29 October 2008

DogsonTour at large

One of the compensations of getting to the fag end of the year is that you can start planning lots of exciting adventures for the following year. Now I know that my plans don’t always come off – in fact I probably have a plan/execution strike rate of about 50% - but that’s not the point. You do it for the thrill, the thrill of all those glorious possibilities that exist in the wide world – if you can actually carry it off and turn paper scribbles and internet searches into actual journeying and real experiences, then so much the better.

After reading a couple of books and magazine articles, I’m suddenly taken with the desire to visit Denmark, or at least the bit the tourists don’t go to ie all of it bar Copenhagen. It’s reachable, it’s quiet and clean, there are excellent roads and camping facilities, there’s a nice mix of beaches and woodland, and most importantly, they strike me as having a very positive attitude to dogs. I would be a bit anxious about going to somewhere like southern Italy where the number of roaming or stray dogs might cause us a few issues – I wouldn’t want to cause an international incident if Susie decided to cry God for Harry, England and St George and nip the back leg of some canine Mario. I’m hoping that we’ll find dogs on leads or dogs in close proximity to their owners which makes life so much easier for us – if we came across a marauding pack of Viking  dogs on the loose, I’m not too sure that I could control the situation. Ranger doesn’t wear Burberry for nothing...

To be honest, though, from everything I’ve read we’ll be lucky to see a soul except other motorhomers. Most of the 5.5 million inhabitants are in the three major cities so population is a bit sparse in the country. But of course that’s just the way we like it and exactly why we want to go there. So there’s a good chance that in 2009 DogsonTour will be expanding its horizons to take in the odd pickled herring and Danish pastry. And no, the dogs will not be sporting little helmets with horns...

28 October 2008

Susie's encore

We're treated to this performance most mornings although the boat does cramp her style a bit. 

27 October 2008

Book club

I see that Jo on Hadar has put out an appeal to find a copy of Susan Woolfitt’s Idle Women. She writes:

I am hoping that someone out there has finished with their copy of 'Idle Women' by Susan Woolfitt and would be happy for it to go to a new home. It is a book I have been longing to read, but have had little luck with finding a copy.

I know how she feels. By strange coincidence, I have also been hankering after one of the other books in the series, Maidens’ Trip, by Emma Smith. I have hunted high and low for it with no joy, unless you count the costly second hand examples available on Amazon. So imagine my joy and surprise when, just as I was about to curse my mother for dragging me into a secondhand bookshop this morning, I find, nestling on the Transport shelves, a 1987 copy of the much sought after tome. And it was only £2.75. And mother offered to pay. Triple result!!

26 October 2008

Go Susie

Have you ever tried to video a running greyhound with a mobile phone? Splitting the atom would be easier. Anyway, here is madam showing off in her flash winter duds.

24 October 2008

Cinders, you shall go to the ball

Hurrah! My little ESP elf told me to look at the latest Stoppages on the Waterscape website and what do I find? That they’ve cancelled or rescheduled the works that had put paid to our November jaunt to Llangollen. So we’re back on – I do so like to go all the way...

Of course, the one drawback to going this late in the year is that the weather might be absolutely foul, but I am so determined to get some serious cruising under my belt that we’ll be going come hell or high water. Oh gawd, that has a Famous Last Words ring to it...

20 October 2008

Lights, camera, not much action

It’s all quiet on the Western Front here but that’s set to change as my mother is visiting from France tomorrow. But just to prove that every cloud has a silver lining (only kidding mum!), we have a cunning plan to utilise her for dog-sitting so that we can nip off to Braunston for the day. We do need some ropes (I’m going to make up some springs, get me!) but the real reason is to pay a very long overdue visit to the Gongoozler’s Rest (to the uninitiated, it’s a floating cafe par excellence!). I won’t be eating for three days beforehand just so that I can do justice to their epic breakfasts. Cripes, I hope it’s still there....

I’ll leave you with this fuzzy mobile phone video that I found on my laptop today. In all the hoo-hah surrounding our near Titanic moment in Northgate locks earlier this year, I forgot that we filmed a bit of our three boat shuffle at the Bunbury staircase. It’s not exactly Spielberg but you’ll get the idea!

