the rebuild from the weather since late 2007, is removed. This is final preparations for the hull being refloated Monday 21st on the 13:37 high tide. Dad walks us down past the barge to check progress and is blown away by how big she looks now without the cover, and how beautiful her lines; her "sheer" as they say in barge-speak. That's the curve in the hull which gives her a high stem and a high stern, and a low middle, the better to battle through (over!) big North Sea waves. It was typical of the proper big 'coasting' barges. The opposite in barge-speak seems to be "flat as a plank" by which rude expression coasting barge men refer to their still-water 'river-barge' cousins, who never saw outside the estuary.
The Silverwoods arrive at about 07:30 this morning in various states of exhaustion having travelled through the night, catching the overnight ferry and then either driving through the night from 'up North' or more-or-less-successfully sleeping in the car as it raced South along the motorways. Mr Silverwood is beat, and Mrs S not far behind so after a quick breakfast and greet they retreat to the big double bed for a kip. Dad has to nip to work despite being on holiday, so Mum is left to entertain the 4 children who are also variously tired or not, but all in need of a leg stretch and breath of air.
The swings and slides in the park are the obvious answer. We all reconvene at about 11 by which time Mr and Mrs S are napped out and awake again and the kids have all run a little out of steam. I fall in love with toddler R who is of the age where she can be relied upon to trail round the house with that piece of cheese scone in her tiny hand, dropping pieces and crumbs and/or the whole thing for an alert dog to catch before it hits the ground! They are currently off in Maidstone visiting Mr S's aged parents, Morag and Jeff.
Today's pics are of Pip, black lab and first-in-line for the position of barge-dog aboard SB Cambria belonging, as he does, to Master Shipwright, Tim Goldsack. At only 3 years old now, he was first brought onto the rebuild as a tiny pup and has grown up with Cambria as his day time home and leps around the barge with all the familiarity and agility of a dog completely unfazed by varnished and painted wood surfaces, mesh floored viewing galleries, high rails to jump over, heights and drops (although I've never seen him actually climb a ladder!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

The Silverwoods are Coming!

Did I say that the last post was our 900th?

We dogs have heard a rumour that the Silverwoods are a-coming to visit us across the Irish Sea. Mum has gone mad blitzing the house, cleaning, tidying, making lists, getting the extra beds ready for all of them - Mr and Mrs S, Em-J and J-M, little M and toddler R. A proper houseful. Duvets and pillows are being got down from the loft and supplies and food bought in.

Mrs S phones to confirm final arrangements and warns Mum that little R(3) is a bit of a one for exploring at this stage and loves a good session of penmanship (felt-tipmanship, crayonmanship, pencilmanship and any other writing implimentmanship being equally acceptable. R, advises Mum to get down on her knees and then try to reach stuff, because everything you can reach like that, R will have off shelves and play with. This could be interesting because most of our house has wall-length book cases and there is probably not enough spoace in the house to re-locate the first 4 feet of books.

Ah well, we'll wing it. What can possibly go wrong?


Wednesday 9 March 2011

Not Covering Yourself in Glory

Sometimes a dog seems to need to go into self-destruct mode and get everything wrong. Pancake Day and we are having, as every year, Diamond and John round for pancakes, accompanied by Ragworth. Ragworth is, as ever perfectly friendly and not at all a dangerous or antisocial dog. He looks for all the world, perplexed that Haggis and (especially) I, do not love him as we should.
He trit-trots around restlessly and I seek high ground (lap or chair) from which I crane my nexk this way and that trying to keep him in sight, curling my lip as he passes close, growling if he gets even closer and shouting "RAFFF!" at him if he pushes his luck. With all this going on the humans find it hard to relax into the pancake making and eating, so when Dad jumps up to go to 2CV club in The Haywain, the other side of Canterbury, Mum suggests they take me. 2CV Llew always takes JR "Rosie" (Beer and tea-drinking dog) and 'Enthusiastic' Pete always brings brindled greyhound 'Janie' so the pub is well used to dogs. I should fit in well (it says here).
I like Rosie, so no problems all piled into the car. Arriving at the pub Rosie and I trot in on our leads and Dad and Llew step the 2 paces over the threshold to the bar and then hovver to order drinks before heading deeper into the pub to sit. After a few minutes there is a bit of commotion at the bar as 'someone' has done a poo on the wooden floor. Llew volunteers that it might be Rosie but Dad has other suspicions. Worse, a lady customer has stepped in it. There is much muttering and comment although no-one says anything direct to Llew and Dad (the only dog-owners in the pub!)
Soon enough Pete and Josie turn up with Janie with whom I normally have no issues. However, it seems I still have one on me about Rags, so I growl and create about Janie's approach and that sets Rosie off too. Soon all dogs are being held by the muzzle and told to calm down. Peace returns and Llew and Dad notice that all the tables in 'our' immediate vicinity have been vacated - everyone has relocated, even mid meal, to other parts of the pub.
Dad suggests we quietly slink out with our tails between our legs but Llew jokes that we should do no such thing. He has a 'blaze of glory' more in mind but this is a family blog so I cannot tell you what he suggested.
Then, to just about put a tin hat on it, we are back home in bed with Dad and we dogs having collapsed of exhaustion at 10 pm, so I decide to do a big pee on Mum's side of the bed. She is too tired to be angry, thankfully, and retreats to the spare room for the quietest, most delicious sleep, she says, of recent years!
It was not a good day to be a female westie.
May take some time to live it down
Meanwhile, if anyone had picked up on the lost local dog (Springer LB) who was AWOL for 48 hours he has now been found, 5 miles away in Graveley village and re-united, covered in burrs, mud and plant material, with very relieved owners Paul and Michelle

