Monday 31 March 2014


Just picked up this lovely lad from a couple of animal welfare officers, Angela and Rebecca. They picked him up as a stray and have gone above and beyond in trying to find somebody to take him from the pound to save him from the inevitable.

He's very skinny, understandably nervous, but a lovely, gentle lad.

We're currently at a service station outside Newbury, now heading to Yeovil to deliver him to his new foster home. If he fits in, there is a good chance they'll keep him.

Makes a nice change to the usual Monday in the office.

Liberty and relief

Finally back on the water yesterday. I can't say how good it felt to be under sail again.

Managed a credible 7th place out of 28 (21 qualifying) so quite pleased. Conditions went from light to reasonably frisky back to light again over the day, with the wind veering through almost 180 degrees.

The blue sails to our leeward in the photo above is another Enterprise, crewed by my friend Phil Kirk and his son Alex.

It was, at eighteen months, Alex's first race. He managed the toy cars in the cockpit, and his dad managed the boat. They beat us soundly, taking 3rd overall.

Not Phil's usual performance, he normally beats everybody, but a good first showing for his crew, I think.

Phil is planning to circumnavigate the UK in a Wayfarer at the end of May with his friend, Jeremy Warren. They want to manage it within 60 days, which would set a new record for the boat. The current best is 78 days.

The plan is to launch from Weymouth and head clockwise, taking it in a series of 200 mile legs, each of which should involve about three days and nights at sea.

I think they're in for quite the adventure. I'm almost jealous. Almost.

Their webpage:

Thursday 27 March 2014

Pack instinct

Not an especially great photo, but this is the mob that greets me
whenever I come home. Even if my wife or whatever offspring are still in
residence (two out of three at the moment) fail to notice my return
because Dad coming home's just part of the daily routine, this lot know
the second my car pulls up on the drive, and are unfailing and,
sometimes, overbearing in the enthusiasm of their greeting.

The pretty face at the bottom with the bronze eyebrows is Lilly. At
almost three, she's the only one that's not a rescue; she's KC
registered with a proper pedigree and everything. But we don't hold that
against her. We brought her as a pup from a reputable breeder known to
our family, before we'd got involved in this whole rescue thing. I think
she'll probably be the last non-rescue dog we ever have. In fact, I know
she will. She's very much a "daddy's girl" and I love her to bits.

I should make honourable mention of her mum, Jazz; I've written about
her here before. She was beautiful, and only with us briefly, but I
still miss her terribly. Loosing Jazz so suddenly and unexpectedly was
the single catalyst that threw us into our initial involvement with the

The big black beast above Lilly is Buster. At eleven, he's the old man
of the group. He was our first "failed foster". Old at nine years when
he came into rescue, and with an unfortunate habit of nipping bums, the
Rescue wasn't sure they could find somebody to foster him, let alone
ever find him a forever home. I fell in love with his size and his
presence, and his big, silly, toothy grin and, after he nipped my
backside the once in greeting and then promised never to do it again,
agreed we'd foster him.

The agreement came as the conclusion to a long evening's coffee and
conversation one night in Bidford where I'd tried to explain to my wife
Nikki and the Rescue's chairman Linda how, whilst I greatly admired her
work and wished her well, we were personally terribly unsuited to this
fostering lark. Truth be told, I always knew he'd be coming to stay. We
were once again back to our normal state, a two dog household.

I thought it would stop there. But no, I was obviously wrong.

Over on the far left is Boo. He came to us on October 26th, not
coincidently my youngest son's birthday, and is our only non-GSD. He's
just shy of two years old now, and is an affectionate, clever, agile
little rogue quite capable of holding his own in our boisterous
household. On that weekend, a year ago last October, the Rescue was
supposed to be meeting a transport and picking him up along with a small
group of other pups from a place called South Mimms, a little north of
London. Linda was supposed to be collecting them but damaged her foot a
day or two before and was unable to drive. Nobody else volunteered and
when it became evident nobody would and things were growing desperate,
we stepped forward.

