Saturday, 31 July 2010

Prey Fixation

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a bit obsessed when it comes to prey animals. If I know there's a rat skulking in the undergrowth or a squirrel in the loft space, or in the Albertine rose which clings to the back of the house, then I will sit for hours and hours, willing it down for one last deadly game of "Catch". Now, Mum mocks this behavious saying that I hunt like their old ginger tomcat "Kalamazoo" used to; watching the activities of birds, working out their flight lines and then sitting in the way with my mouth open, waiting for one to fly in.
Ha! Let me tell you I have had several kills in my short life, as this blog will attest - a rather shame-inducing robin early on, but since then a squirrel in the Cemetery and one indoors, and a rabbit on this year's 2CV camp.
But now we have a regular squirrel visiting the Albertine again, and spending some of his time on the roof of a sparrow roosting box just below the upstairs window sill. Mum suggested that Dad put a small strip of wood along it and a row of peanuts for him to find when "treed" all day by over-enthusiastic westies, lest he go hungry. There is now a small bowl screwed to the roof of the box, and the squirrel sits on it, outside the window and eats the nuts. I can get to the inside of this window by climbing onto the bed, and thence the window sill, so I can drive myself mad watching the little varmint feet away, but safe outside the double glazing. I can watch for hours. I am losing my mind!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Fire Eaters

The hols are over and here's a pic of me asleep having barely unpacked the luggage (asleep here on Dad's overnight bag). Since then there's been a chance to catch up on old pals and old walk routes. We've done the Rec several times and even met a new friend, blond Labradoodle "Dex" at 18 months, almost as much fun to chase about squeaking at as Artous (see 2CV camping stories a few posts ago).
Tonight the old Cemetery loop in which we are distracted from chasing the rabbits about by shouting and happy yelling of kids from a house on the estate, backing onto the Cemetery. We can see, at a distance, the flicker of flames through the trees, and the kids are yelling "Five... four...!" and then cheering wildly. It seems there is a kids party in full swing and the entertainment is a full on fire eater in a black and red jester outfit engaging the girls in lying down while he blew gouts of flame above them, or holding his flaming torch for him etc. As we left, there was one apparently anxious kiddie being re-assured... "There.... Mummy didn't get hurt at all, see!"
Finally, Mum is onto Mrs S, who points out that it wasn't just Dad and Mr S who got cold and wet on the rainy day - she did her fair share of running about getting soaked and implied that if I didn't correct this I might be the one getting very wet in a certain canal next time. Gulp. Scary. Best I sneak back and edit a few posts!
Sorry, Mrs S (Really Sorry)
Ohhhh nooooo.... not the purrrrrsin' o' the lips....... nooo the tappin' o' the feets!
D-d-d-d-d-d-deefskk-k-k-ki (Waily waily waily)

Monday, 26 July 2010

All good things

Ah well. All good things must come to an end, they say, and Friday morning has us waking up fairly early, passing on breakfast while there's a blitz of tidying and packing, before we drive the boat the last few yards to the home basin to moor up. Dad and Mrs S bring the cars over so that all the luggage can be unshipped and stowed in the cars.
Mum, Dad and various Silverwoods take small fistfuls of money into the hire shop to buy souvenirs, mugs, fridge magnets, maps and books ready for next time, sweeties etc. We hand the boat in, Mum 'fessing up about the cardboard in the DVD player (we were insured anyway, but we also agree not to get re-imbursed for the pump-out, so it's kinda quits). We say our cheery goodbyes to Susan at Shire Cruisers and to the guys who are already crawling all over the returned boats preparing them for the next customers. We say our farewells too, to the Silverwoods, who are off to "Thomas Land" (Thomas the Tank Engine at Drayton Manor) next and we head South.
It's been a brilliant holiday, and we are all excited about maybe doing the "South Pennine Ring" next year, but it is lovely to be back en famille with our nice quiet car-ride home, nice quiet house and a chance to get sorted out over Saturday and Sunday before the humans have to go back to work Monday.
It's been a blast

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Murder, Mystery and Suspense

The whole crew were due a treat on the final night. Mum and Dad had laid on one of those Murder Mystery games and issued the invitations to the Silverwoods. The game we'd chosen was "Death in Venice", so all the characters were playboys and film people. The girls were all to be dressed up to the nines - glamourous frocks, tiaras and jewellery. Every one had been practising their looks and learning those bits of their characters which you are allowed to know prior to the game.

