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Archive for April, 2012

Boat Blog: Micro-odyssey Day 4

Posted by indigodream on 30 April, 2012

Sunday 15th April

Note: Now a full fortnight behind!

Indigo Dream in Henley - with her new flagpole on display - shame it's only an old rag masquerading as a flag!

We had a lovely evening with the St Pancras Cruising Club last night – we were a bit surprised at how many boaters we knew but then I realised that although we’re not members, we’ve been cruising with them for 5 years or so – how time flies. The party was held in the listed water tower, which was moved to this site to preserve it when the new St Pancreas station was built. It is a fine structure and the view from the top, what used to be the cistern, is great. I don’t drink much nowadays but I had a fancy after a pear cider – very nice it was too! Of course, after I’d had a cider no-one could understand a word I said because I reverted to speaking at my normal i.e. Welsh, speed!

I had expected to be quite unwell the following day, but I was surprisingly fresh! I still delegated the cruising to Richard though, and enjoyed a relaxing day with the hounds. In the meantime he drove up to Henley to meet up with his sister Danusia, her husband Martin and adorable dog Polo.

They had a good cruise up through Sonning and finished the day at Goring lock – it had been my task to arrange a week’s mooring there. The lockie was exceptionally helpful – it seems that the officious lockie that we’d met at Cookham the previous week was an assistant lockie that was acting up to a full lock-keeper’s job and not enjoying the experience!

We’re so far behind with the blog that I may let the photos tell the story – unless Richard is possessed by his muse in the next few days….

Photoblog:

Shiplake Lock

Restoration project..

I love the wealth here - see the helicopter in the garden?

That helicopter!

Rustic charm...

Not sure why there's a dummy in this field - it was one of two - an art installation maybe πŸ™‚

This place would do for us - would have to run it past Poppy first of course!

Ouch!

I wonder what these are....

Flood marks - always interesting! Upstream I think the 2007 flood level tops these...

I wouldn't want to keep my boat in there!

Fine river view (1)

Fine river view (2)

Fine river view (3)

Sheep!

About the size of house that we could afford around here (though you'd pay extra for the flood defence i.e. being in a tree!)

Fine river view (4)

Fine river view (5)

I wonder what it's like inside this glass summerhouse? Must be too hot in the summer but on a day like today.....

I love the topiary - wish I had the patience for it....

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Dog Blog: Poppy Puppy’s Perfectly Personal Page – Private!!

Posted by indigodream on 27 April, 2012

Saturday 14th April

Busy busy....

I was so excited when Mummy Sue said I could go boating –

“ooh” I though “lying on silk cushions on the sun-deck of a cruiser, maybe with some cool shades, cool water and maybe a few canapes – oh yah, that’s so me”

But then I saw Richard putting on his old jeans, and three jumpers and a fleece and a waterproof – what??? I thought proper boaters had more style – I mean I have to, like, live with these people, what will my fans think?

“Now Poppy” said Mummy Sue “we have a narrowboat, which everyone knows is the BEST sort of boat, and we do have a sun-deck just for greyhounds, with fluffy sheepskins – will that do?”

Well, I thought I’d, like, go and check it out – there was a sundeck! and sheepskins!!! and cool water!!! Mummy Sue had even got us loads of hot chikkin AND I had lots of luscious boys to look at and a girlie girlfriend called Miffy. Miffy is pretty and dainty just like me – we, like, really bonded – she’s got a pretty collar, just like me, a wardrobe of stylish coats, just like me, and she has a style-impaired hu-mum – just like ME! Oh, and her hu-mans are a bit scruffy too! I love Miffy – she’s my new bestest girlfriend but I haven’t decided who is my third bestest boyfriend (Ollie is my bestest boyfirend, and Ty’s my second bestest) – there’s so many to choose from – I’m such a lucky girl πŸ™‚

Poppy Puppy’s Piccies….

Oh Eddie, get your bottom out of my photo - people want to see ME....

Do you like my new collar? I told Mummy Sue which one to buy - did you hear that she got Lou's colours all wrong - how awful!

and:

Oh I suppose that hu-mans do have their uses.....

Me and Ollie making use of the sun deck...

But then there's Herbie - he's so handsome, we could do cuddles...

Me and Poppy working the back deck

This is Ed - he was in the Suffolk kennels at the same time as me - he is very sweet - he could woo me with some sad whines....

But Henry is such an action dog - he's in the olympic looking team and is just so hunky....

But Ed is quite dreamy....

But Ollie is my bestest boyfriend....

Ooh, is that a canape?

Ooh, are there any canapes up there?

No no no no no!!! Boys, that a 'canard' not a canape - get it right!

The deck does get so crowded - it wouldn't happen on a sunseeker - I must send Mummy Sue to get me one from the boatshow next year....

The Thames is very nice - I'd quiet like a country estate here - this one would do....

I had a run round my new country estate - it's got fresh water but are there any fun things to do, like wabbits...

Maybe Ed should be my third bestest boyfriend - we do look good together don't we?

That's my bestest girlfriend Miffy - the dainty brindle and white greyhound - we look so cool together - uh, Mr photographer, MR PHOTOGRAPHER, where's my close-up with Miffy???

My bestest boyfriend Ollie - he's got lovely ears...

Auntie Sarah, dahling, could your order the stretch limo for next time - you know, the one with the cool water bar and fridge full of fillet steak. Thanks xxx

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Boat Blog: Micro-Odyssey Day 3

Posted by indigodream on 26 April, 2012

Saturday 14th April

Note: More than a week behind now – waaaahh!!!

Cookham to Henley

Dutch barge "Josephine" - have we seen her before?

With Lou still hobbling around and a question mark over Poppy’s fitness, we decided to cruise in shifts again with the help of our trusty crew Sarah and Andy.

It was my turn to stay at home – we didn’t want to leave Lou with Richard’s mum until we know that Lou is clear of the MRSA – the risk of infection is very small (with sensible hygiene) but Richard’s mum is a bit vulnerable so best not to take any chances until we get the swab results. Ty would much prefer to be at home anyway πŸ™‚

But Poppy was bright and enthusiastic this morning, and Ollie likes being out and about so they’ve gone boating with Richard. It will be their first time on board – I hope they like it because they will be staying with us for the rest of their days. They are still foster dogs (long story) but Poppy’s health is too uncertain for her to be rehomed. Ollie is her life partner – they can’t be separated – but if Poppy should pass away first then Ollie will have the comfort of other hounds to help him adapt.

