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Archive for February, 2012

Dog Blog: A Morning with Greyhoundhomer

Posted by indigodream on 23 February, 2012

Friday 17th February

The Greyhoundhomer stand - we were offering hot teas - you'd think people would be flocking to the stand!

As part of their fundraising, Greyhoundhomer are a frequent presence at public events and shows around Essex; you will also find them outside supermarkets rattling their collecting tins – obtaining money is an essential and relentless pursuit….

Today, the charity was invited to “Paws in the Park” at Beam Parklands in Essex – an interesting park development which is cared for by a team of community rangers who organised the event. Being half-term, the Rangers had hoped for a big attendance and had planned fun activities for visiting hounds and their owners. With this in mind, Greyhoundhomer took their big trailer which was full of goodies for dogs and humans (including my home-made jam and marmalade) – the trailer is great because it provides shelter for the human and hound volunteers if needed.

We turned up 10am and got set up – although the park is a welcome green space in the somewhat disjointed mix of Barking industry and housing, there were very few passersby around. Nonetheless, the team got set up while I snaffled an Indigo Dreamer (Sue B, who has come on many charity cruises with us) to look after jellyboy Ty and I kept an eye on Lou, who was having a royal time barking at Shadow and Blaze, Greyhoundhomer’s more polite representatives! It is very important to have hounds at these events – they are the best ambassadors for the cause and it’s a fact that ‘the public’ give money to dogs not to people!

As you might have guessed, Lou really enjoyed the attention – we had a quite a large team from Greyhoundhomer as we’d been led to expect hordes of visitors. Lou made the best of her considerable personality to get the team of malleable greyhound lovers to do her bidding re. fuss, treats etc .Ty just wedged himself into the corner of the trailer and concentrated very hard on worrying about stuff. Though, in all fairness, he was relatively calm and much less of a jelly boy than we’ve seen in the past. There’s no doubt that he’d have much rather been at home in his safe bed but he coped well – I was very proud of him.

Unfortunately I was public enemy No.1 as far as he was concerned – it took me the best part of 15 minutes to get him out of the house and into the car, ignoring his big hints that he really didn’t want to come 🙂

Lou and Ty hard at work in the Greyhoundhomer trailer!

Although I enjoyed catching up with the other Greyhoundhomer volunteers, the event itself was a bit dispiriting, despite the relatively mild weather and dry conditions underfoot (i.e. great dog-walking weather). In the end I doubt whether even half a dozen people visited our stand, and I get the impression that they were random dog-walkers who’d been surprised to find our stall there. The team of Rangers were very disappointed – I think they’ve worked very hard to organise and publicise the event – they even managed to get two local reporters/photographers to attend. They are hoping that if they get some local press then it will boost attendance at future events – they have quite a few planned – I’ve put a list of dates at the end of the post.

Despite the poor attendance, I’m still glad that I went along because:

  • Lou enjoyed the stimulation without taxing herself with too much walking (her joints can’t take it)
  • It does Ty good to have new experiences (even if he doesn’t agree!)
  • It was good to catch up with old friends
  • It was interesting to sell my own jam – people seemed very taken with the fact that I could tell them about how, when and where I picked the fruit!
  • It was a great insight into how hard charities have to work to raise funds

The park rangers had a stand too....

If you have the time, I would encourage you to get involved in charity fundraising – even if it’s only 1 hour a year, rattling a tin outside a shop. It’s a rewarding thing to do and surprisingly insightful if you go along with an open mind…..

Paws in the Park 2012 – Barking & Dagenham

  • 17 February 10.30am to 12.30am Beam Parklands
  • 24 March 11.00am to 3.00pm Mayesbrook Park
  • 26 May 1.00pm to 4.00pm Beam Parklands
  • 30 June 1.00pm to 4.00pm Barking Park
  • 14 July 1.00pm to 4.00pm St Chads Park
  • 25 August 1.00pm to 4.00pm Barking Park
  • 8 September 1.00pm to 4.00pm Eastbrookend Country Park
  • 22 September 1.00pm to 4.00pm Mayesbrook Park

We always have lots of interesting goodies to sell at these events....

