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Archive for March, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 1

Posted by indigodream on 29 March, 2009

Sunday 29th March

We’re free at last. What a wonderful feeling – we’ve got the boat and, for today at least, we’ve got the weather and we’ve got the whole of England’s magnificent canal and river network at our disposal.

It’s hard to describe why, exactly, but we never settled at Packet Boat Marina. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief as we slipped out of our mooring and headed for the open water of the Grand Union.

We made a superhuman effort to get to the boat this morning – we’d had a very late Saturday night by our standards. An old friend lavishly celebrated his 50th birthday by hosting a meal at Corrigan’s in Mayfair. It was all best frocks (well, not for Richard, he’s funny that way!) and gourmet food – quite different to our normal m.o. Of course, the mucking around with the clocks didn’t help either! We finally got to the boat at 11am-ish though minus a camera (curses) so no photos today. I took the dogs for a walk and Richard did the essential pre-odyssey engine checks and filled the water tank.

My feeling of discomfort at the marina wasn’t helped when Lou had a game of chase (just play, honest, no barking, growling or malice) with another dog whose owner was very dour about the whole thing.  Ah well, we enjoyed our walk in the marina’s fine surroundings and spotted Herbie, moored on the towpath opposite. I knocked on the window but it didn’t look as if Neil and Co. were there. Too bad – catch you some other time hopefully.

Ironically, though, we enjoyed a proper chat with our neighbours at the marina today – how typical. After months of hardly seeing/chatting to anyone, on our last day we finally break the ice. Maybe that’ll stand us in good stead if we ever decide to spend another winter here.

Our plan for today was to get down to Brentford – eminently possible even with our late start provided we divided our labours. Richard drove off to get a bulb (£7.44 !!!)  from those nice people at the Uxbridge Boat Centre before dropping the car in Brentford and cycling back to meet me. In the meantime, I took Indigo Dream (and the dogs) towards Tesco’s at Bulls Bridge where I was in charge of stocking the boat with essentials like water, beer, diet coke, beer, dog food and beer (we already have chocolate on board!). You can’t get quite get your trolley down to the towpath, but you can get quite close. Poor old Richard, he cycled uphill from Brentford just in time to load all the heavy shopping onto the boat! He had to go round the houses a bit as the Police had closed the top path just outside the Trans-shipment warehouse. They had put up tapes both sides of a boat and declared it a crime scene but would not tell Richard any more. Wonder if it was related to this incident?

I love having guests on board, but there is a simple joy to be had from a solitary cruise down the cut. And it really was solitary – there wasn’t a single boat on the water. This first bit is now so familiar that Indigo Dream seemed to drift down the canal as if she knew the way and barely needed my touches at the tiller. Who can blame me if I imagined that she pulled towards the Paddington turn at Bulls Bridge – we always turn there after all! The only blots on my tranquil landscape were three young lads who threw a stone at the boat just after I’d cruised past them. Oh for a camera, they looked thoroughly wicked – fully aware of how moronically wrong their actions were. It just makes my blood boil – not the stone, but the attitude, which I’m sure will lead to worse criminal activity later.

Anyway, I resolved not to let them spoil my day – the weather was crisp and clear – comfortably warm in the sunshine, numbingly chill in the shade. The Grand Union was our private canal for the day and, after indulging in lunch from the hot chicken counter (and  the Krispy Creme doughnut stand) we were in ebullient form. There was a flurry of boating activity round Tesco but once we moved on we had the water to ourselves again.

I let Richard have the helm for a while and I unpacked the shopping. It’s dull work but I still felt a little thrill – the mere fact of stocking up the boat was a sign that we were back on the road, as it were.

Richard continued his fitness campaign at the top of the Hanwell flight. After the first lock, the towpath’s well clear of any roads/other sources of trouble so dogs could run free. It’s one of their favourite places on the waterways. Richard cycled between locks, Blue and Lou rummaged around them. I quietly drove the boat, occasionally shouting instructions if I caught a glimpse of Blue’s tail disappearing into the undergrowth. I hope this isn’t famous last words, but Lou finally seems to be settling down with other dogs.