But first there was another treat in store, Fish and Chips from the famous Grandma Pollard's Chippie in Walsden. This is actually a couple of days cruising up the Pennines, past Todmorden where we'd been on previous years but not this year, but Mr S and Dad were to leap in the car which was "moored" at Sowerby Bridge and drive there (only 20 minutes by car!).
This bit went OK, and the boys returned with the fish and chips to find the local stretch of canal invaded by the local scouts being given canoe instruction. Every one was having a great time, especially when Instructor A told his lot that they had to splash the other group. Various people fell in the canal but this was all part of the fun, and the capsizing and being hauled out is all part of the training. They were quite noisy, but we couldn't help watching them.
The fish and chips were actually rather lucky as we were there the day before the shop closed for its fortnights annual holiday. The sausages for the young ones were ENORMOUS -great big 8-9" long bangers and quite thick. Both Dad and we were eye-ing them enviously (despite having a goodly portion of his own in Dad's case); surely Baby R won't manage all of one of those! Needless to say Baby R (also now called "Boo" after the little girl in Monsters Inc, because of her ability to toddle very fast and appear and disappear at will) ate all of hers, and a good few "dabs", a mountain of chips, and most of M's sausage also.
Fish and Chips done, the little ones were put to bed and the older ones got all dressed up for their Murder night. Very glamourous we all looked too! The game began, Dad, who plays the "host" at whose posh Venician residence the action takes place started the introductions. There, unfortunately, it all went pear shaped. The story depends on a detective speaking (in this case sounding a bit like Marlon Brando) and his voice is on a DVD which comes with the game. We were going to play it on the boat's DVD player.
Unfortunately, we discovered, Baby R had been there before us, had stuffed some stiff card into the DVD player slot and killed the machine. We could not get it to play, and getting the disc to go in and out only served to scratch great gouges across the disc. End of game. Everyone really disappointed and fed up but there was nothing we could do, except revert to Plan B (games of cards and more story reading from Wintersmith.
Ah well. Tomorrow it's all over.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Brighouse and Sowerby Bridge

More homeward bound cruising today as we head up towards Sowerby Bridge through Brighouse. The humans awake to discover that they have filled one of the toilet tanks up and rather than be reduced to the single aft "heads" for the rest of the holiday, they will try to get a "pump-out" at Brighouse's Sagar Marine engineering works.
On the way back up through Brighouse we are hailed by an old beardy guy with a narrow boat called Peppa which has expired and needs a hand up through the lock to the Brighouse basin. We take this guy in tow and then hand-over-hand him into the lock next to us, before lashing stem to stem, stern to stern so that we can manouvre him in the basin. By this method we get him moored alongside in the basin where he is happily Googling an engineer he knows in the locality. He has a 70 year old engine on board and the ancient chain-drive transmission has failed. Sagar Marine can't help him - he needs a "vintage boats" expert. They can, though, and do, pump us out. We are good to go.
We pair up with another "Shire Cruisers" boat (Hereford) and share locks all the way up through Brookfoot, Elland and Salterhebble bottom lock. Here we must part because (after completing an inadvertant but very neat pirrhouette when our bows catches the outflow from the emptying lock) the top two locks at Salter will only take one 56 footer at once. They are finishing their holiday anyway and giving the boat back tonight. We have one more night of sleeping on the boat, a night of Murder, Mystery and Suspense.... nearly. But more on that tomorrow

