Canine cuts and shivering Spoodles

Recently I had what was possibly the blondest moment of my entire brunette history.

With the temperatures rising (or so we thought) and Charlie resembling more Siberian Yak than perfectly groomed pooch, I booked him in for his S|S13 cut.

The day arrived, and with 20 minutes left to get him wash, cut and blow dry ready, I left the house and headed off into town. With time on my side, the sun shining and a friend on speakerphone, I merrily made my way into town in an unhurried, stress-free manner.

Sitting at the final set of traffic lights and preparing to pull in and park, I told the friend I best be going as I had to get the dog unloaded and ready to roll. It was then that the realisation of my total and utter stupidity hit home.

As I turned around to look in the back seat I remembered the single most important component of the outing: the dog. The same dog that was currently sitting on the other side of the gate at home, happily gnawing on a treat in the midday sun.

The words “drat, damn and bother” – or something meaningful to that effect – sprang from my mouth. The phone (with friend still laughing) was hung up and the car turned around. The dog groomer was called and warned of Charlie’s impending lateness; I could sense eyes rolling. My husband was called and warned off my impending lateness for lunch; I was greeted with further laughter and called a numpty.

Unsurprisingly the journey there and back again was neither unhurried or stress free. Every slow-driving, law-abiding road user in Norwich was now out and hogging all available lanes in front of me.

Charlie greeted me with a look of surprise and alarm as I screeched across the gravel, oiked him over the gate and threw him into the passenger seat faster than he could enquire whether he was going somewhere nice – which was just as well really as he wasn’t.

IMG_1314Unfortunately, since having his summer ‘back, sack and crack’, the weather has turned and summer is quite clearly not just around the corner. So while we certainly appreciate having a clean, sweet-smelling dog to stroke in front of the TV at night, in hindsight, Charlie could have probably done with those extra few inches of matted fur to keep his slender frame warm in this chilly May wind.

To make amends for this premature shearing, I’ve resorted to turning the heating back on, wrapping him up and allowing him to practically take up residence on my lap at every available opportunity.

It’s a dog’s life indeed.


Grumpy trolls from Down Under

Over the years I’ve received a fair few comments on my blog. Most have been great, a few have cheerfully disagreed with something I’ve said and others raised a differing topic to debate. A small handful have, unsurprisingly in this troll-infested world, been downright rude for the sake of just being nasty.

But unlike Twitter, where you have little choice but to put up with such drivel, here on my own blog I believe I have every right to keep those with a potty mouth from spoiling the nice, clean lines of my page.

So if something pings into my inbox that makes me wrinkle my nose in distaste, then of course I’m not going to “allow”. I’m all for freedom of speech – it’s not like I don’t make the most of it here – but quite frankly, if someone wants to wretch up a stream of ungrammatical drivel all over the screen, then they can bloody well take the time and effort to write their own blog, not just invade mine.

The other day two comments arrived in my inbox for approval. One was from someone who was kind enough to say she enjoyed the blog; the other was from a man who obviously took great personal offense to my reasons for leaving Australia.

Now his comment wasn’t littered with expletives and he didn’t even tell me where to go, but his patronising tone so rubbed me up the wrong way I thought I’d write a post about it:

What did you expect, you were living in perth full of Saffers jocks and poms.
If you had come to Melbourne and given yourself a fighting chance you may have made it.

Still at least you have the rest of your life to regret the decision best of luck with that.

Well, Chris W from Melbourne, what can I say. Thank you, I guess, for arguing my case so well as to why I wanted to leave Australia in the first place – and for so perfectly living up to that ‘friendly, unbitter about the prison ships’ reputation that so many of your fellow countrymen – for whatever reason – seem to strive hard to obtain.

So should you find yourself tossing and turning at night Chris, worried that I am wracked with guilt about throwing in the towel and giving up, then please, fear not. Regret is certainly not something I have, rather it was the best decision I ever made. Two years on and I still wake up every day feeling glad to be home and looking forward to enjoying the rest of my life in the very best place on earth.