Of course, the sensible practical and financial option would be to send Poppy and Ollie back to rescue kennels, but that would be so immoral I couldn’t live with myself. So they’ve come to live with us, permanently – I know, you’re astonished, who’d have believed that we would offer Poppy and Ollie a forever home…. πŸ˜€

I’ll hand over to Richard now…

Poppy and Ollie showed a fine grasp of boating - especially the purpose of a large back deck ( with sheepskins!)

Today’s cruising started at Cookham Lock with the very helpful resident Lock Keeper allowing us to drive right up to the lock so that Sarah could off-load her mother. I had got to the boat early to fix the fridge (just a wiring issue), fill the tank with water and move the boat to an easier place for loading on dogs. Ollie and Poppy were today’s company, whilst Sarah bought Andy rather than her mother, along with boating hounds Miffy, Henry, Herbie and newbie Ed. Sarah fostered (then quickly adopted) Ed from Greyhound Homer Suffolk a week before we fostered Poppy and Ollie. After an initial commotion the pack settled nicely so we left Andy on board whilst they did a car shuffle. Our target for the day was Sonning but it was starting to look a bit ambitious when we did not start till 12:30pm!

A wide beam came out of the lock as we were casting off so we let them go first but later overtook them – they had a huge engine but a tiny prop which was churning up loads of water but not giving them that much forward momentum. I did wonder if they were having weed problems as their speed seemed to vary a bit or perhaps we were being too eager? Who cares, we overtook them and a slightly slow hire boat with a very pleasant Canadian couple who we had met at the Cookham earlier.

Of course, on the Thames you overtake someone and then they catch up with you at the next lock. This is the bit of the Thames where lock widths vary, at times the widebeam could fit in alongside, at others they thought they could but no way, we had to use the length of the lock for us all to get in. Quite a few of the locks were unmanned, so Andy became Mr Lock Keeper and Sarah was successfully demonstrating her halleluja bollard lassooing tactic at the front. We debated whether we should shut gates or not, the first locks were easy as there was a boat coming down, then for later locks we opened the locks, filled them and the widebeam crew shut them. When we encountered a lock keeper we asked what the right procedure is and he explained that the preference is to shut the gates but leave the paddles up on the exit gate.

At the end of one long straight a familiar boat came towards us – nb Celtic Kiwi. Since we sold our share in Dragonfly we have only seen her once, but every year we see sister boat Celtic Kiwi on our travels. She was an “Arthur” boat so I am sure a cut above the norm and has very distinctive paintwork. The couple on board enthusiastically waved and then shouted across that they were from Australia and read the blog. Don’t tell Sue, she will be very smug

The Thames at this time of year is gorgeous, the trees are just developing various shades of green and of course passing through towns like Marlow and Henley always makes for a good day. In the end we were running out of time so stopped at Henley, duly paid our Β£9 mooring fee in the parking machine (I kid you not) and picked up various cars so we could go off to the Commodore’s knees up at the St Pancras Cruising Club.

Photoblog:

Lovely scenery - this stretch is one of my favourites...

A tasteful slice of Marlow's graceful bridge...

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Dog Blog: Poppy Puppy’s Perfectly Personal Page – Private!!

Posted by indigodream on 18 April, 2012

Friday 13th April

Me practising for the catwalk - uh, Mr photographer, you'll need a faster lens dahling!

Eeeuw, Mummy Sue, fancy starting to type up my notes on Friday 13th, I mean, like, it’s soooo unlucky and a girl needs all the luck she can get – eeeuw!

Anyway, my name is Poppy – Tarsna Poppy to my fans, but you can call me Poppy Puppy…..because I’m like a puppy – duh!

Ok, so I’m not actually a puppy but I like, look like a puppy, and I feel like a puppy so what’s my actual birthday got to with anything…..

I’ve been living in Surrey for like, six weeks, now – I wanted to live in Chelsea with the ‘it’ girls, but they only have stupid chihuahuas so I’ve come here instead. Mummy Sue says that all the best ageing stars live in Surrey – huh, is she saying I’m old??

Because I’m not at all old – see, Mummy Sue keeps saying that 50 is the new 30, so…….I’m like 70 in hu-mum years, which is the new 50, which is the new 30 – see, I AM a puppy!

I’m a dainty girlie greyhound; I have an adorable nose and tiny delicate paws; I’m a natural brindle with the softest puppy fur – I’m very special – that’s what everyone says! I like food and snoozing best – but only if my bed is in just the right place – Mummy Sue like, put my bed in the wrong spot the other day and I had to spin round and round until she got the hint. And, AND she sat on my bed last night so I had to make a huge fuss – that’s MY bed!

Me and my friend Ed - we used to share a pad at Greyhound Homer Suffolk - nice resort but really too crowded - that's the trouble with these places, they start out exclusive then they let just anyone in - eeeuw!

Hu-mums are so dim – I mean, sometimes she gives me dog food -doh, I’m special so I need proper food like chikkin and steak….

I like smiling too – Mummy Sue says I must have been to charm school – she says it doesn’t matter that I haven’t got any teeth – duh, don’t tell everyone…

I live with my boyfriend Ollie, he’s like a bit quiet, but he, like, really loves me; but now I’ve got Ty too – he’s big and strong and glossy – he’s a bit dim but oooh, look at those muscles – hmmmm. Then there’s Lou, she likes to think she’s top girl – I just let her; I mean, you’ve got to feel sorry for her – not every natural brindle can be a supermodel like me!

But Lou says she is a glamour model – I can’t believe it, she’s beenΒ  a calendar girl for, like four years running. I have to admit that she does know how to work it – the camera loves her (and you can do so much with photoshop these days…….).

But I’m the real thing, I’ve got the catwalk prance – see, I’m so pretty!!

That’s enough for now – I need my grooming and then I’m going boating in trendy Henley.

xxx, Poppy Puppy

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Dog Blog: Ty’s Doings…

Posted by indigodream on 16 April, 2012

Sunday 15th April

Ty in lavender - of course, that was last Summer when he wasn't half as brave....

