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Archive for November, 2009

Boat Blog: I plead NOT GUILTY, yer honour…

Posted by indigodream on 30 November, 2009

Well, it had to happen – we’ve chosen to share our boat’s log with the world in the form of this blog so it’s inevitable that some people out there are going to hate us……

We’ve had a particularly vituperative comment by another boater who’s judged us to be guilty of the heinous crime of continuous mooring. Well we think she is another boater but he/she does appear to have several aliases. Not content to leave it as a comment on the blog, he/she’s also put her judgement on the canalworld forum, so now Indigo Dream has acquired a notoriety which we didn’t seek and which we certainly don’t appreciate.

Anyway, I’ve decided to explain our actions – if people are going to judge then it should at least be on the facts…..

  1. We cruised back from our summer odyssey in October on the basis that we had a winter mooring in East London; the only snag being that the moorings were occupied (long story) but that they were expected to be free by mid October
  2. Every week we ring or email to find out about our winter moorings – the story so far has been that the current occupiers have been having fortnightly meetings with BW ref. the moorings that they’re moving on to, which have been delayed. They’re delayed, so we’re delayed.
  3. In the meantime, we’re stuck in London waiting for the go ahead – we don’t want to go too far out because at some point we’re still hoping to be able to hotfoot it down to East London before the lock stoppages in January. It has also been useful for the charity cruises and also for cruises for friends and work colleagues.
  4. The cruising rules are clear and we have carefully abided by them. So far we have moved the boat between moorings at City Road, Paddington, just outside Little Venice and Perivale.
  5. We’re staying reasonably central because if we haven’t heard about the East London moorings by the end of December we’ll take up a winter mooring in Black Horse and we need to be able to get there! The winter moorings are sold in 3-month tranches so it hasn’t been practical for us to pay for one, knowing that in the next week we might get into our longer-term winter spot.
  6. We have talked to both the old and new Patrol Officers  about what we are doing.  It is interesting – they have a record of where we have been spotted at various times through out the year and are quite happy that we are not take the pee.

Now you have the facts – if you still think we’re being selfish then so be it – we think we’re being as reasonable as our circumstances allow at this time.

The blog has given us a lot of pleasure and we try to open and honest about our life on the waterways; we hope that people get some pleasure from sharing our journeys. It’s my intention to carry on blogging but it is difficult under these circumstances……

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Odds blog: Shaken and Stirred

Posted by indigodream on 22 November, 2009

Boat Blog: Tuesday 17th November & Sunday 22nd November

Blue still glazed over after yesterday's anaesthetic - greyhounds take a little longer to recover because they're so lean.  He's absolutely fine now.

Blue still glazed over after yesterday's anaesthetic - greyhounds take a little longer to recover because they're so lean. He's absolutely fine now.

Tuesday lunchtime was the opportunity for Richard to sneak onto the boat. I was to have a dog free outing as they were both looking a bit sorry for themselves – Lou may have a kidney problem so her post-toe amputation anti-inflammatories were restricted, Blue had been in for some shockwave treatment to fuse his toe and was only slowly recovering from having been knocked out.

The boat was fine but I noticed that the Kiwis next door had tied a rope across the pontoon to keep their boat stable. It is awkward at Paddington, the mooring bollards are not in useful places but as the Kiwis had looked quite well tied they must have been shaken up by some heavy winds in the Paddington Basin wind tunnel to need an extra rope.

Tuesday lunchtime was a fine time to go boating, the sun was out, the day was better than many summer days; it was such a shame that all I was doing was moving the boat out from Paddington (before our 7 days were up) and just round to the visitor moorings in Little Venice. Life will be easier when our winter moorings come free!

Sunday was the opportunity for a longer cruise. The women were meeting to have a stir – the men needed to get away. The plan was to start from Paddington Basin at 10am which meant that I had to get to the boat by around 9am to wind and then move the boat back to the Basin. Leaving just after 8am on Sunday is fantastic – nice quiet roads.  First big question once I got to Little Venice, was the canal wide enough to turn the boat without going 25 minutes to the next winding hole? A bit of technology told me that the canal was 18.17m wide, our boat is 59′ 9″ (18.21m) according to our RCD, so too narrow; but if I let the front overhang over the towpath would I manage it? It was worth a try but just as I came almost square the rear fender jammed against the wall. I could not push the boat round, did not want to try too hard in case I got wedged, so onto plan “B” – reverse back to the pool. Not easy at the best of times, worse today as I managed to meet 4 boats coming towards me in that short stretch!

Lou looking very sorry for herself - she's much happier now that the bandage is off and the stitches are out; she's healing very well.

Lou looking very sorry for herself - she's much happier now that the bandage is off and the stitches are out; she's healing very well.

