Tuesday 30 August 2011

Bye Bye Bozza

Boris gets collected tonight by 2CV Llew, the end of another short but enjoyable holiday. He is even reasonably tidy and brushed out after getting half the garden wrapped around his face when we were blitzing yesterday. Mum and Dad generated a builders bulk-bag plus of weeds and rubbish in a major tidy up and Boris another dustbin liner's worth around his mouth and entangled in his fur.

He is also a bit fussy with regard to having his muzzle and lips brushed out, so that Dad sometimes has to 'alpha-roll' him just to remind him that he is a dog. He objects, of course, being a feisty pup, but in the end, there's not a lot a dog can do when strong hands have you by all four feet and the mouth and nose, and you are upside down. Best just to relax, let the entaglements be gently removed and then enjoy the sweetie (and the fact that you are, in fact, not injured, after all) as reward.

It's been good fun having him again, and we have played and chased about lots, even laying on a display of round-garden 3-dog chase at a BBQ of some barge friends yesterday. Nice big, long, clear lawn and a flat patio, but for some reason all the humans went "Whoa! Pick up your drinks!" and raised their glasses out of harm's way as we tore through like a white furry whirl wind.

Till next time, then Bozza!


Sunday 28 August 2011

Crisis in the Creek

I expect you heard it, didn't you? Where ever you are reading this from, if you heard a certain amount of 'shouting' around 3pm coming from the Faversham direction you'll know that it all kicked off a bit between (mainly) our 2 doggie visitors, Rags (no real surprise there) and little butter-wouldn't-melt, 9 month old Boris, who's here for safe keeping because 2CV Llew is sitting his girl friend's big springer Harvey. Boris and Harvey fight and Harvey doesn't take any prisoners, so Llew passed Boris to us for safe-keeping (!).

It was Mum's Birthday (21 again - how do they do that?) so Dad is cooking a special meal of pork chops done in a cider and cream sauce. Diamond and John are coming and they bring Rags. You'll know that I don't love Rags like a generous hostess should and we have our moments but we're sort of OK by now and the humans can eat their food without too much drama and distraction. Rags has also stopped trying to mount the H, which never went down that well. I'm happy to say that neither of us were the cause of the kick off this time.

Step forward Boris who took violent and rapid exception to Rags's mounting thing and it all got a bit shouty a couple of times. Admittedly me and H did tend to do that 'encouraging' thing that kids do in the playground when there's a rumble, but we were generally a few paces back and goading Boris and Rags on to get the teeth stuck in. Well, there were a couple of episodes of this which came and went but then it really kicked off. We think Rags tried it, Boris skittered on the laminate floor and fell upside down, with Rags leaning over him. Rags was not biting him or grabbing him in any way we could see but Boris just saw red and there were dogs suddenly everywhere, humans shouting and trying to separate them, an umbrella got involved and poor Diamond got a snap on the hand. Dad leaned in and lifted Boris out by his collar, Diamond grabbed Rags. Haggis and I "melted into the crouds" as they say in reports of Taliban fights.

The rest of the meal was spent with Boris on about 3inches of lead at one end of the room, Rags on 3 inches at the other, the humans eating a lovely meal between, only occasionally disturbed by 'comment' from either end, and the H and myself (for once, happily, not the main protagonists) asleep around the human feet.

It's all go. 'We' will do this again but probably not with both Rags and Boris invited. One or the other is OK but it's definitely a bit powder-keg with the pair.

Sorry if we upset your pleasant Saturday sfternoon.


Friday 26 August 2011

Fran's Pictures

Dad finally gets round to opening the CD of pictures of the narrow boating holiday sent to us by Fran and Commander Dave. Like us, they spent the holiday with disabled cameras so we were all struggling to get some decent pics, using camcorders on single shot etc, but there are some good ones in here. Thanks for that Fran and Dave - hope you're keeping well. I have also emailed a selection off to the Silverwoods. I love the one of their entire family as they emerge from Standedge Tunnel. Brilliant.

After heavy rain overnight Dad nips down to the barge to see if anything is dripping through and is pleased to note all the through-deck leaks are now cured by a combination of his and Richard's painting, plus Shipwright John's re-caulking. The couple of tiny leaks remaining are not through decks, but rather at joins between, for example, skylight and deck. They will need some other kind of fix.

Dad must also provision up for Mum's Birthday meal tomorrow. The deal is the Birthday girl or boy gets to choose the stylee of eating, restaurant or home, and Mum rather fancies Dad cook a spectacliar for the two of them plus Diamond and John, so Dad's had to nip off in search of 'spectacliar' ingredients. No pressure. One cause of stress which has gone away, though, Amazon have just managed to sneak in delivery of part of the present. They'd been running a bit close to the wire, with the big day being tomorrow.

Now, as I write this at 11:30, the skies are finally clearing and the sun is breaking through so I expect we'll get to go out for our walk soon.