My Mummy Sue sez I is a big scaredy wuss jellyboy, but I woz brave yesterdie and done protectin’ her from a hevil monster camper van…

I woz runnin’ up me field, like wot I duz ev’ry day, to chase off the hevil squizzles, wabbits and foxes, wen I hads to skid to a stop – look, a big white camper van, in MY field. It woz all quiet an’ menacing – I fort about runnin’ back indoors but then Mummy Sue came out so I fort I’d better look after her…

I’s bin learnin’ some sooper-hound moves offΒ  kung-fu movies on the telly – so I’s tried sooper-move number 1 – the charge. I dun runnin’ away from the van then I dun runnin’ at it reelly fast then stoppin’ like six feet aways. This is very cunning coz you gotta give your enemy space to run away – only the hevil van just stayed there so…..

If sumfink duzn’t work then it’s a good idea to do it again, so I’s dun runnin’ away and chargin’ back again, but the van STILL didn’t move

So I tried it again….

And anuvver again after that…..

Hmmm – it was a hextra hevil van so I’s tried sooper-move number 2 – the look….

I’s sat in the field and gave the van me best ‘look’ – I looked at the van and the van looked at me…..

I’s runned away to fink about it…

Me favrit bed in all the world, apart from Mummy Sue's bed....

Then I tried the fiercestest sooper-move Number 3 – chargin’ and barkin’ all at the same time. I dun run, run, run, WOOF!

The van just looked at me, so I dun runnin’ away, but the van didn’t chase me, so I knewed it woz proper scared…

I’s ran back to Mummy Sue and sed “I’s dun defendin’ you, the van is well scared, so I fink I deserves a wonky chomp” so we went back to the house and she gave me a bit treet.

This mornin’ I sed to MummySue, “Let me out I’s gotta protect you” and I dun runnin’ up the field and guess wot, the camper van woz gone – I’s wonned the battle against the hevil camper van. I’s runned round were the van was wif me tail up and I dun wees, and barking – “I’s the boss” I woofed “I’s got you beaten, and don’t you never come back hevil camper van”

…..’cept I sed that all quiet just in case it heard me….

So now, fanks to me, we is all safe in our beds and I’s dreamin’ about scaring camper vans outta me garden – I’s going “grrrrrrr” – I is very brave wen I is asleep….

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Boat Blog: Getting ready for the Jubilee Pageant

Posted by indigodream on 13 April, 2012

Thursday 12th April

Last year's Thames River Festival - with 100 boats taking part - now imagine 1,000 boats - the jubilee will be such an adventure!

We’ve had another stressful week with the hounds, this time with the news that poor Lou has an MRSA infection in the wound in her foot. The original cut has finally healed – after a month of stitches, thick bandages and antibiotics; but when her bandages were taken off today, we found two deep and ugly pressure sores. These have been swabbed to see whether they’re infected with MRSA but they look so bad that we’ve been advised to take her to the vet every day for the next several days so that they can keep an eye on the wounds. Lou is very pleased that the thick bandages are off but the pressure sores are obviously very painful and she is quite depressed (though not too depressed to eat!). Obviously we’re being very careful that the infection doesn’t spread to us or to the other dogs – it shouldn’t, provided we use common sense hygiene and take care of any cuts/wounds. We also have worries about Poppy’s kidneys but at least today’s scan showed her heart is reasonable for her age, her wrist x-rayed ok and actually she is very content.

It’s been so stressful that I’ve decided to concentrate on nice things in this blog – like the preparations for the Jubilee Pageant – we’re so excited!

The weekends in May will be taken up with rehearsals for the Jubilee Pageant – but that’s not the half of it – in this season of ‘Titanic’ commemorations I can’t resist saying that the rehearsals are the tip of the iceberg πŸ™‚

Preparations for the event are detailed and plentiful. We are receiving roughly two briefings per week – one from the main pageant organisers and one from Andrew Phasey, who is heading up the narrowboat section.

The first job which we had to do was to accept our invitation to join the pageant and send in the relevant paperwork. This included our current boat insurance certificate, having checked that our insurers were happy to cover us to take part (no problem at all). There is a small technical hitch in that our current insurance expires in May but we renewed our insurance yesterday so in good time for the event. All these things will be checked, along with the identity of all on board, during the safety/due diligence inspections that will take place on the day before the main event.

Setting off from the wall at Barn Elms Reach - we'll be setting off from mid-river moorings at the start of the Jubilee - I think we'll need the practice runs πŸ™‚

The next job was to think about and invite people to be our crew. There’s a good reason for wanting crew – it’s a big event and its nice to share our good fortune in being selected with as many people as is safely possible; but we also need crew to work! We’re actually going to be on the water for around 12 hours with no hope of landing (we’ll be mustering on mid-river moorings while waiting for the pageant to begin) so we’ll be able to spell each other on the helm and things so we’re not too tired by the end of the day. Unless someone tells me not to, I plan to write a rolling blog during the day- a bit like I do for the BCN Challenge – we have some guest bloggers on board so they can expect to spend part of the day typing πŸ™‚ We’ve had to make the decision about the crew rather earlier than we expected – everyone on board had to completed a detailed form which we’ve had to submit to Project Kraken at the Met Police – let’s hope that everyone passes through security!

Choosing the crew has given us the most angst – it’s impossible to take all of our boating friends, though the fact that we needed experienced crew excluded our non-boating friends, which made things a bit easier. We decided to only include people who had cruised the tideway with us before – that made the list much more manageable. Of course, the jubilee clashes with Crick and that caused some problems for our potential crew. The really earlyΒ  start is also a factor – the whole crew needs to be on board by 6.30am! The fact that we’re going to be together in a confined space for 12 hours was also a consideration.

We’ve had many discussions about it, but now we have our final line-up:

  • Sarah and Andy from nb Greyhound – Sarah will be my minder when I’m in the greyhound costume and will hopefully write a travel post or two. Andy is good with electronics so he will be helpful on any maintenance/breakdown issues (hope there aren’t any!)
  • Neil and Kath from nb Herbie – talented bloggers, competent helms and experienced engine tinkerers. They didn’t panic when fellow narrowboat Leo No. 2 went submarine during the rehearsals – that was yet another important consideration!
  • Steve and Margaret from nb North Star – old friends from our home village and experienced narrowboaters – Steve has been on the tideway with us before and we could hardly exclude Margaret!
  • Wyn – my cousin’s husband – the only exception to our rule, but he’s family so it doesn’t count! Wyn loves boating and is very steady around the boat – he’s also mechanically adept and a useful addition to our maintenance team. Cousin Denise doesn’t like deep water so she’ll be on shore, cheering us on – she may also be dog-sitting for us…

This is when the crew needs to keep a cool head....