I think, in retrospect, this was the tipping point of the escalation of
our involvement with the Rescue, and what led us to here.

By the time we'd driven from South Mimms to the Rescue's base in
Bideford, this little blonde ball of fluff and cuteness had broken free
of the others and climbed over onto the back-seat and into Sam's lap.
Sam had given up his birthday to trek the width of the country with us
to help the Rescue out. He decided that Boo was his price for doing so.
Suddenly we were, for the first time, a three dog household.

The handsome black and tan over on the far right is Jack. He's ball
crazy, which is something I find irresistible in a dog. About fourteen
months old, he was born in the Rescue, our having taken his mum in and
discovering she was expecting pups. Once the pups were whelped, he came
to us to foster. Truth be told, the whole thing had the inevitability of
watching a train wreck in slow motion. In this case it was my wife, Nik,
who went all gooey-eyed at the mention of puppies, and I was powerless
to turn the locomotive aside.

But like I said, Jack plays a mean game of ball. That, to my mind,
forgives everything.

Finally, the chap led out languorously on the floor there is our Bear.
He came to us as an emergency foster. The typical scenario, out of time
at the pound and about to be put to sleep unless they could find
somebody to take him. He'd been picked up as a stray in the Coventry
area, microchip traced back to rented accommodation that said they knew
nothing about him, and that was that.

He stank, his lovely fancy coat was filthy, unspeakably begrimed, matted
and tangled. He was terribly baffled and confused and just so, so sad;
almost but not quiet defeated from his protracted time in the pound. His
age was unknown but elderly; cloudy eyes, old teeth and stiff in his
joints. Homing old dogs is often hard, so the Rescue initially
considered putting him into permanent foster.

He cleaned up well. The coat took a lot of work and the assistance of a
professional groomer. He settled seamlessly into our existing pack, and
within a week or two the inevitable happened, and I caved in to (this
time my daughter's) pressure and said he could stay. One more didn't
seem to make much difference by that point.

Cards on table, I never wanted to get into this fostering game, I was
very aware of the risks. I have "over-commitment issues" with almost
everything I do. Nik's argument was "You have your sailing, why can't I
have my own interest" which is fine and fair, except I don't expect
Nikki to sail my boats for me. But it is what it is, and I wouldn't be
without any of them.

After Bear though, I did draw a line. It was clear that if we didn't
start rehoming the dogs we took into foster, we were either going to
have to stop taking them or were going to have to move the kids out to
make more room. Truth be told, that line should've been two dogs ago,
but the idea of life without Jack or Bear is patently ridiculous.

So we started moving them on. Some were much harder than others, none
have been easy to part with, and there have been a few very, very near
misses that almost stayed. But no more failures. I've lost count of the
dogs we've fostered and rehomed, though if pushed could name them all,
tell you the story behind each, tell you which ones played ball, which
were particularly treat focused, who liked a tickle or a scratch and in
which particular, special spot. They stay with you even after they've
moved on, and that's one of the perks of the job.

We've currently got two in foster, a couple of pups; the lovely,
scrumptious baby Bella then, more recently, the slightly older Digger.
That's breaking my usual rule of no more than one foster at a time, but
Digger was the usual story: out of time, facing the needle, and we were
his last resort.

A familiar friend

My little jet-mantled friend is back outside my office window this morning to serenade my morning cup of tea one more time.

Will try and bring a better camera in tomorrow, just in case he makes a final visit before the weekend. These pixilated snaps are getting repetitive.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Whether the weather be fine . . .

. . . or whether the weather be not
Weather the weather whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not

We're sailing on Sunday. You can probably tell I'm getting excited. Keep
compulsively checking the forecast now Sunday's within the five day
range. It strikes me this is pretty normal behaviour for me and one of
the reasons I like Wednesdays.

Having been in the pits of landlocked dispair for a quarter of a year
now, I realise now I've lately drifted from the habit. It's funny how
adrift things can seem without certain reliable pivot points in life.
I'm not generally good at routine, I get quickly bored and distracted.
Yet despite that, I seem to subconsciously build little, invisible and
repetative habits out of all manner of things.