Thursday 25 August 2011

Larruping it on

With one eye on the weather forecast, which gives rain in the afternoon, and following yesterday's "rain stops play" aborted effort, Dad is down at the barge as soon as he's dropped Mum off to work to start painting the second coat of pale blue deck paint. A couple of the shipwrights are still kicking about so the painting has to be done around them, leaving them dry walkways to stroll to and from on. One of these guys, John, is doing old fashioned caulking with hot bitumen dribbled into a routed out groove between the deck planks from a very long handled, spouty ladle. Mind those splashes guys! Other shipwrights are getting the dry dock ready 'abaft' of us for the SB Beric, which vessel is going in for deck replacement and the Master Shipwright, Tim is walking the decks of Beric planning how best to attack the task. The decks are in a poor state. He's a bit spoiled for choice!

About 2/3 done by 'elevenses' Dad and all the guys retreat below decks for a coffee and a yarn (like proper shipwrights do!). He is joined by his Oppo, fellow volunteer Richard, who has showed up to help with the painting. Coffee done, and with the two guys who had been doing jobs on the barge finished, Rich' and Dad can attack the last few square yards, larruping the paint on gloopily with good wet rollers. The mission is to get a good layer on right down into the shake (the opening grain) and any air bubbles in the now cool bitumen (here it gets squidged down with a brush). They almost, but don't quite, paint themselves into a corner, retreating backwards to the gang plank, painting the last few feet while leaning over the rail from the barge next door. Job done.

We get a nice long walk today, all round the boatyard and back up through town. The town is being prepared for the imminent Hop Festival, gathering of a million Morris Men, live bands, sellers of over-priced hop bines, quaffers of beer and (usually) sunburnt, under-dressed human flesh. It's no place for a dog, let me tell you. Apart from the risk of getting squoze or trodden on in the crush as the humans mill like sardines (do sardines 'mill'?) there is sweet nothing to see of any interest to a dog apart from the odd dropped melty ice cream.

Get outta Dodge!


Wednesday 24 August 2011


We are still stuck in the 'sold subject to contract' status which is a kind of limbo land. Dad has now run out of obvious jobs and projects to do, although the garden could do with a serious weed and tidy to get it bedded down for the autumn. He just wants to get the whole Project Erroll thing over now and move, so that we can all devote some time to getting the new place sorted, rather than hanging around tidying up the old place.

The buyers, their solicitors and their nominated surveyor have us all on hot coals, needling us occasionally with bizarre questions like whether the new French Doors installed by the Panini Brothers have FENSA certification. We have to Google this and it turns out to be a "Fenestration Self Assessment" form. The builder who fits your doors can now fill in a form and sign it himself saying he fitted them properly. Given that none of us can ever see a builder filling out a form with a tick in the "Nahhh... not sure, might have bodged it" box, this seems to be completely pointless and our Estate Agent tries to calm our nerves by saying everybody does this now and it's never a problem. It's just a box ticking exercise which solicitors like to be able to file along with all the other paperwork.

The surveyor, when he comes is a nice enough bloke, and just doing a mortgage valuation on behalf of the buyers money-source. He wandered about, took a few measurements with a laser measurer and stuck his head into the loft (no squirrels apparently). He asked a few cursory questions about whether there were paths or access at the back the other side of our fences (no) and that was that.

Dad was free to head for the barge, where it turned out to be too wet to do any painting. Better luck tomorrow.


Monday 22 August 2011

Do I come here often?

You kind of have to laugh. Here is Haggis totally bamboozled by how to get in through the closed door in front of him, when there is an open (it was open all day - he went out that way!) door approx 12 inches to the right of his nose. He looks in at you all harrassed looking as if you've done it to him on purpose and then lifts a paw and scratches at the closed door. Then he scratches again. And again. And again.

If you are feeling soft and compliant you walk to the open door, look out round the corner at him where upon he seems to see the light and walks towards your smiling face and thus is suddenly presented with the door open. Blimey! How did you do that? It's like some form of extra-ordinary magic. He then expects (as all dogs thave a right to expect) to be given a sweetie for his obedience in coming in when the humans asked.

If you are feeling hard and heartless, you can ignore him and eventually he decides to try alternative approaches, one of which is to walk 12 inches to his right and discover the door, through which he then sneaks feeling all smug as if he's just out manouvred your dastardly and Machiavellian puzzle and obtained the prize. No sweetie then though.

Truly a dog of very little brain.


Sunday 21 August 2011

Old Bob (Roberts)

With a stroke of genius, Mum is out shopping today and finds what could be the perfect beer for a link up with Dad's beloved barge, SB Cambria. Cambria was, as any fule no, the last Thames Barge trading under sail power alone in the UK, so our last sail powered merchant vessel, the end of an era. These sail powered vessels and their captains were referred to as 'Sailormen' and Cambria's last skipper, clinging onto the sailing tradition because he hated the new-fangled diesel and steam powered craft, was a bloke called Captain Bob Roberts.

Bob finally gave up on the sail powered life in 1970 as the barge was getting too old and starting to leak like a seive, not making any money as a business, and Bob was also getting older and less able to wrangle rigging and winches. He sold the barge to the Maritime Trust as a museum ship and briefly ran a motor coaster called Vectis Isle before retining to the Isle of Wight to live out his final years with his wife.

