31 January 2009

Waits and measures

So apologies for the delay in the weight update but today's the day. I always step on the scales with a sense of trepidation, just because you rarely ever do as well you want to do and you almost inevitably set yourself up to fail. Plus, as experienced dieters will tell you, you are forever haunted by fears of 'plateauing' and the accompanying spectre of a reduced rate of weight loss the longer you go on. Now I don't like to feel miserable first thing on Saturday morning - it puts a bit of a dampener on things - so I was really chuffed to see that over the past three weeks, I've lost another 10 pounds. That makes 47 in total and just another 16 to go till I hit target.

Well, it may be more or less than 16, it depends. I've decided to end this diet on 9th April - Good Friday - come what may. It seems a good day to call time, because I'd like to scoff a big Easter lunch and maybe the odd egg or 6. It will also be five months exactly since I started this regime and that's enough for any mere mortal. And I'll be happy with what I've achieved regardless. I don't think I'll ever be sylph-like (I'm missing the size double zero gene) but I'm certainly less flabby and wobbly than I was in November. When we finally catch up with the Caxtonites, they will be a good arbiter of how far I have progressed as Joe and Lesley were two of the last people to see me at my peak, as it were. It's tempting to go on and on but I've been there, done that, got the size 10 T-shirt, been slightly unhinged about it all and would prefer to be a bit more relaxed about food in the future. I'll worry about a maintenance strategy later - maybe as I lick the top off my first creme egg of 2009.

30 January 2009

Train takes the strain

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Hey all you narrowboating dudes blogging at 4mph – I'm on a train blogging at 140mph, so nah! Actually, it's only going about 14mph and I don't think its top speed is much more than a ton but I've never blogged on a choo-choo before so poetic license is permitted. I'm trying out my road warrior kit (or should that be train warrior) – a nifty little Samsung NC-10 netbook plus hi-speed dongle, a crafty combo that gives me about six hours of mobile computing time to wile away tedious journeys. 

The lady opposite me this morning was obviously jealous as she for no apparent reason kicked me in the shin – hard. She tried to make out it was accidental but unless she's got St Vitus dance, I don't quite see how that can be – she swung her leg through a good 50 degree arc before clobbering me and she had Doc Martens on. I spent the rest of the journey ostentatiously rubbing my shin and muttering about assault and battery with a deadly shoe... My trip from home to Reading and back was notable only for a jammed level crossing, a broken rail, a missed connection, no Circle Line and 3 lattes from Costa, so just a regular day. I can't abide going anywhere on Fridays but at least I won't be home too late. Now I've written this post, let's see if I can actually post the damn thing....

27 January 2009

At home

Not much to report here except that I seem to be indulging in a little too much retail therapy...oh well, women were born to shop! I was interested to read in this month's Waterways World that the BCN Marathon Challenge is returning..we're giving it some serious consideration although I reckon those intrepid Indigo Dreamers might fancy having a go too. Could be a serious greyhound tear up on the Walsall Town Arm..

For those of you thinking that she hasn't mentioned her weight yet, has she?, well, our trip north last week meant a missed weigh-in day so we'll be having an update this weekend. Meanwhile, my TV viewing is oscillating between the masochistic (MasterChef) and the depressing (lots of programmes about obesity/dieting and how even if you lose all your excess weight, you're bound to turn back into a lard-arse at some point -with extra lard. Well, I'll worry about keeping it off when I've finally got it all off and not before. 

This weekend's amusement is a trip to East Coast Leisure to buy a porch/awning for the motorhome. We think the extra space won't come amiss and of course it will make an excellent dog drying off area. Unfortunately everyone I've ever talked to about these contraptions tells me that putting one up for the first time is the stuff divorces are made of, so A and I are going to make a pact that what's said/sworn outside stays outside and that we'll all be peace and light indoors. Yeah right...I have visions of a half-built porch hanging off the side of the van, crumpled and torn, the rock pegs hanging on for dear life as A drives off in a huge huff through the gawping crowd...I think I may do a build blog on this great event, save the epic saga for posterity. We're off to Thetford Forest the following weekend and the plan is to have a first bash then - if we do divorce, at least we won't have very far to go home.

21 January 2009

Awash, but only with coffee

Well, the good news is that the Ure didn't get beyond the wheel arches. No, only kidding, it never topped the banks thankfully, so we were spared a midnight flit in the all-together to drier, higher ground. Despite the fact that we're having to work, we're really enjoying ourselves this week. That may have something to do with the rather shameful regularity with which we are visiting the services to get our Costa fix - or the fact that dog walks are now a mere 100 yards to the exercise area where we let the hounds run wild and free while checking our emails. Yesterday the mobile office had to move to Castleford for the day and tomorrow it will return there - I prayed for views of the Aire and Calder but was rewarded for my general lack of piety in all things by a vista of rubbish bins and delivery lorries. Today was better from a scenery point of view as we went to Harrogate via a very circuitous route that allowed me to get - yes, you guessed it, two lattes from my favourite coffee shop. We even managed to park the behemoth within a two minute walk of my client, and without hitting anything - we are definitely getting better at this motorhoming lark. 