We had an efficient trip down the locks – all but the last two were set our way with the locks gates left open – easy peasy! We only had one strange delay. As we came down the first lock, Richard spotted a boat coming down the canal. I moved into the next lock to wait for them while Richard refilled the first lock ready for them. He cycled back and asked them whether they were coming down the flight to Brentford and they said ‘yes’. So he explained that we would wait for them at the next lock.. We waited, and waited, then waited some more. There was no sign of them so we just had to carry on down. There are lots of walkers on this flight so we asked one of them to pass a message to the boat behind us to tell them we’d moved on. Our messenger caught up with us later to say that the boat had turned round at the lock and hadn’t come down at all. Now, did Richard misunderstand their intentions or did they misunderstand his and decide not to risk the flight with this bearded giant? 🙂

The stretch from Bulls bridge to Brentford is full of interest. There are always lots of onlookers who seem genuinely interested in the canal and its workings. They’re a chatty bunch and coming down the Hanwell flight is a bit of a spectator sport! The canal is pastoral – now with just a skim of spring green on all the vegetation, but later it will be lush with leaves. It’s an opportunistic scrubland rather than a manicured park, with the surreptitious spread of brambles rather than the bursting blooms of more civilised plants. You’d never guess you were passing through the busy outer fringes of London. You get the odd clue from the low-flying planes heading for Heathrow and the odd London Underground or motorway bridge towering over the canal, but they seem a world away from the water. However, the canal has the signature of the urban waterway – garbage. Maybe a little less this time than when we came up in October but enough to foul the prop halfway down the flight. It’s fair to say that we’ve had to get into the weedhatch to clear the prop EVERY time we’ve done the Hanwell flight – shame.

This stretch also has the apparently famous ‘three bridges’ (according to our old Nicholsons) – a curious feature where the canal runs above the railway and below the road. It’s always amused me as the ‘famous’ three bridges that I know is a train station just South of Crawley. You’d only make the mistake once 🙂

Within five minutes of clearing the last Hanwell lock, the canal changed abruptly, throwing off its green cloak and donning a smart suit of wealthy industry, immaculate canalside housing and neat residential moorings. We were at the end of our day’s cruising. Even so, we noticed, for the first time, that there are useful mooring bollards directly opposite GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSKs) amazing offices. We also noticed what we think is a new and attractive cascade running from GSK’s lovely lawns into the canal. We wondered whether this was part of the ‘heat exchange’ scheme that we’ve read about. GSK were planning to use canal water as a coolant for their ‘green’ air conditioning system.

We moored up at the Brentford Visitor moorings in the basin above the gauging locks. They’re 14-day moorings with just about every BW facility you can think of. We got a particularly fine spot just beyond the water point/pump-out facility. It’s within reach of a tap but doesn’t block the waterpoint which means that we can wash the boat to our heart’s content next week – she really does need a good scrubbing.

As usual, we found it almost impossible to walk away from the boat – Richard found that a spare tub of paint for the boat HADN’T fused into a gloopy lump so he started touching up the scratches in order to check the match. He painted a wooden board so that we’d have something to send to the paint company for matching (we’re going to need an awful lot in order to cover all the dings we’ve accumulated in 3 busy years!). But the dogs forced us to move. As I was disposing of our rubbish, Blue spotted the car and ran around it ecstatically. He was in no doubt that it was time to go, neither was Lou. They dived into the back seat and snuggled in – we took the hint!

Dog Blog:

Blue had the time of his life on the Hanwell flight. He ran and rummaged to his heart’s content. Lou enjoyed herself as well, but she’s more likely to lie down lock-side soliciting fuss and kisses from all the passersby. They both came on for a drink and a quick rest about halfway down, then they were off again. Blue found himself a path just out of sight of the canal – we were yelling for him to come back and unseen people on the path were shouting back ‘he’s here’ – it was quite droll! It was Blue heaven – way after Lou had come on board (she’d had enough exercise on her chronic knee), he continued to run around unabated. But Blue did manage to outsmart himself at the penultimate lock – he went off for an extended rummage in the sure knowledge that soft-hearted mummy would wait for him. But Richard sent me on with the promise that he’d wait for Blue, and so he did. But that left Blue with an unexpected mile-long run behind the bike to the last lock. Needless to say, the dogs are both catatonic at home now and I predict a quiet week while they catch up on their sleep.

Update on Blue’s Sister

If you read our last post, you’ll know that we had a little dream of rehoming one of Blue’s twin brothers or sisters. We’ve now had the brilliant news that his sister Amy has found her forever home and will be moving to Rome in April. We’re delighted for Amy but a little sad for ourselves – we’ve lost our little dream and the only plausible excuse that we had for taking on a third greyhound 🙂

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Dog Blog: Brothers and Sisters

Posted by indigodream on 28 March, 2009

Don’t read this post unless you’re seriously into greyhounds or are welsh and can follow a lineage to the nth generation! Boat blogs will re-start shortly as we start Odyssey 2009 tomorrow with a one day hop towards the Thames !!!!!!