Ty did very well - once he found a 'safe' place on his bed in the corner....

A few punters contemplating the home-made jam which I donate to Greyhoundhomer - we did sell a few jars!

Lou took her job very seriously - the job of looking cute and engaging that is...

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Boat Blog: Boring log entry…..

Posted by indigodream on 19 February, 2012

The start of the new pontoon construction - this one will run along the marina wall and join up with the existing structures which lead to the entrance gate...

If I understand the plans correctly, this pontoon will be extended and several finger pontoons will be added (jutting out at right angles)....

Thursday 16th February

One of the biggest benefits of the blog is that it acts as a more reliable memory than the one I carry in my head! No sooner had we published the previous boat blog post than I realised that the Webasto was still on, drinking diesel, when the temperature was now well above freezing!

So I popped up to the boat today to turn the Webasto off, check our electricity meter, fuel levels and have a general check on stuff. The marina looked very fine in the morning sunshine and I breathed a sigh of pleasure just at being on the water; and it was water – there was no sign that the marina had been frozen had just a scant few days ago. We had 14 unit lefts on our card (each unit is 10 kWh) – so we’ve only used 4 units since the 4th February. We still have a quarter tank of diesel, so the Webasto could have stayed on a little longer (it burns approx. 1l/hour and our tank holds 220 litres) but we may not move the boat until mid-March now so best not to waste it…..

While I was there I cleaned the floor, again, how could it have become so grubby when we’ve not even been on board????

I pottered around for an hour before reluctantly re-joining the ‘real’ world. As I left the marina I was surprised to see that work to install the new commercial pontoons is well underway. Logically they’d have to be, there are only a few months to go before the start of the Olympics, but I was surprised that they haven’t started to re-shuffle the narrowboats yet – that ‘turning circle’ looked tight before they started the new construction!

Aah, this post is so dull I’ll just throw in some more cute houndie photos – these are from the second day of the sleepover, when everyone was slowing down a bit!

Ty and Monty getting busy...

Archie - there was a lot less charging and a lot more rummaging on the Sunday...

Herbie hound having a rummage...

Henry having a good sniff - there are lots of new smells under the snow....

Henry always has a bit of energy to spare!!

Old boy Monty looks full of beans too.....

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Boat, no, sorry, Dog Blog: A weekend sleepover…

Posted by indigodream on 18 February, 2012

Saturday 11th/Sunday 12th February

Ty and Archie - don't they look fine....

For many weeks now, Sarah (aka Greygal) and I have been plotting a birthday weekend for her husband Andy – for most of those weeks we’ve had unseasonably mild, sunny January weather. This lulled us into a false sense of Spring as we plotted a trip up the Tideway then along the Thames with a side-trip onto the Wey, where we would meet up with cruising buddy Kathryn of nb Leo No II at the Byfleet Cruising Club. We had hoped to get further up the Thames, but there’s a stoppage at Chertsey lock until the 17th March. Still, the Wey is a fine waterway with great walks for multiple greyhounds.

We were still planning our cruise when the weather turned cold, but as long as the marina wasn’t frozen we were still up for an adventure (though the thought of cruising up the Thames tideway in a minus 10 degree windchill was a bit daunting). Limehouse was still liquid up until a few days ago, then it had a thin skim of ice – we booked the lock – then on Saturday morning the lock-keeper rang to tell us that the basin had solidified overnight (it was -8 degrees overnight in Surrey) and that there was no hope of getting Indigo Dream out this weekend.

Luckily we’d made a contingency plan for Sarah and Andy, with greyhounds Monty, Big Sid, Henry, Archie and Herbie, to divert to Surrey and spend a weekend at the house. The advantage of the house is that we have a large garden/field to blast off the hounds’ initial energy (those that had energy – Big Sid is simply the sleepiest hound on the planet and Lou isn’t very well with her arthritis).

Henry making the best of our garden....