Right now as I type, I would be eagerly looking forward to my supper - baked potato with Alphabetti (and before the smart alecs pipe up, it's got fewer calories than baked beans so nah!) - except for the fact that you need a microscope to see my chosen rhizome for tonight. How can they call that a baking potato? When I was a child, jackets were the size of footballs with half a pound of butter forked into either half. Now I have to make do with something invisible and only a diet Dairy Lea triangle and some tomato-ey letters to spice it up. I'll be offering my opinion on the matter later, as long as I can find the three consonants and one vowel to spell it.

Monty and Miffy take a breather

19 January 2009

Come on in, the water's lovely

Well here we are hunkered down in Boroughbridge enjoying/enduring amazingly regular maelstroms that are threatening to raise the levels on the (literally) adjacent River Ure and so give us our first flooding incident (how ironic it should prove to be if we get flooded in a motorhome and not a narrowboat). But despite the pants weather, we are having a lot of fun with the Dolce Gusto coffee machine in overdrive, the heating on warp factor 10 and shameless exploitation of the club site’s excellent wireless connection.

We arrived mid Saturday afternoon with joyous hearts having just discovered that Costa Coffee are apparently taking over much of the Little Chef fiefdom. So not only do we have Costa available at the new Wetherby services on the Al, we now have it at the old Moto services at Ferrybridge too. My cup runneth over…We were given the warmest welcome ever by the site manager, who proceeded to put us on the best possible pitch with the easiest of all routes out to the dog walk – plus views over the aforementioned Ure, so a result all round really. Oh and not forgetting the fenced dog exercise area which has meant Monty has got to run around like a loon for a change – his ‘run-at-full-tilt-and-stop-and-sit-in-one-motion-in-front-of-mummy-for-a-treat’ manoeuvre has to be seen to be believed. He’s got some nasty grass stains on his bum mind…

In the one window of nice weather yesterday, we headed off for some more geocaching fun. As there’s nothing better than combining motorhoming with our other great love, canals and rivers, we set our GPS device to the Milby Lock cache. After a lovely walk down and through the town, we hit upon a footpath that took us straight to a not-seen-one-quite-like-that-before lock with the cache duly located just beyond. We both wondered whether we’d ever get to go through here in our own boat? Looking at the tree trunks that have been hammering down past us today, I can’t help thinking discretion might be the better part of valour. Having bagged a further two caches en route, we repaired to the van before the evening storm duly arrived right on cue. We’d elected to take Arthur and Ranger with us and after a five mile stint they were completely zonked, as were we, so there wasn’t much for it but to sit back, drink yet more coffee and finish off my book. One other piece of dog-related news – on our travels we met our first ever Borzoi. A curious but noble looking creature that looks like a greyhound that’s been put through a mangle – everything stretched and elongated and on a much bigger frame than our regular mutts. Another one to add to my spotters' book.

The coming week will be dominated by work-related trips to Harrogate and Castleford, that is, if we are not swept downstream first. You start to worry when you see your fellow campers walking around in mask and flippers…

14 January 2009

Forty winks

It's great to have such high octane, buzzing dogs to go and exercise with...

13 January 2009

Plans aplenty

I did make one New Year's resolution earlier in the month - to get out more. Now don't laugh, I know we always seem to be ducking and diving somewhere but we still spent an inordinate amount of time at home when we could have been off jollificating..oops, sorry, I meant working, either from the boat or the motorhome. Work and family commitments meant that we had virtually no summer cruising and no autumn cruising, that is, actual holiday time, so 2008 was a bit unsatisfactory to say the least. 2009 will be different...

Boatwise, there's already a working week on the Weaver planned for late March - great mobile coverage all the way there and it's wonderfully quiet, just the way we like it. Autumn's traditional holiday fortnight will see a pilgrimage to Bugsworth (always shut on previous visits) and then a foray up the Huddersfield Narrow, turning before the tunnel.

Vanwise, we have a working fortnight lined up in Scotland for late April (let there be no 'I need you on site now' emergencies, please!). We'll be returning to Dunnet Bay near Thurso for a week (brilliant beach, Costa Coffee served nearby, RIB trips out to Stroma) before wild camping on the middle weekend and then heading off to Skye. Comms are okay at Dunnet Bay and we're keeping our fingers crossed for Skye - Scotland does seem to have excellent coverage generally, so we're not too worried.