And for the record I did spend time in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, but none of these places would have made me want to stay. How shall I put it, the reasons for leaving were far more ‘nationwide’…

P.S. In light of your being such a great ‘sporting’ nation and us being mere Poms, how’s that medal placement table working out for you?

Constipated goldfish and suidical shrimp

Up until a couple of months ago, I had no idea that keeping fish was such an emotionally draining experience – or that it would involve such a large chunk of every weekend.

Gone are the days when goldfish were given out in sandwich bags at the local fair. Now it’s all swanky tanks with fitted pumps, fancy (a.k.a pricey) breeds and a bigger assortment of cleaning paraphernalia than currently resides under my kitchen sink. And don’t get me started on the paperwork. I do believe there’s more legal documentation to fill in when purchasing a fish than there is to bring a human child into the world.

When buying one itty-bitty little fish, I was quizzed on the size of the tank, how many other fish resided in it, how many plants were in situ and how well-established and stable the living environment would be for the new arrival. When I left the hospital with my new-born babies, I don’t recall needing proof of anything other than a car seat. No one asked me whether I had a safe, secure and child-friendly environment to return to, or how many other mouths there were to feed and whether could I afford to maintain another.

It says much about society today I think when you need to prove you’re a responsible adult to purchase a fish, but any half-baked, under-age moron can pop out a child. Anyway, back to the drama of keeping fish.

My first experience back in the 80’s was a relatively stress-free affair. It consisted of a plastic fish tank, a few bit of coral and Dempsey and Makepeace (Versions 1, 2 and 3). The only drama that I can recall is the day Dempsey 2 leapt out of the tank and landed between the pages of a nearby book. Which promptly slammed shut. After much searching, many tears and shrieking accusations of theft (aimed at my sister), Dempsey 2 was later found – ever so slightly flattened – and returned to the tank.

He struggled on for a few more hours, swimming in ever decreasing circles before finally gasping his last breath. A few tears later and he was given the customary sendoff. He was flushed and then quickly replaced. Yes, it’s a brutal life being a fish.

A coupe of years ago it was decided my daughter was ready to have her own fishy friend, and so, amidst great excitement, she was taken along to choose two new members of the family. If I’m honest I didn’t hold out much hope for the long-term survival of Hermione (that’s her on the right) and Ron.

On some days they were starved and on others massively overfed; often they could barely see through the glass (I swear I once saw Ron trying to wipe it with his fin) and often the filter was turned off at night as it proved too noisy for a goodnight sleep.

But what do you know, despite being moved from house to house in 2 inches of water and continually having their tank covered with dustsheets while we renovated and painted around them, they held in there and are still going strong.

With them now taking up residence in the kitchen,  it was decided that the ‘Nemo’ themed tank (complete with glass pebbles and a garish grinning plastic fish) was quite frankly hideous – and now resembling something akin to a limescale encrusted swamp –  and it was definitely time to move Hermione and Ron up the property ladder and into a bigger home. Preferably one with a classier line of décor and uninterrupted views of kitchen life.

An open-topped Fluval Chi tank was duly bought and installed. With its neutral colour scheme and bubbling waterfall feature it was certainly an improvement. I think the design is meant to improve the Feng Shui of our home, though from my limited knowledge of the subject I’m fairly certain that having a large collection of razor-sharp knives stuck to the opposite wall might just have cancelled out any benefits gained.

As Hermione and Ron were more than happy with their new abode, it seemed only fair that my son should have his own fish too. So back we went to Pets at Home and, using his Easter money from Grandma, he selected Voldemort. Now he had seemed like quite a perky little fish in the shop, but sadly it was just not meant to be. Just one week later and we came home to find him floating upside down.

I did try to keep my son from spotting him, but I wasn’t quite quick enough. And so followed the inevitable tears, explanation of death and reassurance that he must have already been sick – as opposed to my sons deeply held belief that the other two had ganged up on him and cruelly starved him to death.

So back to the shop we went (dead fish and receipt in hand) and Voldemort 2 was promptly chosen. We also decided to throw caution to the wind and purchase a couple of shrimps to join the crew, in the hope they could make themselves useful and  keep on top of the additional poo.



