The Dodgey Archive for 2016

Greetings from the Dodge household at the end of yet another year, which yet again has passed with frightening rapidity.

    OK, here goes...

We finally retired the 'old' Citroen in January


The mileage being a little on the high side !


It's replacement is equally French, same equally boring 'Elephant Arse Grey', but a little newer.

At the time of writing, it's just clocked up 30,000 miles, as the Reading commuting continues.....


Back to Tenerife later in the month....

Mount Teide in full view during the descent, heading down the west side of the island before turning east to land.



Same apartment as last year, same brilliant view.  It's about 0850, the sun is out, the morning ferry is on it's way to La Gomera, and all is well with the world !


Shipping at dusk.  L-R, Benchi Express, unknown cruise ship, and that ferry again...


...all duly captured for posterity


Dinner at The Blue Cactus


Whale, and in this case dolphin-spotting aboard Freebird 1.  Flipper does his thing here, happily swimming between the twin hulls.


At the end of the trip, the skipper prepares for some tight parking, which was expertly executed.


Lunch at the determinedly Anglo-centric 'Intercontinentale'.  Dibbler Warwick (stood by the tree) has been pulling in the punters for as long as we've been going there.


Afternoon stroll....


...and another media feeding frenzy at sunset.


A lovely fortnight.


To Foxdown once again in February.  There was only one T&C - "You must bring with you a very well-stocked bar".


Denise poses with the dogs....


...and running them on Instow beach.


GREASE is the word !

We hosted a 'Grease' screening in February, where we even managed to squeeze a T-Bird into the lounge

Here Denise (and Bonzo) pose with Alice Jay, breeder of Muttley.


Tom & Fliss Harper


Lynn and John Haddrell


Pink Ladies Lynn Haddrell, Sally Drewett, Denise, Hollie Drewett and Sarah Kaines


Muttley is introduced to one of the wigs.  Are they possibly related ?


Coach Rendall looks disapprovingly at his charges


Foxdown was our Winter Weekend destination of choice throughout 2015-16


Someone wasn't sure whether she was allowed on the furniture.... she decided to do some cooking instead !


A visit to the Red Barn at Woolacombe


Muttley in full flight, landing gear fully retracted (Photo by Nick Harris)



Easter saw the railway through Keynsham closed for 10 days... order to lower the track in preparation for the electrification...


...which has now, er, been put on hold for another 5 years or so !


Birthday Lunch time, and Denise is ready to roll the dough !


Carla (Denise's boss) and husband Ollie provided two pizza ovens...


...the weather was reasonably kind.....


...and apparently it's only slightly embarrassing when people mistake your boss for the hired help !


Over 40 pizzas were served


A simply brilliant day !


We headed north for our first boating trip of the year.  Here 'Bridgewater Hall' is moored near Anderton

Weather for the first half of the week - 'Mixed'


Another media feeding frenzy, this time as we descend Anderton Lift


Access to the twin locks on the River Weaver used to be controlled by ex-railway semaphore signals.


Much better weather from Tuesday onwards.....


...and lovely light Spring evenings !


Contented dogs during a lunch-stop.


We were hoping to explore the River Weaver / Weaver Canal as far as the theoretical limit of navigation at Weston Point Docks, Runcorn.

However a non-operational and very low swing-bridge stopped our progress about half a mile short.....


....leading to an interesting venue for breakfast.....


Look beyond the uninspiring foreground....


...and there was a stunning view across the Mersey estuary to the Wirral and Snowdonia.


A selfie ? or perhaps a Bonzie....


Muttley's lifejacket remains untested after her first four holidays.


Bonzo, taking life more quietly these days, but still enjoying her boating.


A beautiful spring evening on the River Weaver.


'Flying Scotsman', let loose on what we still think of as the 'Western Region' in May, and seen here passing Towney (near Aldermsaton) on a thoroughly gloomy Saturday morning.


Also in May, to the New Theatre, Oxford, for 'Yes' in concert.


Yes, it does look for all the world like a wedding reception !

In fact it was at the Williams Formula 1 team HQ at Grove, where we enjoyed a hospitality package for the Monte Carlo Grand Prix race day.


In the museum, Chris gets up-close-and-personal with Nigel Mansell's championship-winning car from 1992.


You can also pose on a podium, with genuine silverware.  Here Denise poses with the Constructor's trophy for the 2001 Italian Grand Prix, won for Williams by Juan Pablo Montoya, his first Grand Prix victory.


