Friday 30 September 2011

Big Green Lorry

Our sultry, stultifying, airless heat wave continues (note blue sky in these pictures - it's the 30th September, for Heaven's Sake!) and today is the day scheduled for Mr Dempsey and his removal team to come take our 'stuff' into storage where they will keep it till we get to Ireland and invite them to bring it over. Well, as you can see, what has been heralded for days as the 'Big Green Lorry', as per all Dempsey's business cards and advertising, turns out to not be green and not even particularly enormous (though big enough). Mr Dempsey, lover of vintage vehicles like his Morris 6, in which he came to quote for the job (possibly because they knew of us as the 'people with the 2CV') has decided to do this run in the oldest lorry in his fleet, a 1978 Bedford TK in his old livery, red and white.

Well, no matter. The vehicle formerly known as BGL arrives on time and is staffed by 3 strapping lads. This includes old, grey haired Mr Dempsey himself. Dad had assumed that he was the owner, manager and maybe now promoted out of the actual humping, but no, he's in there chucking washing machines and boxes of Mum's books like a good 'un. We dogs are wrangled into the kitchen so we don't get under foot and the guys quickly eat through the living room's stuffing of boxes, mattresses and dissembled furniture. In an hour they stop for a coffee with the living room empty. There's then another 20 minutes or so kitchen stuff, garden furniture and toolery. The van is barely 3/4 full and the white goods etc stand in a single layer at the back of the load, strapped to the sides. The guys shut up the van, do some paperwork and are gone, over to the storage in the industrial estate over by Tesco's towards Whitstable.

Mum has stayed around to see the job well under way but then headed off to work. As soon as the removal men are gone, the Angel B turns up armed with hoover and brooms and sets to, to tidy and clean up after the guys which Dad very much appreciates, as he is a tad weary at this stage and still has all the clearing of debris and runs to the tip to contend with.

The only soft furnishing in the house is now the old king-sized mattress on which we will 'camp' till Monday, where-upon it, too will be tip-bound. Dad's lying on this as the only place to rest up now in this house (we're OK - we've got our dog beds) when he hears Jim a-calling. He and the Angel B have realised we have no furniture and is offering the loan of a couple of fold-up chairs. Even better, Dad is invited round for a sit in their very comfortable wicker garden-chairs and a cup of coffee and a chat. It's been a hot and exhausting week, especially any time spent in the roof-space and up and down the stairs.

Nearly-homeless Deefs

Thursday 29 September 2011

BGL minus 16 hours

As I write this we are at BGL minus 16 hours with just two more sessions of packing a preparing before "off went the van with me 'ome packed in it". One is tonight, the other an early blast tomorrow morning mainly pulling the gardenny and big stuff (ladders etc) up from the shed. We are almost there. We then have to live in a rather minimalist way till we move out all together by lunchtime Monday, no longer owning a house in this lovely road after 18 years. It's all rather sad really.

After Dad's efforts today the place looks more like a bomb has hit it than a house in a fit state to leave to the new purchaser. The fridge is away from the wall and stands open, defrosted and airing. The washing machine has been pulled out and disconnected having performed its final Faversham transaction. At least we're moving out with all the stuff clean (if not ironned) rather than carrier bacgs of minging shirts and jocks. The selected stuff from the loft is all boxed up and Dad started on the clothes, packing his supply into 2 suit cases. A million framed family pictures (including dogs) which used to grace the hall in an esoteric random assemblage are crated with alternating layers of towel to keep them safe and there is even a box of coat hangers on the stack. Christmas has also been stashed in one of the 'Tea Chest' boxes.

At risk of making anyone feel queazy just when they are about to eat their tea, Dad supplies this picture of my grot-filled ear, which is now being treated by daily applications of the anti-fungal and anti-yeast ear drops preparation, Virbac Easotic. This is gloopy and white and has to be eased, melted and squidged down my ear canal. Unfortunately, having done its thing, the carrier oil stays 'wet and can be rubbed, squidged, shaken and eased back out again over the following hours and gets in the 'white' furry fringe of fur round my ears (and then, as is the way of things, around my face and down my neck and back) giving me a very fetching 'grubby urchin who never washes her hair' look. Once the course of drops is over, I am in for the shampooing of my life.