Another week went past and we noticed that Voldemort 2 was now spending the majority of his days bobbing around at the surface. As try as he might he simply couldn’t swim down, and every time he did he immediately shot up again and then lolled against the side of the tank. So once again – given that we obviously had nothing better to do with our weekends – we loaded the fish into a plastic yogurt pot, prepared his owner for a second consecutive loss and headed back to Pets at Home. Feeling rather embarrassed to be working our way through their stock so fast, we handed over the now motionless fish for a diagnosis.

Well it turns out Voldemort 2 wasn’t at death’s door after all, he was merely constipated. Who knew? There was us about to flush the little bugger down the toilet and all he needed was to relieve the load.  It certainly explained the bobbing to the surface and all that rolling around with a pained look on his face – he was basically puffed up with wind.

The solution to a gassy goldfish – should you be interested – is all in the diet. Too many flakes will do this to a fish apparently. So we returned to the car and happily informed our waiting son that his fishy friend had indeed returned from the dead. He declared that Voldemort 2 had obviously used his superior magic powers to survive a vicious and attack from Hermione and Ron.

I’m pleased to say that one block of blood worms later and Voldemort 2 was several ounces lighter and capable of swimming down; he’s never looked back since.

Sadly the same can not be said for the shrimp. The very same week we realised that both had vanished without trace. It was confirmed in the pet shop (a place I was by now quite clearly spending far too much of my time) that shrimp like to leap, and had therefore quite possibly ended up on the kitchen floor – and as a doggy hors d’oeuvre. It goes without saying their cost was refunded. Well, they were pricey little things to start with and the sales girl (so we were told) should have never have released them to such a certain death.

Low and behold, when cleaning the tank a few weeks later both shrimp were spotted alive and kicking. They’d simply been hiding away in the fake plant and obviously so consumed with their designated job as toilet attendants, they hadn’t even had a chance to come up for a breath. I’d like to say that brings the whole story to a nice happy end. But alas, in this death trap of a house it wasn’t to be.

While I getting ready for work just one week later, my daughter brought up the empty pot that sat on the floor beside the tank. And there, curled up in the bottom was one crispy kamikaze shrimp. The whereabouts of the other one remained something of a mystery right up until the day I decided to wash the sofa covers.

Upon pulling the 4-seater away from the wall, what should I see on the floor but the missing scuttling critter. Quite how he had summoned up the energy to leap from the tank in the kitchen, make it into the living room, across a deep pile rug and behind all that heavy sofa fabric I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps the dog was in hot pursuit at the time.

I’m pleased to report that to date,  all 3 surviving members of the fish tank are still alive, happy and completely intact.

The blood worms (given on alternate days with flakes and pellets) are keeping them regular and none are showing any suicidal tendencies or even attempting an escape.

Now if only the same could be said of the other tank of tropical fish…

A Pom returns: the reality of life after Australia

This is one blog I’ve been meaning to write since packing up our Aussie-born pooch and 20 foot container of ‘stuff’ and waving goodbye to Down Under. I always meant to give an update on Life After Perth, but just to be sure my rose-tinted ‘happy to be home’ goggles were now a more realistic hue of clear, and to ward off all accusations of still being drunk on rolling green hills and Tesco prices, I thought I’d leave it a respectable 6 months before giving a verdict.

But time flies when you’re busy and it has been nearly 2 years since our return. More and more people have been contacting me to ask “What happened next?” People who want to be told that returning to the UK isn’t a one way ticket to WhathehellhaveIdonesville – that I’m not just another Pom that pinged the wrong way. Or, I suspect, be reassured that I’m not sat here rocking backwards and forwards in a corner, clutching a photo of a Skippy and muttering darkly to myself how we should have never left.

Well the good news is I’m still sane, I rarely rock and I never weep at the sight of a kangaroo.

Returning to a British way of life has been an interesting journey to say the least. Unlike our hasty departure from the UK 3.5 years before, the Australian exodus of 2010 was an extremely well-executed affair, with a year of meticulous planning and quite a lot of careful saving along the way.