Blue in action....

Blue in action....

Now the idea of family, of brothers and sisters bonding together happily to support each other and their aged parents is a very human thing. Maybe this is why we can’t help but apply the same principle to our dogs.

Through the greyhound data website we’ve been able to find out huge amounts of information about Blue and Lou’s  pedigree.

Blue is the offspring of Druids Ellymay and Honcho Classic and has three recognised litter-mates:

1 brother: Sizzler’s Turbo

2 sisters: Cordon Bleu and Druids BiddyBleu

Incidentally, Blue’s dad is an award winning stud with almost 5,000 offspring to his name; at those odds it’s a wonder that we didn’t rehome one of Blue’s half-siblings just by accident!

Blue's brother - Sizzler's Turbo

Blue's brother - Sizzler's Turbo

Anyway, we’ve long cherished the ambition of rehoming one of his full-blood siblings, despite that fact that we know that living with close family is no guarantee of domestic harmony either in the dog or human world 🙂

We narrowly missed meeting Blue’s brother as he was rehomed a few weeks before we traced him to a greyhound rescue centre in Surrey. The people at the shelter kindly gave us a photo of Sizzler’s Turbo enjoying himself with his new packmates at his new home which, by coincidence, is in South Wales. We had no luck tracing Blue’s sisters so we gave up on that rather sentimental idea and took Lou on instead, who has been a delight.

Richard’s been meaning for ages to send on some photos of Blue to his (Blue’s) twin brother’s owners. I hope they don’t think we’re a bit odd 🙂 but our guiding thought was that if they sent us photos of their dog we’d be delighted! Richard was inspired by our recent beach photos so at last we’ll be sending some prints on to the Hersham greyhound rescue (who rehomed Sizzler’s Turbo) in the hope that they’ll be kind enough to send them on to South Wales.

Richard’s search for information inevitably led him to the internet. Imagine our surprise, then, when he found one of Blue’s sisters (Cordon Bleu) has re-appeared on greyhound data, available for rehoming! What a challenge to our ‘two is plenty’ policy! I’m sure we’d have been tempted, but amazingly, Blue’s sister aka Amy is in a rehoming centre in Modena in ITALY. We have no idea how she ended up there after being born in Ireland and spending her racing career around the Southeast of England.

Blue's sister - Cordon Bleu

Blue's sister - Cordon Bleu

So, we’ve been saved from ourselves yet again. However, Richard couldn’t resist emailing the Italian greyhound rescue to tell them about Blue and link to some of the better photos on the blog. Of course, I couldn’t resist emailing them to make sure that she’s already in Italy (they sometimes hold dogs here and only ship them across when they’re guaranteed a home). The Italians have been on the blog already!  I’ve been teasing Richard that Cordon Bleu has already been put on a flight to Gatwick and is on her way as we speak!

Funnily enough, we’ve not had the same ambition to rehome Lou’s litter-mates though she has a brother and a sister. Maybe it’s because Lou is such one-off! There’s no record of whether her siblings have been rehomed – I can only hope that they’ve found forever homes and are as happy as Lou.

We’re not looking for another greyhound – partly because I’d never get anything done (questionable how much I achieve as it is!), out local vet wouldn’t have the capacity (!), and, most importantly, we’re pretty certain that Lou wouldn’t let anyone else into her cosy pack.

But if we got a call from Gatwick……….

UPDATE:  We know that Amy / Cordon Bleu has been re-homed in Italy, through the rehoming charity we got a link to a video showing her arriving in Rome and is no doubt thoroughly enjoying la Dolce Vita. We have met Blue’s brother Mickey aka Sizzlers Turbo – see

Who knows, one day we may be lucky enough to meet the third sibling …

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Dog Blog: At the seaside

Posted by indigodream on 22 March, 2009

Sunday 22nd March

I was saying to Richard today that we rarely go out and about at weekends. What a stupid thing to say – of course we go out, it’s just that we’re generally on the boat! So this weekend, for a change, we left Indigo Dream to enjoy a tranquil last few days at the marina and set off in the car to the seaside instead.

"Are we there yet?"

"Are we there yet?"

We’ve been meaning to take the dogs to the seaside for a long while. We’re not sure whether Blue’s been to the beach before as he did have 9 months in another home between finishing racing and coming to us. However, we’re certain that Lou hasn’t been – we weren’t sure what they’d make of it.