17 October 2008


Having had our trusty boat for six years now, we know what we like and what we don’t like. To be fair, there’s not much we don’t like about her but that doesn’t stop me dreaming about the things I could change – a bigger galley, granite worktops, new floors, a cross bed and of course, the purpose-built-designed-round-his-blessed-incipient-synthesizer-repair-shop L-shaped dinette. Plus a whole host of more minor modifications as I got completely carried away with myself. In fact, I did a wish list of improvements and then made a rough mental calculation as to how much it would cost. Mmm, I reckon 15 grand would just about cover it.  Time to start collecting again. I’ve already had generous donations of receipts, toffees and a conker from my previous motorhome appeal and I found a fiver in my jeans yesterday so only another £14995 to go.  

16 October 2008

Calling Caxton

Oi, can we uncross everything now? It’s been a painful day with all extremities crossed for the launch of Caxton and I’m hoping that she’s now safe in the water. I say hoping....I texted Lesley this morning to ask her if her new pride and joy was afloat. Sadly, the good ship Caxton had only just made it onto the low-loader with the critical moment still to come. She was due in around lunchtime and it’s been eerily quiet since. Hello, anyone there? Glug, glug, glug...

I bet it’s been a fab day for everyone connected with the build but especially the new owners – after so much dreaming and planning and shelling out loads of dosh and going mad looking for a rug, the time has come for them to see their baby wet its bum and to enjoy that first night aboard. It’s one of my biggest regrets that A and I didn’t wag a day off work to a) see the boat when it was put into the water for the first time for fitting out and b) to enjoy the holdup it caused on the M1 as it went by truck to the National at Huddersfield in 2002. When we finally got to spend our first night aboard some weeks later, it had already had about 500 people through, shuffling along in their pretty plastic booties and commenting on the teapot (a lovely Alessi one but I’d rather have had nice comments about the boat!). It just goes to show, you really should carpe diem and ring in sick. 

Dogs on the catwalk

The moment you've been waiting for....Floyd and Fletcher, get those girdles on, boys.

You've already seen Miffy so I bring you...

Monty, the hunting boy

Arthur, who is soon to get his 'proper' tiger stripes coat (slight misunderstanding on the order)

Ranger Danger

Psychedelic Psusie

...and a group pose

The best dressed greyhounds in town!

15 October 2008

A grand day out

Well, I’m back from the work-cum-Motorhome-and-Caravan-Show trip to the NEC - would anyone have a spare £229,000 hanging around anywhere? I’ve rustled up a grand’s worth of deposit by digging round in the bottom of my handbag but I think they want more – they being the vendors of a very smart Concorde motorhome which was retailing for a cute £230,000. I’m not sure it was that one that had the garage for the Smart car at the back, no, in fact, I think that model was only £165,000 – a mere bagatelle! All these super posh vans had red rope in front of the doors for ‘escorted visits only’ – why not put out a sign that says ‘If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it’ instead? So, what have you managed to raise for me? Two fuzzy Polos, one sticky Tune and a ha’penny? Well, that’s probably more than I’d get out of the banks at the moment.

14 October 2008

Divine intervention

Sometimes, work stinks. What can be worse than being dragged to the NEC for a boring old conference? A three hour car journey with the first decent coffee over two hours away. Poo. But what's this? The International Caravan and Motorhome Show is on at the same time! There is a god! Now all I have to do is think of a cunning wheeze to leave the conference early...Oh hang on, A is shouting something at me from the other room. What's that? I didn't quite hear it..something about sucking credit cards at home. Well, what he gets up to while I'm away is his business.

Boating ahoy!

Now the observant amongst you will have noticed that there hasn’t been much boating on this blog of late. Now this hasn’t been by design, it’s just that various things have frustrated our plans. But this is all about to change and I’m planning on going out of 2008 with a – metaphorical – bang. First, we’re going to pootle down to Ellesmere at the end of November if no-one steals away our week’s holiday. Then before Christmas I’d like to squeeze in a meander up to Anderton and after Christmas, we’re hoping to do all of the Llangollen before the boys in blue put in their stop planks. So you should get some cruise reports! Shock horror, don’t overdo it, Greygal!

Before that, though, we’re hoping to get away for a weekend in the van, mainly to help friends who have just bought their very first van and who are looking for moral support. We’ll try and get adjacent pitches and ensure they don’t connect their mains lead to the Elsan disposal unit or wind their awning into a tree. This from the couple who crashed their van within 30 minutes of ownership and blew up their water hose because they didn’t unroll it! Talk about the blind leading the blind...