The other benefit is that I had access to my well-stocked and equipped kitchen, so I was able to offer a much better menu than the usual Indigo Dream “all day breakfast”. The third unexpected benefit was access to the huge supply of spirits which we seem to have accumulated over the years and which we rarely drink. We hadn’t planned this at all, but we ended up having an impromptu cocktail session, with Sarah choosing dodgy recipes from our cocktail recipe book, me mixing them (being creative because we had very few non-alcoholic mixers) and the men (mainly) drinking them – teamwork in action eh?

We had a fine weekend – we enjoyed both the human and hound company; Lou and Ty benefited from the stimulation of having some lively hounds around the place. Of course, I missed Lynx acutely – this was his sort of party and it’s very boring for me and for the readers not to have his unique account of the weekend. With that in mind, I’ll just let the photos tell the story….

Note: there is a great sequence of photos on Facebook of Henry hound going mad in the snow – – it will make you smile!

Ty and Archie were quite a pair - Archie's in the lead here but he is 3 years younger than Ty (and a few kilos lighter!).....

Ty at his best.... and yes that really is our jelly boy looking confident and enjoying a run!

Monty (aged11) and Lou (aged 9) showing that there is life in the old dogs yet....

Herbie, Sarah's newest hound, investigating the squirrels in the woods opposite - luckily there's a fence between them!

Ty was so happy - he really enjoyed being part of an extended pack...

Henry hound was beside himself - he's energetic for a greyhound and ran himself to a standstill over the weekend...

Time for a quick fuss before another charge around the garden...

And they're off for another run....

Archie and Henry - black hounds rock! People visiting rehoming centres just don't want them...

Monty kicking his heels....

One of the excuses for our get-together was to allow Henry to have a run - he certainly did!

Henry having a roll in the snow - for a full sequence have a look at my facebook album - the link is in the text above

Oh yeah - that's the spot....


Monty - I love to see the oldies having such a good time...

Ty showing us his tongue - no wonder it often flops out of his mouth onto the floor when he's sleeping 🙂

Big Sid - the 40kg lapdog!

Lou wasn't impressed with Big Sid's performance but does he look bothered????

The morning after.......Big Sid and Henry found it all very tiring...

Ty's favourite bed - I would get him a new one but he loves this one so much....

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Dog Blog: a boost for Greyhoundhomer…

Posted by indigodream on 17 February, 2012

Friday 3rd February

This was a red-letter day for Richard – for over a year he’s been plotting, cajoling and drinking beer with his various industry contacts in order to secure a substantial donation for Greyhoundhomer – today the cheque was finally presented. The final donation was £2,000, but Pat and her Greyhoundhomer team came out to the presentation expecting to receive only £100 – what a wonderful surprise.

I could write more but firstly I am not allowed to mention any towns in Greece or this years date, all as per the somewhat onerous regulations set out here or here and secondly I doubt whether I can do any better than the press release:

Substation wall of fame will set greyhounds on the right track, Ibstock double donation

Pat from Greyhoundhomer receiving a cheque for £2,000 from Stewart Morton of Ibstock - accompanied by a team of dedicated enthusiasts who helped make it happen....

In 2009 the team constructing a new UK Power Networks substation in East London featured on a ‘wall of fame’ which raised £1,000 for rescue greyhounds.

Engraved bricks were sold to the team working on a project that will keep electricity supplies flowing to thousands of people in the area and incorporated into a wall inside the building. The wall contains the names of 42 UK Power Networks staff and contractors who have helped design and construct the substation, including the makers of three giant 125tonne transformers and switches which help operate the equipment.

For a £25 contribution to the charity Greyhoundhomer, a branch of the Retired Greyhound Trust in Ockenden, each contributor had their name and role added to a brick on the substation wall.

The Substation building has subsequently achieved fame by winning awards, including the supreme award at the prestigious Brick Awards. In recognition of this award Ibstock, the UK’s leading brick manufacturer, has very kindly agreed to double the original donation and on Friday handed over a cheque for £2000 to representatives from Greyhoundhomer

The cost of engraving the bricks was sponsored by Andrews Associates, the structural consultants to UK Power Networks for the project, so that every penny raised by the staff and contractors went directly to the charity.