So five days out, the forecast is very subject to change. However, it
currently suggests F2 to F3 from the southeast. It's always as shifty as
hell on our lake whenever there's any east in it; too much land in the
way. Add to that the broken sunshine and warming weather, and it gets
even more flukey in both bearing and velocity.

It can be a bit on the frustrating side, but if you accept it for what
it is, and consider that everybody else on the water with you is beset
by the same challenge, it's actually quite good fun.

Bottom line, if the weather comes in on the light side, it could make
for an entertaining day and very much our racing weather. If it comes in
on the heavier side of the forecast, the Lasers will plane, whilst we
won't so much if at all, so we'll get decsiviely rolled by them.

That's assuming I can remember how to rig the boat after all this time.

[The forecasts are from two sources: The good old BBC and - the latter was actually designed for glider pilots
and other light aviation enthusiasts, but is pretty handy for the inland
puddle sailor as well]

A friend revisits

The blackbird is back this morning; same bush, a different song, but just as sweet.

Of course, still limited to the lens on my camera phone, so what this amounts to is another photo of a bush.....

I've been calling it a bush, but that's unfair. It's hawthorn, which is one of my favourite native trees. It does seem to have something else growing through it this year, a kind of ivy, though exactly what is beyond me to say.

Tuesday 25 March 2014


There is a blackbird in the bush outside my office window singing his little heart out. The camera on my phone is far from man enough to catch him, so instead I'll content myself with these words and a picture of his bush.

Pretty little beast, with his mantle of jet black feathers and his honeybee yellow beak.

Monday 24 March 2014

Petit captiaterraphobia: the cure

A gratuitous photo of Buffy, with my son Ben on helm and myself as crew.
Taken at the Enterprise Open at Frampton last October, a good day.

So looking forward to Sunday.

Ben comes home from Uni the weekend following, for his Easter break.
Looking forward to that as well. Will be good to be back out on the
water with him. Hopefully we can patch his own Ent, Penny, back together
enough to get him afloat!

Cold, salty tea

Spent Saturday morning playing with Thornbury's RIB out on the Severn. It's a brute of an old river, and akin to being thrown around in a churning mug of cold, salty tea, but I am rather find of it.

Conditions were fun. Cold, but with a brisk F5 slightly across the incoming eleven meters of spring tide. Weather was squally. Blue skies are sweet, but if I must be consigned to a powerboat, I think Saturday's weather was the more interesting.

It was mostly kind; dramatic skies, a rainbow and wind whipped waters. The worst of it held off until just after we'd landed and retired to the club house, and we didn't get the hail in any great measure until I was back home and walking Boo in the park.

Whilst I was away playing with powerboats at Thornbury, the sandbag elves were busy "debagging" the shore of Frampton lake. It's confirmed, the lake is once again open for business, and Sunday will see us once more afloat aboard our Enterprise "Buffy". Six races, in three pairs of back-to-back sets, starting at 11am. Given how rusty we all undoubtedly are, I suspect it's going to be exhausting mayhem.

I really can't wait!

A steady hand
The end of the rainbow
Traffic (a couple of Thornbury lads in their RS200)
Morning's fun over, returned to the slip
Tide well on the ebb, time to go walk the dogs

Saturday 22 March 2014

Nothing so smug as a Lilly with a ball


Funny old day. Boo and I find ourselves caught out in a hall storm.

We've found shelter in the park. For Boo's sake, you understand!

He's ball mad

Boats, dogs and weather. Ignore the fact that I have no car this weekend and said vehicle is going to really sting my wallet on Monday, today is a good day.


Just come in off the water and a squall hits. Perfect timing for a change.

About F5 and very chill. Just about beginning to feel my feet again, and it's not especially pleasant.

Friday 21 March 2014

Old Man Willow

Lift home from work dropped me off at the top of my road. Walking the rest of the way, pleasant evening.