(Semi-) Momentous day tomorrow


Tuesday 27 September 2011

The aul' Boiler

All timings now are measured back from the arrival of the almost mythical "Big Green Lorry" at 09:00 on Friday, by which time we have to have all the stuff which needs moving to Ireland and which won't go in the three cars, ready for loading. Dad currently has 3 lists running on the wall labelled with each car name. Stuff which needs to arrive at Co. Roscommon on Day 1 and will need to be used on that day (like chimney sweeping brushes and the billhooks and secateurs which will clear the way to seeing the airbricks on the houses SW corner (if they exist) and the cover for the septic tank manhole (I know - the things these humans worry about when they should be cracking open the fizz and celebrating moving in!), are destined to travel in Dad's modern car. So are this PC and the (soon) dongle which will allow me to do this blog and Dad to see Facebook once we are 'homeless' and no longer have access to these domains. Us, too, of course and all our paraphernalia of feed bowls, food, grooming stuff, leads, dog beds and the like.

The stuff Mum will need to carry on working and dressing in a reasonably professional manner while she carries on working will need to be stashed in her wee Fiat. Anything else which is less time-critical and, in fact, less critical over all, can get stashed in the 2CV which will be coming along later. That will be an adventure in itself. 2CV Llew is building Dad a wee trailer to tow behind Clara, based on the same axles and suspension and 2CV wheels.

So, today, more packing and fun and games. Dad packs all the contents of the dining room dresser; lots of newspaper and bubble wrap, and the word "Fragile" in big letters on the outside of each box. Of course we would like to think that the BGL crew treat everything as 'fragile' so this is just to be on the safe side. Two blokes from British Gas also turn up today to service the old central heating boiler. They pile in and look quite professional but soon they start to scare Dad who can hear their increasingly stressed out comments; they seem to have discovered a minor leak round a rubber 'O' ring seal but having replaced the seal are then struggling to tighten up the gland as there is no space for their spanner. Dad briefly has visions of being asked to fund a boiler replacement at this late hour, but after much subdued whispered discussion the gas men are suddenly all perky again, close the boiler up and sign the paperwork and depart. Dad hopes it will all hold together till at least BGL day (Monday).

I cause concern myself by being all itchy around the right ear and my ear is full of brown grot. Dad whizzes me off to the vet where I get some white gloop put in my ears and a pain-killer injection (this caused by me squealing like a drama queen when the vet sticks his auroscope down my left ear, making him think "it's a bit tender"). Did he but know it, I make those noises at the slightest provocation, I don't need pain killers!

Drugs R Us


Monday 26 September 2011

More Packing

For Dad another full day on the house move packing. All the books are now boxed and various other bits and pieces have been boxed besides including The Wedding Dress. Before my time obviously (and even before Haggis's time) but we gather it was quite an occasion over in Dublin where Steak Lady had a hand in the catering so that the main dish was Beef Stroganoff. With a thing for blue steak and steak Tartare, Mum was piling in there before the meat ever got near the Stroganoff (apparently it was good stuff, Steak Lady tends to be in the 'Best Customer' lists of the local butcher, so they were well looked after).

So the piles of boxes get higher and the residues of stuff not yet packed get smaller. There were 2 brief diversions today. One involved emptying the big, half-barrel-sized terracotta pots as well as the actual half barrel, these being the three bits that are being moved. This made homeless a Brown Turkey Fig tree which is being preserved as a cutting/root stock in the hope that it will survive the emigration, and Acer (which they are not bothered by as it was never that successful) and a million tete-a-tete daff bulbs, which have been rescued and will also be emigrated with a view to re-uniting them with their pot in Ireland. You are not allowed to move soil about for bio-secutity reasons, so everything has to be root-washed.

The second distraction was for Dad to nip to B+Q to buy smoke alarms and CO alarms for the new house but also a big wheelie toolbox for the power tools. Yes, he has started to attack the shed! The shed, realistically is going to mean packing the tools and garden equipment and a few big, un-opened pots of paint, but junking the rest. The wood-used-for-tinder (small planks, offcuts etc) we will offer to the new owners, but old paint tins, rusty screws, old door latches and other scrap, will be moved to the tip over the weekend after the BIG GREEN LORRY has been and collected all the useful stuff.

And then there was the traditional hour and a half of Dad's favourite game, phoning utilities, insurance companies (I'm with Petplan, Haggis is more of a DBS kind of guy, both turn out to be brands under the Allianz Group), the tax man, pension companies, the Kennel Club, Swale Borough and battling through their labyrinthine answerphone submenus. Mostly he succeeded but Santander bank? Who designed that system? They need shooting.