If no-one susses our absence on either of these occasions, then I also plan to head off to two places I've never visited - Pembrokeshire and Cornwall. Out of season would be best, though. And there are a couple of targets on the canal network that fall into the 'really must visit' category but I'll be buggered if I can work out quite how to shoehorn them into the year. Despite several attempts at the Caldon including a successful tootle down to Leek, Froghall still eludes us - and Stratford on Avon doesn't seem to come any nearer either. The latter was a putative destination for last Autumn's holiday until work got in the way - trouble is, we'd definitely need a fortnight to get down and back to Nantwich so I'm toying with the idea of either temporarily swapping marina berths with someone a bit further down south or just moving the old girl down to somewhere more convenient over the course of a weekend, paying for a visitor's mooring and then starting the holiday some 40-50 miles to the good a week or so later. But I suspect it'll be more likely to happen in 2010 that 2009...

More working weeks on water could see us revisit the Shroppie north of Barbridge - maybe just as far as Beeston - and to make a more leisurely exploration of the Llangollen, especially the arms that we missed out on in December. From memory, the mobile phone signal wasn't great so maybe we'll keep that for Christmas when everything's a lot less pressured. Ah Christmas...yes, we've decided that we don't want to be static next year so, weather permitting, we should be able to squeeze in another couple of weeks.

The only redemptive thing about the start of yet another year is that you have it all ahead of you and you can fill it with plans. So what if they don't always come off? The fun's in watching A's face as I tell him we won't be home for about 50% of the year....With luck.

12 January 2009

Cache and carry

We'll be off to Boroughbridge first thing Saturday, Cambridge services first stop. Sadly, the services don't have quite the attraction they once did, which may well have something to do with the fact that I just have a pathetically small thimbleful of latte these days, as opposed to my previously traditional bucket to help wash down the raisin whirl and/or custard danish.

I'm hopeful that in amongst the work duties, A and I may be able to get some more geocaching done - a) I'm in need of some lengthy walks and b) we've got a Travel Bug that needs relocating. I've done some research and it looks like there may be a few caches within walking distance of the site, which would be a bonus. We just need to be careful not to get too addicted to this little diversion - we couldn't get enough over Christmas and A's PDA-cum-GPS-transmitter went into overdrive with all the coordinates we were bashing in. Somehow I don't think 'I'm so sorry I forgot our meeting this morning, I was crawling under a hedge looking for a tupperware box' will cut much ice with my clients so maybe we'll designate one weekday afternoon for playtime and save the rest for earning some money.

As soon as we're back, we'll be off again almost immediately to the boat, where I'm planning to meet with a number of useful chaps who can help me with the various improvements I've got in mind. That's why we need to earn some money - my original short list has become quite a long list but you know, why spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar and all that...That's certainly what I'll be telling A when I present him with the bills.

P.S. Susie is not pleased to hear of Fletcher the labrador's (NB Caxton) exploits as she deems him a great big show off for pirouetting off the lock gate and acrobatically crashing into the murky waters below, prior to a prompt and safe rescue. She feels that this is outdoing her own rather lame sub-aqua efforts viz. missing the bank and submerging herself in the tail of Colwich Lock; and as she absolutely has to be brasher, bigger and better than anyone else, she is currently planning a plunge from the top of Anderton Lift into a dog bowl of water. Hope she deflates her armbands before she jumps.

09 January 2009

Big bed bonanza

Do you remember the wonderful Dick Emery and the regular ‘dad and son’ sketch he did with Roy Kinnear? As the hapless Gaylord, he had this catchphrase ‘D-a-a-a-d, I think I got it wrong again’. Well, I had one of those moments this afternoon when the new dog beds arrived. I knew they were big but I didn’t quite appreciate how big. Definitely overclubbed that one, methinks. One end of the living room looks like a gigantic prostrate sheep..but if A’s snoring gets too much tonight, I know where I’m heading…

Fighting the flab

I know what you're thinking...that Greygal, she's probably wimped out of her diet, seduced by all those Christmas temptations. We haven't had much scales action lately have we? QED.

Well, the fact of the matter is that this is the first time in three weeks that I've actually been home on weighing in day. But even so, it was not with a little trepidation that I stepped on this morning, expecting to be disappointed....would all those Thorntons chocs on Boxing Day come back to haunt me? I closed my eyes and slowly opened them to read the dial and....cor, a 10 pound loss! I'm pretty chuffed with that, not least because it means I'm past half way, with 35 pounds down, just another 28 to go! My BMI is also looking a lot more respectable now - officially I'm just overweight as opposed to dangerously heffalump like. One thing I have realised is that when I eventually reach target, I will have lost more than a 25KG bag of Taybrite. Coo, that's a lot of slag to carry around...