Richard, from Andrews Associates, said: “The names won’t be seen by the public but in the future engineers might walk round the site, notice the wall and say ‘Ah look who was the contract manager on this job’. We have worked so hard to achieve this project on schedule and this is a good way of thanking everyone for their commitment. We had fantastic support from Ibstock through the course of this project and it is wonderful that they have stepped up and doubled the original worker’s donation”

Katie from Greyhoundhomer and Stuart from Ibstock at the "wall of fame"...

Pat Philpot, a volunteer coordinator with Greyhoundhomer, became involved with the charity through her husband who was a greyhound trainer. They kept racing dogs at home but wanted to give something back to retired dogs that could not find a home.

Mrs Philpot said: “We are over the moon about the money. It normally takes us a day collecting money to raise £100, so we really appreciate this support, particularly in these stretched times. The funds will go towards our vet bills.  All our dogs are neutered, inoculated, wormed and provided with a coat, lead and muzzle before they leave us. It costs more than £100 to re-home each dog.

“We have 20 dogs at any time and as one goes out another one comes in. We check every home and arrange follow-up calls. It’s lovely when they are accepted as a pet in a good home. They are such beautiful animals and they adore children. This money will make a real difference to us, thank you Ibstock”

A detail from the award winning sub-station showing the subtle play of light along the black Ibstock brick wall....

What it's really about (1) - a happy retirement for all ex-racing greyhounds....

Donations to Greyhoundhomer, whether £2 or £2,000 can make such a difference to an ex-racer's life....

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Odds Blog: Our Olympic journey….

Posted by indigodream on 16 February, 2012

Sunday 5th February

A long time ago we both applied to be volunteers at the Olympic games – this has astounded our friends and family, who think we’re mad, but it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so we went for it.

I heard back from the Olympics relatively quickly because they put my application forward for the ‘medical’ team. Unfortunately I had an extra application form to fill in – I completed it in a rush and made a mess of it so I was equally quickly rejected! But my application was put back into the general pool and I heard no more for around 6 months…..

Iconic olympics - the cedar-clad velodrome - magnificent.....

Richard, in the meantime, heard nothing for months, but back in November he was invited for an interview to be part of the “Events Team” – the largest team of volunteers in the games. He seemed to manage to answer most questions by referring to beer in some form or other – he judged that he had a very successful interview and is now a “Games Maker” (the official name for Olympic volunteers). During his interview he was offered a range of roles and, if all goes well, he will be showing people round the park and helping people to their seats in the stadium – great! Or possibly cleaning toilets, it is a bit haphazard.

This weekend he attended his first training event – a half-day orientation in Wembley Arena. There were thousands of people there (maybe as many as 10,000) – it’s a huge operation, over 70,000 volunteers will be needed in total to make the Games happen.

Now, comedian and actor Eddie Izzard has been much involved in the “Games Maker” programme – the videos has has made in support of the  recruitment drive are funny and entertaining. I’d assumed that Richard would see more of Eddie’s videos during the training but in fact, Eddie Izzard was there IN PERSON. Richard said he was charming and was ‘working the crowd’ while everyone was congregating, well queueing, outside, as they had done less then well in organising that bit. The organisers really pushed the boat out – Seb Coe and Jonathan Edwards were also there in person.

The training itself was a “sheepdip” – it couldn’t be anything else with 10,000 people in the room, but the training workbook that Richard brought home was good quality. He has his “role-specific” training in March – he’ll be very interested to hear his exact role and place in the team (“you hold the loo brush at the handle end…”). I hope that he does get to spend time working with people around the Olympic Park….

I finally heard back from the recruiters in January and attended my “Games Maker” interview on January 22nd. It is an interesting process – the interviews are conducted by volunteers and it is a slick operation with groups of around 25 applicants being processed to a split-second schedule. Now, when I was invited to interview, the team wasn’t specified, so I had assumed that I would be offered a menial role like emptying bins or cleaning the toilets (gives a boater something to talk about). On the day, my group found out that we were being interviewed for a role with the security team as “loaders” and “pacers”.

