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Archive for March, 2012

Odds Blog: Grand Slam!

Posted by indigodream on 25 March, 2012

Sunday 18th March

The pre-match entertainment...

Back in September 2011, the Welsh Rugby Union released some tickets for the 2012 six-nations match between Wales and France, little knowing what a momentous occasion it would prove to be. As the championship progressed our excitement grew – first Wales won the Triple Crown then the Welsh nation held its breath in the hope of another resounding Grand Slam. We hoped that history would repeat itself – we were there back in 2008 when Wales beat France to win our last Grand Slam…

I won’t give you a pass-by-pass commentary – you can read them in the newspapers or come round and we’ll play you the recording of the BBC coverage, no really, it’s no trouble, any time…..

Instead I’ll tell you about Cardiff immediately before the match. The magnificent Millenium Stadium is unique amongst the six-nations stadia in that it is right in the heart of the city. The stadium itself has a capacity of around 75,000 people, but many thousands more throng into the city’s pubs and restaurants to watch the match on big screens and soak up the atmosphere. The men certainly come to town, as do the women – wives, mothers, grandmothers and the infamous valley girls – but more on them later. Families bring their children to the match – the point being that the city feels safe. I’ve been in rugby crowds many times and have never felt any sense of menace or violence; very few lawmen are required to police the event, we saw a total of 4. So the city has a carnival air and the bar owners’ trousers are falling down for the weight of money in their pockets (to borrow a phrase from Terry Pratchett). Flocks of young men innocently gathered in the city centre, their defences soon to be eroded by beer. In the meantime packs of scantily-clad and mountain-heeled valley girls watched them with a sharp eyed interest, like sheepdogs that have developed a taste for mutton….

The Welsh team running onto the pitch...

Around 2 hours before the match, the police close the roads near the station and the slow exodus to the stadium starts. We arrived just in time and passed through the genial security at the gates. I enjoyed the rough charm of the gate-men – I don’t mind if they call me “love”, ask me how I am and wish me a good match – it’s part of the country’s homeliness. We weren’t too sure where our seats were, but when we emerged from the ‘tunnel’ onto the stand we were astounded – second tier, two rows back, almost right behind the posts – fantastic. We’ve sat in just about every stand/tier in the Millennium Stadium and I swear that there isn’t a bad seat in the place – they all give a different perspective on the game. However, behind the posts is one of my favourite spots!

We got to our seats in time for the last of the pre-match entertainment and then the teams emerged from the tunnel to uproarious cheering and the dry roar of the flames from the gas jets, their incandescent heat reaching even the furthest seats. I never know how the players stay upright in  the face of the physical force of the noise – they are not just sportsmen but performers, on arguably the most demanding stage in Wales.

While the atmosphere is totally benign, attending a rugby match in Cardiff on Grand Slam day is surely the most visceral tribal experience outside of Africa. My favourite moment was when the crowd joined with the on-pitch choir sing the Welsh national anthem; though I do find the French anthem very stirring and had to stop myself from joining in with that as well! You might think that the French supporters would be overwhelmed by tide of Welsh nationalism, but their rhythmic chant of “Allez les bleus” is a powerful thing and surprisingly hard to counter. A French supporter in the row below us joined the chant with his fine bass voice; we failed to silence him with our song, so the Welsh lady sitting next to him bumped him companionably on the head with her inflatable daffodil until he stopped!

Spot the ball....

As the match started, the inchoate roaring of the crowd translated into a specific and personal commentary – most of the Welsh supporters knew the players by their first names, they know which school they went to, they’ve spoken to their mums….. small wonder then that when the French players closely marked our latest star player, Leigh Halfpenny, my neighbour yelled angrily “stop picking on our Leigh, he’s just a lovely boy from Gorseinon”. If you even listen to the rugby Welsh commentary on S4C (Welsh language channel 4) then the commentators will give you potted biographies so that you can work out whether how you’re related to your favourite players!

Of course, as well as knowing the lineage of the players back to the days of Merlin, the fans are also knowledgeable about the rules of the game. If the players are under pressure, I’m surprised that the referee didn’t wither in the gale of opinions being voiced from the stands. The 75,000 touch judges in their seats were not able to reach a consensus about every technical infringement of the rules, but they were all agreed that the referee was rubbish!