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Tappin' o' the Feets

Day 6 (Full day 5) and we're heading back up stream towards Sowerby Bridge, alternating canal with River Calder. The river level is low, so the flood locks upstream of each canal stretch are all open and you can glide straight from canal to river unhindered (with a glance over your shoulder at the big but benign and peaceful (at low-river!) weirs (see pic) with their rather worryingly strong and serious looking string of massive boat-catching floats. This pic also has the motorway in the background (M62 I think).
The rain has stopped now and there's a kingfisher to greet Dad and we dogs when we first break surface for a pee. Despite many being spotted from the boat(s) through the years, Mum has never actually been in the right place and right time to see one, so there is now a long-standing joke in the family that she thinks they are mythical creatures.
The Terry Pratchell "Feegles" stuff is now so ingrained in this holiday's culture that at one point J-M (10) shouts down to Dad in the lock chamber to throw up a rope. Dad has not done so because we are coming up as a pair of boats in this one and Dad thinks we are so well wedged we barely need ropes. But when he looks back up at Jorja she is doing the full works 'tapping o' the feets, pursing o' the lips and folding o' the arms'. When he's finished laughing (along with everyone else), he gives in, quailing "Och... waily waily waily!" and chucks up a rope. Nice one J-M!
We drive on by up past the Dewsbury Arm, stop for food at the canal-side LIDL supermarket in Mirfield and spot a heron standing incongruously on top of a lamp post like some kind of vulture, by the Huddersfield Canal entrance. At 5pm ish a huge black cloud rolls in and thunder is heard. Mum suggests a rapid moor up. dad claims not to have realised how time was flying by. They moor and retreat inside the boat just as the heavens open. Everybody makes Mum do her Feegles thing again in a sort of "Previously on Wintersmith" like they do on TV before handing the book on to the next reader (Mr S).
But now, in real-time, it's Friday evening, so have a good weekend

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Wakefield and Stanley Ferry

Day 5 (full day 4) is our furthest "out" day as we head on down the Calder and Hebble determined to reach Wakefield, hoping that, like Leeds it will have lots of new canal-facing developments, boater-friendly facilities and attractive moorings. Many places do - the Aspley Basin in Huddersfield, for example, or Hebden Bridge and Todmorden up the Rochdale Canal. Wakefield is a sorry disappointment.Plenty of development on the waterfront but all the barren fronts of residential blocks - no place to moor, no canal-facing pubs. Even the Waterways facilities in the guide book have been built over and the so called "visitor moorings" are just a load of mooring rings between the canal and a building site fence.
Unable to take on vital water we are forced on down the canal another half hour to boater-haven "Stanley Ferry". Here we water up and then spin the boat round to moor up for lunch pointing, sadly, back towards "home". Lunched up, we head back upstream, taking some of the river stretches at getting on for full throttle (it's still only about 5 knots but you get a nice V-bow-wave from the snub bows) and eventually mooring up right by the Bingley Arms again. How does that keep happening?
This post though, is being written after the event - this happened on the 13th. Back in the real world it's late July in Kent and the allotment is giving of its gooseberries (loads of fun top and tailing them for jam) and red currants (more fun de-strigging them), climbing French beans, courgettes and spring onions, and the garden is giving us ripe black cherries.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Dewsbury and Horbury

Today is our day for rain. We always seem to get one. Everyone except essential hands (that'll be Dad, Mr and Mrs S then!) retreat into the boat and do indoor stuff. Dad, Mrs S and Mr S don ponchos and wet weather gear and move the boat anyway. Dad's poncho is a bit old by now and turns out to be not as waterproof as previously, so by lunchtime Dad's shoulders are very wet and he is shivering, so it's good to get in at lunchtime and get changed.
We continue down stream through Mirfield and Ravensthorpe. At Thornhill Double Locks we're tempted off up the "Dewsbury Arm" (of the canal) by guide-book descriptions of Mosques and Minarets - we are expecting a Turkish skyline. No such luck. The guide book is rather old and the canal is little wider than a drainage ditch, being enchroached from both sides by reeds, and at the terminus is a marina with just enough room to turn the 56 foot boat, a huge builders merchants selling slabs and concrete stuff, and a new housing estate most of which has the ground floor boarded up. Friendly locals, but of Mosques and Minarets we see none. Mum and the girls head for the supermarket for more provisions.
Back aboard and now drying out as the sun breaks through we head for Horbury where we moor in sight of the Bingley Arms, purveyor of fine Black Sheep beers (not that had any sway in where to moor, honest).
More Terry Pratchett tonight, and now the girls are enjoying the Feegles' antics re explaining their misdemeanours to their women when they get back indoors from the latest swearing-stealing-drinking-fighting outing. TP has it that the Feegles are all very brave when they're out doing man-stuff, but then they are faced with the wrath of "her indoors" pursing her lips (Och Noooo! No' the purrrrsin' o' the lips!), folding her arms (Nooo the foldin' o' the arrrms!") and a-tapping of her feet (Och - the tappin' o' the feets!) and demanding "There had better be a really good explanation for you being this late!" (Ochhh.... no the explainin' - Arrghhh Waily Waily Waily!) and so on. All good fun, and Mum doing all this in a superb Scottish accent, has the whole crew laughing and talking in Scottish