Another interesting job has been choosing and ordering our flags – there are strict rules about how your boats can be decorated – no commercial material is allowed at all. Luckily charities can be supported via flags and bunting but banners are not allowed. So we’ve ordered a CRT flag and bunting, Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT) flag and bunting and, of course, a jubilee pageant flag. We can’t wait to see them – the RGT have printed special flags and bunting in blue to match the boat, with a bright yellow logo/wording. The jubilee flag is a thing of beauty.

Of course, you can’t fly flags without flag poles! We think that one flag will go on the swan neck, but what about the other two? Well, you can buy anything on the internet, so Richard has just taken delivery of a short flag pole and a special angled bracket which we can attach to the ‘enclosure’ around Indigo Dream’s back deck. The angle of the bracket that we’ve bought may be too acute so we’ll try it out this weekend – with a suitably sized rag to act as the flag. It it works then we’ll order another for the other side of the boat. We’re hoping to swag the bunting along the side of the cabin so we’ll be ordering more magnetic hooks – we’ve got a load already – you’d be surprised how useful they are…..

We’re also thinking ahead to dog-care – the jubilee is quite involved – we need to attend a final briefing on Thursday 31st, then on Friday 1st June we’re moving the boats in convoy to the first muster point in West India Dock. On Saturday 2nd we will have the day to undergo our final safety/due diligence inspections and to decorate our boats. Sunday 3rd is the main event (Hurrah!) – I think we’re all expected to go back to West India Dock for the night then we’ll move back to Limehouse on the Monday. Phew, we really need the extra bank holiday! We’ll need to find dog care for the entire four days as it’s likely that we’ll be brested up in

And of course we will maintain a tasteful balance between fun and dignity - anything to promote greyhound rescue!

goodness knows how big a raft in West India Dock, and Jubilee day itself is a 12-hour marathon on the river. We have many cunning plans for dog care, though no use planning too far ahead – who knows how many hounds we’ll have by then or what condition they’ll be in πŸ™‚

We have many more items on our jubilee to-do list – I’ll keep you posted as we get them done……

In the meantime, we still have a few places available on the rehearsal cruises – it’s essential for our crew to complete at least one rehearsal – the rest of you can come along for the jolly!

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Boat Blog: Micro-odyssey Day 2

Posted by indigodream on 10 April, 2012

Saturday 7th April

Runnymeade to Cookham Lock

This just about sums up the day's ambient energy level!

We had the slowest start to the day – brilliant!

Although Archie started a hound commotion at 6.30am, they all settled down after being given a big fuss and we had a lie-in ’til gone 9am. Sarah and Andy quickly got dressed and took the hounds to the park while I took my time to shower, dress and put the boat back in “day” mode with beds and bedding put back into place. The nearby Italian restaurant is more of a cafe and advertised “the best coffee outside of Italy” – well, we had to try it! Sarah and Andy went off to get some takeaway latte’s but they were disappointed. The staff were just arriving at the cafe around 10 minutes after their advertised opening time and were in no hurry to open up and serve their waiting customers so we left them to it – we can make our own latte’s!

While Sarah was organising the coffees, I got busy organising our next mooring – I estimated that the run up to Cookham Lock would make a good day’s cruise with a nice early finish (by our standards). I rang the lockie at Cookham – he seemed rather harassed but told us that he would have a 7-day mooring for us – Β£8 a night – bargain! So that was our target for the day. We’d need to get there before the lockie finished for the day at 5pm – there is gated access to the lock and island campsite – overnight visitors can get a key, but he was unwilling to give us a key as we were leaving the boat for a week. That wouldn’t be a problem – it was only a few hours cruise away and we’d easily get there by 4pm, even with our slow start.

Below Boveney lock - there are useful visitor moorings here (charge payable) as well as handy services...

Sarah got us underway and we enjoyed the river’s increasingly rural aspect. TheΒ  river is replete with history here – I spotted the ruins of Ankerwyke Abbey but I didn’t spot the 2,000 year old ‘Ankerwyke yew” – an ancient tree that apparently stands in the abbey’s grounds. What stories and secrets the tree must know – the Magna Carta was signed nearby in 1215 and there has been a Royal settlement of one sort or other at Windsor for over 900 years.

The river remained very quiet, though there were a few more rowing boats around today. I was amazed – I’d really expected the river to be jam-packed over the Easter weekend. We speculated on whether the price of diesel had put people off cruising, but would a hike in the price of fuel really affect people rich enough to have a Β£1 million plus boats moored up and idle on the river?

Just below Windsor, we shared a lock with an attractive wide-beam on a weekend jolly from Chertsey Marina. We shared a couple of locks with them, giving Sarah a chance to talk to them about the logistics of cruising a widebeam round the system. Sarah is still plotting her life on the water and every option is being carefully weighed up. Sadly the widebeam (didn’t catch the name) was stopping off in Old Windsor – shame, they were good locking companions.

Windsor Great Park was as grand as ever – there is still no mooring on the Crown Estate riverfront – it’s such a shame – the Queen could make a fortune in fees – there are a few miles of potentially premium moorings here. Maybe they’ll change their minds after seeing how smart the narrowboats look in the jubilee pageant πŸ™‚ Windsor Castle is a bit of an anomaly – it comes into view then disappears as the river meanders around it – it’s hard to believe that such a huge edifice could disappear from view. It looms largest at the town of Old Windsor – the moorings here were pretty busy, but there would have been enough room for us on the ‘off’ side.

New footbridge over the Thames at Dorney - they'd better hurry up - only a few months to go before the Olympics!

When we arrived at Boveney lock, the lockies were just putting the lock onto self-service and going off to lunch. We weren’t in a rush, so we moored up below the lock to get rid of our rubbish, let the hounds have a pitstop and have lunch. Two narrowboats caught up with us and also stopped to use the services – the rubbish disposal, pump-out and elsan disposal are on the lock moorings; the water point is on the left on the ‘weir’ side moorings – makes sense when you see it.When they were ready, we moved into the lock with them – you could just about fit four narrowboats into Boveney Lock, though the first ones in have to move right to the front of the lock. I’d already asked about the length of their narrowboats (wish I’d written down their names – they were very pleasant) and we’d calculated that we could all fit into the lock – they were 59′ and we’re 60′.