Once in the basin I met up with Liam and Neil in a perfect bit of coordination and we headed off for Camden fueled by a major coffee brew. It was a little breezy, dry and mild but not warm enough for the African Hunting Dogs to be out :-(. We turned just above the locks in Camden and moored up on the stop ‘n’ shop moorings for a quick wonder round the market. Ten minutes quickly turned into half an hour, we could have spent all day in the market but stirring wives were calling.  I found out that the ‘covered’ market was the old stables which once housed 420 horses – mainly from the canal boats. On the way back to Camden we fueled up on more coffee just as the weather changed, and boy did it change. The wind got up, the rain increased, until at one point it was like being attacked by a power shower.

Our previous mooring had been snatched by 2 boats (their right to do so) who moored way apart (why do people do that?) making it a bit tight for us to moor before a section of paved (ie hard to bang pins in) towpath but we just managed it. Despite the power shower treatment it was an enjoyable morning’s cruise. We struggled back through the weekend shopping traffic but managed to make into the Castle in Outwood before the women. Landlord Warwick now has a second pub so spends less time in the Castle, his presence is missed but we still had a good Sunday roast and the odd medicinal hot whisky and perhaps a tiny amount of beer. (Note from Sue: I had diet coke!)

Dog Update

On the way back from the pub Richard stopped off at a field with rabbits. He reports that the dogs had a fantastic time, both ran well and looked so pleased with themselves at chasing rabbits across the field even if they never even got close to any of them!

Pudding Blog: Sunday 21st November

I’ve been making my own Christmas puddings for years, having got fed up with paying for something that I can make so easily. But last year I decided to try and establish a new tradition and get as many womenfolk together as I could fit into my kitchen for  ‘Stir-up’ Sunday – the Sunday before advent and the age-old day for mixing Christmas puddings.

Last year I tested the idea with one of my dear friends, Jenny, and her daughter Hannah. This year, my kitchen’s been doubled in size by our new conservatory so I went to town with the invites!

By 11.30am I had the joyous company of friends Jenny, daughter Hannah, Lena and 2-year old son Seamus, sisters-in-law Alina and Danusia and Danusia’s husband-to-be who very romantically came out to spend the morning adoring her. The rest of the menfolk went boating…….

Each woman had given me her recipe options and I’d spent the previous evening weighing the fruit and packing it into bags to soak with their choice of alcohol (note: this method worked well!) – the smell alone was intoxicating! I also printed individualised recipe cards for each, laid out the ingredients and the equipment they’d need.

So when they arrived we just needed a round of refreshments then everyone was good to go. In the meanwhile, I baked some Danish Jewel Bread – a traditional Christmas fruit bread, it’s very fine when toasted and coated with jam from the vast supply that I made from this year’s plum crop (45 jars so far and enough fruit to make another 45 in the freezer!).

It was such a hospitable event – I couldn’t have asked for more – good company and good cooking, two of my favourite things (after greyhounds and boating, of course).

There were two funny incidents in the day – I’d laid down one of the dogs’ sheepskins on the conservatory floor for Danusia’s dog, Polo, to lie on but Blue promptly picked it up (the sheepskin that is, not Polo) and put it back on his bed where it belonged. Polo did rather boldly lie on Lou’s bed later on (her back was turned), but he didn’t tough it out for long and made sure that he’d scarpered before she noticed….

The other funny thing was Seamus’ ‘help’ with the pudding – having successfully retrieved a pestle ‘n mortar, an egg and a pot of mixed peel from his curious grasp, we weren’t quick enough to stop him from pouring the best part of a pot of salt into Lena’s pudding. She got most of it out so I hope it’ll still taste good!

We’d got the puddings all mixed by 12.30pm – it’s not a difficult recipe and all the women had a pudding to take home for cooking. They also had a loaf each of jewel bread, which smelled fantastic, as only freshly baked spiced bread can. I also became a jam nuisance and wouldn’t let them leave until they’d taken as many pots as they could carry.

With our chores done we all went down to our local pub, The Castle, for lunch. We got there at exactly the same time as the men and spend an even more convivial couple of hours enjoying a fine Sunday lunch.

It’s been a wonderful day and, judging by everyone’s response, this is destined to become a new tradition, as I’d hoped it would.

There’s only one downside – I’ve always been praised beyond all reason for my Christmas puddings because everyone thought they were difficult to make, but now they know the truth – it’s as simple as ‘stirring up’ all the ingredients……

If you’d like to make your own Stir-up Sunday then here are the recipes/options that I gave to the ladies in my life. If you want a recipe for the jewel bread then leave a comment and I’ll send it on.

Pudding Options:

These are ingredients that can be varied from pudding to pudding….

