Monday, 25 April 2016

Confession time.

OK, OK I have a confession to make....

In a moment of weakness I went on one of my infrequent sojourns on Farcebook.  To a forum that is becoming more widely known as NUGgets-R-Us. 

It seems that some of the NUGsters have become aware that there is someone spray painting graffiti on the Inland Waterways. I can only assume that some of them must have gone to Specsavers and obtained for the first time a pair of non rose tinted spectacles. There was an immediate outpouring of angst and foot tapping. However the conflagration flames were quickly fired, to incandescent levels.

In 'Groundhog Day' scene, resembling the hand to hand fighting in the Bore War - 'Pump-out -v- Cassette' - altercation. The usual entrenched battle lines were quickly drawn and the sniping began prior to the main heavy artillery exchange of a salvo of smoke and mirrors.

On one side was the First 'Curtain Twitching' Division of the IWA. (Independent Waterways Army) The ground troops included the 'your boat is not shiny enough' brigade. Who immediately identified the graffiti culprits as - disgruntled boaters, who had been refused a boat licence. 

How you can be a boater without a licence never entered into the accusation. Which was proven beyond any unreasonable doubt. Using the same Kafkaesque logic that – it must be train drivers - that are spraying graffiti on the railways infrastructure. 
It should be remembered that CaRT have also spent money carving poetry on lock gates. CaRT have also spent money on 'Artistic Graffiti' competitions on waterways walls. 
On another side was a small detachment of the common sense brigade. However, as the battle commenced. And being hopelessly out numbered and outgunned. The small common sense detachment fearing for their sanity. In a scene reminiscent of Dunkirk, evacuated the arena. 

The second group of participants in the battle were the well entrenched commandos of the canal bridge trolls. Who added nothing to the conversation but helped by adding extra vitriol whenever the flames died down. 

The final group of participants in the battle were the CaRT apologists - who as usual - loudly harrumphed several times. Then from a lofty position - said that cleaning the graffiti was money being wasted out of the CaRT maintenance budget. 

The argument that this is money that could be spent on canal maintenance is a spurious one. CaRT deliberately underspend by about 50% on maintenance year on year. Nigel Johnson, CaRT's ‘Legal Director' made a sworn statement to the high court that in 2013/14 ‘The cost to the Trust of maintaining the inland waterways is approximately £130m per annum'. Have a look in the annual report for what is actually being spent.

This is not reducing the number (50,000 plus) of repairs. This £130 million figure is to reach a steady state where it gets no better or no worse. This is a continuation of the years of BW underspending – which went on for well over a decade prior to CaRT.  

As for another widespread held delusion that CaRT is only taking miscreant boaters to the High Court – it should be remembered that CaRT has lost more than it has been successful with.

All that aside – graffiti encourages more graffiti – just as dumped rubbish encourages more fly tipping. Boaters would be far better if they were united against such practices. Rather than making sweeping generalisations that do more to fragment the waterways communities than anything else.
 

I could not help but think that the nuclear fallout will be around for a while - so my brothers in arms - take care out there - its a jungle.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Spring Cruise 2016 ❼

Rugby to Braunston Marina.

Date 19th April 2016

Overnight the weather was mild and included the odd shower.

Morning: An uneventful trip through the Hillmorton locks.

Afternoon: Late afternoon we arrived in Braunston. The waterpoint and elsan are still out of commission.

Evening: Into the Boathouse pub for a meal with a couple of friends Dave and Wendy. Watched television in the evening.

Wildlife:

Birds: House Sparrow, Dunnock, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Blackbird, Mallard, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coot, Moorhen, Wood Pigeon, Black Headed Gull and Swallow.

Butterflies: Meadow Brown and Small White.

People walking the towpath - 1
People cycling the towpath - 1
Boats on the move - 5

Today's Total.
Miles: 10.1
Locks: 3
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 6.3

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2722.4
Locks: 1740
Swing / Lift Bridges: 362
Tunnels: 63
Pump Outs: 26
Engine Hours: 3656.9

Get a mooring or keep moving

It has been an eye opening experience  with Nazi salutes included to read through some posts on various Facebook boating forum. Its the usual CCer -v- MMer (Constant Cruiser -v- Marina Moorer) rhetoric. Portrayed by some as being a simplistic issue. At the same time, trite, crass, insensitive and flippant answers like 'either get a mooring or keep moving' does not begin to answer the real crux of the issue.