And the award for Best Codpiece goes to.......


The pre-race entertainment also included the chance to try a wheel-change.  This 'team' managed 6.19 seconds.

Williams consistently produced the fastest 'real' pit-stops in 2016, changing all four wheels with the car stationary for just 1.9 seconds - and doing this consistently !

Click to see Chris's Pitstop or The Real Thing Done Properly or The Real Thing as done by Red Bull later the same day, causing much roflment amongst all those beginners at Williams HQ who had done it much quicker at their very first attempt !

Highlight of the day was watching the race on the big screen in the media centre


In the foyer, Denise poses beneath Damon Hill's championship winning car.


And beside the topiary.


Early June, and Chris takes mum Margaret (93 and still going strong) for a stroll at Ebbor Gorge


Followed by tea, and a cuddle for her grand-dogs !


France.  A lovely spot to spend the first evening.  Sunshine + gin +pizza + wine = Utter Contentment !

We arrived in France the day after the Brexit vote.

This was the cartoon in France Est  the following day.


Sunday evening meal near Scey


The boy with his toys


"We know that boat" went up the cry as we tied up at Girancourt.  We knew it because last year, in the same area of France, we had a splendid evening of quaffing and troughing aboard 'Normaddie' with owner Freddie, a retired Swiss railway engineer, and his dog Willie.


Later that evening Freddie joined us for dinner - here he is showing us some of his books on Swiss railways, which really is more interesting than it sounds !


Three days later, when we passed through Girancourt again, Freddie insisted on taking us out to lunch.

Here, at a little cafe-bar along side the Etang de LAbbeye (which supplies water to the summit level of the Canal des Vosges) the trick was to ignore the furniture, and focus on the food, which was delicious !


This was our first view of Epinal - our destination this year - and we thought "This looks alright".

It was, and better still, the boat on the right - 'Pendragon' - was crewed by four enthusiastic gin-drinking brits, who joined us for drinks later.


Our 'Corvette', moored at Epinal

Dining at 'Restaurant Denise', though on this evening we did miss out on the late sun !


Moored at Selles, on the Canal des Vosges.

The red sloping roof is the terrace of the restaurant....


... which served, amongst other delights, a brilliant Cafe Liegois !


Cruising with 'Pendragon' towards the end of the trip.  This is another boat that comes with a fitted 'Denise', who can be seen here relaxing at the stern.


Family gathering at Sidmouth for Chris's mum's birthday day out.

L-R: Chris, Cousin Dennis, Denise, Phil, Ed and Sheila Cutcher, Mum, Lottie Cutcher.  Mum's cousin Brian is far right, along with his wife June.


The family wheelchair gets it's annual outing.


Mother and son....


....admiring a fine view.


This looks like a grainy wartime photograph.  In fact it was taken in July, when Chris spotted a WW2 Blenheim bomber circling between Theale and Aldermaston.  As you do.


Later, the Blenheim heads back towards Duxford, along with two Spitfires.



August, and after many years of the stars never quite lining up, we finally got to visit Denise's former work-colleague Jude and husband Nick, now living near Inverness.

First port-of-call was Fortrose, on the opposite side of the Moray Firth to the airport, to watch the afternoon arrival of dolphins.


Chris thought that they might be coming to watch the Bristol Easyjet take off, but apparently they're thinking "Fish for tea"


Next day we were treated to a road trip along the length of the Caledonian Canal.

This is the brilliant Fort Augustus five-rise staircase.


A Swedish crew descending in their yacht....

...and leaving the staircase, heading northeast into Loch Ness.


Later that day we finished up at 'Neptunes Staircase', near Fort William, the biggest staircase in Britain, an eight rise, each chamber 135' long.

If you've been boating on the Canal du Midi with us, think 'Fonerrannes, but with shit weather'.


Never mind 'Boaty McBoatface', whilst we were having lunch in the nearby cafeteria Shippy McShipface worked through the locks.

Actually it's the M.V. 'Sprit Of Fortitude', a name which sums up one attribute that you need to pay 500 per night per head to put up with Scottish summer weather.

Here she is leaving the staircase, and negotiating swinging road and railway bridges.

To get really good pix of Neptune's Staircase you need much better weather, and possibly a drone.  Hmm.


Here she is in weather to do her justice. Click here to find out more.


Hosts Jude and Nick.


Posing on the shore of Loch Ness.

Marine Biologist Nick is not a believer in 'Nessie', citing "Not enough biomass to support anything that size".


