Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for March 28th, 2011

Boat Blog: New friends, old route…

Posted by indigodream on 28 March, 2011

Friday 25th March

Our guests bravely negotiating their first lock gate bridge! Shame about the trash in the water.

Sharp-tongued satirists will often pour scorn on social media and the notion that people don’t meet in person any more. But although I can see how blogging/tweeting can take over your life (it’s a lot more entertaining than housework!) I’ve found it to be a great way of making new friends. We’ve met and had adventures with so many boating bloggers and, of course, we’re meeting up with other greyhound obsessives owners.

This weekend we met famous blogging greyhound David and twitter queen Ellabella, oh, and their hu-mums Becky and Nicky! We’ve been ‘corresponding’ for a while and seemed to have a lot in common, well ok, we’ve got greyhounds in common, but that was enough for me to grieve that we might never meet what with them being up in Suffolk. But this weekend, they kindly agreed to an adventure and drove all the way down to Surrey to stay the night before spending the weekend on the boat.

A bit of drastic cleaning was needed, but my garden office (known as ‘The Shed’) is perfect accommodation for guests – now that we’ve ousted the mice!

We decided to leave Ty with Richard’s mum again – she enjoys his company and he certainly enjoys staying with her, being lavished with care and attention (not that he lacks any here – honest!). It was a shame, as I think that it would have done him good to spend time with some other greyhounds and I’m sure that Becky and Nicky would have been smitten. However, Ty would have been miserable on the boat through London – we’re looking forward to the Odyssey when we can get into quieter parts and gradually work on his confidence.

It was a funny thing waiting for our guests to arrive – as Richard said “we’ve just invited two total strangers to stay over ” – but because of the blogs/tweets, I didn’t feel that they were strangers at all. Of course, this led me to muse on the fact that because Becky and Nicky were fellow greyhound lovers I’d imbued them with a whole set of associated virtues. But are there axe-murdering greyhound lovers? Were we about to find out?!

Lou and Lynx supervising the crew....

Our guests arrived late evening – minus axes but equipped with David’s bottom, which proved to something of an offensive weapon. We were without our big guns i.e. Ty’s bottom, but Lou defended us admirably!

As I’d anticipated, they were charming guests – David and Ella settled in right away and got on famously with our hounds – Lou accepted her new pack with grace (and silence). We had a great evening talking greyhounds – I had wondered whether we’d run out of things to talk to about, but this one topic kept us going all weekend!

Saturday 26th March

We’re getting very blase about the drive up to the boat in Limehouse – I think the odyssey will come as a bit of a shock – the long drives, car shuffle logistics, running the engine for power, searching for waterpoints….. Actually, we can’t wait to be on the go again after the best part of a year in London – definitely time for a change of scenery.

But today we were on familiar ground – the trip up to Paddington and back. It was a good day, colder than during the week, cloudy, but mainly dry. The boat was already full of water and diesel so were good to go. Ah no, hang on, have we got enough comfy beds down for four greyhounds? We added a new foam chair-bed, which proved to be popular, and we set off up the Regent’s Canal.

Lou supervising Nicky at the lock...

We’d only gone up one lock before we had to stop to clear the prop – there was the usual collection of plastic bags, but what scuppered us was a short length of thick rope. I guess it’s natural that rubbish migrates ‘downstream’ but there is a serious amount of garbage around the first three locks (coming up from Limehouse) – it’s a shame as it detracts from the otherwise interesting and increasingly attractive canalscape. I’ll just have another little rant here – another boater further up had also cleared their prop – then left the debris on the side of the lock. I was surprised – that debris will end up back in the canal – why not just pick it up and put it in the boat bin for disposal later? And while I’m at it, why don’t people shut lock gates behind them? And why are boats with no visible licences moored up on lock moorings? Nigh on every lock was set against us today – tedious enough at the best of times, but sheer hard work when you’ve got one crew (Richard) having to do all the walking round. It made for a slow journey but with good food and good company on board it was still a great day’s cruise.

The towpath was alive with joggers – why? Were they were all in training for the London marathon or had they just been drawn out by the fine weather – they looked terribly serious. The greyhounds treated them with the complacent disdain of retired athletes. The hounds had a good day – Ella and David were amazing considering it’s their first time afloat. Ella was very dignified and took boating in her stride – she’s a dainty little greyhound – the perfect size for a narrowboat! Lou and Ella divided their day between lying indoors and popping up on deck every now and then to check on the boys. Lynx spent most of the day on deck, as did David, who was beside himself with excitement and seemed to really enjoy watching the world go by.