It started with a trip back to confirm our decision, scout new areas to live and set up schooling. This was followed by 6 months of heavy-duty moving, haggling, sorting and packing – along with the selling of whatever we couldn’t afford to ship back. I thoroughly recommend a garage sale as the most effective way to clear unwanted junk. One night of preparation, 5 hours of bargaining and several 100 people trampling over our lawn later and we’d covered the cost of shipping the dog. That may not sound like much, until you realise his First Class cage back cost more than our 4 tickets combined. Whether or not he was worth the expensive remains a hotly debated subject to this day.

Touching back down on British soil was a happy occasion for the whole family. I would have happily kissed the ground, but for the fact I had half a dozen bags and a limp child hung off my person, and the Arrivals Hall floor was in need of a good scrub. It was an epic flight to say the least, but hats off to Air Asia, they may be a budget airline with a questionable line of stomach-churning Pot Noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the service was brilliant, and the cheap ‘Business Class’ sized seats ensured we arrived rested and with all vertebra working and intact.

There was no fanfare or line of excited faces waiting to meet us as we walked through. We took a taxi to the nearest Travelodge and laid there, all wide awake, wired from excitement and struggling to breathe in the unventilated room. After a few hours of listening to the kids flapping around on the sofa bed we decided to hit the road early (in the car we’d bought unseen on the Internet) and our get on with our new life. We rocked up in Norwich before even the earliest of birds were catching worms, and then, with hours to kill till the next Travelodge opened, spent several hours getting lost in the one-way system while looking for somewhere to eat.

A week after picking up the keys to our house (rented unseen on the Internet), and the fastest unpacking of a container in history, my husband disappeared in a taxi, boarded a plane and flew back to whence we had come. With a work contract still to complete in Sydney, I was left waving goodbye in the doorway of a new house, city and county, with no family or friends for miles around and 2 kids to look after till Christmas. Not quite how I pictured our happy homecoming.

The 4 months that followed were certainly a crash course in starting over. There were new roads to navigate, shops, doctors and dentists to find, schools and nurseries to start, utilities to organise and complicated contracts to decipher. Credit, I was reminded, is most certainly not your friend when you’ve left for sunnier shores.

During those long and lonely weeks I spent half of everyday on Skype and resorted to accosting strangers in the local park just to have some adult conversation. I endured a long running struggle with a tight arse landlord, a carpet that stank of cat wee and a shower that didn’t even work. I had to deal with a dippy, runaway dog, catch spiders the size of a dinner plate, buy and master a lawnmower with a mind of its own and battle through various strains of vomiting virus, ear infections and flu. And then, to top it all off, I had 6 long, glorious weeks with limited eyesight and an addiction to painkillers while I waited for my new eyes to work.

A walk in the park it most certainly was not. But despite all of the above, and the feeling rather lonely in my husband-less state, I loved every single day of being back. Even those when the temperatures hit -8 degrees and it took me 1.5 hours to travel an 8-minute journey in the snow. Or my car gave up the good fight and slid back down the icy hill with a boot load of shopping still to transport. Or the toilet cistern decided to leak through the ceiling and gave me a watery fright.

By the time hubby finally rocked up a week before Christmas life was in full swing. On his second day we went to collect the keys for a house I’d already bought – a run down, damp as a swamp, freezing, flooded old farmhouse in the middle of the rural Norfolk countryside. A few days into January and renovations began. Day after day we spent ripping down and building back up a shell of a house, while snow blew in through the open doors and we ate our diet of garage sandwiches whilst perched on upturned tool boxes wearing heat packs strapped to our bodies and 3 pairs of gloves.

6 weeks later with work still in progress we moved into the house with 2 kids and dog in tow. With bare walls and floors, no backdoor and not much a kitchen to speak of it wasn’t really an ideal living environment, but we had no plans to move for at least 10 years so it seemed worth all the ongoing hard work. Fast forward 8 months and with the house finally completed, we decided there was only one natural next step for us to take. So we put it back on the market, packed up our now 60 foot container worth of stuff (no, I’m still not sure how our possessions mutated in this time) and moved back towards the city.