However only two could fit into Bray Lock – the lockie told us we were 3′ too long to get in behind the other narrowboats! The variation is in the size of locks along the Thames is another great eccentricity – only 2 x 60′ narrrowboats can pass through the (relatively) tiny Bray lock, but the gargantuan Romney Lock (5 miles downstream) could accommodate four times that many.

Above Boveney lock we passed under the new footbridge over the Thames – it’s being built specially to allow spectators to reach the Olympic rowing course at Dorney Reach. I’m not sure whether it will be a temporary bridge – the local legacy group were campaigning for it to be permanent – I wonder if they won? The locals certainly look to be people of wealth and influence if their houses are anything to go by – I enjoyed Sarah and Andy’s amazement at the mansions lining the banks of Bray – I checked out a few estate agents – two of the riverside properties were on sale for Β£2.8million and Β£2.4 million respectively – and we’re not even at the expensive end of the river yet! We’re taking then through Marlow and Henley next weekend – we’ll need the defibrillator when they find out how much property costs us there πŸ™‚

The somewhat dilapidated Bray film studios - famous as the former home of Hammer films and for the films Alien and Rocky Horror Picture Show. There's a campaign to save it from residential redevelopment...

It was turning quite chilly by the time we got to Maidenhead – that might explain why we had the lock to ourselves and why there wasn’t a single gongoozler – we’d normally have quite an audience here. The lockside ice-cream stall was shutting up for the day – it might have had some trade if it was selling hot chocolate!

As always I enjoyed the grandeur of the Cliveden Reaches and it’s associated islands – we’ve earmarked one for a greyhound romp on the way back – if we could get an exclusive mooring then Sarah’s pack could have an unrestrained run around – we reckon that one run up and down the island would wear them out for the day – remember, greyhounds don’t need much exercise!

We got to Cookham Lock at 4pm as predicted and the officious lockie impatiently directed us to a mooring spot below the lock – I was surprised – there are abundant moorings in the long cut above the lock so I expected to be there. The lockie was not of the usual sanguine variety who can cope with everything; this one gave the impression that he’d been put-upon since the day he was born and that his life had been a torment of harassment since then – it’s a shame! Still, he did sort us a mooring so I can’t complain. Nonetheless, I couldn’t bear to ask him whether he had a more dog-friendly mooring above the lock -he’d put us on a metal pontoon with narrow toothed slats – from a greyhound’s point of view it was like walking on a cheesegrater, so they didn’t!

Luckily Richard had come to pick us up in the car and came to meet us at the mooring – he carried each of the five greyhounds along the pontoon and associated steps – he was breathless by the end of it – showing just how bad his chest infection has been and how heavy greyhounds are!

Indigo Dream moored below Cookham Lock - it's a fine spot - there's also a campsite on the lock 'island'...

Richard was parked in the vicinity of Odney Lane – a short walk away on the fringes of Cookham village. It took a while to get the car loaded – getting three greyhounds (Henry, Archie and Herbie) into the boot was the easy bit; shoehorning Andy and Sarah into the back seat then piling Susie and Ranger on top of them was more of a challenge. But it was worth it – Richard soon drove us back to Teddington where we piled into our respective cars and headed for home.

I’d really enjoyed our cruise but I was so pleased to get home – the migraine I’d been holding off since Thursday bounced back with a vengeance and I was glad that we had two ‘rest’ days ahead of us. However the boat is in a good position for us to continue our micro-odyssey next weekend – hopefully we’ll all be in good health to enjoy it….

While we were driving back to Teddington,Β  Richard filled us in on his less than harmonious start to the day. He was woken by a hound commotion at 6am and went downstairs to find Poppy in a terrible state – staggering around and in a worse condition than she had been in on Thursday. He was worried that she was having another stroke and, when she fell over onto her back and was very distressed, he thought she was having convulsions and that it was all over. But then he calmed her down, made her have a short breather before she got her onto her feet, she started walking and within five strides she seemed fine; within 10 minutes you wouldn’t know she’d had a stroke (unless you were looking for the minute signs). He had some drama trying to get through to the neurologist to make sure that these symptoms weren’t to do with the new medication that she has for her back pain – eventually he got through and it sounds as if it was a little relapse of her stroke rather than the drugs. We’re pleased about that because her new painkillers seem to be working better than any that we’ve given her so far.

When I got home, Poppy was walking well (just the odd flicking of her wrist to indicate that there was something amiss). I got a hugely cheerful greeting from her and the rest of the hounds, though Lou is very very very very fed up with the huge bandage on her foot. We found out on Monday that Lou’s foot has to be bandaged for at least another four days and she has to stay on antibiotics – she is not impressed and being something of a drama queen about it – no changes there then! πŸ™‚

Photoblog:

Susie, ultimate top girl, taking advantage of Lou's absence to make herself at home...

Poppy on Saturday afternoon - recovered from her earlier relapse and well enough to walk with Ty and give him a big kiss (well, it can't be a bite - she's got no teeth!)....

Herbie hound was very quiet - once he found the sofa there was no moving him!

Archie, previous Olympic looking hopeful, may have peaked too soon - he and Henry spent the second cruising day fast asleep - it's too much for a hound πŸ™‚

It's a plane-spotter's paradise along here....

Oakley Court Hotel - http://www.oakleycourtwindsor.com/ - apparently they welcome non-residents for afternoon teas and suchlike - I wonder if you can moor there - the river frontage is magnificent...

The river is so civilised here...

Strange to see such a small boat coming out of such a big lock - I wonder how it feels - especially in the turbulence of locking up...

That'll do! One of the many nice riverside 'mansions' in Bray - you wouldn't even need a double roll-over on the lottery to buy one!!

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Boat Blog: Micro-Odyssey Day 1

Posted by indigodream on 9 April, 2012

Friday 6th April

Teddington to Runnymeade

Hampton Court Palace - in summer you can't see the palace for the trees...

I don’t know whether an Odyssey can ever be less than a grand voyage – if I was ex-president G.W. Bush I’d say that “the trouble with Greek is that it has no word for ‘micro'” πŸ™‚

Anyway, after a tremendously stressful day yesterday, I was astonished to see how well Poppy was walking this morning. Although the neurologist had told me that Poppy was likely to recover, I confess that I didn’t really believe it. There’s a long road ahead of her but she’s off to a promising start – she is very cheerful and eating well – she has such spirit and zest for life – amazing!