He died in 1982, if I recall correctly, cycling home from the village to his house so would never have known about the recent Lottery Funded rebuild of the Cambria to its present beautiful condition. His 2 daughters have enjoyed close contact with the project and have been to visit the team a number of times. The crew of these barges was traditionally two blokes - the Skipper and a Mate, plus a dog (In Bob's case a collie cross called Penny). The 2 most recent 'Mates' of the barge are also very much still with us and one, Dick Durham has written a book about Bob called "The Last Sailorman". The other, Phil (Ginger) Latham now lives in France but has been to see the barge many times and Dad has met him and had a good long (all be it star-struck) chat!

In his life he had also been an author (his books are very good), a journalist with National dailies, and was known as a folk singer and story teller around the barge ports. He and Cambria are also in a well known 1950's BBC TV documentary (might have even been presented by Roger Bannister, the runner) about living by old traditional means round the coast of the Thames Estuary (wildfowling in Essex etc).

See Culture with it!


Saturday 20 August 2011

1000 Posts!!!!!

Well, readers, here we are! We made it to 1000 posts across these 4 and a bit years. Just some nice pictures today of Haggis and I aboard Dad's beloved SB Cambria. Haggis is presumably feeling the heat, looking at the length of that tongue. Dad took us below for a cool off just after these pictures were taken.

I was hoping for something a bit more momentous to talk about in this significant post but it's just been a fairly normal hum drum Saturday. Mum has taken off to Brighton again to visit the sick friend, and is hoping that the M25 doesn't 'get' her like it did last time, delaying her return till gone 22:00. Dad's hoping that too, as he's cooking a bit of a special meal (Nigel Slater Pork Chops) to celebrate the 1000'th post.

He's been down at the barge again today with the gang painting a complete coat of grey undercoat ("Rosy Glow") onto the decks in preparation for tomorrow's proper pale blue, bargey, deck topcoat.
He's going to miss all this when Project Erroll comes to fruition.

Ah well, thank you all, dear readers for your interest and attention over the time this blog has been running. Please do keep the comments coming in, it's the only way I actually know anyone's out there listening at all. Onwards and upwards.


Friday 19 August 2011

Post 999 - one more to go!

Another day of Garden assessing for Dad, one of which is Whitstable Castle, no less. On our dog walk we call by Cambria and go aboard so that Dad can have a cup of coffee. The barge is all open and the kitchen is now all set up for making coffees and teas. You could actually nip aboard and knock up a full roast dinner if you had the ingredients with you handy.

Later Dad goes off sailing on the Swale with 2CV Llew, on his 20 foot motor-sailer (mini-yacht) "Kestrel". They motor down Oare Creek and out through Faversham Creek into the Swale in a decent breeze but as soon as they kill the engine and haul up a few sails it goes dead calm. They sit around for a while and then breeze starts to come in fits and spurts from random directions (a "flukey" wind, as we salty sailor-dogs call it).

Eventually it decides to blow from one direction for more than a few minutes and they can get a bit of sailing in, Llew helming and handling the mainsail, Dad nipping about the cockpit winching in the 'Genoa' (big fore-sail) sheets as they tacked a few times. It's not a very big tide today, and Llew's is a mud-berth, so they have to head back home (Dad at the helm now) before the water all drains away, but they are sailing from about 15:30 to 17:00, so Dad is happy. Mum instructs him to come home via the wine shop and the "chicken to spatchcock" shop.

Post 1000 tomorrow!

Have a great weekend


Thursday 18 August 2011

Read the Small Print

Now then. Tell me have you ever seen such a big proud 'SOLD' sign outside a house. And then tell me have you ever seen such a tiny "Subject to Contact" disclaimer in the bottom right hand corner (marked with blue circle). An Estate Agent being unscrupulous? Who ever heard of such a thing?

I have to say, though, that it works really well, this attempt to fool people into thinking the firm has acheived all these impressive sales. The number of people who have come up to us on dog walks and said "See you sold the house then!" is dozens. The number who spotted the tiny "STC" initials bottom right and knew what they meant? That'll be zero.

Ah well, we hope they are right, and that this weight of positive thinking bulldozers the sale through. We will have no issues what so ever when the estate agent is finally able to swap the SOLD STC for a real "SOLD, No really!" one.

Meanwhile, Dad does 4 garden assessments this morning for the Kent Gardening for Wildlife Awards Scheme in the warm sunshine and a bit of breeze, but by 5 o'clock, when Mum comes home she's firing up the central heating and putting on an extra jumper. Pud Lady phones to remind us that she's off on her hols next week.

Life goes on


Wednesday 17 August 2011

Umpah Loompah Doobeddy Doo

.... I've got another puzzle for you... and all that Jazz. How many dogs are in this picture and (OK it's probably impossible) which one is which. For a clue, this is cropped out of yesterday's picture and you can probably guess anyway knowing that we had young Boris for a couple of nights. Incidentally, 2CV Llew is back from the foreign now and has collected the young lad, and very very happy Boris was to see him too. Llew has 2, sometimes 3 dogs and they all now go to different places for their holidays.