This time in the sticks had taught us that rural living simply wasn’t for us. Too many unfriendly villagers with humps, dead pheasants on the road to school and the smell of ‘farm’ wafting in when we were trying to eat. So here we are again, new house, new village, another new life – and NO more plans to move.

So the big question to be answered is this: having now lived both lives and experienced the reality of a life Down Under, do I still (honestly, hand on my heart) think we made the right decision to up sticks and come back? Hell yes, every single minute of every single (sometimes) soggy day. Even when its grey outside, blowing a gale and chucking it down at great force. Or the news is full of doom and gloom, the streets of London are being burnt by delinquent rioters, petrol prices have shot up again and another great parliamentary scandal has been unearthed.

The truth of it is I simply don’t miss our old life at all.

I don’t miss our nice house or the crippling mortgage we paid. I don’t miss the high salary or the extortionate utility bills. I don’t miss the BBQ or the overpriced food we couldn’t afford to buy. I don’t miss the blue skies (well maybe a bit) or the long, cold, wet winters with no insulation, double glazing or heating to keep us warm. I don’t miss the beaches or the flies that just love to swarm in your face. I don’t miss the lack of culture or anything in the slightest bit old. I don’t miss the feeling of being trapped in the most isolated city on Earth. I don’t miss being cooked alive or keeping an eye out for sharks.

I do miss Tim Tams however. Now there was a chocolate biscuit that almost made it worth while staying.

There is one thing I’ve finally realised after our stint in Perth and that is the grass is never greener. Every country has it problems, its pros and it’s cons. Every country is run by politicians who over-promise and under-deliver. Every country has crime and drugs and those people you’d rather cross the street to avoid. Every country has bad weather and days when you think you’ll never make ends meet.

For me, England definitely wins hands down. So Rule Britannia, long live the Queen and bring out the china tea cups – it’s good to be home!

Eat, drink and be merry (and fat)

What is it about the holidays and the Season of Goodwill that makes us all eat like pigs?

There’s certainly no other time of year when it’s considered not only acceptable but practically ones civic duty to fill your cupboards with box after box of mince pies, fruit cakes so heavy they could sink a battleship and puddings so dense they need to be doused in alcohol and set on fire before eating. There’s certainly no other time of the year when you feel the need to keep 8 different types of cheese in the fridge – 4 of which contain an unidentified fruit and 1 which looks like it belongs in a Petri dish.

And as for the cream. We had nearly 3 pints of the stuff in our fridge over Christmas period. 3 pints? As if, under normal circumstances, we’d even attempt to plough our way through 1. And let’s not forget the chocolate. The stuff we try to ignore, avoid, limit throughout the rest of the year. Come Christmas morning it’s wall-to-wall cocoa beans and anything in a wrapper is suddenly considered fair game – not to mention an essential food group.

And then there’s the bird. The hero of the day and the most expensive slice of dry, tasteless meat that will ever grace your plate.

Our turkey this year led a happy and carefree existence roaming around the Norfolk countryside – or so I’d like to believe, if for no other reason than  to justify the extortionate cost of the thing feather for feather. Hell, for that price I hope the bird had its own luxury living quarters and a personal masseuse right up until the day it lost its head and giblets.

Having selflessly fulfilled its purpose in life, it met its maker on a nearby farm and arrived here in its own fancy cardboard box on Christmas Eve. Weighing in at roughly the same as my Mini Cooper, this gigantic fowl required some major re-jigging of the fridge space and an hour of patient tweezering on my part. As ‘Hollywoods’ go, it certainly wasn’t given a very thorough one I have to say.

And so, with enough food in to see us through until Easter, the Big Day was upon us. As with countless other families around the world, we sat down to a lavish breakfast the size of lunch before spending the rest of the morning cooking enough lunch to feed the Armed Forces. That’s an awful lot of peeling, cutting, boiling, blanching, stuffing, roasting, basting and burning for a morning, especially one that started with a 4 on the clock. And of course there was also the banging headache to contend with, the one that came as a direct result of drinking alcohol with breakfast. No other day would it seem to make perfect sense to start drinking before preparing the mother of all roasts.