As I’ve mentioned, our seats were tremendous – the highlight was seeing Cuthbert’s magnificent try – grounded in full view just under our noses! The ladies in the stand were also treated to Ryan Jones (who was on the subs bench) warming up, giving us a fine view of his perfectly formed buns – nice!

It wasn’t a classic match but it was a nail-biter – with Wales just about in the lead at half time, many people in our terrace wished that the game could finish there so that we didn’t have to endure the tension of the second half! With around 9 minutes to go, Wales scored a penalty which put them 7 points (a converted try) ahead of France. The subsequent 8 minutes were surely the longest of the century but finally the clock ticked down, Wales got a penalty, the ball was booted off the field and the celebrations started. I was wrong about the noise of the crowd – during the match they’d obviously been whispering – the roar when the team won was at an ear-destroying level. When I walked out of the ground I wasn’t sure which was more sore – my throat from singing or my ears from the relentless decibels!

The welsh subs bench (orange tabards) getting warmed up - their efforts were appreciated!

We stayed for the presentation and lap of honour – it took a long time to organise but it was worth it to see Ryan Jones, no longer the captain, hold the championship cup aloft while he paraded past our stand, as he had so proudly back in 2008.

The stadium emptied onto the streets and the serious celebrations began. We walked through the amiable crowds to find a table at our favourite tapas bar. We were surrounded by despondent French men wailing “j’ai désolé”, but help was at hand as the more ambitious valley girls rushed in to offer consolation. Other valley girls preyed on the welsh lads – the post-match euphoria dissolving the last of their resistance….

We didn’t stay out late – we’d had a long week, a long drive down and a longer working week ahead of us so we headed back to our hotel. It was still light – sunset is around 20 minutes later this far West and it felt like Spring….

Note on the hounds:

Although we had planned to take the hounds with us, we were worried that Ty would not cope with the commotion in Cardiff on a Grand Slam weekend, so we made plans to leave him at Nanny Renia’s. Richard’s mum has really perked up recently so she was actually happy to look after all four hounds. She really enjoys their company – the greyhounds are gentle and affectionate – especially Poppy and Ollie who are having a serious charm offensive…..

Photoblog:

Another 'spot the ball' - easier this time...

The presentation....

The presentation...

The team doing their lap of honour - well earned...

Cardiff's main street after the match....

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Boat Blog: Cruising Plans

Posted by indigodream on 21 March, 2012

Friday 16th March

I’m not sure what could follow Indigo Dream’s action-packed weekend, though the sight of Wales beating France to take the six-nations grand slam this weekend would be a close second. We have match tickets and will be in Cardiff to celebrate or commiserate – it’s all the same once the crowd has had a few beers 🙂

But back to the cruising plans – we have many scheduled cruises which will be part of the rehearsals for the Jubilee and we’ve been fortunate enough to get a place on the Byfleet Boat Club’s Easter cruise along the Basingstoke Canal – it’ll be the first time that we’ve cruised that elusive waterway and it may be the last opportunity this ‘season’ if it doesn’t rain soon.

We’ve already had some takers for our May tideway adventures but if you’re own cruising has been stymied by the water shortages then why not join us a little trip – our scheduled trips are shown below (experienced boaters only on the Thames tideway – it can get a bit bumpy!)…

April:

Thursday 5th April – Limehouse to somewhere on the River Wey – timings depend on the tide

Friday 6th April – Woodham junction (river Wey) to Woking (Basingstoke Canal) – prompt 9am start from Woodham Junction

Saturday 7th April – Woking to Brookwood (Basingstoke); the boat will be full of family on Easter Sunday for the return trip.

Monday 8th April – Woking to Woodham Junction or maybe back to the Thames depending on timings

Tuesday 9th April – Back to Limehouse via the Thames tideway – timings depend on the tide

May:

Saturday 12th May: Limehouse – Thames Barrier – Margaret Ness – Thames Barrier – Chiswick Ait – Brentford
Sunday 13th May: Brentford – Chiswick Ait – practice mooring to buoys and formation narrowboating – Limehouse Basin

Saturday 26th May: Limehouse – Thames Barrier – Margaret Ness – Thames Barrier – Chiswick Ait – Brentford
Sunday 27th May: Brentford – Chiswick Ait – practice mooring to buoys and formation narrowboating – Limehouse Basin

The May dates are ‘proper’ rehearsals for the pageant so there may be a bit of hanging around on the river, but as long as the loo tank is empty and the water tank/larder is full we’ll have a good day!