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Aspley and Battyeford

And so on up the Huddersfield broad canal as far as that fair city which proves, in the form of Aspley Basin, to have a superb boat-friendly, canal-facing centre where we can turn around, moor up, refill with water and buy provisions. There's a stiff breeze blowing, sometimes across the canal, sometimes straight at us down the cut. Dad says this makes helming more interesting as you have to crab down the canal at an angle, and any low speed stuff around locks has you going sideways. Didn't look that difficult to me! Just an excuse to hang onto the helm as far as we could see!
We moor for the night near Battyeford having made our way back down the HBC and then turned right out of the Calder into the eastbound bit of canal. It's here that I allegedly fell in, trying to do a misjudged leap from bank to fore-deck and slipping short, plopping straight in. It is alleged I then swam very professionally forward about 10 feet to a low bit of bank where Dad could haul me out by the collar. As I said, though, no photo's to prove that.
The humans have been enjoying getting into reading chunks of Terry Pratchett books to the girls at bedtime. The girls can, of course, read quite happily for themselves, but this has become a good family entertainment. The humans are taking it in turns and are enjoying the Scottish voices of Pratchett's fictional swearing-fighting-drinking-thieving "pictsies", the Nac Mac Feegles. If that means nothing to you then grab a copy of Terry Pratchett's "Hat Full of Sky" or "Wintersmith". Great fun!

Monday, 19 July 2010

On downstream (day 2)

Mum and Dad muster early, still being a bit in work-mode, but the Silverwoods are recovering from their over night ferry which featured Toddler-R deciding to tantrum instead of sleeping, so they're all a bit wiped. My pics today are of two special features of the holiday. Those who know us will know of the connection to a well known Supermarket, so here's a nice pic of the good ship Northumberland moored alongside the said shop in Brighouse.
Those who know Mr S will know of his avid fan-dom of Liverpool FC. Mum and Dad thought it'd be fun to get hold of a "Calder and Hebble hand-spike" (a chunk of hardwood used to open the ground paddles on some of the C+HN locks) in advance of the holiday and paint it up in Liverpool colours, decorate it with stickers and present it to Mr S st the first lock. It went down well. Mr S loved it!
And so, we tootle gently down stream, everyone falling into the pleasant regime from last year, Dad doing most of the helming (occasionally ousted by keen trainee helmers of all ages), with Mr S loving his lock-wrangling assisted by any combination of Mum, Mrs S, Em-J, J-M and M. We chug down to Brighouse where we stop for a major provisioning shop (and are witness to a racist "incident" which we are determined to stay out of). On down to Cooper Bridge, alternating sections of canal with the River Calder, where we divert off to check out Huddesfield's Aspley Basin. Brilliant place with lots of canal-side facilities and canal-facing pubs etc.
Just out of Huddersfield we moor up near Deighton in a lovely rural stretch where dogs and children can safely explore the tow path. We are really starting to enjoy this holiday now.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Captain's Log... Day 1

Day 1 of our adventure, and this is just arriving. Mum and Dad are up early and doing last minute packing and loading the car. This always makes us a bit anxious, as we dogs both think we are about to be abandonned; we don't really trust things to be OK until we are ourselves loaded into the car along with our bowls, food, collars, leads and treats. Mum and Dad have a bit of a stressed drive up the A1 (should have taken the M1 but the M25 was a bit nightmarish so we escaped up the M11).

We arrive at the hire-base of Sowerby Bridge where we are known to be experienced and competent crew, so we get the slightly abridged version of the briefing and the walk through the boat explaining boilers, anchors, cookers etc. We find that the pound above Tuel Lane lock is very low and not passable till the Waterways boys can rig up a pump to fill it, so we opt to start with a run down stream to Salterhebble.

That's it for cruising the first day - we are determined to make this a relaxing holiday, so no hard-charging lock-upon-lock stuff. We cruise the 45 minute pound to Salterhebble and then drop down through the 2 locks into the basin and moor up for a chilled out evening of unpacking, eating, chatting, re-acquainting, drinking and exploring. Cruising proper starts tomorrow.

Incidentally, this blog has now passed the 10,000 views landmark.


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Avast There!