We headed off for Camber Sands on the south coast, near to the ancient town of Rye. It’s a good hour and a half’s drive from home but our reward for a slow trip was miles and miles of sandy beaches. As chance would have it, we arrived at lunchtime and the tide was out – maximum space for dogs and perfect running conditions in the damp sand.

We’ve been longing to come here with Blue and Lou for a while. We last came here years ago with our old lurcher, Indie, and her best friend, Chester the boxer, who lived down the road. Indie and Chester had a fabulous time and gave us some of our best dog photographs and most cherished dog memories as Indie aged and became too unwell for such vigorous exercise.

Free at last!

Free at last!

But back to the present – it was busier at the beach than we expected, but nothing like the carpet of humanity that we know will cover the beach in the summer months. There were plenty of dogs here, all taking advantage of the winter dog-walking window. You can only walk dogs off-lead along the whole of the sands between 1st September and 1st May. Over the summer, dogs are restricted to certain areas of the beach and on-lead only. I can understand why given how busy the beach is in the summer (Chester the boxer had a tendency to try to wee on small children if they sat still for long enough!). However, if the council are serious about dog-owners picking up after their hounds then they really must provide dog-waste bins. We’ll carry the stuff home if need be, but many won’t and I can’t really blame them.

and they go for it!

and they go for it!

We got Blue and Lou onto the beach, walked them away from the busier central area, with its cafes, sandcastles and pony rides, towards the empty beach on the left. Now, regular readers will know that our dogs have at least an hour a day of off-lead walking on top of rummages round the field at home. But when we let them off the lead at the beach



they went ballistic, as if they’d spent their whole life in a cage up to that moment. What a joyful thing – they raced around like rockets, throwing up great sheets of water and getting us all covered in sand and spray. We laughed out loud at the sight of them. When Lou looked like she was slowing down, Blue teased her into a new game of chase and round they went again, making their own dog track in the sand.

They were exceptionally good with the other dogs today – we were joined for the last half of our walk by a very cute Hungarian Vishla puppy – only 18 weeks old I think. Blue and Lou let her into the pack without any drama and they all rummaged around regardless. Blue actually went off and ran with a couple of dobermans – he’s never done that before as he doesn’t usually recognise any other dog unless it’s a greyhound. There seemed to be a general dog amnesty here – maybe the huge space and open vista means that there’s enough territory for everyone and no boundaries to defend.

When we took Chester and Indie to the beach, they spent hours running around; but Blue and Lou are sprinters so after about 45 minutes they were done! We trailed back to the car with two dogs who were too tired even to take an interest in the unsavoury carcass that the Vishla puppy found, dragged down the beach and crunched happily once she was safely out of reach of her horrified owner 🙂

The chase is on....

The chase is on....

By now it was lunchtime and though our primal noses were tempted by the smell of the seaside chip stalls, our  evolved brains demanded a trip to a pub for a less microbially challenged meal!

We headed away from the delights of Rye (the town’s well worth a visit by the way) and found two dog-friendly pubs within half a mile of each other near the village of Brookland. The first was the Woolpack Inn – an eccentric 16th Century (apparently) building with uneven floors and ceilings low enough to make Richard double over. They allow dogs but sadly they were so busy that the wait for food was 45 minutes – way too long for us. The next pub, the Royal Oak, was right in the village next to a truly amazing church paired with what looked like an old oast house with three tiers of coned roof – I’ve never seen anything like it.

House rules - for children but not for dogs!

House rules - for children but not for dogs!

The Royal Oak allowed dogs in the bar and garden and had more notices laying restrictions on children than on animals – we took to it immediately! The only downside was that they don’t have any sausages on the menu so the dogs were deprived of their usual treat. However we had a fine meal at a reasonable price. Blue and Lou drew loads of attention as always. Unfortunately we’d forgotten their travelling sheepskins so they only had their coats to lie on – it is a stone floor so here was no question of them lying on THAT. Unfortunately they weren’t as impeccably behaved as usual as they had the odd bark at some other dogs in the pub. Doting mum say it’s because they were tired and hence a bit grumpy and the little dogs just startled them out of sleep – just like toddlers really.

Of course, we humans are so perverse. After a wonderful day at the seaside we had to spoil it all by giving both of the dogs a bath as soon as we got home. They were pretty filthy before we went out, but an extra coating of sand and sea salt pushed them over even my high dirt threshold.