Sunday 6 March 2011

File and Print

A few more random pics from the Dad Camera; another empty chamber in Dad's old work place, the "F's and G's" to those to whom it means anything. Next up the belly of SB Cambria with a goodly coat or two of anti-foul on it. Stay away youse barnacles! And finally a shot of the newly built main windlass of SB Cambria, all be it without any windy handles or anti-reverse 'pawls' yet.
Dad's been into work today, as it happens, for a 'quick job' which ran to 5 hours plus, moving the main File and Print server from the old site to the new. The 'techie and systems' bits of this turned out to be the easy, non-problematic bits; it was everything around that which held them up. First the engineer's black lab had had a minor stroke at 0600 yesterday and had been kept in at the vet for observation even though he was, thankfully, none the worse apparently, so the engineer had been allowed to collect him this morning. Then there were problems with keyboards and shutting the server down, and then the length of the rails which were supposed to take the server in the cabs at the new site.
Poor old boy, he missed a delicious (reports Mum) venison dinner to which they had been invited by an ex boss of Mum's but was at least offered some cold roast potatoes and cold meat when he arrived to rescue Mum.
Never mind - he's all buzzing again after a favourite programme on TV, "Country File" showed some Thames barging, a little mock race between SB Wyvenhoe and SB Cabby (one CF presenter in each). If you want to see this (and find out what makes Dad tick) you'll have to go to BBC1 i-player, Country File and look at the final 15 minutes of the hour-long programme. If you don't, Dad will probably write you off as a Philistine and take you off the Christmas Card list.
Deefs (We watched it, avidly, Dad!)

Saturday 5 March 2011

Food for old Frenchmen

The Girls return from the foreign bearing gifts for us including some Cesar "Senior" dog food in French and some nice Calvados for Dad. Also some good bread and cheese. As I type this the Cesar dog food is displaying side-ways and we are not sure why, as it is up the right way when we save it to the computer. Maybe it will sort itself out when we publish.
Mum reports that they have had a good time mooching about and catching up on old haunts (Montmartre, Pigale, Abbesses, Monoprix) not really spending much money but relaxing, picking up a bit of culture (a Monet exhibition for example), eating and drinking out.
Dad's down at the barge today, a whole gang of them carrying on with the painting. They are nearly 'there' now, applying final coats to various bits preparatory to the hull going back into the water on the high Spring tides of 20th/21st March. It's an exciting time.

Friday 4 March 2011

Gay Pareeeee

Project Erroll rumbles on and passes a significant milestone. The depot in Maidstone which has been Dad's place of work for the last... oooh... 20+ years, despatches its final cases of chilled goods (ready meals, meat, fish, cream, yogurt, cut flowers etc) and shuts its doors.

There is abit of bitter-sweet ceremonial fun as they select the longest serving employees to throw the switches which kill the refigeration for the last time. The plant here is based on CFC gases which are now illegal. The site has some future as a non-refrigerated depot but this wont involve Dad.
Mum and Diamond, meanwhile, swan off to Gay Paree to catch up on the shopping trip they normally make before Christmas. Bit late Ladies, but we'll let you off this time, especially as Mum has left Dad with explicit instructions re our expectations as to sweeties at bedtime. This is normally Mum's job as Dad is snoring by then! Mum manages to forget her phone charger, so communications have been sporadic and minimal from Le Continent but sufficient have got through to warn Dad up to be at Ashford International at the prescribed pick up time on the required date. Woe betides.....
Dad swerves work for the afternoon, booked to meet Boss of Cambria Volunteers, Basil down at the barge where they have to show a group of History Students from a local school round the barge, the visitor centre and the diminutive gunpowder barge SB Lady of the Lea. This latter is built small (and very well) to be an army ammunitions barge carrying gunpowder and ammo from the works in Waltham Point, down the narrow River Lea with its many locks, past Tottenham and into the Thames proper. She is like a half-scale model of Cambria and could ship 47 tonnes of cargo (Cambria's payload is 170 tonnes).
Dad rushes away from that 'meeting' thinking that next stop is a dental appointment in the Medway Towns, but gets a voice mail saying Dentist has thrown a sickie and all this afternoon's dates must be postponed. Shame! (says Dad in his most convincing voice!)
As for me, I have a "hurty back leg" which is a serious affliction for a dog as it impedes my ability to jump up and scrounge sweeties and to lep' on the furniture. Dad can't see anything wrong but I squeak convincingly when he probes around my toes looking for splinters etc, so I am being officially rested up a day or two to see if it goes away. The theory is I'm such a scatty bird I just caught my toe in some crack or crevise while chasing a c*t.
It's the weekend!