19 year old Rosie (famous tea drinking and beer-lapping dog) goes where she's always gone, to a lovely elderly couple Llew knows in his home town, where she gets to be quiet and calm and not harrassed by anyone, sleeps as much as she wants and is thoroughly spoiled. She sees it as a lovely holiday hotel break. Big burly Springer "Harvey" who is really Llew's lady-friend's animal, goes to his son when Llew can persuade the Daughter in Law to co-operate. New arrival, Boris, comes here where he gets to romp around with like-minded loonies like myself and the H.

Dad had some fun last night showing a big group of Medway Rotary Club members round the barge in company with the Cambria Trust Chairman (Vice Admiral Bruce Richardson, no less) and Boss of Volunteers, Basil. There were so many of them they had to be split into 3 groups and then split again in half so that half could be below decks while the other promenaded round the planking. Dad and Basil did the spiel and Bruce shepherded them around. These guys are keen to get involved in sail training and chartering the barge as part of their sponsorship of the support and respite-care charity "Crossroads Care".

Meanwhile Dad was impressed by a lovely flower-rich display of meadow plants up the central reservation of Rhiems Way in Canterbury. Divert yourself down that way if you can and take a look. It's, different, unusual and very very pretty.


Tuesday 16 August 2011

Thames, Dover, Wight

Thames, Dover, Wight; South-West 5 to 6 becoming variable 3 to 4, occasional rain, occasionally poor. Those are lovely sea conditions to bring 2CV Llew and his mate home from Boulougne to collect young Boris, so we are assuming he goes home tonight. They are out in a 40 foot yacht which sleeps 8, (jammy gets, says Dad) so it should be able to cope with a nice stiff breeze and Llew will almost certainly phone soon to let us know what's going on.

Not that we haven't loved having Boris (who also gets called Basil by mistake by both Mum and Dad for some reason - they just seem to have locked onto that name!) He is good company, excellent for a romp and a chase about, invigourating for the H-man and not too pushy for Dad's affections. As you know he also gets us a reprieve on the 'dogs sleep downstairs' rule and (get this) even though he wins us permission to be with Mum and Dad, he doesn't actually sleep on the bed, preferring to be on the bedroom floor or landing.

Not too much on today so there's a bit of coming and going but Dad's mainly here. He does, though, start this year's little burst of judging wildlife gardens for the Kent Wildlife Trust, this first one being a community volunteer garden wedged in between some houses on a former allotment site in Whitstable, called "stream walk"; all very new, immature and tidy but showing obvious signs of plenty of hard work by the volunteers. All the best, you guys.

All the best


Monday 15 August 2011


We are counting down now towards a real mile-stone on this blog, my 1000th post. This one is number 995. We had better think of something special to do to celebrate. Fizz may be in order...... what d'you reckon, Mum?

When it all goes a bit quiet in the snug tonight, here's a good word to drop into conversation subtly, "mousing". It's an old sailoring and barging word where by if a big hook needed to stay securely hooked to something, an amount of lacing was wound across the hook's opening to effectively close the loop and stop the thing detaching. This was particularly important in situations where the wind might be variable so that the tension on the hook fluctuated between huge and zero. The hook here is that on the bottom of the main sheet block on good ol' Cambria and Dad has secured Boris's lead to the hook and then amused himself by mousing it to stop him escaping.

It's a bit of a day for catching up loose threads after the Irish mission, contacting the garage about getting the car door finally undented, contacting an assortment of gardens locally where Dad must go and assess their wildlife potential as part of the Gardens-for-Wildlife competition, contacting the estate agent about getting back into the Plan B property so Mum can get a look, and also tentatively feeling out possible 'professionals' to cast their more experienced gaze over it. We also make greengage jam from the fruit from the garden.


Sunday 14 August 2011

Beric and Boris

Dad can't resist another opportunity to go paint Cambria. She's pretty much done and is, and should now be, spending her life earning money, doing charters and educational stuff, which means away from Faversham, generally. So the fun project, which has kept Dad off the streets for the last three years is pretty much coming to an end. Today there were only him and the 'Boss of Volunteers' Basil down there, Basil doing a bit of varnishing, Dad painting pale yellow onto recently fitted wooden cleats and the main 'horse'. Dad also gets involved in the job of hoisting the masts of Sailing Barge Beric back up. The gear was lowered yesterday to allow the sails to be taken off and sent away for repair, and had to be raised again today to get the masts back out of the way of the imminent deck repairs.

Part way through the morning, 2CV Llew turns up at the barge to leave 9-month-old Boris with us. We are babysitting him again while Llew and a chum sail the chum's 40 foot yacht over to Boulougne and back. It might be just one night but, as is the way of these things, it is at mercy of weather and tide and , says Llew, I may or may not be back Monday night.

Although Llew is, in theory, in a hurry to go take the maybe-ex-but-we're-not-sure girlfriend to a charity garden party, Dad tempts him down below decks with the fully equipped galley and offer of a cup of tea.