Sunday 25 September 2011

Packing like Crazy

With the whole house to pack into boxes, pretty much, and Mum away, and with very few days before Mr Dempsey's big green lorry pulls up outside, we are packing stuff into boxes and sealing them with parcel tape for every hour that Dad's little leggies and arms can handle it. We break off every few hours for a respite coffee or some other distraction. Our problem is that we are very booky household, with an inordinate amount of books and paper-related, equally dense material (diaries, files, print outs, pre-digital packets of photos, magazines etc).

This is all heavy stuff even though Mum has pre-empted her own tendency to create massively heavy, monolithic, tea chest sized slabs of solid paper by buying on-line, a good selection of flat boxes just waiting to be assembled. This selection includes smaller boxes clearly labelled "books" to try to steer the packers away from the hernia-weight boxes, and Dad is sticking to those for the books.

This was a bit of an awesome task, so Dad has started in just one room, determined to clear its entire contents into sealed boxes before moving on to the next one, rather than fanny around indecisively prodding this and tinkering with that. In between bursts of book packing, there are opportunities to free up some more junk which can be carried down to the front drive 'free-cycle' point, Son of Junk-Pile 1 ! Today this method managed to clear the big computer desk (dissembled) and a dresser, assorted olde scanners, printers and computer bits, a weighing scales, some huge coffee table books, some gardening magazines, empty box files and lever arch files and other stationery.

It all goes, welcomed aboard by the good folks of Faversham for its 'onward journey'. Where to, we will never know. The desk and dresser, we know, went to two nice ladies who have moved out of a small 2-up-2-down into a bigger house and lack furniture; we know because Dad spotted them loading the desk and offered to help them, then invited them in to see the dresser and invited them to come back for it when he'd emptied it in 15 minutes (which they did). It never actually touched the junk pile. This actually came to us from Diamond originally so now it moves on to another phase of its much-recycled life, to another loving home. She will be pleased.

Now run out of enthusiasm for parcel tape, Dad is chillin' with a beer and supper.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Spoiled Rotten

Mum needs to come back quickly from her hols with Diamond in Poros, Greece, to rescue us from being spoiled rotten. Dad, on his own tends to cook as if Mum were still about, so there's generally plenty left over to get mixed in with our supper. Tonight we are having the usual 'Butcher's Tripe' dog meat with added liver, bacon and onion gravy, the gravy being made with chicken stock out of the freezer rather than water (Dad is valiantly trying to empty the freezer by completion date!). He may also be allowing us to sleep upstairs with him but I better not say that as there will probably be killin's when Mum gets back over it.

Today we play host to removal company boss, Mr Dempsey who comes to assess the load and discuss storage requirements between our move-out-of-this-house date and our actual move to Ireland. He arrives in a very smartly restored 1950's Morris. It's like a stretched Moggy Minor with a 6-cylinder engine and Dad thinks the shape was later used by Wolseley. It's in a fetching pale green and Dad, inevitably, gets to look under the bonnet (It's an old bloke, old cars thang).

Mr Dempsey strolls about, taking copious notes and chatting away in an Irish accent to die for (Wexford, maybe) accepts a shopping bag full of allotment onions and then departs, promising to phone us with a price on Monday by which time, we all note, we'd have a job finding someone else if it's a bit pricey. No fools, these removal guys, especially in a bad recession. He tells us that in the boom times, when everyone was moving back to Ireland, he was making 2-3 trips over per week with the big 'wagon and drag' pantechnicon (which would fit 2-3 houses worth of stuff inside). Now he's down to a 'rigid' lorry (not an artic, no trailer) and a trip a week if he's lucky. He'll take our stuff but wait to make the run till he has another lump of furniture to make up the load.

Ruinned Bruin

Friday 23 September 2011

Jezz the Window

Sorry if this is a bit of a bizarre, snatched image of a man apparently holding nothing recognisable in a living room. If the photographer had had any idea how to take a good picture you'd realise that it is Jezz-the-Window holding one end of our 3-seat sofa, while the other end rests on the window sill, which is currently open to the elements because Jezz has just deftly removed the glazed panel. Dad has just lifted that up there and is meant to be racing round outside to grab the outer end to help Jezz hoof it out into the front garden but has sneakily paused to take this picture leaving poor Jezz holding his end up. Suffice to say that the sofa is now out of the house and the window is re-instated.