We are back, Dear Reader, and with you again. Did you miss us? We have been on hols in Yorkshire, hiring a narrow boat from Shire Cruisers in Sowerby Bridge (this time the good ship "Northumberland") for a week's worth of cruising the inland waterways of Yorkshire. As ever this is a family event, so we take the Silverwoods from Ireland along with us, so we are 4 adults (Mum, Dad and Mr+Mrs S), 4 childrens (Em-J (12), J-M (10), M (4) and toddler R (2)) plus we two dogs, all in a 56 foot boat.
It's all excellent fun and we all survived, all be it there were rumours that I might have gone for total immersion baptism at one stage, but there are no photos to prove it. More on this over the next few days is "Captain's Log" format as last year, but for now a taster. 2 pictures - first of Dad manouvring in the Brighouse Basin lashed stern-to-stern and bow-to-bow to an old dead house-boat named Peppa who had "died" one lock down and needed an assist up to the top level. The second is myself (l) and the H(r) on the quayside in Hudderseild's Aspley Basin.
More tomorrow

Sunday, 4 July 2010


Here it is, then, the Denis N Memorial Sundial, formally unveiled yesterday at a nice wine-and-nibbles "do" laid on by Mum in the garden. Den was toasted with Champagne and Diamond said a few words about what Den would have thought of it and probably said... ("Shoot ooop, ya blooody silly woman!" and so on).
Diamond suggested that I was only making a fuss of her because she hadn't brought Rags along (there is this outrageous suggestion that I am not the best hostess where Rags is concerned).
Our heatwave continues and we get buzzed off with Dad's No 2 blade (4mm) after breakfast. This makes Haggis's neck, back, flanks and rump look like they are covered with white felt, so dense is his coat. I get a finish which is just as smooth but silkier and grey/silver looking where my coat is nothing like so dense. We will both be all the cooler for that.
So hot is it, that Dad wakes early and heads for the allotment at 06:30 for some digging before it heats up. The soil is dry as dust on top and only mildly darker and crumby at spade-depth. Dad is not alone - quite a few allotmenteers are up and about at that time (and we later find John had been at his since 05:45. We are told it is the driest hottest first-half-of-year for 80 years down here in the SE and that is even with the cold and wet which is now just a distant memory from ?? April.
Hot dogs

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Timey Wimey

No, don't worry - we're not getting all Doctor Who on you. Remember, though that we used to have the Denis N Memorial bay tree in the garden, but it was blocking out the light, so Diamond's John and his trusty chain-saw reduced it to the Denis N Memorial Stump (pictured), onto the top of which will be attached the Denis N Memorial Sundial (picture soon). Well, that's now arrived and Mum and Dad, not satisfied with any old sundial, went for a "proper" one.

They had no idea what this would entail, but chose a shiny brass one and filled in all the details on the form, this just for the design proofs. They had to give latitude and longitude and there is a place for some bigger-script words (we chose "For Denis") and another for a suitable quote or, for example, biblical text. Mum chose "The garden is a lovesome thing, God wot" from a favourite poem.

The dial has now arrived and the setting up is quite a pallaver, especially as John's chain saw cut was not... um.... how shall we put it..... exactly horizontal. The disc of the dial has to sit exactly horizontal (spirit level job) so that meant a bed of putty with suitable sized stones embedded. It then has to be exactly aligned to the meridian.

Amazingly (we learned), the sun's movements relative to earth are not exactly regular - the 24 hours is only an average - in fact the apparent position of the sun at each hour varies by +15 to -15 minutes depending on month (14.20 minutes "slow" by a sundial on 12th Feb, 16.23 mins fast on 3rd November, almost correct on 16th April, 14th June, 2nd Sept and 25th Dec) I kid you not - it's called the "Equation of Time". Neither the sundial nor the clock are "wrong", they are just measuring different versions of time.

The need for latitude (we are 51 degrees, 20 minutes North) is so that the "finger" of the dial (called a "gnomon) can point exactly at the North Star.

And then, of course, there's the fact that the dial is calculated and configured to GMT, so for all the Summer it's an hour wrong.

And then Mum decided she didn't like it just perched on the stump, but would prefer it to have some kind of "table" on which to sit, so a suitable flagstone was bought, the thing dismantled, and the re-assembled with the flag twixt stump and brass.

That's all human stuff - I'm only interested in Breakfast Time, Dinner Time, walk time and bed time