The Dodgey Archive for 2014

Greetings from the Dodge household at the end of yet another year. 

A change of job, no change of job, a change of medication, and a change of character !

For Denise, a new job.  In fact, when we went away at the end of April, she was lucky enough to have two job offers on the table.  She opted for Vets4Pets new practice at Emerson's Green



These photos were taken at the official opening on June 6th


For Chris meanwhile, it's no change.  The job is fine, but something closer to home than Reading (79 miles and at least 90 minutes each way) would be most welcome !

'The Old Sorting Office' is the Reading MOMs' HQ, where they hide behind the 'Improving Reading's Railway' sign.

'MOM' stands for 'Mobile Operations Manager' by the way.


Remember the dreadful weather that we had in January and February ?  Of course you do !  This was Abingdon Road, Oxford, photographed by Chris from the Oxford MOM's van on January 7th.


"We've had a report of a tree down next to the bridge at the end of Aldermaston Station"

This was the night of February 14th, which turned out to be the final big storm of the winter.


Occasionally of course, it all goes to ratshit on the M4.  Nice to know that on this occasion we were still allowed to do 40 though !


The official Network Rail pigeon-botherers, seen here in the back of their handler's van.  The one on the left has a discolouration to his feathers above his right eye, which was brought about by flying into a plate glass window.  Not sure whether that made the accident stats or not.  They're Harris Hawks by the way.


This time last year, Bonzo was looking, to be blunt, old and stiff.  However when she had her first annual check-up, Carla, her new vet, discovered that her back muscles were all tensed up.  A few days on the right drug later, the improvement was spectacular.  She recently ran about six miles along the Tarka trail with us.....

...though we have finally convinced her to use 'The Doggy Bag' for an occasional rest !


"We need to talk about Jensen" !

Truly, he has become the stuff of horror stories !


2013's 'Cute Kitten' has become 2014's 'Biting Burmese Bastard' !  Truth be told, the problems had already started when we posted last year's missive, it's just that at that stage we hoped that the problem, which began as he reached puberty, would be cured by 'having him done'.  This we did in January, but it had no effect on his 'inappropriate predatory behaviour' whatsoever.  His insurance company even agreed to pay for a consultation with a behaviourist.  She came to visit in May.  In fact three of them did, including two trainees.  Jensen bit two of them.  Thankfully however he's only gone for the throat - Chris's - once, though the owner of the throat concerned is adamant that if he pulls that stunt again it's going to be a one-way trip to

 In the meantime he apparently continues to pursue the philosophy espoused by John Bird in 'Absolute Power', namely "Never do enough to rise to the top of anyone's list of priorities", but it's a close run thing on occasions !

'Old Six-eyes' sent this selfie to Denise (who was away at the time) after a recent unprovoked attack.


Meanwhile, his reputation continues to spread.....


In other news, as they say, we finally got round to doing something about the state of the conservatory, which was best summed up by the word 'rotten', although it soon became clear that 'doing something' actually meant 'get a new one'.

Okay, deep breath, here we go....

More on the conservatory later - on with the photos !



We made our usual visit to Tenerife in January.  We requested "a high apartment" with a sea view.  Hmm.

Although technically, we did have a sea view, well, sort of !

So, no view of the sunset !  This led to 'roving cocktails', where you find somewhere that you can watch the sunset.....

....then stick the camera on a tripod, tell it to take a photo every couple of minutes.....

...and leave it to get on with it !

At Loro Park, we watched the annual whale-tossing competition !

Oh yes, and Chris went para-gliding.  Not 'hang-gliding', as Steve Wells subsequently pointed out.

And truth be told, he didn't enjoy it all that much.

Click here to watch.

Actually with hindsight it was worth going to find out about 'Go-Pro' cameras, one of which shot the video from the end of the boom which Chris is holding.


Back at home, the storms and flooding continued.

During a weekend at Lee Abbey....

....Chris Roberts took a dip....

....searching for as long as he possible could.....


....but it really does look as though his beloved pallet is gone for good !


Safely re-united with Hannah, Colin, Jo, Kate and Bob

Their memories of Lee Abbey and North Devon go back an awful long way !

Spectacular seas at Heddon's Mouth the next day.


We returned to Foxdown in March


By this time the weather had improved markedly


Denise prepares the usual 'Full English' for Tom & Fliss Harper on Saturday morning.


Finally - 'The Puffing Billy' at Torrington Station is open for once !


Boating time again !  In the Spring it was Calcutt to Market Harborough and back with Andy & Wendy Tandy.


Jensen's first boating trip.  Here he checks out the roof.


Something's caught his eye !


Okay, so we we were blowing our own trumpet somewhat here, but 10,000 locks is quite a milestone.

Conveniently, we reached it halfway up Foxton staircase, where we had a 50 minute wait for boats coming down, giving us plenty of time to crack open the bubbly.


May means our annual Eurovision party.  As ever Steve Rendall (nearest to TV on the right) provided competitions, prizes and euro-nerdery.


Look who's wearing my shirt !

It was the lead singer of the French entry, which managed a total of deux points.

One can only speculate what the French nation would think, if they knew it was an M&S shirt !

Denise accepts her prize from the winning beard.


Isn't this just beautiful ? Seen at Beale Park boat show in June.


Owner looking like her dog ?

A team of Newfoundlands gave a display of water rescue, barking and farting.






That's better !


June 1st.  We host a lunch to christen the conservatory.

Never mind "I hope it's warm enough to have lunch outside", it warm enough to have breakfast outside !


Jude dropped in from Stornoway, along with her new squeeze Nick


We were joined for lunch by Andy & Wendy, plus Nick Harris and Lucy Meaker, shortly to become 'Mrs Harris'.  Photo by Jude.


Now then, time for France...