So we’re counting the days till holiday time. Of course, there are SOME people, mentioning no names, Caxton, that are about to start living the dream for real and doing this cruising lark full-time. I hope they’ve put the plug in the bottom of the boat...

In the meantime, I shall continue to amuse myself with my ‘virtual cruising’, scouring the blogs of Sanity, Seyella, No Problem, Indigo Dreaming, Balmaha et al. One of my new regular reads is Big Martyn’s blog, which I think oozes personality and character and also serves as a wonderfully articulate entree into the perils and delights, the highs and lows of single-handed boating. More power to your big elbow, big Martyn!

And for those of you wondering about the dog fleece coats, they will all be modelled for your enjoyment very shortly. Here’s a taster - you can see that Miffy's yawning with excitement!

09 October 2008

Eat, drink and be fat

Apologies for the lack of recent posts. The trouble is, it’s been such a hedonistic week that I can’t actually reach the keyboard any more, as my stomach’s getting in the way. I’m tapping this out with a long ruler....

First off it was lunch with friends on Saturday. If you’re looking for a good restaurant in Nantwich, then I can recommend Romazzino on Love Lane. Great cooking, good service and a very pleasant atmosphere. Our friends then invited us over for Sunday lunch so that was another big blow-out. A two day rest was then followed by a massive curry fest at the Indian Ocean, which is on Welsh Row and easily accessible from the canal. We’ve previously been to the Jhaipur a few doors down and I can recommend both. Tonight is quiz night with a meal thrown in, and then there’s the prospect of a supper on Friday probably followed by breakfast at Nantwich Canal Centre on Saturday morning. It’s questionable whether we will be able to exit the boat at all on Sunday but our services are needed as our lunching/dining friends are going to look at a motorhome. She’s keen, he’s not, we’re legging it before the marital ructions start.

Other than that, it’s been client meetings and stressing about our savings – yes, they’re all with those Icelandic institutions that have now gone pop. That’ll teach us to chase the highest rates but at least it looks like we’ll get it all back, which is a relief.

We’ll be off home on Sunday and I can’t wait to get my hands on the new dog fleeces that Sioux at Forest Fleece has sent out. I’ll be sure to get the dogs to model them nicely at the photo call and will post up pics so you can all have a giggle. I don’t think Miffy is ever going to forgive us...

The weather up here the past few days has been absolutely stunning and we’ve been gutted that we haven’t been able to pop out for a bit. Even Saturday is down as a ‘chores’ day – the Mikuni needs fixing, the floors are dirty, the dog beds are disgusting and the well-deck looks like a coal mine. So an autumn clean is in order, if, of course, we can move after consuming our own weight in sausages, bacon, egg, beans, toast.....

P.S We’ve got everything crossed here – and that’s a lot of fingers, paws and legs – for the launch of Caxton next week. It’s been a joy to follow the build and I bet we’re going to have even more laughs once Lesley and Joe get cruising. All the best, guys!

Action woman

This is a public service announcement.

When you leave your boat for an evening's entertainment, please do remember to take your boat keys with you. Otherwise you will find yourself getting up close and personal with your Houdini hatch. Like me last night at 10pm. I'm amazed I fitted through to be honest. Good job we'd left it open so that the dogs wouldn't suffocate in the 1000 degree heat of the fire.

End of message

03 October 2008

Tonight's the night

We’re just about to leave for the boat. The dogs have had an early dinner and I’m putting the final touches to the packing. The fact that it has suddenly become winter overnight doesn’t cheer me as we’ll arrive at 10pm to find a chilly old boat and it’ll be too late to faff around with the Squirrel. So we’ll have that infernal ticking Mikuni all night – either that or hot water bottles for us and boat fleece coats (as opposed to house fleece coats) for the dogs. Unfortunately our main hot water bottle is styled in the fashion of Hong Kong Phooey – and every time you lie on its head it plays the HKP theme tune. You can imagine how well that goes down at 3 o clock in the morning.... 