For a 1 litre pudding basin:

12oz of fruit – choose any combination/proportion of raisins, currants, sultanas, and dates
5oz of mixed peel and/or cherries – choose your proportions
5oz of nuts – choose any combination/proportion of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macademias, pecans
2tsp spice – choose from any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, mace
Alcohol – choose from any combination of a base such as rum, whisky or brandy; I also use fruit liqueurs for extra richness –  choose from peach, apricot, apple, cherry, orange or mandarin; amaretto might also give a good flavour.

Recipe Card (sample – will vary with the options chosen above)

Note: This was adapted from the recipe in my trusty Good Housekeeping Cookbook printed in 1965 – the old ones are the best (as any woman married to an over-50 will testify!)

Ingredients for a 1 pint pudding Quantity Preparation
Dates 3oz Pick off any stalks, break up clumps and soak in rum overnight
Sultanas 6oz Pick off any stalks, break up clumps and soak in rum overnight
Raisins 3oz Pick off any stalks, break up clumps and soak in rum overnight
Mixed peel 2oz Wash the syrup off by running under the hot tap; drain well and dry in kitchen paper.
Glace cherries 3oz Chop the cherries into quarters and wash off the syrup by running under the hot tap; drain well and dry in kitchen paper.
Macademia nuts 2oz Chop the nuts coarsely
Hazelnuts 1oz
Almonds 2oz
Suet 3oz Loosen any clumps
Breadcrumbs 2oz Loosen any clumps
Flour 5oz
Spices 2 tsp Decide your mix on the day
Salt ½ tsp
Dark brown sugar 4oz Loosen any clumps
1 egg Lightly beaten
Milk to mix
Black treacle 1tsp
  1. Prepare the fruit and put into a small bowl
  2. Sieve the flour, salt and spices into a BIG bowl
  3. Take the prepared peel and cherries mix with a little of the flour in a small bowl
  4. Add the sugar, nuts, suet and breadcrumbs to the flour mixture
  5. Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly
  6. Add the peel and cherries; mix thoroughly
  7. Add the fruit and stir thoroughly
  8. Now add the beaten egg and a generous slosh of milk; beat thoroughly
  9. Add the black treacle to give a good colour
  10. Check the consistency – you’re aiming for a ‘soft dropping’ consistency. Pick up a spoonful of the mix and let it drop off the spoon – it should literally fall softly (splat) into the bowl!
  11. Pour the mixture into a greased pudding basin and cover with greaseproof paper
  12. Boil or steam for 5 hours

Taking care of your pudding:

After boiling for the required time, remove the bowl from the saucepan and turn the pudding out onto a plate. Allow to cool.

Once it’s totally cool, wrap in generous layers of greaseproof paper then cover with foil and store in a cool dark place (not the fridge). Every week unwrap the pudding, spike with a skewer and pour over a dessertspoon of your base alcohol. Allow to soak in for 10 minutes then re-wrap the pudding.

Warming your pudding:

These instructions are for a 2 pint (1.13l pudding).

In you microwave:

Heat on full power for 4 minutes

Allow to stand for 4 minutes

Heat on LOW power for 10 minutes

Allow to stand for 3 minutes

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Boat Blog: Reunion….

Posted by indigodream on 14 November, 2009

Wednesday 11th November

Perivale to Paddington Basin

I had planned to move the boat yesterday but it seemed wiser to stay at home and keep an eye on Lou post-anaesthetic. I’m glad to report that she’s recovering well. Nonetheless, my nerves were totally frazzled by the end of the day – Blue ran into a thorn bush at the park and I spent the latter part of the afternoon bathing the grazes and picking the thorns from his forehead, fortunately all superficial.

I was therefore somewhat relieved to hand the care of the dogs over to Richard on Wednesday morning and head off to the boat. I had a good trip, though Perivale is a long way down the Central Line. Thankfully much of it is overground and I got a good view of the BBC Centre at White City (or does it count as Shepherd’s Bush?) and the art deco monument of the Hangar Lane Tesco. What can I say – if I do puzzles on the train I’ve been know to miss my stop and I’m between novels at the moment!

Herbie asked whether there were any pubs/shops in Perivale so I did a quick eyeball survey today. I’m afraid to report that Perivale has a tube station (useful), newsagent/sweetshop, dry cleaners, community centre, industrial estate, library and a decent looking cafe attached to the Christian Centre but no pubs or supermarkets. I’m up for doing a more comprehensive survey next time I’m there by car but I guess that defeats the object a bit! There is good dog walking up Horsenden Hill.

I never did find a pub but I did get chatting to an old couple passing by – they were on their way to try out the cafe, which is new, apparently.  It was a serendipitous meeting – they’re from Wales, she was a teacher in a primary school two villages up the road from where I was bought up – that practically makes her family. We’d only been chatting for 5 minutes and they invited me to join them for a coffee – give us enough time and we’d work out all of our mutual friends and relatives! I had to decline – the boat was calling – but it was great to meet them and get a taste of Wales in England – I always get hopelessly homesick after I’ve been to Cardiff.