They’re now looking all glossy and silky – they’d be ready for their close up in a shampoo advertisment except that  agencies generally prefer models that look more awake, or alive, for that matter…..

Photo Blog:

We’ll let these photos tell the story of what it means to a rescue dog when they find their forever home….







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Boat Blog: Spring day’s cruise

Posted by indigodream on 15 March, 2009

Saturday 14th March

What a great day. Why? Well, because we met Greygal today – doyenne of the boating greyhounds. It was a lovely spring day – comfortably warm in the sunshine but just a bite in the breeze to remind us that the summer’s ahead rather then behind us – whoo hoo!

We couldn’t face the drive to the boat last night so we pottered up there this morning. We knew we were on for a good day when we had an unimpeded run up the M25 to reach the boat before 10am. Blue and Lou had a thorough rummage in the nearby rabbit-haunt and I went on board, comfortable in the knowledge that the boat was reasonably clean for our distinguished guest. Uh, no, make that NOT very clean, in fact the floor had a deep shag-pile of fluff on it. Where on earth had it all come from? Is there a special fluff-factory somewhere? It’s not even as if I have fluffy dogs…….

I don’t know why I worry about it. Believe me, if we ever come on board your boats we’ll be enjoying the company not looking for fluff! Nonetheless we waged war on the floor and filled the water tank.

Blue decided to whine for an hour despite having had a long rummage. He’s such an action dog and he hasn’t had as much exercise this week because Lou’s been resting with a cut paw. Richard took them out again so that Blue would be on best behaviour when Greygal arrived. As you’ve probably gathered, we were very excited to be meeting one of the great wits of the waterways.

Greygal arrived at 11am when Richard was still out with the dogs. For followers of her blog, she looked fabulously slim and healthy 🙂 We walked over to meet the dogs and she was treated to a scrubby landscape completely devoid of greyhounds! We knew they were nearby but they gave a fine display of their typical behaviour by coming back to us when they were finished ‘hunting’ (rather than when called). Joyous introductions followed, with Lou being suitably tarty towards her greatest fan while Blue was his usual aloof self, though he did allow her to plant a few kisses before scarpering.

Interestingly, Ellesdale II, the floating classroom that we’ve passed before, was actually in use today. It was moored up at the marina and loading up with a more mature group of people than the word ‘classroom’ might suggest! We overtook them on the cut later and everyone looked as if they were having  great time.

With crew on board we were ready for the off, well, almost, we just had to make a round of coffees first, of course, Greygal showed an impressive knowledge of the entire nespresso pod range!

We had a bewildering range of cruising options, but after an awkward exit from our berth (I blame the wind!), Indigo Dream drifted right out of the marina down her usual path towards the Paddington Arm. Our vague aim was to cruise down to the Black Horse for lunch then have a gentle mosey on back – a pleasant day’s cruise with the bonus of a greyhound-friendly pub.

Lou was terribly disappointed when Greygal joined us on deck. I think Lou was hoping on a repeat of Adam’s visit when he sat by her on the sofa and spent the next hour tickling her tummy. Alas, Greygal’s immune to all of Lou’s little tricks, after all, she’s seen them all before!

We meandered down the cut chatting about greyhounds, life, greyhounds, boats, greyhounds, boat toilets (only briefly!), greyhounds, boats, oh, and greyhounds. I do feel a bit guilty as we should have been better tour guides, pointing out the wonders of this stretch of the Grand Union. Instead we just chatted the time away. I can only hope that Gregal’s peripheral vision got the main sights and that her smell-o-vision caught the Nescafe factory and the curry factory near the pub! However our time wasn’t wasted – a minute comparison of our respective packs bought us to the useful conclusion that that Lou and Susie (both being alpha females) should never be allowed to meet unless there’s a vet on standby!

We had lunch in the Black Horse – we like it here though it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. We like the fact that they allow dogs and have good pub grub at a reasonable price. We also like the big screens, especially if we’d been there long enough for the rugby. Well, maybe not, when we heard the match report later on any good that boating had done for my blood pressure would have been wiped out by the fact that Wales only narrowly beat Italy!

Greygal was a very good influence on us – we skipped dessert at the pub and didn’t stock the boat up with our bodyweight in doughnuts. She did generously leave us with a box of cookies for us to indulge in once her back was turned (thanks, yummy!).

After lunch we had a little walk down the towpath with Blue and Lou while Richard turned the boat round and started the cruise back. He picked us up just a little way up from the Black Horse where there’s a tiny basin that’s been redeveloped and would make a perfect mooring spot for at least three narrowboats.  Sadly, there are railings round the water’s edge which would prevent access to moorers and the obligatory ‘private’ sigh by the entrance – what a waste.