Who knows where we’ll cruise in between these dates!

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Boat Blog: By our favourite guest blogger….

Posted by indigodream on 13 March, 2012

Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th March

Archie and Herbie, experienced Indigo Dreamers, facing the camera and new boy Eddie showing his bottom - there's always one! Not sure where Herbie was - raiding the kitchen probably...

Greygal here with a guest blog post. Yes, I am writing this from the bows of the Indigo Dream somewhere on a canal in France. Ha ha, we double bluffed our pals who very kindly lent us their boat for our celebratory weekend and said we’d be off to Bristol…so they weren’t looking when we hightailed it back down the tideway, out into the estuary and across the Channel. Being the Indigo Dream, it only took about five hours as we were able to go at warp factor nine for most of the trip.

Okay, okay, we didn’t actually get that far.. In fact, once Richard had left us snuggled up at Kingston, we only went down to Hampton Court the next day so epic cruise a deux it wasn’t. We made up for it later though!

Now as I have none of Sue’s talent for travel journaling [Ed. so not true!] I’m not going to give you one of her splendiferous chronological diary posts but Greygal’s Highs and Lows.

So here goes:

  • High: Getting to Limehouse on time on Saturday and with the right number of dogs and smelling a diesel engine again – it’s been too long. Charging up to Old Ford to replenish the fuel tank and enjoying a cup of coffee while we’re at it.
  • Low: Leaving Old Ford and finding we had no power. It transpired we’d got Tina Turner’s wig around the prop – seriously, a mad, dense, huge mass of foliage had just stopped us dead and it took 20 minutes and a sharp knife before we were clear again.
  • High: Getting out onto the tideway and feeling that familiar lumpiness beneath our feet and the wind in our hair and doing the customary check on both deck doors to ensure they were bolted. No place to lean and fall out, this.
  • Low: Finding that Eddie the dog had anointed my shoe and not in a baptism sort of way. He’d also liberally anointed quite a bit of deck so I spent the next ten minutes on my hands and knees with poop bags, paper towels and the smell of diesel in my nostrils. I soon went off it then.

    Tina Turner's wig - stopped the prop dead....

  • High: Getting another successful passage through the busy city waters under our belts and breaking through into the calmer reaches of Wandsworth, an achievement celebrated in ID style by eating something tasty and more coffee. Not only is he the consummate captain but Richard is also a very good short order cook.
  • Low but not really: Timings going slightly awry and arriving at Richmond to find the tidal barrier in place. However, as we were right under the Heathrow flight path, we indulged our hobby for plane spotting for half an hour – exciting, aren’t we? [Ed. Richard very excited to see the half-tide barrier being raised – I was very jealous – have always wanted to see it!]
  • High: Getting a billet parkside in Kingston, enabling me to run round Waitrose filling my basket with completely naughty things before booking a table for dinner
  • Low – Having to listen to the couple at the next table at the Thai restaurant bore us to death with their interminable chat about swimming. And of course we didn’t have anything to say to each other, we were a couple celebrating our anniversary. I mean, come off it, who’s still talking by this stage?
  • High with a bit of low – Stuffing ourselves on an absolutely gorgeous Thai meal but feeling like we were about to burst at the end of it. Still feel slightly cheated in that we were told we’d ordered too much and felt compelled to sacrifice the green curry. Bad move in retrospect as we had too much of a red/orange mélange going on.
  • Low: Getting back to the boat and finding the dogs had done a ram-raid on the work surface, helping themselves to my Hotel Chocolat selection
  • High: Getting into bed as we were cream crackered and finding the ID bed is a gazillion times more comfy than ours. We’ve sawn it out and are relocating it onto Greyhound.
  • Low: Waking far too early the next morning to find Herbie pacing up and down. Being fuzzy with sleep I didn’t remember that urgency of pace correlates directly with urgency of needing the loo and by the time I’d worked it out, Herbs had decorated the galley with a cow pat.
  • Low: Having cleaned up the cow pat – thought they might notice it – switching on the coffee machine to get a cup of stimulant brewed only to find it didn’t work.