“Loaders” tell people to put their metal items and whatnot into trays before being passed through the x-ray machines; “pacers” move the people along once they’ve put their bits into the trays – technical eh? I wasn’t the only one of the group to look appalled – I’d hoped that we would have some choice in what we did (as Richard did), however I did resist the urge to leave and attended my interview.

Richard, being further on in the process, had coached me on the interview – “the answer to every question is beer” he wisely told me! Did I follow his advice? Well, no…..

As the interview proceeded, I realised that I would rather spend an 8-hour shift emptying bins than standing at an x-ray machine – at least I’d be outdoors! I’ve since spoken to a friend who works for an airport security team – they only do 15 minute stints of ‘loading’ and ‘pacing’ before rotating to other duties – apparently it’s the most mind-numbingly dull job available!

Nonetheless I thought that my interview went well, though the question of “what skills do you have that are specific to this role” floored me – I have many and varied skills but ‘loading’ and ‘pacing’ people through security is not a job I’ve ever contemplated! In desperation, I emailed the recruitment team following the interview to appeal for a different role or maybe a variety of roles – after all, my “Games Maker” commitment would be over 80 hours! Ed. Unwisely Sue, yet again, did not mention beer…..

I got a somewhat dismissive reply – they’ve simply got too many applicants to be able to accommodate everyone’s individual preferences. So, that may be the end of my Olympic journey – I don’t know whether I’ve been selected to be a “Games maker” but if I am, do I accept the job of “loading” or “pacing” at the x-ray machines? It doesn’t appeal…..

Whatever happens in my Olympic journey, I will cheer Richard on his – I think he will have a great time and will relish being part of the “greatest show on earth” while I do the equally important job of looking after such hounds as we have in our pack at the time….

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Boat Blog: A bit of gas….

Posted by indigodream on 15 February, 2012

Which could justifiably be a post about our greyhounds’ whiffy bottoms but isn’t…..

Thursday 2nd February

I popped up to the boat today to meet Pedro (aka Peter Lewis – long story!) – a local gas-safe and general boat engineer based in Limehouse. I have finally got round to getting our gas hob fixed – two of the four rings are not working, and haven’t worked since about April last year!

Limehouse was ice-free, which was encouraging, but the weather forecast was not so I set the Webasto on timer to come on for a couple of hours in the morning and evening. The electric heater has done a good job of keeping the boat’s interior frost-free but our calorifier is in the engine bay – I’m hoping that running the Webasto will keep these pipes warm.

I briefed Pedro (07831 800470 Email or – remove nonsense to get a proper emaila ddress) on the job – he will check the whole gas system while he’s at it – we’re considering going for a commercial BSS which is one step in the process of enabling us to rent Indigo Dream out as accommodation during the Olympics. So, maybe it is naughty of us to frown at BWML’s Olympic profiteering when we might be doing a bit of our own 🙂

Pedro got back to me on Tuesday with the good news that all four rings on the hob were now working – the gas ‘jets’ were a bit gunked up with rust. He also tested the gas system – it was all fine, so there was no good cause for the random gas alarms we had last summer (apart from the time we moored under the M1!). However (and there’s always a ‘however’ when you let an engineer loose on your boat!), our electric igniter unit (which lights the gas) has an erratic fault – Pedro set off to find out more about the unit to see whether it’s fixable, and how much a new unit will cost if it isn’t. He came back a few days later – the new igniter unit was a reasonable £21 so we told him to fix it. In the end, the bill for the whole works came to less than £150 – cheap enough for the reassurance that there’s nothing wrong with our gas system. The best bit, of course, is that with four working rings on the hob, I can now make bacon, egg and sausage butties, oh, and boil a kettle for the tea drinkers all at the same time!

Note: Richard went to the boat on 4th to put a few more units onto our electricity post – he was relieved to find that the consumption is not as high as he’d first suspected so the electric heater will be a good option while we’re at our home mooring.

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Boat Blog: BWML marina fees – ouch!

Posted by indigodream on 6 February, 2012

Thursday 26th January

This evening we went to an interesting Limehouse Basin berth-holders meeting regarding fees and other developments around the marina. We’ve not attended before – partly because we don’t live aboard to get the gossip, but mainly because we’ve dropped off the email list somehow and haven’t been getting the notifications.