I was buoyed by this meeting, and felt even better when I caught sight of Indigo Dream – safe, sound and looking mighty fine on her mooring. My spirits soared at the sight of her – what a marvellous thing it is to have this boat.

I had my comeuppance shortly after – back in Uxbridge I’d grumbled at Richard for banging the pins in too firmly; today it took me the best part of 20 minutes to undo my own work in the pin-banging department 🙂

The mooring in Perivale is a fine spot, but it is shallow here. When I arrived the water was crystal clear – testament to the relatively infrequent boat movements at this time of year. It was pretty turbid after I’d reversed her off the shallow mooring.

So what did I notice today on this most familiar of routes……

Perivale itself is mainly housing (and no pubs!), all tucked neatly away behind the high hedge bordering the towpath. The houses are arranged in terraces of four, solid, respectable and filled with the silence of the commuter belt – the streets and houses seemed deserted from my vantage point. The nice thing about autumn is that the naked trees expose a wider view of the surroundings so there’s always something to see. A little further along I saw a huge demolition site with just one solitary hut left behind – I can’t remember what was here before, as the demolition looked relatively recent. The solitary hut had a scrawled warning in red paint – “Danger Live” with a cartoon frowny face with it’s hair sticking up on end (for vandals that can’t read, of course!).

I decided to not to stop at Sainsbury’s in Alperton today – I got there in no time and it seemed too soon to stop. But by now it had started raining, a cold and persistent drizzle which became increasingly unpleasant with every passing minute. I was ok – I was thoroughly waterproofed and when I bought an umbrella out later I was in clover – the weather was wet but I wasn’t. Neither were the crowd of young men in high-vis jackets tasked with tidying the towpath vegetation in Alperton – Ealing Road Bridge was more than wide enough to shelter their gang of 10 as well as the four resident lager drinkers!

The new footbridge a little further on seems to be progressing apace – the towpath’s open again and the floating paths have gone, but the bridge isn’t open yet. It’s an attractive structure though it seems very hefty for a footbridge – I wondered whether the architects had gone ‘football crazy’ as the white tubular steel bridge is reminiscent of Wembley – maybe it’s the new local look.

The famous arch itself merged with the mist today; but there was a strange atmospheric effect here – the North Circular roared below the canal but when I looked over the parapet there weren’t many cars at all – the mist seemed to amplify every engine.

The food factories were disappointingly odourless today – just when I could have done with the comforting smell of waffles all I got was the whiff of solvent and, in one place, mince pies – I’m not keen on mince pies so it didn’t hit the spot!

I had a moment of whimsy as I passed by what looked like a power station near Acton Lane, which is flanked by a ‘wharf’ offside. If land-owners don’t want you to moor you’ll frequently see signs saying “private – no mooring” or similar; here the signs say “Danger of Death” with the graphic picture of a man being hit by lightning – there’s no mention of moorings but I took the hint 🙂

Richard tells me that is Willesden Sub-station which apart from the hair raising voltages inside is protected by 7,000V on the outside. Rumour has it that a few years ago someone broke into one of the rooms full of live exposed high voltage equipment, ran a cable from a 3 phase socket to their caravan and then rebuilt the wall. As that part of the room was behind locked fences – too hazardous to go in normally – no one noticed till they had a major outage for maintenance.

Even though the weather had the low-level foulness typical of a November day, the towpath had  it’s fair share of joggers again. They all seemed so intent, but I guess there’s no point in going to all that effort for no gain. At least they were better clothed today…..

I had such a good trip down the canal – the waterway was deserted apart from one BW boat and a tug pushing a rubbish-laden butty. I had plenty of time, so I stopped off a Sainsburys in Kensal Green. It seemed more inviting today, especially as one of the boats opposite seemed to be burning joss sticks in their stove – the exotic smell wafted enticingly over the moorings. I can’t remember whether I’ve stopped here before, but it’s a useful store and the mooring bollards seem to be more conveniently spaced than at Alperton. The area around the store (town-side) looked interesting – a strange mix of old and new; the new buildings were featureless brown constructions but the older buildings grandly proclaimed their identities – an ornate tower (probably for water) and a massive block loudly labelled “Pall Mall Deposit” – I wonder what that was all about.

Ooh, while I remember, the costumier resides on nb. Sea Mistress – she’s a fine looking boat…

With the boat stocked up with supplies I made myself a latte (don’t tell Richard or he might stop making them for me….) and got underway for the last couple of miles. It had stopped raining by this time so I had a pleasant trip into Paddington, passing this year’s “Apprentice” penthouse on the way – it’s really obvious from the water though we went mad trying to identify it while the series was on telly (until Adam from Debdale enlightened us, that is).