That job done we head for the allotments for probably the last time ever to pull the last of the onions and dig the last spuds. We took the wheel barrow and therein lies the reason why we did it today - you need a barrow to do it sensibly and the barrow will shortly be off into storage along with all the other furniture and house-stuff. Anyway, the onions needed pulling - it is about now that if they are still in the ground they start to re-root and to bolt, and also to go soft with basal rot at the bottoms. You need to haul them out and invert them in the sun (in our case in the greenhouse) to dry the roots out, stop the bolt and stop the rot; to 'ripen' them in fact.

I say 'all the furniture and house stuff'. Well, that's not quite true. Dad decides that there are items lying around which are 'clutter' and would be better off left behind, so the best bet, as we know form experience' is to create a pile on the front drive labelled 'free to a good home' and let the locals give it an onward journey. Out goes the old deep and heavy wide screen TV, the video player, its stand/base and video drawer and all the videos (Yes, Mum said, even the Shakespeare ones; this is a serious de-clutter). Up from the shed comes Dad's old pair of skis and ski poles not used for 20 years or so. Down from the loft comes the cat basket, a kiddies high-chair, a wine rack, the ski boots and gloves , the bass guitar amp and a big old picture of a dolphin, framed and again, not seen for decades. By evening we have only the dodgy wine rack and the video drawer/TV stand thingy.

Dad then has to make a million phone calls to utility companies to tell them we're moving out, and ends up scranny over the number of answerphone options he has had to battle through. To be fair you can now 'move house' using their websites and this is very well set up on most of them. We get a nice walk round the boat yard later on in the evening, before Dad cooks himself a thawed out chilli (trying to empty the freezer too!) and we all watch the Irish RTE programme "Late Late Show" with Ryan Tubridy on RTE's version of i-player. Can I just say how funny it was when Dad decided he'd watch TV, grabbed the listings mag and walked through to the living room only to find no sofa and no TV! Do I come here often?



Thursday 22 September 2011

We have Exchanged!!!

Dad is leppin' around like a lunatic and possibly drinking that wine a bit quick. The reason for this celebration is that the legal beagles have finally trudged through the minefield of questions, searches and investigations and declared that Mum and Dad are actually legally allowed to sell this house to the buyers. They have now officially (as at ten to four) EXCHANGED so that the sale is now legally binding on both sides.

Dad heard this while up to his oxters in grey zinc chromate paint painting the insides of the 2CV rims down at 2CV Llew's workshop. 2CV wheel rims, like many others are made of 2 pressings welded together and the integrity of the weld determines the air-tight-ness of the wheel/tyre. When they get old (and Clara Bow is a 1986 car) the rust can get into the weld and blow the two pressings apart. The rusty area can leak air or, worse still, split in two, which is nothing you want to happen even at 2CV speeds. So the wise and careful periodically whip the wheels off, lay them inside up and have at them with scrapers, whizzy wire brushes on power-drills and gloopy grey zinc paint.

Unfortunately, if Estate agents pick this moment to phone asking whether it's OK to "exchange contracts" there's not a lot you can do in a hurry. We have the UK-to-Ireland removal firm Dempsey's on hold but with no fixed date and we also need Jezz-the-Windows to pull out the main glazed panel of the bay window out front in order to evict the big leather sofa. Dad had to quickly finish the car job and round us up (we like a nice charge about in 2CV Llew's work area) before racing home to grab the phone numbers for removal guys and Jezz, get all the dates approved and then call back the legal beagles and Estate agents. As an added complication, our buyer would like to move some of her stuff in before, potentially, we can move out, which could make for a crowded house (isn't that a band?)

Anyway, it all got done. Phone calls flew back and forth, questions asked and answered, dates settled and then at ten to four came the announcement that we had exchanged. We could then fire off emails to the Irish side of the equation to start the ball rolling over there and we are confident enough of our footing to publish these two pictures of the target house. It's a 3 bedroom, 2 storey place in the middle of 2.454 acres of cattle grazing fields (at present) quite near to the Co. Roscommon agricultural market town of Ballaghadereen and to the bigger town of Castlerea (Castlerea, Co Roscommon, not Castlereagh near Belfast).