Our own personal biomass was very well supported the next day by wonderful fish and chips at the Applecross Inn

It is is situated on the north-west coast, with a superb view out to the Isle of Skye.

Wracked by hunger and thirst, the duty photographer couldn't be arsed to photograph the view before heading for the bar.

When he duly emerged, the cloud and mist had rolled in, and the view had disappeared !


The food however, was terrific.


OK, own up !  Who left their salad ?


Later however we had this view from a little further north.


Stunning scenery, a lovely road, and the weather gradually improving.

Also in August, this time at Didcot, Chris found 'Tornado' heading an excursion


Regular viewers of these pages will see this sight and think "Flying Proms".


This year we were joined by Mel and Sally Cunliffe.

Mel is another former member of Mendip Flying Group.  If you've seen any of our canal videos that include aerial footage, it was probably Mel flying the plane at the time.


Admittedly, we've had better weather in past years.


The usual rousing climax.


Look what I've got !


This is 'Airlander', a.k.a. The Flying Arse (Go on, Google it, you know you want to) which is being developed just up the road from Old Warden (home of the Flying Proms) at Cardington.  The two green hangers are the largest in Britain, and were originally built for the R100 and R101 airships.

A few days later it suffered something of a mishap during early testing.

Click here for Youtube footage.


Boating in September - a five day trip from Defford to Stratford-on-Avon and back.

We spent the first night here at Fladbury lock


At Stratford, tied up opposite the R.S.C. theatre.

This was our third trip aboard 'Ostentatious', which means it's now the narrowboat on which we've spent the most time.


Mel and Sally also joined us for a day.


Twins Chris and Jo Roberts celebrated their 34th birthdays with a fine lunchtime celebration at Llantwit Major


Hannah, Chris, Kate and Jo


Later in September, Chris also enjoyed a trip to the National Railway Museum with Tom Harper and John Virgin.


Here, JV samples the interior of the original Japanese Bullet Train


Here, the camera is drawn to fine lower quadrant signal gantry


In the early 1900s, this fine model was built for the Yorkshire & Lancashire Railway's Signalling School.


Also at the museum, an original Sinclair ZX81 printer.


Houseguest ! Remmie Hutchinson joined us for a week in late September.


Jenson is currently being offered for re-homing.  At the time of writing we anticipate that he will be moving to South-West Devon in the New Year.


Mid-October: Reports of a firearm in the bushes at Newbury station.

Carefully recovered by Thames Valley Armed Response Unit + SOCO (right)

Forensically recovered, and bagged as possible evidence.

It was actually only capable of firing ball bearings, and no-one had the slightest idea how it got there.

Back to Foxdown once again in October, this time with Nick and Lucy Harris, Colin Smith and Roger Beazer.  In between showers, an excellent walk along the beach at Westward Ho!.  Fans of Property Porn will by now be familiar with this area following frequent appearances on Channel 4's 'Coast or Country'.

Panoramic scene at Instow, looking across towards Appledore.


Autumn in the grounds at Foxdown


Back at Foxdown, we entertained owners Tony and Suzi to a Curry Night

Pleasant conditions in between the showers

A cuddle for Bonzo.....


Back to The New Theatre, Oxford two nights later for The Australian Pink Floyd.

The inflatable 'roo is a nice little nod back to 1977 and the release of Floyd's 'Animals' album, which featured an inflatable pig suspended above Battersea Power Station !


The Prog Rock Tribute theme continued just ten days later, with the Genesis tribute band The Musical Box playing Bath Forum.


2016 saw the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the Inter City 125 fleet.  To mark the occasion, 253001, one of the first power cars to enter service, was repainted in the original 1976 livery.  It is seen here at Reading in early November.


As many of you will already be aware, Bonzo passed away peacefully on 11th November.

She had clocked up just over a sixth of a century, being just two months short of her 17th birthday.  She packed in 32 boating trips, countless weekends away, and ran over 350 miles behind the bikes.  Plus a host of happy memories.

Back to Devon just a week later.  What better way to round off lunch ?

Denise and Lucy busy in the kitchen of 'Frobisher'.


The diet continues....


"Now then, this aerial photography malarkey......"


Lots of men of a certain age suddenly find themselves in touch with their inner child.


Interesting possibilities lie ahead !


A recently-discovered photo of Chris's parents, taken circa 1946.




Merry Christmas everyone, and a Happy New Year !

Chris & Denise

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

2015  2014  2013  2012     

2011   2010   2009   2008   2007   2006

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