    You can't beat the tideway - will we ever get bored with it? Well, we'll find out this year for sure 🙂

  • Low: Thinking that it was a low battery/inverter issue, I went to start the engine and it didn’t start. Stimulant need was really kicking in now and I was starting to panic,  Costa not being open till nine on a Sunday
  • Low: Getting the engine started but finding the coffee machine still wasn’t playing ball and trying to stop hyper-ventilating
  • High: Rummaging in the cupboard, finding the inverter, looking at all the red lights displayed, studiously ignoring them and switching it off and on again. Hurrah, a green light and the coffee machine started to purr reassuringly
  • High: Sitting on the back deck with my large latte surveying all the skullers about and wondering if you get extra points for sinking people mad enough to want to use two oars (one oar was one too many for me)
  • High: Bimbling down to Hampton Court in the sun, going the wrong way round an ait and landing in the middle of a sailing race, and realizing that it’s not my boat so who cares if we get into trouble?!
  • High: Going past all these flash houses knowing that a) I’m enjoying the same view, b) my view is ever changing and c) I can move on if I don’t like my neighbour
  • Low: Getting back to Teddington and seeing Richard and Sue come down the towpath, foiling once and for all our plans to steal the Indigo Dream
  • Low: Mentioning to Richard that I thought the engine seemed a bit odd as we came into moor and discovering that I’d broken the throttle cable. Not bad so far – pooped the boat inside and out, flattened the batteries and now busted the throttle.

    One man and his dog - Eddie the hound is Andy's soulmate....

  • High: Richard and A swinging into action, getting the boat fixed and deciding that we would still venture back to Limehouse even if it meant that half the trip would be done in darkness
  • High:Turning the ID into a speed boat as we opened her up in a bid to get back before midnight when I would turn into a pumpkin (half way there with a stomach still full of hot cross buns, pork Penang, mini eggs and chocolate cookies)
  • High: Seeing all the city lit up as we ploughed on through the very lonely and very dark waters, avoiding a massive clump of barges halfway that very thoughtlessly weren’t lit up in any semblance of a Christmas tree or other eye-catching decorative light show
  • High: Richard actually being able to make out the Limehouse entrance in the pitch black (“I think it’s there”) and executing another perfect entry into the lock.
  • High: New dog Eddie getting his boating badge by virtue of sleeping on the back deck all the way along the tideway, tucked under his blue blanket and not even raising his head when we encountered the wake of the last Clipper of the night and went sub aqua for a short while
  • High: The confirmation that we are blessed with warm, kind and thoughtful friends generous enough to lend us their pride and joy for the weekend, and who will still be talking to us once they’ve read what really happened. Sue, Richard, hello? Hello? Hello? Anyone there?

Bits for the log:

New Era Diesel – £1 per litre, took on 127 litres, forgot to ask what is going to happen during the Olympics embargo, open Saturdays 9am to 12 noon, Richard must write down times next time! Throttle cable changed with spare, biggest problem was having to straighten and re-use manky cotter pin behind the morse control, Richard has now bought up the world’s supply of cotter pins so as not to have to repeat the experience.

Photoblog:

Cruising the tideway is so exhausting.....

Eddie getting the hang of olympic looking....

The half-tide barrier at Richmond - we could have used the lock (on the left) but Richard has always wanted to see the barrier being raised...

The half-tide barrier at half-mast!

Almost there the barriers flip up at this point to lie flat under the bridge deck...

Are you having a nice day???

Richmond in the Sunday's sunset - one of my favourite river views...

Hope they're watching the tide!

Wow! (though the helm complained that the bridge ruins your night vision)

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Boat Blog: Weekend Plans

Posted by indigodream on 9 March, 2012

Friday 9th March

At last, we have a chance to go cruising……

With the Regent’s canal closed for the most gruesome of reasons – see link here – our only option is to go up the tideway – good practice for the pageant!

So far we have worked out that high tide on Saturday is at 3:30pm – conventional wisdom is that we can lock out of Limehouse around 3½ hours before high tide so that means we’ll need to leave around 12 noon – this will give us enough time to top up our diesel beforehand at New Era. It is a very high tide at 7.4m – Richard’ s head will be brushing the underside of Hammersmith Bridge….