06 January 2009

Here we go again

Cripes, we’re no sooner back than we’re planning to be off again in a week or so’s time. We’re doing our classic combining of work and play by heading north in the motorhome to stay at the Camping and Caravanning Club’s Boroughbridge site for a week, allowing us to conduct some essential training for a client as well as get some geocaching and general loafing about in. Mmm, I’m going to miss my new luvverley bed, methinks, particularly when all five dogs try and join me in the smallish camper double every night…since Ranger has worked out that he can just barge through the dividing curtain, there’s no stopping any of the buggers. Love ‘em….

We’ll also be back at the boat mid Feb for a round of maintenance and meetings with various peeps to sort out a number of improvements – a cratch table and seating, a new cratch cover, some new carpet and an extension to the hearth so the new carpet doesn’t go the way of the old one. Curious pattern? No, burn marks…

A has also promised that he’ll fit the new tank watch gauge at long last – he’s been promising to do it for the past nine months so I’m not holding my breath. Actually, I will be because that tank’s going to stink when we open her up…Anyway, hopefully everything will all be ready before Easter and once the holiday scrum has subsided, we can pootle off to the Weaver for another work/holiday week. Can’t have too many of them in a year…

And maybe, just maybe, all you lot down there colonizing the Leicester Arm might like to move your bums north so we can get a bit of socializing in…I should be thin and gorgeous by then and allowed to eat more than half a tomato.

And so to bed

One of the (few) compensations of leaving the boat to go back home (clean, non-coal fingernails and a humungous fridge being the others) is that we get to sleep in our big bed. We as in me, A and Susie,that is. Except this time I got home and just thought that the whole bed department was looking a bit on the sad and tired side – knackered pillows, lumpy duvet, boring bed linen and no mattress topper! Quick, back to the boat! No, better than that, cue a trip to Dunelm Mill on Saturday for some serious retail therapy. After one of those ‘ouch, how much’ moments at the till, I beetled off home to conduct my bed makeover. Oh my, was it worth the money. The bed is now simply divine and delicious – and bloody difficult to get out of in the morning. (Slightly tangential this but I had to share - one of the funniest things I have ever seen was the aftermath of A's attempts at changing a duvet cover. With a red angry face he told me that I'd need to go and sort it because he'd failed - I went upstairs and there, basically, discovered that he'd achieved the 'swag bag' effect: duvet balled up into one corner and the rest of the cover completely empty, ideal for throwing over the shoulder and swinging from side to side. Unbelievable - I couldn't do that even if I wanted to.)

I can’t believe the bed transformation, to be honest. And as if to emphasise just how comfy it is now, my dutiful, early morning tea-making amanuensis, Ranger, actually had the temerity to bugger off half way through proceedings today and leg it back alone to the bedroom. He never does that, preferring to trip me up on the stairs as I carry a cup of tea to the Kraken. I found him ensconced, no, nesting would be a better word, in my new duvet-pillow-topper finery and looking very pleased with himself that he’d left absolutely no room for me to get back in. Hence me sipping my tea with one bum cheek perched perilously over the edge while he snuggled down even further, but not before he’d decided to brush daddy’s hair with his paw. That went down well….

Having had a couple of absolutely fab nights’ sleep, I suddenly felt a bit guilty that I’d spent quite a lot on our bed but nothing on the dogs’ beds (although they were treated to some gorgeous thermal fleece blankets for night time snoozing). The dog beds are situated in the living room (for daytime snoozing) and to be quite frank, they are gross. They are old, dirty and full of smelly blankets and cushions and biscuit crumbs – but they love them. They happily move from basket to basket, luxuriating in the familiar doggy stink, pawing at the contents and rearranging them to get their perfect sleeping position. Buy them something new and they just sniff it with suspicion and disdain but the time has come – I’ve had enough and the plague-ridden beds have to go. Which means, of course, having to find replacements. Now this is easier said than done because a) I want baskets rather than cushions and b) baskets in the size I want (massive to accommodate a leggy supine grey) are not that common. Well, after much searching on the net, I came across Snuggiepets (sold through Amazon as well). They do a wide range of beds including an XXL faux suede/sheepskin version coming in at a whopping 48” x 36”. I’m not actually sure they need something that big (it’s the size of a small room, after all) but I got carried away and added five to my basket and checked out before I could change my mind. If there’s any nose turning upping when they arrive, I’ll revoke all bed privileges and give them some newspaper to sleep on….and not a broadsheet either. Make them really suffer.