It's been an exhausting day


Tuesday 20 September 2011

Pud Lady

We head for Hastings and the Pud Lady's house where at Dad has to do some gardening. I love Pud Lady's wild, tree-filled garden and I also like to escape through a badger hole under the fence, from where I can explore most of the gardens in the "crescent" (of roads). Dad trusts me to return eventually and is always apparently amused (at least, that's what I think that voice and face mean) at the state of me when I return. Mind you, a dog is obliged to push the boundaries now and then to keep the humans on their toes so this time I stayed away just a little too long and could hear the summons calls and whistles for a while before I headed back, arriving in the back garden and whizzing round the side of the house to come up behind him all innocent in the front just as he was anxiously heading out to the road just to check I hadn't got lost out there. He put me on the lead for a while after that, even indoors, cheeky sod!

Dad's tied up at the minute having fun trying to lay down a voice-over for the hour long Cambria Restoration Video. Kes's Dad Mark has been cam-corder-ing the stages of the restoration every month for the last 3 and a half years, so the guys have footage from the first arrival of the barge in Faversham, all through the rebuild and then on to the triumphant entry in the Thames Match and the even more exciting volunteers-in-the-crew Swale Match. The two have therefore been getting their heads round MS Movie-Maker time lines, media, narration audio files and the like. It takes about 6 hours to successfully lay down about half and hour of finished sound track, especially if you make as many numpty mistakes as Dad does. He thinks if he had a quid for every time he waffled on for several minutes about the stern-post before realising he was looking at the stem post, or fluffed, dried up, talked a load of tosh etc, he'd be able to keep me in Barkaway's pork ribs permanently.

Still no word on the exchange of contracts...........


Sunday 18 September 2011

Birthday Pictures

Never has a dog had such a lovely Birthday Cake and been so belly-full and happy. I love you Daddy! Nuff said.

Saturday 17 September 2011

My 5th Birthday !!

Dad and 2CV Llew take off for a bit more sailing. It's a lovely day and there's a nice warm breeze which is in a reasonably firmly fixed direction so perfect for Dad to get some more practice in at being 'skipper'. Watch that foresail 'luff' (leading edge) in case it starts to shiver - then bear away, keep and eye on the wind indicator vane on the mast head, heeling is good, keep red buoys to your left and green to your right when heading 'upstream' into the Creek, keep and eye on the depth sounder, stay focused when going about or you'll end up doing a 180 (or more!). There's a lot to remember, most of which is coming back to Dad from his student Lark-dinghy gravel-pit sailing days. One last lesson which neither of these would be salty sea dogs remembered was that if you buy shiny new life jackets, meaning to look a bit more professional and be a bit safer, they don't do a lot of good still left in their pristine packets down on the ship's bunk. Whoops.

I am 5 today. Hasn't the time flown by? Happy Birthday to me. I dare say there will be raw pork rib 'Birthday Cake' in the picture somewhere today although Mum is deserting us, off for a wee holiday with Diamond (Yeah, I know, I'm phoning the RSPCA right now).

Project Erroll is now in a rather bizarre state. Mum and Dad have signed all the legal docs for the UK end of the thing and handed them in to the Solicitor in Ashford but have not heard anything definite about having "exchanged" per se. They are assuming they will get a 'congratulations' email or phone call from said legal beagle to say "You have now exchanged with a completion date of xxx". Either way, they have now felt safe enough to risk the booking deposit on the purchase in Ireland and to have selected and engaged a solicitor over there, so that the ball has started rolling with a possible completion date over there of early December. The 2nd is being talked about. They just wish the English side would set a bit more firmly to take away the nagging fear that it might still all go Pete Tong.

Happy but Trepidatious Birthday to me?

Deefer (5)

Thursday 15 September 2011

Rest and Elevate

Ever since Mum was attacked by the Mozzies-from-Hell in Yorkshire whilst narrow-boating and had her ankle blister up like a balloon animal Haggis has faithfully followed the medical advice given to her at the time by local doc, "Rest and elevate the leg". Haggis took to lying in bed in such a way that he could raise his upper leg and rest it delicately on the edge of the bed. He also lies on the sofa by cushions etc in such a way that this position can also be adopted. The 2nd pic is my newly adopted favourite chair. Note by the way our silken, sparkly white fur. We are both fresh from the shampooing of our lives, meted out by Dad on the instruction of "She who decides when we are too mingin' ."