We had multiple options for the weekend, including a little trip up the Wey, but we have a slight (but very typical) complication in that I have to stay at home with the hounds – it won’t surprise you to know that Poppy and Ollie have managed to acquire cuts on their first off-lead adventure and are variously stapled/stitched so we’ll spare them the effort of clambering on/off board. However we had planned for Sarah, Andy and their hounds to cruise with us for the weekend, so the current plan is for Richard to see them up the tideway then he’ll leave them to potter around on the Thames (they can get as far as Chertsey) before supervising them back down to Limehouse on Sunday afternoon.

Poppy and Ollie have been delightful house guests so far; Lou and Ty are resigned to their being around and we’ve had a harmonious week……

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Dog Blog: Thoughts on rainbows…

Posted by indigodream on 6 March, 2012

Sunday 4th March

The scientist half of my brain tells me that rainbows are just a colourful bit of physics; but since I was a child, my heart has informed me that a day with a rainbow always has some hope. Maybe this is why the idea of the rainbow bridge appeals so much…

I have struggled to come to terms with Lynx’s death, it was all so….unfair. But today we took in two new foster dogs – neglected hounds who are in desperate need of some special care…

We took Ty, Poppy and Ollie (Lou’s too stiff) for a walk in a woods where we have walked generations of dogs. At first it was raining, but then a blazing sunset set the trees afire. As we came to the end of the walk, a glowing red rainbow grounded in the field just in front of us. I had the sudden thought that maybe that this was the end of the rainbow bridge, coming to collect Lynx’s spirit. I had a similar experience after Blue died, when a rainbow descended on one of our favourite walks and eased my soul as his moved on…..

Taking this as an omen, I said a silent ‘goodbye’ to my Lynxie boy with tears in my eyes and walked on with our two new and needy hounds – there’s work to be done….

I took this photo on my phone so it's not the best quality but it's a nice reminder of the moment....

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Dog Blog: Oops…..

Posted by indigodream on 5 March, 2012

Sunday 4th March

So, how does one slide into greyhound addiction…….

  • Go to Battersea Dog’s home, ask for a small female lurcher; take their advice and actually take Blue – a large male ex-racing greyhound…
  • Ollie making himself at home - he shares a granddad with Lynx and a great-granddad with Ty hence his resemblance to both!

    Blue the greyhound is great, let’s get another………

  • Blue and Lou are fabulous – oh no, Lynx is in desperate need, let’s foster….
  • When Lynx goes back to his original home we’ll be back to two – that’s a good thing….
  • Oh no, we’ve lost beautiful Blue, there’s a vacancy…..
  • If there’s a chance let’s adopt Lynx….
  • But it’s very quiet without Blue and we could take in another foster and Ty really really needs a loving home….
  • Lynx’s mum can’t take him back – let’s adopt him – hurrah!……
  • We can’t give up on poor Ty, he’s so vulnerable – let’s adopt him too – hurrah!…..
  • It is quite a challenge to transport three greyhounds round the country, maybe after Lou’s day we’ll go back to two……
  • Two is definitely the optimum number….
  • Oh no, we’ve lost Lynx, our lovely lively boy, but maybe this is our chance to stick with two like we intended……
  • No, it’s no good, we need another lively boy, it’s too quiet without Lynx……

So how come we are now sitting at home with our new pack of FOUR greyhounds – permanent fixtures brindle girl Lou and black boy Ty as well as foster hounds brindle girl Poppy and black boy Ollie?????

We are such suckers for a sob story…..

Dog rescue charities are full to the rafters at the moment, and Greyhound Homer (Suffolk) have recently been inundated with hounds sent to them by the National Retired Greyhound Trust after a greyhound trainer went bust, leaving all of his hounds in need of new homes. Sadly, though, they’ve also had 3 returnees (from other homes) who appear to have suffered from terrible neglect – in Poppy and Ollie’s case they came back starved, dehydrated and in very poor condition. They weren’t even fit enough to be fostered, but after a month or so of loving care in kennels, along with some major dental work, they are looking much better. They’re not quite ready for rehoming – Poppy needs to put on a bit more weight and both need a bit of time in a home to get them settled and happy before we start looking for a new family for them.

Poppy is tiny enough to be a lapdog.....