Given yesterday’s events, we’d agreed that Richard would stay at home with the hounds – the theory being that a quiet couple of days at home would benefit his health as well as theirs. In the meantime, I had arranged to meet Sarah and Andy at the boat in Teddington, where, hopefully, a couple of days of fresh air would blow my stress-induced migraine away.

The cruising plan was subject to some debate – I had thought about turning tail and heading back to Limehouse. The tidal Thames is a fantastic cruise, we do it frequently, we never tire of it but that would have been such a gloomy outcome if wed gone back to our mooring I’m not sure that we’d have moved again in April. Of course, if we had decided to go downriver we might have been delayed by the trip boat that got wedged against Westminster Bridge! The only way to overcome this weekend’s gloom was to head upstream – that would give us the hope of more cruising in April before the intensive tideway rehearsals in May.

We met up soon after 10am, and, after a huge greeting from hounds Susie, Ranger (my favourite), Henry, Archie and Herbie, we loaded the supplies that I’d brought with me and got the boat ready for cruising. We’d had to arrange an extra night’s mooring with the lockies (“Dog is ill, of course you can stay an extra night, after all they are more important”) so I went to pay them, then we set off upriver. We didn’t have any particular destination in mind – our only goal was to reach a mooring where we could leave the boat for a week from Saturday night. That’s not so easy on the Thames – there is an abundance of 24-hour moorings, but longer term mooring are more rare – confined mainly to the marinas (expensive) and some of the locks (very reasonable).

The Thames is graced by many mature trees - it's a fine sight...

It was the most lovely morning – warm and sunny – much better than we’d expected in fact. Yet the river was nigh on deserted. I had expected congestion at the locks and lots of passing boat traffic, but there was hardly any. I’m not complaining – it’s very luxurious to feel as if we have our own river πŸ™‚

We had a very pleasant cruise with Sarah on the helm, Andy in his deckchair and me pottering around. I had planned to give them the commentary (courtesy of an excellent book on the Thames that I bought at Christmas) but instead I just enjoyed watching the world go by at a very leisurely pace indeed. The Thames is easily my favourite waterway – I’m captivated by its sense of history and by the sheer eccentricity of its residents. The highly individual house-boats epitomise the rampant individuality that so marks the British; the contrast between the grand and shabby dwellings packed into every inch of the islands epitomises the vagaries of the planning system!

With Sarah on the helm we mooched along, in no rush to get anywhere – that’s a novelty in itself. We stopped for lunch above Sunbury Lock – there are good moorings outside the Weir pub. Although the pub was busy, there was plenty of room to moor. Sarah and I walked the hounds – there is excellent dog-walking on the lock ‘island’ – walk back toward the lock from the pub, cross the lock cut and there is an area of woodland which kept the hounds entertained. The path back from the pub in interesting – there is a road/cycle path, with a narrower fenced path adjacent marked for wheelchairs – cyclists not allowed. Most walkers take the ‘wheelchair’ path as it means that you can’t be mowed down by the speedy cyclists – so how moronic, then, was it for four young men to bring their bikes down the ‘wheelchair’ path, causing inconvenience to all concerned – bah!

The newly restored Chertsey lock - wow!

We got back to the boat and started on lunch – but there was a problem – our fridge didn’t seem to be working. We’d had our suspicions earlier and I’d put a thermometer in there to check – alas it was warmer inside the fridge than outside. Tragic -I was so worried about the cold chain that I felt obliged to cook ALL of the pancetta and we had the thickest, most delicious bacon rolls that have ever been made πŸ™‚

Andy is an electronics whizz-kid so I set him to fixing the fridge – he found two loose wires at the back – possibly dislodged when we had the gas hob fixed – oh dear, that explains the rotting bacon I found last week – the fridge hasn’t been working for weeks! He replaced the wires and tested the fuses and whatnot, we cheered, and I put the thermometer back in the fridge. Sadly, when I tested it later the fridge still wasn’t working. Luckily we’d eaten the most perishable items and stored the milk in the outside lockers after dark – it got pretty chilly overnight.

It was extremely pleasant at our lunchtime mooring spot – we were very tempted to stay there, but the thought of Richard’s contempt at our lack of endeavour spurred us on πŸ™‚

I really enjoyed the cruise – Sarah and I took turns on the helm as we cruised through the increasingly wealthy riverside suburbs. I had my usual pangs through Walton on Thames, memories of walking there with my first rescue dog, Honey, as vivid as they’ve ever been. We gave the Byfleet Boat Club convoy a symbolic wave as passed the entrance to the Wey -we’ll join them another time I hope. Then we were in Chertsey Lock – WOW – this lock has been closed for renovation for most of the winter and it looks like new – smooth concrete walls, fine watertight gates – well worth the effort I’d say.

I had yet more pangs cruising past Chertsey Meads – another fine walking spot and this time a reminder of Blue’s exploits as Richard tried to teach him to swim in the river….

More lovely trees - the riverscape is quite magnificent in places - and we're still at the 'poor' end of the navigation!!

We thought about stopping at Chertsey Meads for the night, but by now we had a tentative target – the moorings at Runnymeade – free for the first 24 hours and near a fine park for the hounds. We were also tempted by Staines – with the fridge not working, there was a limited menu on board and we needed to moor within reach of a decent food establishment – we would have been spoilt for choice there! However it’s a bit barren for the hounds so we pressed on, despite numerous recommendations for eateries from the local lockies.

Richard (at home) and Sarah, had been busy scouting out the eateries on the internet – we were heading for a promising Italian restaurant in Runnymeade – it’s not on the waterside but by chance we moored right outside the ‘alley’ that runs to it. However, Sarah had also found a chinese takeaway that would deliver to the boat and which had excellent online reviews so we went for that instead.

New boat house - nice!

We were tying up in Runnymeade when a couple approached us with the usual questions – “how long is your boat?” “Are you warm enough in winter” What does it cost to cruise” “Have you got a loo on board” “Can you live on board?”- you know the ones……

Geoff and Trish (our impromptu visitors) were an engaging couple, recently retired by the sounds of it, and very keen to take to life on the water.Β I gave them a tour of the boat while Sarah and Andy walked the dogs. They instantly fell in love withΒ  Indigo Dream and admired her many features – of course, I took to them immediately πŸ™‚ Trish is also a blogger and writes about her love of Nice, in the South of France – think this is her blog here – The best place in France.