Talking of resting, Haggis declined his walk today, his chin glued to the bed. Dad sometimes gives him the choice nowadays, especially if he's had a big walk the day before. He's 15 now and deserves a bit of rest and recouperation. Last time we walked through the Cemetery we came alongside the Orient Express train waiting there before being allowed to continue into Faversham Station. When it finally glid very very gently into motion (can't be spilling all that lovely china now!) Haggis looked at it as if recalling the trains he used to energetically chase. He doesn't chase the trains any more, the old boy.

Meanwhile (cue dramatic music) things is happening in project Erroll. Mum and Dad have now received contracts of sale to sign and Transfer of Deeds documents to sign and get witnessed. We are, we hope, closing in on an actual exchange of contracts. Meanwhile we have set the next stage in motion, with Dad getting quotes for solicitors over in Ireland and finding out how to start the 'booking deposit' process for giving them some money. We are fingers, toes, paws, tails and everything else crossed for a successful conclusion to this, maybe by Christmas. Will it be? We can barely start hoping to believe it.

We are amused to learn that the people who outbid us for the last house failed, in the end, to raise the money and have had to pull out, dropping that one back onto the market. Mum and Dad both suspected that one was a bit dubious, especially when a house on the market for a year suddenly had three competing bidders in an 'auction' against Mum and Dad. Well, says Dad. It can be a 'Plan B' again but if anyone thinks we're still 'in' at the higher price, they can think on. We're not being messed about again.


Tuesday 13 September 2011

Dad's Back!

Dad finishes his latest stint aboard SB Cambria
and is back home by lunchtime. This morning he's been showing a party of school children the barge, from a school nearby to St Andrew's Wharf (Chantry School?). It was a bit hair-raising, he reports, 29 small herberts (9-10 years old) chasing about perilously close to the knee-high rails, peering down companionways and down through hatchways trying to get the attention of their classmates who were below decks, and so on, but Dad and his colleague Basil managed to keep everything together for the hour, let the School teachers and Trust people take their many many photos and filed the kiddies all off again onto the solid concrete without damaging any body. Big sigh of relief!

Across the week, they have had a brilliant time, being visited by many many more people than they ever get in Faversham, receiving lavish thanks and praise and getting a 'war and peace' sized wad of positive comment in the visitors book. Aside from the first night aboard, where they got a bit of hassle from some inebriated Eastern European 'youths', they've had no trouble at all, quiet comfortable nights of solid sleep except where they were obliged to set alarms for the 01:30 highest tides and nip up on deck to check the mooring lines and fenders.

But now it's all over. Cambria finishes her open-to-the-public stop at Gravesend and will next be used on another 'young carers' sail-training charter on 7th to 9th October. Meanwhile she will be pulled off the moorings at tomorrow's high tide and moved 100m out into the deeper water to be moored to a pair of 'trot' buoys (mooring buoys fore and aft so you can tie up both ends and don't swing around through 360 degrees as the tide turns each time).

All clever stuff


Sunday 11 September 2011

Mate's bunk

Dad has spent the last few nights on the 'night shift' looking after the precious barge, SB Cambria, sleeping in the Mate's bunk (pictured) and then last night promoted to the Skippers bunk at the beautifully restored, 105-year old panelling aft end. These are big tides (6.4m) and the barge needs checking every now and then to make sure the fenders (between barge and quayside) are still in effective locations as the barge rises and falls on the tide (usually inconventiently in the middle of the night!).

They also need to keep the barge looking occupied and obviously lived in, to deter any mischief from the local herberts, who tend to use the St Andrew's area as their place to park cars, get the drum'n'bass sound systems a-thumping, get themselves round a few cans of beer and plead with the barge occupants to let them aboard in the dark. Stand by to repel boarders! Go home lads.... Go to bed... get some sleep!

Wrapped around that, Mum is looking after us and having a nice quiet relaxing weekend, but Dad is looking after the Treasurer job at the town's Hort Soc Flower Show and leading a 7-mile hike through Challock Forest for the Friends of Kingswood. He is beginning to feel like everybody wants a chunk of him and wondering how he ever had time to do any paid work.

Today we are off down to Hastings to visit the Pud-Lady and we are taking dinner to save her having to cook for 'us'. Mum and Dad have spatch-cocked a chook and loaded a bag with allotmemt spuds, green beans, lemon tarte, hot (when you make them hot) chocolate souffl├ęs and fizz (Pud Lady does like a drop of fizz and at 84, who is going to argue?). God Bless Her.