I was concerned that there might not be any spaces in Paddington but there were two available on the pontoons. Having done a picture-perfect single-handed mooring at Kensal Green, I proceeded to make a pig’s ear of trying to reverse Indigo Dream into one of the spaces – the ever-present breeze at the end of the basin (well that’s my excuse!) just swung my front out – I was winding whether I wanted to or not! Discretion being the better part of valour, I decided to drive into the space instead – it would be so much better to do it that way you understand….

I loafed around on the mooring for the rest of the afternoon. My good intentions re. cleaning etc were wiped out by my lengthy chat with our Kiwi neighbour on the pontoon. Never mind, I was sure that the guests arriving later would forgive a bit of fluff on the floor.

Reunion....After a relaxing and solitary day, I was ready to welcome my old friends and colleagues on board. This was the reunion of a pharmacy team that I used to work with many years ago – we’ve all gone our separate ways now but we’re still London-based and try to get together every few years for a catch-up. Richard joined us as well – he was to be our crew while I got busy with the garlic bread. By 6.30 we had the early crew on board – Beth, Barbara A, Barbara J, Bola and Veronica – it was so very good to see them all again.

We had the most wonderful evening – we had an evening cruise down to Camden and stopped off there to find a takeaway. I was amazed – the market was locked up and deserted; for some reason I’d though the food stalls might operate right into evening. Fortunately we’d tanked up on garlic bread, and Beth brought us a home-made ginger cake, so the sole Chinese food stall that was open just filled the gap nicely. There may be more food stalls open on the road, but as we’d found what we wanted we didn’t venture further – we needed to get back to Paddington to pick up the last of our party.

Barbara J, Veronica and Bola all had a turn on the helm and did a brilliant job – I must have been such a clunky learner – everyone else who takes the helm for the first just seems to get it straight away; mind you, Richard is a good teacher.

All cosy on board.....We cruised back to Paddington, chewing the fat and setting the world (well, the NHS, to be precise) to rights. We were joined there by the rest of our crew – Vicky and Josie. Richard popped us back into the mooring before setting off home to see the doggies. The rest of us retired to the cosy cabin (the Webasto is efficient) and chatted some more. I’ve said this before, but an evening just isn’t long enough to spend with old friends – no sooner had they left than I thought of all the things I meant to ask about. I guess that’s a fine excuse for another get-together soon.

We usually ask visitors to put some money into our retired greyhound charity collection box instead of bringing wine. The ladies were very generous – they brought wine AND contributed a substantial £37 to the collection. Thanks for your generosity, ladies, the money will be much appreciated at Greyhoundhomer.

It was late, so I decided to stay on board and do a reverse commute out from London and into Surbiton (where I was working) on Thursday morning – cool! Or rather hot, although I’d turned the Webasto off, it was so warm that I had to open the side-hatch for an hour just to cool it down…..

I had a peaceful night on the moorings – you wouldn’t believe how quiet it is here (once the builders have stopped working on the new high rises!). I was greeted by two of the basin’s security men this morning – they were very solicitous and promised to drop a welcome letter through the hatch for me.

“How nice” I thought, confident that the boat would be watched over – both for its own safety and to stop us from overstaying our welcome, of course 🙂

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Odds Blog: A weekend of two halves…..

Posted by indigodream on 12 November, 2009

Saturday 7th to Monday 9th November


The second half of our weekend started on Saturday morning when Lou ran down the garden then ran up again with a slight limp. A comprehensive paw police inspection didn’t reveal anything in particular so we dropped her and Blue off with Richard’s mum. More on that saga later……

In the meantime, all unsuspecting, we set off down to Cardiff for the first half of the weekend – the Wales/New Zealand rugby match. We’ve lost count of the number of rugby matches that we’ve been to in Cardiff but there was a particularly fine atmosphere in the city this weekend so I think the day’s worth a mention.

We were staying the Vale Hotel just outside Cardiff, which is also where the Welsh rugby team is based and has its training ground. The place was full of excitement as the players congregated to get onto the team bus that would take them down to the station. They looked relaxed and very very large; it’s obvious really, but rugby players are BIG, especially when you see them up close. They’re a good bunch – not too proud to talk to their fans and sign autographs for the kids waiting eagerly to meet them. Our companions, Liam and Lena, and 2-year old Seamus,  were amazed at how ordinary the team were, considering they’re superstars off the telly! I wasn’t so surprised, Wales is a small country and it’s hard to put on airs and graces when a large proportion of your fans know your mum and have seen all of your embarrassing baby photos 🙂

We didn’t wait to wave the team away – we set off down to Cardiff to have a preliminary wander around town. Cardiff has changed almost beyond recognition since we lived here in the 1980’s; many of the more run-down areas have been cleaned up and, of course, there are the two new stadia. Massively built from white tubular steel, the Millenium Stadium (Rugby) and new Cardiff City football ground glowed like pearl necklaces in the weak November sunshine – a suitable adornment for the up and coming city.