Dad is then amused by Llew and Basil, who are both fans of keeping boats 'traditional' chuntering about 'yottie' barges with fancy skylights, modern domestic interior lighting, sophisticated electrics and possibly even (soon) radar! (Gasp!) Llew is only teasing and Basil is laughing as he explains patiently that whilst in Denmark and Norway the governments supports old barges kept as museum pieces, here the barge has to pay its way. That means offering the possible paying charter guests a certain level of home comfort, i.e. 'yottie luxury', hot showers, warm dry bunks with duvets and pillows, good cooking facilities and so on.

Ah well, the silver lining on the Boris-shaped-invasion cloud is that Boris doesn't do sleeping alone downstairs and creates such a fuss it's easier to let all the dogs off the sleep-in-the-kitchen rule, so as long as I can resist the temptation to pee on (Mum in the) bed we should be OK tonight.


Saturday 13 August 2011

Never trust an Irishman called...

Ahharrrr me Hearties. 'Ere be a picture of Dad scrambling up the 'ratlines' (pronounced rattlins) on SB Cambria when they were our racing on the Swale the other day. He's gone aloft with the new camera to try to get some pictures down to the deck from up there. Impressive huh?

Meanwhile Mum is running around muttering "Never trust an Irishman named Charlie". She's thinking of C Haughey (ex Taoiseach / Prime Minister) but it may equally apply to our Estate Agent, Charlie McD. Mum and Dad have just lost out in a mini bidding war for the house-of-choice on which they'd put in a bid yesterday morning. The rival bidder is, they know, the bloke who owns the neighbouring property as a holiday home. There is also, according to Charlie, a mystery 3rd bidder who looked round the property on Friday and will let Charlie know either Monday or Tuesday.

Mum and Dad want to know where all this interest has suddenly come from on a property that's been vacant for a year and in which there's been no interest till we suddenly popped our heads over the parapet. Anyway, the rival outbid us by £2500, so we went back with another £2500 but hit our limit at that point. The guy snuck on another £1000 and, as they say, you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. We folded and told Charlie that should anything happen to Mr Rival we'd be interested in coming back in. So that was that. Dad texted Mrs S to get her back on the internet searches and Mum and Dad are looking harder at the Plan B property (the one with the lovely farm outbuildings I Lily posted about a few days back.


Blow the Wind Southerly

.. blow bonny breeze, my Daddy to me!

Daddy's home after a bit of an epic drive from the middle of Ireland back to Faversham, starting at 10:30, arriving 23:00. Thank you, Lily for taking up the arduous blogger's mantle while he was over there with you. You did a good job and I may call upon your services again but for now, I'll jump back in the chair if that's OK.

Dad had a whale of a time and thoroughly enjoyed his house hunting, assisted and supported by the Silverwoods, for whom many many thanks for phone calls, hassle, navigation, hospitality (see pic above of Mr S's fine first attempt at Yorkshires!), food, wine, bed and not to mention potties full of pee and poo which came rapidly and regularly (Thanks R).

Dad drove up from the Portlaoise area via Steak Lady's place near Dublin, stopping for a quick chat and a catch up, then headed, via the shiny new port tunnel, for the Irish Ferries hydrofoil 'Jonathan Swift' (of Gulliver's Travels fame, of course) at 14:30. The Swift is tiny compared to a ferry and was crammed to the very gunwales with vehicles and people. The sea was only a bit of swell, so the boat rocked and rolled a bit, but nothing to cause anyone any alarm. By 17:00 Dad was disembarked in Holyhead and headed home stopping only at Keele services on the M1 for a Ginsters pie, enjoying free passage over Dartford bridge (it was after 22:00) arriving back here at 23:00.

Mum welcomed him home with soup, bread and wine and everyone made a huge fuss of each other, with Mum and Dad catching up on how our buyers visit went that evening and on where we are in our own house hunting. The latter is 'on tenterhooks' waiting to see if the bank accepts Mum and Dad's offer on the first choice house. It's a single storey close to Timahoe, Co. Laois but nobody's giving out any details yet so as not to jinx the process. Time enough for that when we have some signatures on bits of paper and nobody can change their minds! Meanwhile Mum is till quietly eye-ing up a 'Plan-B' place in case it all goes Pete Tong and Mrs S is still hunting for more on t'internet.

Good to have Daddy home!


Thursday 11 August 2011

Byres and Cattle Yards

Deef's Dad and Mrs Silverwood are off on a major mission today, a 2 hour run from here to the top end of Co. Roscommon to look at an old farmhouse, long abandoned. The outside, they tell me, is gorgeous; to die for. Look at these byres for example and the one-time cattle yard. Dad was going weak at the knees, practically, it being so much like the kind of buildings in which he used to work when he was a lad in Sussex. Look at the old shed in picture 3 -you can see the three bays where the cattle would have had their noses in the food troughs and the gulley at the bottom where their waste product would drain out onto the land. To the right of picture 2 is the cattle race where the cows could be contained in a narrow passage way while you stopped them at the crush and did whatever worm-drenching or vet procedures you needed to do.