This year it has to be said that all went pretty much to plan in our house – unlike C Day in 2009 when spitting fat went into overdrive, the oven burst into flames and the turkey was practically cremated on the spot. The only minor mishap this year was something of a basting affair. My husband, who with the stronger arms was in charge of the turkey, was in the midst of removing our enormous specimen from the depths of the furnace, when somehow he managed to tip the liquid contents of the roasting dish all over his feet.

Now I have to admit my first thoughts were not of his burnt trotters – now covered in sizzling fluid and singed toe hair – they were of our lunch, which was now hanging onto the edge of the roasting tray by a crispy wingtip and threatening to throw itself onto the floor. With visions of the thing skidding across the laminate and under the dusty base unit (as has happened in the distant past), ‘practicality’ came into force well before any thoughts of concern or sympathy. So next to the open oven my husband was forced to stand, teeth gritted while bird and basting fluids were saved, rearranged and returned to continue cooking – or, as in the case of turkey, drying out.

Disaster avoided he (husband not turkey) was finally allowed to sprint upstairs to cool down his skin and change his clothes. Still, no long-term damage done really, and on the upside, at least his feet are now as soft, smooth and hair free as a baby’s bottom.

So now that Christmas has come and gone, what’s become of all that food? Well that’s the worst bloody part. Not only did we feel somehow guilted into buying far more than we needed or could ever possibly consume, but having been brought up to believe wasting food is practically a criminal act, we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to throw any of it away.

So we ate the lot. Less a pint of cream and half a box of chocolates I surreptitiously slipped into a departing relatives bag.

And that’s how we waddled into January. Feeling fat, fed up and somewhat horrified at the vast quantities we’d worked our way through. My backside has expanded, my jeans are tighter and my stomach looks like one of those ‘before’ shots for a Z-listers ‘Post Baby’ fitness DVD. And it’s this feeling, I believe, that explains much of why the first 2 months of the years are generally considered the more depressing of the 12. It’s got nothing to do with Post Christmas Blues, having to go back to work or the cold weather. It’s all about the impending diet and realising that unless we get our wobbly arse into lycra and gear, there’s not a hope in hell of looking half way decent in anything less than a burka once the summer rolls around.

So yes, it’s definitely time to ignore the sugar craving and start an industrial scale detox, not to mention resist those last few chocolates still floating around the house. Yesterday I admit I had a minor relapse when I quickly shoveled in a small piece of cake as I walked past. To get rid of the rest, I put the last 2 pieces on the kids plate for tea.

“We can’t eat this,” they shrieked in disgust, “it’s all mouldy underneath.”

That was all my stomach needed to hear. My diet had begun.

A seasick spoodle on the Norfolk Broads

Having lived within a stones throw of the Norfolk Broads for a year and not ventured down there,  we decided at the end  of the school holidays to throw caution to the wind and turn our hand to sailing. When I say ‘sailing’ I do of course mean rent a small boat and trundle along the river at 5 mph, but in our rather nautically-challenged family, that’s as close to proper sailing as we’re ever likely to get.

Not wanting to leave Charlie at home alone for the day he was duly packed into the car along with far too many sandwiches, a flask of green tea, 4 large bottles of water, a bird book, binoculars, a picnic rug, spare jumpers and several rain coats. I think subconsciously I was preparing for all possible worse case scenarios, including being swept away in a freak squall and left stranded far from civilisation on a floating polar ice cap. Surrounded by a flock of incredibly tiny unidentifiable birds.

Considering the average temperature last summer just about managed to reach ‘tepid degrees’, it was rather lucky for us that the day in question turned out to be the hottest we’d had since Spring. Perfect weather for messing about the river in fact, but rather too hot (as we soon found out) for four people dressed to keep warm with just one child-sized sun hat between them.

Arriving at the river we discovered one rather unsettling fact about sailing on the Broads: they really will hire out a boat to just about anyone who turns up and pays. Including, it appears, a family with not one ounce of river-going know-how between them. How scary for the water fowl indeed.