We had a quick cruise back – the canal’s relatively deep and our big prop makes short work of the miles, despite the lengths of online moorings. Once again, we chatted the afternoon away. It was a lovely day to be on deck – there were signs of spring everywhere – the blackthorn’s in blossom, the swans are getting aggressive in time for nesting and I was only wearing three (rather than 30) layers!

We handed the helm to Greygal and she competently cruised us home. How relaxing it is to have experienced boating guests where we’re not giving gentle hints (i.e. yelling instructions) the whole time. Before we knew it we were back in the marina, though we couldn’t persuade Greygal to manoeuvre us into our tricky mooring. I took the helm for that bit and was relieved when the wind dropped and I was able to bring the boat home smoothly without making a complete fool of myself.

It was tremendous to meet another one of our blogging friends and we’ll be looking for excuses to bump into Caxton next…..

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Birmingham or Bust

Posted by indigodream on 8 March, 2009

Saturday March 7th 2009

I’m so excited – the instruction pack for the BCN marathon challenge arrived last week. I’ve been teasing Richard that he’s the competitive one in this relationship. But funnily enough, it was me who rushed to copy the BCN pages

BCN Planning Room

BCN Planning Room

from the Nicholson’s, stick them together to make one big planning map and put flags all over it to show the points value of different stretches. This chart is now decorating our lounge wall – classy!

We’ve found that you get points for every mile and every lock that you do, but some stretches carry a bonus multiplier to encourage you to explore the more remote parts of the BCN. The Wyrely and Essington Canal carries the biggest bonus so that’s what we’re vaguely aiming for, but what route to take? You can start anywhere you like on the BCN but you have to finish in the Walsall Town Arm.

Blue smells a rat (literally) in our woodpile!

Blue smells a rat (literally) in our woodpile!

We’ve been musing on whether to recruit a crew – it would be good to have someone to share the workload (and the hours), but you get bonus points if you’re just a crew of two – they’re canny people at the BCN Society.  Tricky choice – is there anyone in the world who loves us enough to put up with 24 hours of nigh on continuous cruising? On the other hand, what are the chances of me, Blue and Lou overcoming our aversion to being awake for more than 4 hours a day? It’s a dilemma 🙂

Then there’s the issue of how to decorate the boat. The BCN suggests tarting up your vessel so that it’s obvious who’s taking part and who’s just lurking around the system (ah, no-one, as far as we could see from our solitary cruises round the city last year). What do you reckon? Richard has bought some magnetic paper (don’t ask!)  so we can make our own posters to stick on the side.  What else? Maybe some bunting made out of the shredded fabric that we’ve picked up in the prop on our travels? I fancy some fairy lights but will that ruin our night vision and slow us down 🙂



On the Le Mans 24-hour car race it’s the endurance of the cars, as well as that of the drivers, that’s tested. So, is Indigo Dream’s engine up for 24-hours cruising? I’ll have to ask the engineer!

I can forsee hours of planning ahead – brilliant – I’m enjoying the Marathon already! All credit to the BCN Society – it must take immense amounts of thought and organisation to put it all together.

Of course, we have to get to Birmingham first. Our plans for exploring the Thames are entirely dependent on the weather as the river’s mainly been on red/yellow boards for the last couple of weeks. Our contract at Packet Boat Marina finishes at the end of March and we’d planned to take two months’ worth of weekends to meander towards Birmingham. Last year, we had to take the Grand Union up to Brum because the Thames was in flood; let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself in 2009.

The rat saga:

We live in the countryside so I’m sure that there are lots of rats in the garden. I’m fine with that provided they don’t come indoors or sit on the windowsills asking what’s for tea! But for the last few weeks we’ve had a particularly fat rat waving through the kitchen window and eyeing up the food within. But Lou amazingly earned her keep and despatched it the other day – clever girl. Next time, though, don’t do it in front of my organic vegetarian friend who was horrified by the carnage!

Blue was keen to show that he could earn his keep as well as Lou, so when we moved our two pallets of wood from the back garden to the field (long story) he was on the case. We suspected that there was a rat’s nest in there somewhere and the dogs agreed with us. They stayed out for hours sniffing excitedly and running around the woodpile as we gradually moved it. Sadly their heads were buried in the woodbin when the lone rat in the pile made a run for it! Never mind, Blue, I’m sure they’ll be back 😦

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