The old house attached was a small farm run by an old man and his son, with the three sisters upping sticks and moving to the more glamorous city. Eventually Dad passed away and then the son fell ill and had to spend some time in hospital. His three sisters held on, hoping that their brother would recover and return to the farm, but he didn't so it all fell into disuse. The 3 sisters then umm'd and ahh'd over what to do about the property. The months turned into years and suddenly 20 years had gone by with no-one living there, and the resultant mould and damp taking its toll. Luckily the walls, windows and roof were reasonably sound, so no rain was getting in but the house is still, in 2011, a sorry picture of mould stains, flaking paint and some suspiciously 'soft' areas of floor on the landing. Even some heaving, erupting plaster.

So that's why it's so cheap. What Deef's Mum and Dad, assisted by Mr and Mrs Silverwood need to decide, is "is it do-able". This place is now one of 2 left on the short list. The third, which was there up till this morning, is now "Sale Agreed" and has disappeared off the website.

Ahh, the stress

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Plug 'Ole

My Baby has gorn down the plug 'ole
My baby has gorn down the plug
The poor little Fing
Was so skinny and Fin
She should've been barfed in a pineapple tin
or a Jug-ug-ug-ug

Ah the joys of being wrangled by Mrs S when you've rather over indulged in the dog dry-food mixed with pasta sauce dept. Mind you, she didn't really have to put the lump of soap suds on the top of my head, did she? I'm ready for my close-up now?

Deef's Dad upsets his SatNav lady today by some ill advised comments about her accent and she exacts a cruel revenge by sending he and Mrs S down some seriously dodgy roads en route to the property they are viewing today. They survive with only minimal damage to sump and due to bottling it as one road turned from grass-up-the-middle to "it's a lawn". Deef's Dad thinks he has eaten enough humble pie now and may be forgiven in time for tomorrow's trip to Co. Roscommon.


Tuesday 9 August 2011

Clear Canal Water

I don't know how well you'll be able to see these two pictures but they show very well in the original state how gin-clear is the water in the Grand Canal passing through the Irish mid-lands. In the first pic we are looking straight down through 3-4 feet of water next to the tow-path, and in the 2nd, although you can see the reflection of the lock gate, I hope within that you can also see the actual bottoms of the lock gates and the cill 3-4 feet under water. You can see every plant growing at the bottom and even tiny 2-4 inch fishes swimming between them.

Having just come back from our own narrow boat hols in the Pennines where all the canal water is so opaque with green and with mud that you can't see down through more than a couple of inches of it in most places and you'd struggle to see through a pint glass full of it, this just plain amazed us. Whether it's down to the lack of pollution (there's certainly less rubbish and filth chucked in) or boat traffic, we didn't know but it's a credit to Waterways Ireland.

We found this, along with a surprise staircase lock as we went looking for a canal-side property in today's house close to Rathangan, Co.Kildare. We had to stop and look and take photos. Talking about this also sent Mrs S off surfing for narrow boats to buy and live on (but not too seriously). That then sent Deef's Mum off on the same track. Deef's Dad thinks the women have all lost the plot and can see the 'English' family ending up moored to some canal bank in Kildare as winter sets in.


Monday 8 August 2011

I did a Poo!

Unusually, and via the power of the internet, this post is being brought to you from Ireland, where Deefer's Dad is currently house hunting assisted by myself (Lily), and my co-workers Maxwell and Coco. That's us in the first pic - left to right Max, me and Coco. The 2nd pic might be of me trying to see how you get the dog sweets out of the jar. By the time I discovered the top was open, Mrs Silverwood (my Mum) was onto me! I (Lily) am doing this with full permission of Deefs who is taking a short break, looking after her Mum back in the UK.

Sorry about the complicated relationships but hopefully you and I can hang onto the plot. I will pass the reins back to Deefs on Friday.

So, Mrs S and Deef's Dad are off checking out some places found by Deef's Mum and Mrs S on the internet, but now they are doing it properly in the Irish rain in the company of proper Estate Agents. So far so good but I'll hold back from any detail till we know one way or the other.

Meanwhile let this image into your head. Little R Silverwood (3) is just at the potty training stage and she is getting on well and is very proud of her progress. So proud that she comes skipping into the room waving an unfamiliar yellow plastic bowl under Deef's Dad's nose, wobbling it alarmingly. Deef's Dad grabs it to steady it just in time to realise it is half full of yellow liquid, with a floater to be proud of slopping about in it. That's nothing, says Mrs S. When she was first doing them and it was all a bit sporadic R would stride into the room clutching the poo in the palm of her hand and say Look! I've done a Poo.

As is the way of these things, busy Mrs S is not always in a position to attend straight way to each insistent child and on one occasion, the Mummy.... Mummy..... MUMMY! was followed up by R thrusting the thing so far under Mummy's nose that the little brown-coated fingers went in past Mummy's lips and actually behind her teeth before Mummy realised what message was trying to come across!