The town centre was busy but not unpleasantly so – I guess it’s had a little bit of practice at accommodating a rugby crowd over the years :-). The stadium was almost to capacity – 74,300 people – luckily there are more than enough pubs to go around! Sadly most of the pubs wouldn’t let Seamus in after 2.30pm so we did something unprecedented- sat in Starbucks drinking a coffee……before a rugby match!

The Haka

The Haka

Going into the Millennium Stadium is a thrilling experience. This time we were in what used to the old stadium’s North Stand – they’ve retained part of the old structure and the steps up to the terraces are narrow and utilitarian. The stairs in the newest parts are a little broader but equally plain, being just grey unfinished concrete. But as you walk towards the heart, the sudden emergence of the stadium’s broad vista sets your pulse to racing with the magnificent sweep of the terraces, the startling green of the pitch far below and the extravagantly latticed roof. We’ve sat in just about every terrace and tier of the stadium and I swear that there isn’t a bad seat in the whole place. Each seat gives a different perspective – high up you get a view of the shape (or lack) of the game; from lower down you get a real feel for the pace of the game. It’s warm in the stadium with the roof shut – the warmth of 74,000 excited fans; it means that you can take you coat off and show your team colours – mainly red in this case!

Rugby may be unique in that it can arouse such tribal passions without engendering violence. Welsh and New Zealand fans sat side by side in the stadium; there’s rivalry and banter for certain, but not hatred and strife. As it happens, we seemed to be in a sea of Welsh supporters and it’s a wonder that the roof stayed on when we all sang the national anthem. The choir on the pitch seemed superfluous as, from the first note, their conductor turned his baton towards the crowd. I defy anyone, of whatever nationality, not to be moved by the sound of the anthems, especially coming as they did after a minute’s silence for the war savaged dead.

The match itself was a thriller, with Wales almost, but not quite, managing to defeat the mighty All Blacks. Funnily enough I’m writing this on Indigo Dream, moored next door to a boat owned by a Kiwi. We’ve just had an entertaining FORTY FIVE MINUTES chat about about rugby. I was going to give you my match report, complete with commentary on the ref’s apparent lack of vision and need to visit specsavers, but I guess everyone will have their different perspectives on the match. My neighbour on the moorings certainly had a different view to me; but the thing with rugby is that we won’t be spending the rest of the evening sorting our disagreements by throwing molotov cocktails at each other’s boats!

After the match we found somewhere that hadn’t changed since our time here – the restaurant “The Italian Way” still serves fine food and we had a great time, indulging in a lengthy debate on the nature of sexual discrimination, our oratorical skills honed to a fine edge by some luscious bottles of wine.

We got back to the hotel quite early, just in time, in fact, to join the Welsh coaching team, and later by the rest of the players in the bar. They looked physically and mentally battered, more so when the shots glasses flew. My claim to fame is that I shared a lift with Jamie Roberts – one of the Welsh backs; the lift was barely big enough! He pronounced himself “gutted” with the result – reading the rugby papers the next day, that was about as eloquent as it got…..

We girls got off to bed before midnight, leaving Liam and Richard to get over the earlier visit to Starbucks by drinking in the ambience and the alcohol at the bar until the wee small hours…..


I think it’s fair to say that we were all a little subdued on Sunday morning, though the Vale’s comprehensive breakfast, followed up by multiple cups of coffee helped considerably. We enjoyed another ogle at the welsh team,  who also looked reassuringly feeble after a late night (well feeble is a bit of a relative term, they seemed to have shrunk to being just 7′ tall). With everyone feeling (and looking) so pathetic there was nothing for it but to head for home (and no, we weren’t still over the limit – we made sure through careful calculations of time and consumption).

We had a tedious trip home – not because of any particular delays but just because we were tired and it’s a long way – we’ll take the train next time. So now we’re into the second half of the weekend…..

When we picked Lou and Blue up from Richard’s mum, she commented that Lou had hardly been outside at all (she’d normally spend all of her time exploring the garden with Blue). My nasty suspicion was confirmed when I saw that her back foot was grossly swollen, though she wasn’t lame at the time. We got her home and rang the emergency vet who advised some doggie painkillers (plenty of those in the house) and a precautionary doggie antibiotic (funnily enough we have a stock of them as well!).

r-rugby7Nov09 016

Feeble dog!