Just passed this old willow I used to pay beneath as a kid. Leaves are just beginning to burst.

I love willow. It's totally unassailable in its enthusiasm for life.

Should stick to wind and water

Don't do seem to have much luck with cars. Have just abandoned mine at the garage, now waiting for a lift into work.

The poor vehicle has inflicted one thing after another on me. Third abandonment this week at a garage, though the last two concerned breaks and tyres. This one has something to do with the fuel system, I think.

At least the sun is shining. It's quite lovely in fact. It's exceedingly pleasant standing here, enjoying the rays.

Expect it'll be quite a different picture out on the water tomorrow.

Thursday 20 March 2014

Saturday's playground

Aside from the obvious thrill of getting afloat and back out on the estuary for the first time this year, I'm actually really looking forward to being a student on somebody else's course for a change.

Seem to spend an awful lot of my time when involved with anything like this as the instructor these days. Which is ironic, as most of the time I feel like a raw beginner myself.

11m of spring tide expected at Thornbury, just shy of 11am, with a fairly brisk breeze coming up the channel, so it should be quite entertaining.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Job done

The remains of the night belong to the DJ. Time to pack up and go home.

Shiney shiney

On in a few minutes. Bar is in a different room to the band. Always presents a challenge.


Lights are up, grubs up. Buffet is delicious. Don't normally gorge myself between sets but tonight it's hard to resist.

No signal in this neck of the woods, no wifi available either. I feel scarily out of touch.

Not sure I like the feeling. Leaves me worrying about Sam (boy_v2) and the dogs. Nik and the two older kids are quite able to look after themselves.

At 15, so can Sam. But he's still the baby of the pack.

Expect that's a job title he'll be stuck with for life in my household!

Well gigged, freshly strung

Half way through set up, guitar restrung, soundcheck in twenty minutes. All going to plan.

Nice room. Sound should work well.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Friday 14 March 2014

Hello weekend

Going to be busy. But off to a good start. Got home from work before dark for the first time in an age, so took Jack over to the park to play ball.

Much fun was had by both of us.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Monday Night Rehearsal

But that's just what we call it. This week, it's on a Wednesday.

[edit: And now in the cold light of the following morning I discover it's Friday, which means "Wednesday" was just another name for Thursday this week. Complicated things, names!]

And she hid under the baking pan

Met the first ladybird of spring this morning.

Unfortunately, I think she's a harlequin, which is an invasive Asian species, and not native. But I'm going to ignore that in favour of the good news aspect of this story. Spring.

I like this time of year. It always feels so full of promise. The evenings are beginning to draw out. Still dark by the time I get home, get changed and walk the dogs, but only just.

Feeling considerably more relaxed about my enforced banishment from the water now. Mainly because I'm playing with powerboats for the next two weekends. This Saturday at Frampton, where we're running an RYA Powerboat Level 2 course (I feel personally invested in teaching these folks properly, as they might be the ones pulling me out of the water later in the season) and, as previously mentioned, down at Thornbury next weekend.

It's not as good as sailing, but it's afloat, and in any case, we should be back under canvas again for the end of the month as the lake is supposed to open to sailing again on the 30th.

Plus I have a gig this coming Saturday evening. Always feel better about a weekend that involves a gig.

Ladybird, ladybird fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are gone
All except one
And her name is Ann,
And she hid under the baking pan

It strikes me that there is no such thing as an innocent nursery rhyme.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Spring is sprung

Daffodils alongside the mill race running beneath my office are just beginning to come into flower.

They must've been working towards it for a few weeks now, but I confess this is the first morning I've noticed them.

The cherry blossom on the trees lining the street at home has been full on for a little over a week now. Clouds of pink, amazing, vivid energy; catches my eye every year.

Can quite see why the Japanese have all but made a religion out of the stuff.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Sunday laze

Puppy Bella & old man Buster, chilling on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Saturday 8 March 2014

Storm the barricade

Spent most of today at the Club, inspecting and maintaining the Topper fleet in preparation for the start of sail training at the end of the month.