Lily (for the Deefs)

Sunday 7 August 2011

Haggis at 15

Happy Birthday to Haggis who reaches 15 years old today and a very youthful and puppy-like 15 he is on occasions. Today, though, he is taking it easy as befits a gent in his Autumn years. We've been for a nice walk round the boatyard and town in which we dodged some serious rain squalls (by superb timing and by knowing some of the locals willing to call us in for tea). Mostly around that Haggis has slept and eaten, woken periodically with gifts of proper breakfast, or a pig's ear or (Birthday Cake of Choice for us) raw pork ribs.

Join me in wishing him many more and problem free years and don't sing 'Happy Birthday' too loud, or you'll wake the old boy up.

Many Happy Returns, H


Saturday 6 August 2011

Swale Match

We are abandoned by both parents today in a shameless act of desertion. Mum is off on a mission of mercy to a friend in need in Brighton. This poor unfortunate has suffered a minor stroke just as she was about to move flats in Brighton. It was apparently only a small one, from which she's expected to recover, but meant that she was in hospital under observation just when she was due to move out of one flat and into the next. A gang of ladies including Mum have therefore descended upon her and upon Brighton to effect the flat-move while she is incapacitated.

Dad would have been there too, were this not THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY EVER in the history of Dad's association with Sailing Barge Cambria, namely the day that Dad and his fellow volunteers were invited on board to help crew in a barge race, the "Swale Barge and Smack Sailing Match". The Swale, for them's don't know, is the strip of water between (mainland) Kent and the Isle of Sheppey, which lies just off Kent in the Thames Estuary. The race course runs from roughly the end of Faversham Creek, out eat then south towards Herne Bay, turning back west just off HB to tack back up the Swale to the Creek again. It's about 6 hours sailing time.

What Dad had feared would be a rather pedestrian 'passenger ride' was no such thing as all the 'volunteers' were encouraged to take proper crew jobs and to work hard. Also what they'd all feared would be a windless drift turned out to be quite breezy, especially from Herne Bay onwards so there was lots of hard work hauling on sails and winding winches, Dad was fore-sheet-man (bowline man) so his bursts of work came thick and fast as the barge had to tack every 5 minutes or so coming back up the narrow, low-tide Swale.

In the end Cambria came 2nd in her class (Bowsprit barges) and we won the Seamanship Award so fair play to us. We'd actually done by about half 2 but could then sit around yarning and eating our packed lunches till half four, before the Faversham Iron Wharf tug could get down to collect us and drag us up the Creek back to our berth as the tide came up the creek. There was then another couple of hours of being towed, putting the barge to bed and taxi-ing everyone back to where the cars had been left (Harty Ferry) so Dad got home about 18:30 to release us.

Mum has had even more fun getting home from Brighton because the M25 has been closed, so on Dad's advice she diverted eastwards via Hastings and the A257 to go have a coffee with Pud Lady. She and Diamond will be back here about 22:00

All go, innit


Friday 5 August 2011

Coffee and a small brandy

A Coffee and a small brandy, Dad replied, in response to the question from Mum. Must have lost something in translation. The other pic is Cambria out on the Swale.


Thursday 4 August 2011

Pictures of Lily

Meet Lily, latest addition to the Silverwoods family. Currently only 8 weeks old and fairly new. Bit of a girlie name but me and Maxwell will probably toughen her up. It's what big brothers and cousins are for!

Our lovely sunshine gives way to rain. It's just starting to very gently drizzle as we set out for our walk this morning and we decide to do the boat yard and back through town route which is, unfortunately not one with any obvious shortcuts home. Fairly soon it's drizzling very convincingly and then just plain tanking down. 3 days off his 15th birthday, Haggis is not inclined to be hurried anywhere and, anyway, his dense felty old fur sheds water like the proverbial duck, so he ain't rushin for no-one, rain or not. Dad and me end up looking like drowned rats.

Diamond, now largely through her medical dramas is exploring the idea of getting back to work (No Diamond! Lady of Leisure! Keep the Faith!) and has sought and got a job at Mum's 'firm'. Diamond is a keen Greece-ophile and annual visitor to the same village in the same island for decades, knows lots of locals, seen the current crop of café owners grow up having bounced them on her knee when they were babies, never has to sit in the 'tourist' seats, you get the idea. So she's delighted that her new boss is also Greek (well, Crete actually). Today is her first day. Mum may come back with tales of how she got on. Good luck Diamond!


Wednesday 3 August 2011

Ferry Tickets

A couple more pics of the Cambria now she is fully rigged and sail-able. Ignore them if you're not as obsessed as Dad (and who is?). Another hot day so we take our walk in the Challock Forest where the dense grown-up chestnut coppice gives a good deal of shade. We meet a lady out walking 2 westies and two wiry haired dachshunds, which is visually an amusing combination. The dachsies are scruffy like an unclipped westie but much shorter in the leg and longer in the body.

In terms of Project Erroll, Dad books his ferry tickets for the first burst of real (as opposed to internet) house hunting. He is going to team up with Mrs Silverwood, the world's number 1 organiser of people like estate agents. She has no fear. They will look round each of the dozen or so which Mum and she have shortlisted and, like an 'observer corps' rather than a battling unit, will report back to central command (Mum). There is only one place which Dad might conceivably be allowed to put any kind of tentative offer in about and we're too wary of tempting fate to even give you a clue where that might be at present.