02 October 2008

Food for thought

I’ve changed my dog food. And why, prey, are you sharing that with us, Greygal? It’s not exactly a showstopper of an announcement. No, true, but I’m rather impressed with the dog food manufacturer Burgess. Burgess have been making greyhound food for yonks but it’s been traditionally geared towards racers, who have slightly different dietary requirements. Now they have launched a special Greyhound & Lurcher Food formulated for pets, which I can have delivered to my door for free. But that’s not why I’m impressed, no. The thing is, along with this new product line, has come a whole campaign geared to promoting dog rescues and particularly greyhound and lurcher rescue. They donate 20p to rescue centres from every pack of this new food sold, they’ve got a rescue locator facility on their website and they’re launching a Supadog Rescue Tales competition specifically for greys and lurchers. You can buy food as a donation and have it sent directly to the rescue centre of your choice and there’s also a Just Giving facility. I know that this is a great PR opportunity for Burgess – there has to be a commercial agenda somewhere – but I still think they deserve a round of applause for highlighting and supporting the work of greyhound rescue in the UK. It's nice to know that when you're having to shell out for dog scran, you're doing your bit at the same time.

P.S. All the books say that you should introduce a new food gradually to your dogs. Yeah, right.  I filled the bowls with new stuff and mine just tucked in as usual, throwing it all over the floor as they do - they had a large satisfying poop the next morning and hey presto, the switch was made.

01 October 2008

Reservoir dogs

Here is the news:

Last weekend

Pretty much perfect, thanks. The Blackwall Plantation site near Ashbourne was a cracking base for our Peak Forest sojourn, coping admirably with the influx of several million people on Friday afternoon. Well, not quite, but the caravans, they kept on a coming, the sense of invasion heightened by the fact that we’d pretty much had the site to ourselves on the Thursday. It was like a white wagon train...

As with many of the Caravan Club sites in wooded settings, the grounds had that neat and tidy but not manicured-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life feel about it, allowing us to relax a bit when it came to dog tiddling. Makes a change from having to frogmarch them out the front gate with a cork up their bums....There was also a fantastic woodland walk with views over the reservoir and the reservoir itself was only a five minute walk from the campsite entrance. The dogs were impeccably behaved all weekend for a change, receiving lots and lots of fuss and generally being an excellent advert for the breed.

The highlight of our stay was, of course, hooking up with Mike and Liz, ex of Snecklifter. They joined us on Saturday afternoon and we went off for a walk round the reservoir with the dogs, followed by tea and Bakewell tart (what else?) back at the van. We were then invited back for supper, which meant decamping from Blackwall and setting up home in a convenient lay-by just up the road from Mike and Liz’s house. We had no plans to move until the morning so an excellent dinner of pork in cider was washed down with a very nice drop of splosh. We’d also been promised a cooked breakfast so that was another incentive to stay – what marvellous hospitality! And it was wonderful to see the Holloways so settled and happy in their life ashore. Yes, they do get the occasional twinge of longing for the canals, but they have a great house in a super location and their lives are full of friends and family and new land-based adventures. We do hope we’ll get to see them again before Christmas.


Dog update

With the autumn winds starting to whistle round their bits, I thought it was time to get the dogs’ winter wear sorted out. I’ve been struggling with what exactly to get them as ideally I’d like something to suit all occasions – night-time sleeping, round the house and walking out.  Then A discovered www.forestfleece.co.uk and the fleece jumpers, with crew neck and no leg options, would seem to be just the ticket. So last night was spent measuring, picking the fabrics and ordering – easy, peasy, except that I had an email back querying whether the girth of one of my dogs really was 3 inches! Oops. I think there’s a 1 missing there somewhere...The hounds are going to look fairly ridiculous I feel, particularly Miffy as A insisted on getting her the pink check outfit with a lilac trim. Ranger’s having the red skulls (Ranger Danger) with dark red trim, Monty the green camo with khaki trim, Susie the colour swirl with light blue trim and Arthur the tiger stripe with black trim. Pictures may be forthcoming once we’ve worked out how to put the jumpers on – apparently the boys’ ones comes with a shortened chest piece so they don’t wee on it. That may not be enough with my lot as they do tend to whizz with abandon...

Sponsorship news

As we’ve got five of our own dogs we’ve also decided to have five sponsor dogs – seems only fair. So as well as Heather and Harvey, we’ve now sponsored Barney, Soldier and Freya at GRWE. We’re fast running out of room on the fridge with all the photos, certificates and magnets...

This weekend

Yippee, off to the boat for a week! It’s work admittedly as I have to go to Harrogate and Telford next week but it’ll be nice to be on board for a bit. We may even get round to the great poo tank gauge challenge – challenge in as much as ‘can we bear the stink’? But just think of the end game – no more living in fear of a red light and a protracted buttock clench until a WC or pump out hoves into view...