Wednesday 7 September 2011

Strictly Come Barging

Something a bit different for Dad today which ends up with him shaking hands with TV presenter John Sargent. The barge is currently at Gravesend as part of the celebrations around the civic event, the opening of the new St Andrew's Wharf. This is the bit of Thames quayside between the little St Andrew's church and the Town Pier. 'We' are moored there now till Weds 14th, the civic ceremony happening on Friday at 11:00.

While we are there the BBC call on us to see if they can borrow the barge. They are producing a film series covering the photographic career and post-card empire of Francis Frith, Victorian photographer whose mission it was to photograph every town and village in the UK. There are now hundreds of thousands of Frith black and white images in a big archive, many of which have gained historical importance.

The BBC is looking at a few locations on a then-and-now basis in films presented by John Sargent, one of which is Gravesend. One of the famous images shows a Thames sailing barge moored alongside Gravesend waterfront at a point where a big Civic Gardens tipped out onto the quayside through big ornate gates. We think it might be the Clifton Marine Parade one seen now as ref 49042 in or . We think this is now a huge Tesco's.

Anyway, keen to get a similar picture with barge and to do the piece on Thames Barges as part of the programme, the film team plus John spent a couple of hours out and about, afloat, filming from the barge and from a motorboat. This was all done by the time Dad was scheduled to arrive and the crew were filming a last few bits and pieces including the 5 guys in this picture (incl, obviously, John S). Dad's job was to help secure the boat against this rather sloping mooring as she "took the ground" (sat down on the mud). The guys are, left to right, our Master Shipwright Tim G, Cambria Trust Chairman Bruce R, skipper Richard T, John S and crew-man "Stretch".

Dad admits that John S would barely have known he was there, so it's hardly hob-nobbing it with the famous, but John Sargent did shake everyone's hand and thank them all including Dad as he hopped off the barge.


Tuesday 6 September 2011


A quick picture of some recent allotment product - about half the onion crop and the first 6 feet or so of spud row. This is probably the end of allotmenting here what with Project Erroll an' all. We will clear the ground and hand the plot back to the committee for re-letting. There's plenty of demand, with a waiting list of 45 people at present (about 2 years).

Today Dad digs the old mountain bike out of the shed. It's not a bad one and it's in reasonable condition (certainly hasn't been worn out by Dad since we've lived here anyway!) but 10 years languishing in the shed has it very dirty and with 2 flat tyres; in need of a good old service and some TLC. Mum has given Dad the name of a firm that sounds just the job. Mum's place have linked up with a volunteer outfit designed to give some of their former 'service users' a foothold on the climb back into paid employment. They refettle and recycle bikes and sell them on to generate a bit of money.

You can buy done-up bikes from them or use them as a repair service. Their mission, said one of them to Dad is that if a bike has survived 20 years, then they should get it into a state where it can survive another 20 years. Thanet Cycle Recycle is their name and they are based in a little unit in the maze of one-way backstreets of Margate. Fair play to them! Dad's bike is now in their tender loving care getting 'done up'. The plan is to use it much more both in here and in Ireland by way of being good exercise but also cheap and green as befits the new non-earning status.

Talking of Project Erroll, we progress through the legal sausage machine, occasionally getting new questions and demands fired out, to which we reply. The latest concerned the current house having been built on an extinct brickyard which means that it might just have 'environmental pollution issues' in the future which might down-value the house for the new owners. They feel the need to insure against this and, naturally, it is Mum and Dad who have to cover this. Ker-ching. That'll be £170, thank you very kindly.

However, we are hoping this is the back end of the process and that soon we may actually get some contracts to sign. Dad is chasing our own solicitor from this end. Fingers crossed everyone.


Monday 5 September 2011


We all head for Diamond's on Sunday afternoon for a Ruby Murray which Diamond has cooked thinking we'd all be exhausted after Saturday's loooooong day. This will be followed by some of Diamond's famed lemon ice cream and naked strawberries. En route we happen upon the steam train waiting under the bridge at Faversham Station at the end of Faversham's Hop Festival. We pause on the bridge waiting for it to pull out of the station. Because of the sponsorship involvement of local brewery Shepherd Neame, the train is re-plated as "Spitfire" for the weekend, Spitfire being one of Sheps's beers (very nice, too, says Dad). Unfortunately as we are part-packed at home Dad can't find the box the mobile phone came in (and therefore the cable), so we can't download the pictures he took of the train (Sorry M Silverwood!). I am happy to stay on the bridge till the train, starting to move emits a loud, deep, bassy 'HHWWooomph!' Best a dog hides behind Dad's legs. I wasn't expecting that!