We found out about this meeting from one of our neighbours at Limehouse who was agitated about the proposed changes to the fees…..

So we went along to the meeting without prior knowledge of the process or proposals that had led the berth-holders here. The meeting was attended by Robyn, the marina manager, and by her boss who we think is Darren Bramhall. Robyn was given the unenviable task of making a presentation, but the real power in the room was her boss – a true ‘politician’ in every sense of the word apart from the fact that he hadn’t been elected!

Within minutes we understood why our neighbours were so upset. Mooring at Limehouse is not a cheap option – we never expected it to be – nonetheless the 8% rise in our mooring fees was a blow, the unconvincing justification being that it was “market rate” . But the rise in the Grade 1 and Grade 1 residential (call it Grade1R) were staggering – from now on, new moorers who wish to call Limehouse home (Grade 1R) will pay a flat fee of £9000 pa regardless of length – existing moorers who fall into this category will pay their normal ‘per metre’ fee plus a surcharge of £1,500, with a view to their moving to the new flat fee sometime in the future – NB does not apply to us as we are grade 2. There also seems to be nasty sting that people on 3 year fixed fee moorings will be hit with this extra £1500 charge, and yes that is despite being on a 3 year fixed deal. The marina has been given a target of achieving a minimum of 22 Grade 1R moorings (the most lucrative) – prompting fears that some residents would be moved out to make room for them. Finally, we had been under the impression that these changes had been prompted by the local council, who wanted residential berths to have full planning permission – but in actual fact, the changes were initiated by BWML – this was news to most of the residents attending.

Now we had several thoughts – yes, we, and others, have elected to moor in this desirable location, so it’s our choice whether to stay. Nonetheless, these above-inflation rises seem staggering. Of course, we can’t expect the CRT to live without money, so the uplift in BWML fees should contribute to the new charity’s work – but Darren gave the impression that very little of the money would go to CRT. . . .

There were other changes proposed, including the building of additional commercial pontoons around the basin – there was a blatant admission that this was making the best of the money-making opportunities presented by the Olympics. Residents were concerned about noise from late-running trip boats and we were concerned about the potential loss of the ‘waiting’ space outside Limehouse Lock – apparently boats waiting for the lock will have priority over commercial operations but I can’t see that working in practice. Finally some of the new pontoons will need to be accessed via the berth holders security gate – there was concern that members of the public might end up having access to the pontoon from trip boats, but we were assured that it would be boat crews only.  Of more concern was that the new pontoons would reduce the ‘turning circle’ available to narrowboats on one pontoon (behind us) and there will need to be a major reshuffle of berths.

We’re still thinking about the meeting and its consequences – we’re a Grade 2 mooring (non-residential – we can spend a maximum of 4 nights/week on board), so many of the changes don’t affect us too badly – well, once we’d got some reassurance that we wouldn’t be evicted in favour of a Grade 1R when our contract comes up for renewal in April!

It seems obvious that BWML is becoming more cut-throat commercial – this may be reflection of hard times – though I hope that this apparent profiteering substantially benefits the CRT. I am very afraid that if BWML imposes onerous rises in mooring fees and associated bureaucracy then more boaters will be tempted to join the already substantial fleet of continuous moorers in London. This would be an unwelcome development and pass on an even bigger enforcement problem to the fledgling CRT…..

We have stayed in a few marinas and Limehouse stands out as being really friendly, don’t get this wrong we love our cruising but it is always a real pleasure bringing the boat home. There are a few other marinas which we liked in particular the Thames & Kennet Marina in Reading and Kings Marina in Newark, but some have had a terrible atmosphere or been simply weird.  So in our count we have two BWML marinas which we think are excellent and two which we think are terrible / weird, we hope that BWML’s weasel policies don’t ruin the great atmosphere in their successful marinas.

Note: We visited the boat – everything was fine and the new electric heater was working well. We were a bit alarmed by the power consumption so we’ll just need to make sure that we have enough credits.

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