A brisk wind in the south, still pushing the water up over the north edge where we removed a section of bags to launch a RIB. Not good. Without the bags in place, the lake would've been back in the village today.

On a brighter note, the Topper fleet is good to go, and it was a pleasant, blue skied morning by the lakeside.

And I've hopefully finessed my way on to a powerboat course running at Thornbury Sailing Club in a couple of weeks. The course will undoubtedly be useful, but to be honest, the main lure was really the chance to get afloat again,  even if it isn't under sail.
And it's out on the River. I've been missing the muddy old thing the last few months.

Thornbury Sailing Club is based on a pill a few miles downriver from Lyndey on the opposite bank. It's a much bigger, more active club than Lydney, with a very active racing and cruising community.

I've sailed from there a few times. The slip isn't as well founded as the one at Lydney, so not as good for launching the Lugger. This is why we ended up joining the latter when we went looking for a club based on the River, even though Thornbury is closer, has quite close links with Frampton, and I've a few friends that are members there.

Friday 7 March 2014

Surprisingly, Jack appears to have won.

They've been at it for an hour now. All the others have given up and flopped, but Jack refuses to concede.

Puppy power

Our current foster dog, puppy Bella, doing her level best to wear our Jack out for us this evening.

It always amazes me how energetically gentle the big dogs always are with the babies.

Lots of noise, lots of frantic boisterousness, plenty of big jaws around little tiny heads, but they're always so careful never to hurt them.

Planning a multi-cultural night in!

The Wheelbarrow Man

Just been reading an article written by a chap called Thomas Martienssen for the BBC News, about a place called Palmerston in the Cook Islands in the Pacific.

All manner of thoughts come to mind, not least that, for all the evident difficulties imposed by its isolation, the place does sound like a little piece of paradise. I would dearly love to visit there one day, though I'm doubtful I'll get the chance.

Anyway, the part that really reached out to touch me was the following:

I ask one of the islanders what would happen if someone was to steal a coconut. [writes Tomas Matienssen]

"I'd fill a wheel barrow [with coconuts] and take it round," he tells me. "They're obviously desperate but too proud to ask for one."

I found that quite beautiful.

Landlocked by circumstance and distracted by things other than sailing the last couple of months, I've found myself of late drawn in much closer in to the work of the dog rescue Nikki and I are involved with. I've never been ignorant of human nature or at all naive with regards to the perils of the mob and pack mentality, especially when funnelled through the medium of the Internet and social media. However, I've been, in turn, crushed and uplifted by some of the people I've had dealings with of late.

I'd have to say that it's the latter, the uplifting, that has eventually prevailed over the last week. As I knew it would. But it has been, at times, quite an emotionally bruising experience.

The dogs, of course, have all been beautiful.

Whilst I've always fought hard to not become too cynical, I had thought I'd lost the capacity to be surprised by the way some people behave and the way facts can be so twisted and distorted, whether through malice or misinterpretation, wilful or otherwise.

So I needed the Palmerston story about now, and especially the grace and wisdom of the wheelbarrow man.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

And another thing

Committee meeting at the Club tonight.

It was decided that the lake would continue to remain out of bounds for sailing until the end of March.

This news hasn't helped my mood.

I am going to have to find somewhere else to get my fix. I can't go a whole other month. It just can't work.

Need to sail. This much time sustained on dry land can only be poison to the soul.

The pen is mightier than the sword?

Been a rough week or so for reasons many and varied, mostly to do with the attitudes of people I have never met and would prefer to have no cause to judge.

But they make it difficult.

I find it particularly difficult, when dealing with people that correspond with the literacy of a six year old, not to treat with them as if they have the mental acuity and emotional maturity of a six year old.

An attitude that I find distressing as it's so clearly patronising. And I don't like that, especially when I see it in myself.

And another thing.

Anybody that feels the need to correspond ENTIRELY IN CAPS needs protecting. From themselves.

It must be a terrible thing to have to live in their head full time.