I’ll be interested to hear whether they do get a boat. They seemed to embody the enterprising spirit of those people who suddenly sell-up and take to the waterways in a gloriously adventurous change of life i.e. totally and endearingly bonkers πŸ™‚

Some time later, our Chinese takeaway was delivered – it was excellent so we can recommend the Magic Wok –Β  01784 477991- if you’re moored in Runnymeade ask them to deliver to Skyte’s Meadow outside of the “Italian Concept” cafe/restaurant (Windsor Road, Egham TW20 0AE).

When we moored up, we ran the heating for a short while and the boat quickly heated up – after a surfeit of food and fresh air, the warmth soon put us in a stupor. Luckily we were enlivened by the planes taking off from Heathrow, and banking above the boat – not just over Runnymeade but directly over Indigo Dream – Sarah’s “Plane finder” App told us so! We were entertained by her commentary about where each plane was going (long haul to the East generally). I can see why people believe in alien visitations – the sight and sound of a giant luridly-lit cruciform struggling to gain altitude seemingly within touching distance of our heads was quite surreal.

However, by the time we got the beds organised the flights had largely stopped. Sarah’s hounds are frequent day-trippers but don’t often stay over so there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing before they settled -Susie slept on Andy’s legs; Henry and Ranger stayed close to their mummy and slept on the floor by her side; Herbie hound took the spot previously favoured by Blue – at the end of my bed. In the meantime I had the novel experience of sleeping with a gigolo! Archie is a supremely handsome hound who shamelessly seduces every human that he meets – he told me he loved me, so he got to sleep in Richard’s spot on my bed.

Once everyone was in place we had a quiet and very welcome night’s sleep – just what the doctor ordered….

Note: Poor Richard, knowing that he would be interrogated about every aspect of the hounds’ care while I was away, actually photographed Poppy’s food bowl and, to prove that he hadn’t eaten her share of the roast chicken I’d left for them, also took a photo of her eating her dinner! Oh dear, what sort of domestic dictator have I turned into (don’t answer that!)? πŸ™‚

Photoblog:

Poppy's dinner!!!

Poppy eating her dinner - the stroke hasn't affected her appetite...

Below Molesey Lock - such a fine day on the river and we mainly had it to ourselves!

That tall white thing in the distance looks like a crane, but I actually think it's a fairground ride - I didn't see it in action but it looks nauseating to me....

The fine 'houseboat', well, what would you call it, belongs to someone famous, possibly from Pink Floyd - quick Sarah, leave a comment and tell me who it is....

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Boat/Dog Blog: Best laid plans…..

Posted by indigodream on 8 April, 2012

Thursday 5th April

Lou (on the 'top'!) and Poppy Puppy (as I call her) getting close - the girls have made their peace - Lou is top dog, Poppy a whisker behind her and the boys - well, it's nice being at the bottom of the pack - no decisions to make, just do as you're told....:-)

Our plan was to take the day off today and move the boat from Teddington to Woodham Junction (on the Wey) but our plans have gone totally awry and, yet again, we won’t make it to the Basingstoke Canal.

We haven’t had a good build up to the weekend – Richard has been quite ill with a nasty chest infection, his work has been very stressful and the weather’s been deteriorating (especially the wind) all week…

But our plans were properly scuppered when we found one of our foster dogs, Poppy, staggering around first thing on Thursday morning – something serious was going on. An emergency visit to our vets, followed by a whole day at the neurologist, confirmed that she had suffered from a stroke in her cerebellum which has affected her movement – she has a particular problem controlling her front left leg. The scan showed that this is not her first stroke and her brain is not in good condition – both likely consequences of abuse and neglect. We also had her back scanned and she has a slipped disk, which has been causing her pain since we got her (it’s probably been sore for a lot longer than that). Luckily there wasn’t any cancer anywhere, though her kidneys aren’t working as well as they could be.

The good news is that the neurologist believes that Poppy will recover with time, patience and lots of TLC – the main problem is to stop her from hurting herself while she’s so unsteady on her feet. We have a special nutritional supplement which will protect/repair her brain tissues and some new painkillers to help her back. The rest – scanning her kidneys and heart – can wait for another time – we need to, literally, get her back on her feet first.

The neurologist was in Wimbledon – a little too far for me to travel home so I lurked around the quaint coffee shops of Wimbledon Village, in no mood to appreciate their delights. I was alternatively sad and angry – it’s so cruel and unfair that Poppy should have been struck down like this. It’s barely been three months since Poppy was rescued from starvation and neglect – I’d hoped that whatever time is left to her would be full of joy and contentment.

Poppy in front (of course), with Ty and Ollie following on - they are very good on and off lead....

Ok, ok, I know I’m being over-dramatic – she can still have joy and contentment – she’s amazingly cheerful considering that she’s having trouble getting her legs co-ordinated. The photos are pre-stroke and Lou cutting her foot (so a couple of weeks old) but Poppy looks the same – the stroke has not affected her ability to lie down and get comfortable πŸ™‚

In the meantime, the cut on Lou’s foot has finally started to heal though she’s still very disgruntled because of the huge bandage she has to wear.

As for boating – well, we can’t make it onto the Wey in time to join the Basingstoke convoy, but that still leaves us lots of options. Richard, who is ailing, will stay at home with the dogs – we can’t take Poppy boating when she’s so unsteady on her feet. Sarah and Andy are due to join us tomorrow and we’ll decide what to do from there. We could take the boat back to Limehouse, but we’ll probably take her upriver for a jaunt – an April micro-odyssey before we return to Limehouse to take part in the many pageant rehearsals planned for May.

Oh it's such a hard life - Ollie and Poppy feel the cold more than Lou and Ty - they don't have enough insulation!!!!!

Lou is so photogenic - this will be one of the entries for the 2013 Greyhoundhomer calendar - can she make it in for the fifth year running???

Poppy, Lou and Ollie - against all expectation, Lou is letting the 'newbies' into her personal space - amazing!

Ty, Poppy and Ollie this time - Ty and Ollie like bossy women so they're both getting on well the girls...

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Boat Blog: Getting ready for Easter

Posted by indigodream on 4 April, 2012

Saturday 31st March

Limehouse to Teddington

Worried? Me? Of course not - they haven't opened the gates yet!

We’re planning to join the Byfleet Boat Club for their convoy along the Basingstoke Canal over Easter. It’s a great opportunity as there’s a possibility that this will be the last passage along the troubled Basingstoke this year unless there’s a deluge of water from somewhere.