Nick and Lucy joined us for the first week.  Here we're enjoying dusk at Fongrave on the River Lot, and yes, those are a couple of English narrowboats moored in the background.


Dawn the following morning, photographed by the wife who got up for a wee at 6 o'clock !


It's one o'clock, and time for lunch, dum de dum de dum dum*.  This is the current limit of navigation of the lower Lot.

* That's 'dum de dum' as in Genesis lyrics (I Know What I Like), not as in The Archers, which is of course 'dum de dum de dum de dum' etc etc


Denise and Crew


Breasted up with other boats waiting for passage up the Garonne**.

Note the rival adult males here seen displaying the size of their stomachs.  Yep, been watching David Attenborough again !



Now pay attention.  The larger of these two vessels is 'Confluences', which is used to give extra oomph to boats navigating the River Garonne upstream from Nicole ( shown above, where the River Lot joins the Garonne) to St Leger, where the River Ba´se joins), a distance of around 3 miles.  The four of us are about to get a ride on 'Confluences', whilst our 'Calypso' is assisted by 'Tom Pouce', the smaller boat.


Here, 'Tom Pouce' starts to give 'Calypso' a shove, adding another 100 bhp to her own rather more modest 63.

These photos, plus those marked ** taken by and used with kind permission of Richard Pearson

The view from 'Confluences'

Click here for the video of a spectacular ride....


Taking a quick break from the media feeding frenzy....


Calypso catches up, looking mighty impressive, given that you can't see 'Tom Pouce' in this shot !


Arriving at St Leger**


Denise plays in the fountain at Valence


The ducks enjoy themselves as we negotiate the aqueduct over the River Tarn.  The railway bridge in the background is mighty impressive, but very noisy (as in rumbly) when trains go over, hence we decided to moor well away from it !


Heading into Agen, for Nick & Lucy to get their train back to Toulouse.


Chris's mum Margaret turned 91 this year.  This time round we took her to Hestercombe Gardens, near Taunton


Here she poses, furthest from camera, along with Chris, sister Sheila, and nephew Ed.


A weekend with Colin Smith in early August included an invitation-only visit to Lord McAlpine's private railway at Fawley, near Henley-on-Thames.

Here, a tank engine tackles a gradient of up to 1 in 13 (which is phenomenally steep for a railway) up from the valley.


Chris was delighted to find a fully functioning signalbox...


Which included an old Train Describer which used to live in the old Bristol East box, which closed in 1969.


View from the Signal Box


Lots of classic cars on display


The museum included this print of Keynsham station.  Railway cranks amongst you will be aware that the presence of mixed gauge track dates the original painting to the early 1890s, way back in the good ole' days before First Great Western !


A member of the Fawley Youth Opportunities Programme checks tickets.....


...whilst Denise enjoyed a ride on the roundabout.


August.  The Flying Proms.  Cue photos of Pimms and Bombay Sapphire, and sumptuous picnics.

Not this year.

This year, we had the event after which no Flying Proms will ever be the same again - 'Vera' paid us a visit.


Cue the orchestra, strike up The Dambusters March, and cue two airworthy Lancasters !

No way can a couple of photos do this justice.

but this does...


Back to boating.....


Sometimes, you get lucky.  This year, we had what was quite simply the best September boating weather ever.


Lunch.  Starter.  The diet continues....


Totally chilled at Stratford...


..and always lots to watch. 







A brilliant week !


Late September.  Not quite sure who is making an honest man/woman out of whom here, but Nick & Lucy tied the knot in late September


The wedding cake - they were brought together by a shared love of biking.


Less formally attired, the morning after


In November it was back to 'Sandpipers', along with Andy & Wendy and Nick & Lucy.

This is the view from the loft conversion, looking across to Appledore.


We were very lucky with the weather - this is the Saturday pre-second-breakfast stroll on the beach.


A highly jovial supper !


We rounded of November with a sleepover with Tom and Fliss at Clevedon


Playing with 'Panoramic' mode on the phone, hence the Bristol Channel appears to be tiled !


Clevedon Pier


Tenerife in January ? No, The Bristol Channel on the last day of November !


Into December now, and a few shots of all the work going on at Reading, taken on the 12th.....

This is the new flyover - sorry, 'elevated railway' - seen from the Tilehurst end looking east towards Reading.

This will be brought into use over the Xmas / New Year period

As well as a flyover, we'll have a 'dive-under'.  Two new lines leave Oxford Road Jcn (pay attention at the back there !) and will dive under the flyovers, before joining the existing main and relief lines at the western end of Reading station.


Here they curve round to the north-east....


Crossing impressive new storm drains....

This is where they dive under the flyover, or to be pedantic the two flyovers....

Here you see them both.  The top one is the one shown in the first of these photos whilst in front of it is the new 'Festival Line' (no, I don't know either why it's called that either) which rises to clear Cow Lane, then drops down before sashaying under the higher flyover to join the existing relief lines.

The new Feeder Lines and the Festival Line will be commissioned at Easter 2015.

Occasionally though, we still get to see the old timers - 2 x BR Standard 5s in this case, caught between Maidenhead and Reading.


The weekend before Xmas we stayed at Watermouth Cove, between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin

Sunset at Woolacombe


Cosy little 'Seashells'


Visiting the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway, Denise and Bonzo pose next to 'Isaac' at Killington Lane


Bonzo poses on the Coastal path near Woody Bay


And finally....

Muttley has arrived, just in time for Xmas


'Denise's Chest Puppy' gets carried to the field on Xmas morning


Have a great Xmas 2014, and a happy and prosperous 2015,

but watch out, in case HE'S BEHIND YOU !

Chris & Denise

P.S: If by any chance you feel the urge to look at previous years, here are the links:

2012   2013

2011   2010   2009   2008   2007   2006

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