We looked nervous when approaching the boat, clueless when it came to mastering the controls and positively panic-stricken when untied and told we were free to go.  In fact, I believe our last words to the man in charge were “But what happens if we hit something?”  Of course he laughed.  Fool, little did he know.

Once we’d successfully navigated our way out through the waterways and onto the river we were relieved to find that steering a boat is much like riding a bike. My son donned his full pirate outfit within minutes of setting off and both kids were in their element as they took it in turns at the wheel. The final member of our party however wasn’t quite so happy; he was clearly having difficulty finding his sea legs. This does of course raise the question of why old sailors are often referred to as ‘Sea Dogs’.

Having been incredibly tentative about setting a paw onboard, Charlie became even less enamoured with the whole idea as we headed off down river. He whined at the passing boats, barked at every passing duck and positively howled when a swan dared flap nearby. And then, as if to really drive his point home, he pooed all over the floor. In lots of little brown, liquidity puddles. It’s amazing how fast doggy diarrhoea spreads when travelling across an uneven surface. And how much it smells when out in the fresh air. And how many wet wipes are required to mop up the mess.

Feeling rather sorry for himself (and possibly embarrassed) pooch took himself off to the back of the boat, laid on the cushion and peered rather gloomily over into the water. Every so often he looked our way with a hangdog expression that clearly said: ‘I didn’t ask to be brought along on this bloody boat you know’.

Forward onto the return journey – after a semi-successful mooring for lunch and the only sun hat somehow making its way into the water – and all seemed to be going fine. So fine in fact that my daughter was now in charge of steering the boat and both responsible adults were sat at the back, feet up, admiring the view and drinking a cup of tea.

Well when I say all was fine, I mean except for that small incident when my husband’s (very expensive) sunglasses somehow took it upon themselves to leap from his face, onto the canvas awning and into the murky depths of the river. I would have been more surprised at this rather unfortunate happening, but the memory of him managing to dropping our camera (with a weeks worth of holiday snaps) into Sydney Harbour the last time we were on water is still fairly fresh in my mind.

Approaching the narrowing waterways as we came into land/park/moor up my husband thought it wise to take control of the boat, so he sent my daughter back to sit with the sea-sick dog. Suddenly Charlie’s bowels opened more, this time all over the cushion, and then, as he was pushed off that, all over the floor of the boat. He then skidded around in it a bit and tried to clamber back on the cushion, trailing the mess from all 4 paws and a rather matted, manky looking tail.

This led to a rather rapid chain of events that involved my daughter letting out a squeal of horror and disgust, my husband turning around to see what the hell was going on, the boat banging straight into the side of the riverbank, me flying backwards inside of the cabin and my son falling head first off the seat. It wasn’t the best 15 seconds of the trip it has to be said.

It took a fair few minutes to take stock, mop up, scrub the dog and rectify the damage – all with the few remaining wet wipes. It took quite a few minutes more before my husband managed to prise our boat off the wall … and straight into the path of another, much larger boat that was speeding towards us on our side of the river. To say it got a little bit tense would be an understatement, especially when I didn’t immediately offer to throw myself over the edge of the boat to push us off the wall. Something to do with the fact I was still up to my wrists in poo perhaps.

By the time we limped into our mooring space the owner was already there waiting and the next family were ready to hop on board with their picnic. I’m rather hoping they never noticed the rather suspicious looking stain on the underside of the cushion, or the multiple bags of liquid mess I was holding as I clambered off. I’m pretty sure however (based on the fact they were busy mopping out the boat) that they did notice us hanging around the car park for another 2o minutes, as Charlie continued to drip out his business from one patch of grass to the next. And then throw up all over the nice (new) leather seats when he was finally loaded into the car.

All in all it was a great day out. Slighty messy and rather smelly, but fun nevertheless. Look forward to doing the same again next year, though it obviously goes without saying we’ll be leaving Charlie at home on dry land and I’ll be in charge of the wheel when we’re coming in to dock the boat.