I really thought it was just an infection but when I took her in to the vet on Monday we had the bad news that it was likely that she’d broken her toe – aaargh!!! I left her with the vet for an X-ray, an hour later the news got worse – the bone had snapped like a breadstick – crumbs of bone everywhere with little hope of healing; so poor old Lou has now had one of her toes amputated. I was very upset though, in fact, greyhounds are always injuring their toes and seem to manage perfectly well without the full complement. I was also a more than a little alarmed when the vet said that if we couldn’t think of how she’d fractured the bone (and we couldn’t) then it was possible that it had been weakened by a tumour, but that amputation ensured that it wouldn’t be an issue going forward – aaaaarghhh aaaaaaaargh!

Anyway, the evil deed was done on Monday and Lou is recovering well. Her foot is swathed in a huge pink bandage and she occasionally points it at me in accusation; conciliatory chicken pieces soon follow – she’s not daft, that dog! I stayed in to nurse her on Tuesday – I had planned to take the doggies to the boat but that seemed wildly inappropriate given that we have to keep this bandage clean and dry for at least a week.

So after a brilliant Saturday, the rest of the weekend left me feeling a bit tired and stressed; thank heavens I had boating to look forward to on Wednesday – but more of that in the next post……

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Boat Blog: A quick shuffle…

Posted by indigodream on 5 November, 2009

Thursday 5th November

Little Venice to Perivale

I’ve had a nice solo cruise today, enjoying a dry November day. It cheered me up considerably – I’m can’t accept the coming of Christmas yet, despite what the retailers are telling me! I know I’m in denial but I’m just not ready to sink into winter.

Although we weren’t at the 14-day limit for the moorings at Little Venice, we decided to move her out today rather than overstaying our welcome (the only other feasible option as we’re in Wales for the rugby this weekend).

I’d decided to travel up to Paddington with the commuters this morning, on the basis that if I stayed overnight on the boat I’d just snuggle up in bed and wouldn’t get away until 10am. D’oh – what was I thinking! ‘Tis the season of leaves on the line and other inexplicable delays – I got away from the moorings at my usual 10.15am but having got up at 6.30am!

Indigo Dream had been fine on the moorings. The fact that we were in a long line of unmolested boats suggested that she would be. But I’d chatted with a BW worker busily (and possibly futilely) sweeping leaves from the towpath who told me that they’d had problems with youths throwing fireworks at passing boats. Scary…..

As I stepped on board I did wonder wryly whether a firework would have usefully burnt off the 3-inch mulch of fallen leaves lying on the back deck. 🙂

It was a fine morning, though the canal was quiet – widebeam Thamesis passed me on the mooring and she was the only boat I saw on the move until Alperton. I had a quick chat with the owner of the boat behind me – I was curious to know whether he was on a winter mooring – I wasn’t sure where they are and didn’t want to transgress. He assured me it was a winter mooring, well sort of, well not a real winter mooring but where he was mooring for winter etc etc. Oh dear, the rest of the conversation was a bit stilted as he tried to justify continuous mooring and I tried not to be too judgemental……

Of course, we’re not breaking the rules, what we’re doing is completely different, we’re just exploring the breadth of the London canals,  necessitating multiple stops at some of the more fascinating moorings until our hoped for winter mooring finally materialises.

I stocked the back deck with everything I might need and got underway. It was a fine day but I soon had to put on the ‘emergency’ layers that I’d draped on the back door (within easy reach of the tiller). I was barely past Kensal Green when I had to bring the boat into the bank so that I could run inside and grab a few more layers. Luckily there was no-one around – I didn’t tie her to the bank and in the brief minutes that I was inside the breeze had disobligingly drifted her out, like a miniature Marie Celeste – engine running, half-empty can of coke on the back deck, nibbled muffin and no crew……

Now this is a familiar bit of water, but there’s always something new to see, so what did I notice today….

Firstly there was the depressing sight of the graffiti under the already gloomy M40 flyover – I swear that there’s more now than there was a few weeks ago. Incongruously though, it looks as if someone is trying to put in some flowerbeds along the towpath right below the flyover; there are two little plots marked out with stones and filled with soil (though no plants as yet). It’s a nice thought but I have no idea what will grow in such a shady spot and I can’t believe that flowerbeds won’t be vandalised out of existence here. I do hope that I’m wrong – this spot would definitely benefit from some brightening.

I saw an unfamiliar boat at the Kensal Green Visitor Moorings – if only I’d written down her name – nb Sea ……something! Anyway, what caught my eye was that this boat’s business was “Costumier” – showing, yet again, that there’s no limit to people’s inventiveness when it comes to what you can do on a narrowboat! The boat was also striking for having a beautifully carved and painted horse’s head mounted on her prow.