Today, film maker Mike Maloney (Google "Red Sails Trailer" for more bargey action) calls and invites Dad round to see some 'rushes' filmed during the Thames Barge Match. This is partly to show them off but also Mike loves to run his tentative descriptions past anyone reasonably knowledgeable to get his facts straight. He has some lovely footage there of barges at speed.

There is also a move in the de-cluttering stakes. The lady (Sheila) who is to take over secretarying on the Allotments Committee comes round to be shown the ropes and handed a disk of all the files, and wobbles off on her bike with three lever arch files in her basket, the live file and 2 of archive. 3 fewer lever arch files kicking around in the study when we come to pack properly.


Tuesday 2 August 2011

The sun is splitting the stones

The sun is splitting the stones. It's too hot to do any work, for definite. A little bit of laundry is all we achieve. Our dog walk is through the coolth of the cemetery under all the trees. We retreat indoors for Dad to do some secretarial stuff for the allotments on the computer - reminder letters to tenants that they are, in fact, expected to cultivate the ground we rent to them, for example.

While out in the car taking that stuff round to the Allotments Chairman (actually a lady, Sandra) he gets all distracted and ends up down on the Cambria looking to get some up to date, fully rigged, photo's, and what do you know, Master Shipwright Tim Goldsack is about to take her the 300 yards or so upstream to turn her round and, as ever, he can use an extra hand manning the fenders. How could Dad refuse?

It's a narrowish waterway and the barge, weighing 70 tonnes or so could do a fair amount of damage even at low speed, so they use a small tug to tow her and turn her but they like to have blokes lowering huge rubber bladders (fenders) down the side between any part of the hull and any piece of encroaching scenery, yachts, piers etc. As it happens Dad is able to play just in the nick of time hero.

The barge is far enough upstream and the tug, still attached to the bow scoots round to the left under the stem intending to put some reverse thrust on her to bring her to a stop, but at an angle so that the bow swings round in a 'handbrake' turn style swing and does not hit the left bank. It's a big concrete wall and we are bearing down rather fast on house No 20 with it's waterfront view... looming over the house, in fact. The tug takes up the slack and PTOINGGGG!, the rope detaches from the tug's hook.

Now we are gliding towards the wall under no control. Dad leaps for'd with his big fender on his rope, then swings and lowers it as far as he can down the stem, round the anchor, just in time. The barge stem grabs the fender and squishes it till Dad is sure it must burst, but she slows, stops and bounces back, just when everyone on deck, who couldn't see whether Dad had made it or not, is expecting a sickening crunch and some damage to either wall or barge. Relief all round! My Daddy is the hero of the hour!

Of course, this is all in a day's work to barge blokes, so they just re-attach the rope and use the 'bounce' to continue the stern round and then start the bow moving downstream, completing the turn, then gliding Cambria back intio Standard Quay alongside SB Beric, where she started.

Oh, and then Dad came home and knocked together some salmon en croute parcels for John, Diamond and old 'Walt' who are round tonight for supper.

A man of many talents


Monday 1 August 2011

In deep and solemn Mourning

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Today we lay to rest the mortal remains of Dad's trusty Canon EOS 350D which fell in action aboard the good ship Northumberland, was mortally wounded and died of its wounds soon after returning to these shores. It had had a long and illustrious career, being Dad's first and only so far digital camera, taking 12,362 pictures across 5 years. May you rest in peace. Dad is now in negotiations with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to expedite a replacement.

Blimey it's hot. Dad found his serious gardening gloves and headed for the allotment early to pull stinging nettles from among a huge ex-garden red hot poker which he has at the top of his plot, and nettles and bindweed growing up through the gooseberry bushes. That plot is going to be so tidy when he hands it back, the next tenant will be delighted. Since then we've not really done much except sit around avoiding the heat (and occasional nips to shops to suss cameras).

Talking of 'next tenant', the amount of chicken noise was increasing as heard from our garden and we were wondering why. The Angel B and Jim had been joking with us about the fact that with us up for sale, and the 'librarian' couple on the other side of him doing a moonlight flit, everyone would think it was them upsetting the neighbours, and also mildly worried who might move in. Well, hopefully we are all now sorted.

Our buyers seem to be a nice young couple and on the far side the girl who has moved in, Jim has known since she was a babe in arms. Jim and the Angel used to keep pubs, and the babe's Dad was one of his best known and popular customers. Anyway, they've turned up with chickens in a modern hi-tech kind of coop which sounds like it might be an 'Egloo' but I'm not sure - we've not seen it yet. Yesterday, the Angel B was round there and was handed an egg so fresh from one of the chooks it was still blood-heat to the touch!

Dad still remembers when he was first milking cows, you just naturally expect milk to be cold. In the farm's bulk tank, after all, it is take-your-breath-away cold. So when another dairyman or lady directs a hand-milked stream of milk straight from the cow's teat down your leg when you're not expecting it, you think you've been peed on. Your whole reaction screams that milk cannot be at blood temperature, but of course it is!