We’ve never cruised the Basingstoke, so we’re very excited by the prospect; but Limehouse Basin is quite a trek from the starting point at Woodham Junction (on the Wey) and we need to get there by 9am on Good Friday. We’ve been “umming” and “aaahing” for a while, wondering whether we could cruise from Limehouse to Woodham Junction in one mega-day’s cruising on Thursday, but we decided to make our lives a bit easier by moving the boat to Teddington last Saturday.

With a long-term stoppage on the Regent’s Canal our only option was to cruise the tideway – it’s starting to feel like a commuter route now! I hope I’ll always get a thrill from riding the river though – I certainly did today – the passage up the Pool of London was as choppy as I’ve ever encountered – good practice for me on the helm!

The tides were awkward today – the afternoon tide was late, meaning that using the conventional timing (leave Limehouse 3 hours before high tide Teddington) would have had us cruising in the dark again. But the Limehouse lockies are a tremendous resource when planning the trip – they told us that it was a neap tide (neither too high or too low) so we’d be able to get over the cill at Limehouse a lot earlier than usual – 2.45pm in fact, even though high tide at Teddington wasn’t until 8.15pm!

Time to really hang on to that front rope!

In the end we split the difference and locked out of Limehouse at 4.30pm – we were made late by a long and thorough appointment with the vet, who needed to re-bandage Lou’s foot. She’s got a very deep cut in an awkward place – it didn’t heal with the first lot of stitches so she had to have it re-stitched on Thursday and now she has an unusual smelly infection in the wound which needs new (and very expensive) antibiotics – **sigh**.

Although we were late arriving at the boat, preparations had already been made for our departure. Sarah – minus hounds and husband – decided to join us for some fresh air. Despite her own share of greyhound crises, she managed to arrive on time! She’d started to get the boat ready by the time we arrived so we made a speedy exit – the wind turning us out of our berth backwards! We couldn’t help but notice some new pontoons where we hadn’t been expecting them – the turning circle to/from our berth will be very tight if the finger pontoons host full-length trip boats.

Luckily, Sarah hadn’t been in the fridge – I was the unlucky person who discovered the interestingly green and overwhelmingly stinky sausages and bacon – eeughhh!

We had a convivial chat with Jeremy, the senior lockie. I was on the front rope and experienced the usual frisson of fear as they opened the gate to let the water out – although we’ve done it many times before, I still get a chill from seeing the water pouring from the gates feet above the river. Needless to say, the lock empties very quickly!

Moody views...

Richard took us out onto the tideway, then I took the helm while he made the first of many rounds of coffee. As we entered the tideway we were joined by what looked like an old tub with a deck full of young men enjoying an evening’s booze cruise. We weren’t too sure who was in charge – they didn’t seem too sure either! They meandered up the river with a good-natured disregard for other river traffic. At one point they drew close to ask us whether we had a toilet on board – they looked quite envious when we said ‘yes’, but we didn’t offer to rig up aΒ  bosun’s chair to winch them across!

They stayed in the centre of the navigation roughly parallel with us for quite a while, but after a bit of congestion with a clipper and a trip boat coming downstream, the tub and us going upstream and a clipper in hot pursuit behind us, I hit the gas and left them behind. As we pulled away I was quite surprised that the tub had three hulls – not what you’d call a sleek trimaran but more sophisticated that I’d expected.

It’s just as well that VHF transmissions are strictly confidential – we were entertained by a boat, who shall remain nameless, being given a bollocking by London VTS – then we hastily checked our own speed and course in case they caught us next!

We were very grateful to have Sarah on board – we each helmed about a third of the tideway – I did the Pool of London up to Victoria or so, then Richard did a stretch before handing the helm to Sarah at Putney – this saved us from getting too tired and too cold, though it was pretty nippy by the time we got to Richmond. I spent one third of my time on the helm, one third of the trip chatting and one third of my time in the galley – I didn’t pay any particular attention to my surroundings this time so no ‘today’s trivia’….

Bored with the river? Never!!

It was very quiet on the river – even in the pool of London. We saw a couple of private boats coming downstream at Richmond, along with a trip boat leaving its wharfΒ  – the first of the season apparently. We had expected to use the lock at Richmond but the half-tide barriers had just been raised – we got dripped on as we passed under the bridge!

We got to Teddington with light to spare – the lockie put us through the barge lock – strange to be just one boat in such a gargantuan lock! Richard hopped off to pay for a few nights’ moorings and, quite abruptly, there we were – moored up on one of my favourite spots on the waterways. I’d spent the last 20 minutes packing the boat so we were off in no time at all. We got away so quickly that Richard fretted that we hadn’t done all our ‘leave the boat’ chores – I was more confident – well, at least the fridge was pristine and turned off! We walked to Teddington train station and wended our way home with the satisfied weariness of another tideway trip safely done and the boat perfectly positioned for our Easter cruise.

Dog Blog:

We’ve had another weigh-in and Poppy gained a smidgeon to bring her up to 26kg – a huge improvement from the pitiful 22kg that she weighed when she was first rescued. But since then she’s had a setback with some sort of intestinal bug so she’s now back to 25.2kg – this is a worry but she’s being treated, tested and is very cheerful in herself. Ooh another update – Poppy is much better – she’s on a course of special antibiotics for gut bugs and she’s gained the kilo back and is now 26.2kg. It’s a novelty watching her weight in the hope that she’s gained – that’s a first in this household πŸ™‚

In the meantime, Lou’s injured foot is still not healing- she now has such a big bandage that her leg looks like a juggler’s club – she is not impressed. For completeness, Jellyboy Ty is fine and lovely – he is still the wussiest, cuddliest greyhound ever, but he seems to be gaining confidence from being part of a bigger pack!

Photoblog:

The tub....

The shard - one day we must do a montage of all our photos to track the changes - it's been built at a phenomenal rate....

Tower Bridge - it will be opened for the pageant - it's surely every boater's fantasy to go cruise under the open bridge πŸ™‚

It's behind you......

I'm always amazed that these duck boats stay afloat!

This rib caused the most troublesome wash of the day - the clippers were moving very slowly today...

Now there's an interesting board - the clearance under Hammersmith Bridge can be pretty tight when there's a high spring tide... Is it new? We can remember a gauge on the left but not one on the right?

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