The stretch through Kensal Green had a real Halloween atmosphere – the jumbled mass of gravestones in the vast cemetery seemed to loom large, rising up haphazardly, pushed by who knows what force. But don’t worry, all hallow’s eve has passed and it’s not the unquiet dead on the move, but the gradual lowering of the long grass and the fall of the trees’ leafy curtain. In a landscape slowly being robbed of its colour by the encroaching winter, the bright flashes of flowers, wreaths and balloons adorning the more recent graves seemed startling and poignant.

When I last cruised this way, it was at the end of a long-ish day and I was lacking a bit of my usual sparkle. I didn’t find it so gloomy today – maybe it was the welcome skylights of blue in the thick cloud and the continuing absence of rain!

Even the bit that flanks the borders of Wormwood Scrubs didn’t seem so bad. The view was enlivened by the orange fortress of an old lifeboat moored offside – if looked impregnable enough to use as a submarine! The notice on the side said it could hold 60 people – I can’t imagine what a claustrophobic squash that would be, but I guess that if the alternative’s the space of the open sea then you wouldn’t complain.

There were a lot of runners on the towpath today. I was very impressed by one (male) runner doing triceps dips on a canalside bench – I told him I was impressed and he told me it was hard work and he’d rather be on the helm. I had to agree with him, that’s where I’d rather be too! But most of the runners (mainly female) were training too intensely for talk, the corded muscles of their arms as impervious to the cold as the gnarled trunks of the towpath trees. Not being a runner, I couldn’t believe that they weren’t cold; I got some insight later as I vigorously banged in five pins to hold the boat – even I had to remove a layer (just the one, can’t get too carried away!).

I had a particularly fine view of Wembley Stadium from the North Circular Aqueduct today – the stadium was in full view because of a combination of some local demolition, the loss of the obscuring leaves and the shimmering halo of the famous white arch.

I stopped off at Sainsbury’s in Alperton for lunch – the bollards make for an easy single-handed mooring. I was surprised to find that the store moorings were deserted; I was also surprised to see that they were 7-day moorings though I’m not sure that I’d leave the boat unattended here – there’s a wide variety of characters on the towpath (all benign today) but the canalside bins were overflowing, mainly with empty lager cans. Now there’s a philosophical question – are overflowing bins a bad sign, given that really wicked people wouldn’t bother using a bin in the first place!

I met the second boat of the day while I was mooring up here – they were looking bewildered because their Nicholson’s (and ours) has a water point marked here. They couldn’t find it and I couldn’t recall it. It may have been obscured by the overflowing bins and the attendant plague of pigeons and herring gulls. I know that both birds are a dirty nuisance but you have to admire their tenacious ability to adapt and survive.

I had a half-hour break here – I was thoroughly revived by some food and warmth. It’s one of the things I have to watch out for when I’m solo – I tend to cruise along in a world of my own and it’s easy to forget the essentials until cold and hunger make me grumpy and careless. With two canalside Sainsbury’s on this stretch there was no chance of that happening today.

I set off from Alperton in good spirits – there wasn’t that far to go and the stretch from Alperton to Black Horse is very attractive, with views over Horsenden Hill on the one side and a few food factories wafting delicious smells on the other.

The towpath moorings at Perivale were empty, but I carried on to the winding hole at Black Horse – partly so that I could investigate the moorings there and partly so that I’d be set the right way for my trip back next week.

Surprisingly, there was one mooring spot available at Black Horse, though I’m not too sure whether these are now winter permit moorings. I winded the boat while musing on my options and decided to go back to Perivale – I like it there.

There’s some sort of industrial bakery by Black Horse bridge – there was a large ‘Hovis’ tanker unloading something there – it revived some fond memories of our cruising up north, where you can’t travel a mile without someone telling you that ‘Hovis’ is short for ‘Hominis Vit’, which apparently means ‘strength of man’.

“What strength?” I asked myself as I mused on the frozen state of some of my more unmentionable extremities. As I cruised past the bakery the canal was flooded by the smell of toasted teacakes, prompting an overwhelming longing for hot buns…….

The trip back to Perivale seemed to take no time at all and I moored up in one of my favourite spots opposite the site of Willowtree Cruisers (though I didn’t see their trip boat today).

Earlier in the day, I had been wondering why boaters aren’t more often targeted for towpath muggings. I got my answer this morning when towpath walkers were treated to the menacing sight of a woman boater wielding a small hatchet and me busy at the (pointed) pins with a heavy mallet. I was quite worried about the hatchet-wielder – she seemed a little random and I thought that her toes were in danger (if she had any left, that is!). With all this going on in my head, it’s small wonder that I managed to hit my own leg with the mallet when I was mooring up. 🙂

Oh, no harm done apart from the singeing of a few leaves by a few choice swearwords…….

Note to self: Allow 3 hours cruising time for the trip back!

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