We had little stop at Camden Market – it’s such a unique place – noisy, colourful, tacky and fascinating – you could wander there all day and not see it all. I was fascinated by the shisha parlours with customers lying on crowded couches, each furnished with its own ornate shisha pipe wreathed in fragrant smoke. Fronted by the colourful oriental couches, the stalls behind seemed darkly mysterious – a scene straight from the day when opium was legal and fired the imaginations of romantic poets. I guess that these customers were smoking tobacco – perfectly legal, perfectly deadly….

David makes a great figurehead for the Indigo Dream...

The hounds came with us for a stroll around the market and were so very calm, despite the sussurations of the crowds – “look at those dogs, greyhounds, amazing dogs, like a tiger……” – there’s no better advertisement for greyhound rescue. Many people stopped to talk to us so we were able to reassure people that greyhounds don’t need much exercise! Then there was more unwelcome sussuration – “Uh sir, dogs aren’t allowed in this part of the market” – oops! The very polite security guard escorted us to the street entrance and we worked our way back to the boat along the ‘open’ part of the market, where they are allowed!

We were just starting to lose the light when we came through Regent’s Park, but to our delight, the African hunting dogs were out. Like many predators they combine great beauty and power – I saw a documentary about them last week – they run almost as fast as greyhounds but they can keep it up for hours on end. I’ve since found out that they can migrate up to 30 miles a day and have huge ranges. I sighed and wondered, yet again, about the morality of zoos – the dogs’ enclosure is really very small therefore I can’t believe they’re happy. But they are an endangered species – so what’s best – captive but alive or wild but extinct? The option of wild, happy and thriving doesn’t seem to be available 😦

We got to Paddington just as the weather deteriorated especially the wind – typical! The moorings were pretty full, but we found a space on the towpath at the far end – it took some time to moor – the wind was gusting strongly between the tall buildings and kept sweeping us off the mooring. The kindly crew of the narrowboat moored behind our space offered to catch our ropes and with their help we finally moored. We’d spotted Carrie in nb Blackbird moored a few boats away – she waved and walked round the basin to see us. It was lovely to catch up with her, albeit briefly. She did come aboard to give the greyhounds some extra cuddles – they were very grateful!

We went back to See Cafe for dinner – the food is really very good there – just as well because we were very tired by now and it was the closest eaterie to the boat! We were back on board by 8.30pm and Richard and I were ready for bed! For the sake of our guests we made a bit of an effort to stay awake until an adult bed-time – it took a little time to sort out the beds – amazingly, it’s the first time that we’ve had two friends (rather than a couple) to stay on board so we had to deploy the bed settee and the bed chair. We were short of one dog duvet and we’d carelessly left the sheepskins at home so there was some to-ing and fro-ing before the hounds got settled. Lynx is so cheeky and took advantage of the lack of room to hop up and sleep with Becky! Lou, David and Ella all moved around during the night, trying out different beds for size – Lynx, predictably, stayed right where he was – he knows a good thing when he lies on it!

Today’s trivia:

In Johnson’s lock I spotted a spiral-shelled mollusc hanging from the lock wall – I’d not seen one like it on a lock wall before (and I’ve seen the inside of lots of locks!). But maybe I’ve just been very unobservant because I found out that it was the common great pond snail –Lymnaea stagnalis – the largest species of water snail in Europe.They graze on organic detritus so it wouldn’t be lacking for food in these slimy locks! The pond snail has lungs rather than gills which means that it would survive quite happily when the lock was empty; nonetheless I was interested to find it six foot down a lock wall where it would have a long climb up to get air when the lock was full. However they apparently have special adaptations to allow them to respire through their tissues so that they don’t have to surface so often – they can just float up to the surface to get air  so no climbing required! They also have a snorkel which can be extended to the surface – I doubt whether it’s 6′ long though!

Great pond snail!

Sunday 27th March

We had a very relaxed start to the day with a boat full of lolloping hounds swapping beds and getting used to the idea of being awake! The boat works as a huge hound bedroom, provided the humans don’t mind being smothered by living hound blankets with sharp elbows! The new bed chair works well as a bed – as ‘comfy as an air bed’ was Nicky’s generous verdict. This means that we’re now set up for overnighting our mottley crew during the BCN Marathon Challenge!

Richard volunteered to take the hounds out for their morning essentials while we ladies converted the boat back into a doggie day lounge! Richard was soon back – he’d run out of poo bags – oh yes – you do the math – four greyhounds, minimum of three productions each……

Lou and Ella declined another walk but the boys went out for an age – Paddington Basin can consider itself watered!