Today we get a nice walk all out the back of the allotments, where the rape fields have now all been harvested, the trash cut away and the soil disc-harrowed. The crumbly tilth is a lot easier to walk across than the 4 foot tall rape plants were to battle through, when you are only a small dog.

Dad must catch a train to Rainham to go pick up the car which has now had the dent put in by silver-haired-posh-bloke-at-Morrisons taken out again. Dad takes his hat off to Hidsons of Rainham for the brilliant job, well and professionally handled for no charge to him and including a thorough clean of the car outside and valet inside. Also to Citroen's own insurance company who did us proud and waived the excess when posh-bloke (at Dad's persuasion) fessed up to the dastardly deed.

A gale of wind blows up from the SW bringing a very autumnal feel to the weather, especially morning and evening. The leaves on many trees are turning colour and some are drifting down. God bless the French Windows - one gust of wind and your Dining Room is turned into a compost heap. I suppose the breeze is, though, getting the washing dry, so Dad'll be please by that. We help Dad and Angel B to pick nearly 5 lbs of damsons off our tree.

Meanwhile we're all still waiting abit frustratedly for some progress on the legal bits of selling the house. How can it take so long in these days of modern IT systems and easy access to information?


Sunday 4 September 2011

County Roscommon Day Trip

A big big day for the humans yesterday as they make a day trip to Co.Roscommon so that Mum can see the possible new house for herself, already seen by Dad and JM and Mrs Silverwood. We have deliberately not put any pictures up of it yet because we don't want to tempt fate. Time enough for gazillions of pictures to satisfy your curiosity once we have confirmed our own sale and then got to the 'subject to contract' stage on this one. For now you will just have to know that it is a 2 storey one-time farm house near Castlerea in Co.Roscommon which, if you check your maps, you will find is a county about 2/3 of the way up Ireland and over on the left (but not as far as the west coast).

That puts it about 2 hours drive from Dublin but very near the smaller airport at Knock. It is, to the despair of Mrs Silverwood, a bit of a distance from her bit of Ireland but much closer to the Silverwoods than Kent, where we are at present.

So the plan for Mum to be taken to see the house was hatched, the trusted Kentish builder John Panini (who knocked through our kitchen and dining room (see "The Panini Rooms" of earlier posts, Noember 2009-ish) was engaged to go too on the adventure and cast his professional eye over the property and even Mum's brother (a sparkie) was named as a possible fellow traveller and inspector of electrics. We dogs are being left behind this time, in the tender mercies of the Angel B. The alarms were set to 04:00 and we all took an early night.

In the event John Panini failed to show and could not be roused with phone calls and texts - he'd over slept the alarm, so Mum and Dad had to leave without him. They were very close to the check-in time limit and got a very apologetic phone call from John as they arrived at Gatwick. No word either from Brother who is, at least, already in Dublin so the guys are on their own. In fact, neither Mrs S nor Dad's neice 'Mads' will respond to text either. Is this a conspiracy?

They fly out at 07:00, land at 8, collect the hire car (a Quaskai - spelling?) from Hertz and hit the road (M50 round Dub, then M4 and M6 westwards for the 2 and a half hour run. They meet the estate agent on site and get their look round. Mum falls in love with the place even though it needs a lot of work especially in the woodworm and damp department. They go round all the rooms several times each, pulling up carpets and lino in some, poking and prodding, even moving a stand-alone wardrobe in one place and discovering a fireplace behind it full of sticks, jackdaw-nest stylee. They are happy. They talk to the estate agent and agree to be back in touch.

They adjourn to the nearby size-able agricultural market town of Castlerea where they find a pub called the Golden Eagle Bar and Restaurant where Mum has the chicken but Dad goes for "Bacon and Cabbage" with a very good pint of Guinness. The portions are to suit farmers on a day at the cattle market. This place could become a family tradition.

Job done, they head home via a call in at Steak Lady's, a 20:30 flight back to Gatwick and they are back indoors here by 23:00. Exhausted but quite up-beat about the house. Now it's all in the lap of the Gods, or at least the lap of the Estate agents and solicitors who are slowly grinding our sale through from 'Sold subject to contract' to something a bit more definite (please!). The rest of Project Erroll is now all hanging on that.