Poppy and Ollie have lived together for many years and are a proper pair. They are very spry for ‘oldies’ – Poppy will be 11 in August and Ollie will be 9 in April – they seem to be very bouncy considering what they’ve just experienced. They are very diminutive compared to our hephalumps, being both a slighter build and underweight.

Feel free to join in with the general hilarity, but our plan is to foster Poppy and Ollie for a couple of months until the weather gets warmer and Greyhound Homer have had a chance to clear their current overload. After that they’ll be ready to find a new home, hopefully direct from foster without having to go back to kennels for any length of time. Of course, we will give updates as we find out more about their characters, and I don’t doubt that they will give regular reports about the quality of their care here…..

So, think about it, could YOU provide the loving home that Poppy and Ollie deserve? Remember that wherever they go, they go together…..

If you have room in heart and home then get in touch with Sally or Kevin at Greyhound Homer. Needless to say, given their history, stringent home checks will be done to ensure that these poor hounds have the best of care for the rest of their days…..

Now, if you feel outraged about the neglect that these hounds have suffered, don’t waste your energy having a rant about their previous owners, do something more constructive and give a donation to the animal welfare charity of your choice – it’s the best way to make a difference, unless you want to foster or adopt of course 🙂

Lou and Poppy are both top girls - there may be a reckoning at some point but it's peaceful for now....

No matter how nice the new home there's always some annoying downside - like baths! Twice in Poppy's case - once to get her groomed and once to clean off the duckweed after she fell in the pond!

Ah, and this is Ed, Sarah's new foster dog, which brings her to nine - it's ok, as long as she's got more dogs and boats than us we know we're perfectly sane!!!

Archie at our house - he is promoting a new houndie olympic sport - sofa gymnastics!

Sarah popped in last Friday - we drank coffee and the combined half-packs charged around! When we first met, Sarah had five hounds and we had two; I'm not sure how it happened but we currently have 13 between us 🙂

How many greyhounds does it take to dig a hole? One to dig and one to watch of course! That would be Lou and Ty in action....

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Boat Blog: Exciting news…

Posted by indigodream on 4 March, 2012

Wednesday 29th February

2012 has been off to a particularly gloomy start – losing Lynx being but the tip of an iceberg made up of niggly but persistent bad news….

Imagine our delight and surprise, then, when we got an urgent phone call last Friday asking us whether we would like to take part in the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant if we got an invitation! Now, I’ll admit that we’ve been a bit ‘teenaged’ in our response to not getting in when we first applied, but I could no more resist the invitation than I could a year’s free supply of chocolate!!

We got our official invitation on Monday and accepted immediately – INDIGO DREAM IS PART OF THE QUEENS DIAMOND JUBILEE PAGEANT – WHOO HOO…..

Ok, that’s enough of that…….

This will obviously have a huge impact on our cruising plans. We now know that we will be staying in London until September at least. We have signed up to most of the rehearsals taking place in May, and have agreed to help less experienced boats to cruise down the tideway to get into position for the first rehearsal. We may still take a cruise further up the Thames in March/April – it will be good to get some fresh air before London is locked down for the Olympics. We have booked passage through the park during the Olympics as we have tickets for a white water kayaking event on the River Lee.

We have not yet worked out certain practicalities and permissions, but we are hoping to display a Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT) banner and I intend to be dressed as a greyhound (the suit’s booked!). We plan to have a small experienced crew on board, along with some greyhound related guests  – provided that everyone passes the security checks when the Security team come along with their latex gloves and sniffer dogs (Lou can’t wait).

The crew will need to be Indigo Dream tideway veterans – by invitation only for the main event….

…BUT if anyone fancies a jolly on the tideway during the rehearsals then let us know…..

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Boat Blog: Updated rough guide to moorings

Posted by indigodream on 3 March, 2012

Saturday 3rd February

I noticed that Indigo Dream has appeared on some blog rolls without there being a new post – just to save confusion, that’s because I have finally updated the “rough guide to moorings”….

The ‘guide to moorings’ (tab on top of the page) now includes last year’s odyssey – there are quite a few new entries from the likes of the Trent ‘n Mersey, River Trent and Chesterfield Canal.

Sorry it’s taken me so long – I update the Word version regularly during the cruising year, but it’s a real fiddle to get it into the blog without losing all the formatting so I keep putting it off!

 

 

 

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