We set off at 11am – the change in the hour having eaten the morning away. The late start gave the sun time to break through the cloud and we had a glorious day’s cruising. Human and hound crew basked in the abundant sunshine and enjoyed the adoration of the masses – there were literally THOUSANDS of people on the towpath today – walkers, joggers, cyclist, fishermen and picnicers – London was really making the best of its canal. In turn we marvelled at the blatant exhibitionism of the towpath denizens conspicuously doing lock-side press-ups or showing off their hula-hooping skills  on the path. It could have been worse – they were fully clothed!

Needless to say, the hounds attracted immense amounts of interest – people were amazed to see two hounds on deck, little knowing that there were another two indoors! While we were waiting for one lock, a smart, rather aloof couple with a beautiful blue greyhound came up the towpath. I advised them to look onto our deck – they looked at me as if I was mad! “No really” I said “Look onto the deck” – they suddenly dropped the whole cool act and squealed with delight at the sight of Lynx, Ella and David lying on deck – they were soon joined by Lou who never misses a chance to bark at another greyhound. We had a happy 10 minutes of talking greyhounds – their blue (also called Blue) was very cuddly so I enjoyed a few hugs, remembering our own beautiful Blue, who would have enjoyed this day’s cruise.

I've never noticed this cafe before - I think it's called 'Towpath' and was doing a roaring trade from its barbecue...

We saw another greyhound on the towpath but no apparent owner. Obviously we all went instantly into ‘welfare’ mode as the greyhound trotted down the towpath, picking up (and relishing) random bits of food from discarded take-away containers. It was wearing a collar and looked in good condition, but we cracked when the hound stopped and looked a bit bewildered – Richard said ‘bring the boat in’ and in a rush I did a rotten job and ended up across the canal with the stern grounded at the back, rudder stuck on the edge, while the bow thunked gently on the sheet piling opposite. Richard got off to check the greyhound and its owners, a woman and child, miraculously appeared out of nowhere to demand what he was doing with their dog! Ah well, the hound was happy so I’d got the boat into a mess for a good cause 🙂

Some boater had left most of the top lock gates open yet again, but today we benefited because most of the locks were set our way and were able to cruise right in. This made to a very fast trip down to Limehouse and we seemed to get there in no time at all. I was a bit sad because it had been a great weekend but I was also relieved to have an early finish because Nicky and Becky had a long trip back to Suffolk. We packed the boat up in record time and we set off with the four hounds for a last rummage around the little dog park.

It had been the most wonderful thing to meet these fellow bloggers/tweeters and get to know them a bit better. The hounds were a delight and we enjoyed having an extended pack on board. I hope they come again sometime, maybe on a rural route where Ty can join us, though we’ll need to get a few more dog duvets on board before that happens!

Sad news….

When we got home we picked up a melancholy email informing us of the death of an old friend from Motor Neurone Disease. He was the same age as Richard.We knew it was coming, he’d been battling with the disease for five years, but we’d so hoped that he would be the one who beat the odds.  Our hearts go out to his wife and young son – their grief and shock are all too evident and I can see that there’s a hard road ahead of them.

The news made me think back to the start of this post and settled in my mind that you have to grab new friendships and make the golden moments when you can – who knows when they’ll be taken away from you….

Photoblog:

Hordes on the towpath - it was even busier on Sunday!

What's this I wonder - lockside at Sturts lock.

Sharing locks with the pirates - just as well there were two sober crew members to handle the boat/locks!

It's a wonder that only the parrot fell overboard - you'll be relieved to know that it was safely recovered!

One of the many elaborate horse sculptures in Camden Market - a nod to the market's original use as a stable for working horses back in the 1800s

Market scene - everything's on show, including this fishy foot massage - and NO, they are not MY feet!

More elaborate scenery at Camden Market - it's a strange place....

How's that for a mooring?!

African hunting dog - we'll try to get a better photo next time they're out...

Fearsome face - warthog at London zoo...

Magnificent detail on this bridge - cast by founders Masefield and Co., Manor Iron Works, Chelsea - can you imagine what would happen if they tried to put an ironworks in Chelsea today? 🙂

The coat of arms of the metropolitan borough of St Pancras which existed between 1900 and 1965, when it became part of Camden. This coat of arms dates from 1936 and has elements from the arms of traditional landowners in the borough.

St Pancras lock looking lovely in the sunshine...

Serious camera - wonder what they were filming?

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