There are people who will take advantage of any situation. The inland waterways are no exception. The 1995 Inland waterways act addresses the issue with simplicity. There is one licence and there is no requirement to take a mooring. In this way, depending upon your circumstances you can then choose one of two lifestyles. A sedentary one in a marina or a roaming one, out on the cut.

The 1995 act is an all encompassing, simple, precise and clever bit of legislation. Nowhere in the act is there a distance that you are required to move. Nowhere in the act is there a restriction on retracing your steps. There is however, a temporal requirement to be on a bone fide navigation. In other words you should have a 'reason to move'. The default reason to move is the catch all clause of 14 days being the maximum amount of time that you can stay in one place. 
The Canal and River Trust has however muddied the clarity by introducing their own interpretation. Introducing the notion of a distance to be travelled - while at the same time - not giving a precise, but alluding to a minimal distance.

There is however, a safeguard built into the act which is based around extenuating circumstances. There are occasions when people are taken ill or other unavoidable circumstances overtake them while living on the Inland waterways. The natural empathy and compassion of people is to try and support such individuals. It pains me to say that some of the previous evictions carried out by CaRT have been visited upon the sick, old and vulnerable boaters in our community.

One old and confused lady living alone and obviously suffering from mental health issues. Was evicted onto the towpath with her only possessions. Which happened to be the clothes she was wearing. While her home was towed away. She remained living on the same bit of towpath for weeks. Eventually other boaters were able to get the social services involved and her protection ensured.

The trust washed its hands of the situation with the mantra - 'we are not social workers'. Another one used by the trust is 'we are not landlords'. While at the same time – the trust offers residential moorings. Where was the duty of care we all owe to everyone. I wonder how well the claim 'we are not social workers' would go down if a school teacher ignored a child being bullied. By saying its nothing to do with me, 'I'm not a social worker.'

Yet enshrined in the 1995 waterways act is a provision which allows you to stay in one place if circumstances dictate. When illness sneaks up, be it upon someone old and living alone with dementia or even someone young with a life threatening cancer. Their priorities are going to significantly change. A boater should not need to be looking over their shoulder for the enforcement officer. How can someone with a life threatening illness get access to medical services. If they are being chivvied along to a new place every few days.

Its not always as clear cut an issue as some people might think. As a community we boaters should be showing some compassion by supporting the sick and vulnerable. Trite, crass, insensitive and flippant answers like 'get a mooring or keep moving' can never take into consideration or take into account the individuals particular circumstances.

I would hope that if illness in whatever form was to overtake me. I would if I needed - be, supported by my fellow boaters. Not seen or portrayed to be some sort of free loader. Some people might need to give some serious thought to what they wish for from the Canal and River Trust – Because who knows what fate the future holds in store for them. Albeit next week, next month next year. No one is immune from debilitating health issues.

Monday, 18 April 2016

De-maining

The select committee investigation on 'Future Flood Prevention' was televised today. The Environment Agency, is being taken to task on dredging, maintenance, performance and planning. An item that was pushed by the Chairman. Was a lack of transparency of the maintenance performance and maintenance spend.

Another item that caught my attention was the proposed devolution of river management. No mention of a CaRT role beyond de-maining. It came as no surprise to anyone that de-maining was almost dismissed out of hand as an option by the chair to the obvious discomfort of Defra the EA!

De-maining is when the lower reaches of rivers are handed over to one or more operating authorities to operate and maintain them. Whilst at the same time the EA keep their designation for the upper reaches because of the need to manage flood risk.

Cognisance of the floods in the north were alluded to. However, the EA emphasised that there was now a real change of ethos away from the previous large engineering flood containment projects. To creating/recreating flood meadow areas where flash flood water could be held/absorbed. 
 
The preferred river management route was highlighted to be with the involvement of land owners, local authorities, the Association of Drainage authorities and Countryside Stewardship. The EA was also looking at purchasing large areas of farm land. Especially where land owners were reluctant to farm land that was also set aside as a flood management capture area. The preferred environmental option now being to store water on the land.

What does this mean for the future extending of CaRT's remit. Well its been a few years since the minister put in place a moratorium on the transfer of any of the EA waters. De-maining is now a government no no, and the EA has had to embrace a significant change of direction.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

CaRT Drowning in Friends Donations.

Charity Becomes Trapped in its Own Wealth


By Our Reporter on April 14, 2016
Starting with a base of 300 million visitors in 2013. Which jumped to 360 million by 2014. The current figure of visitors to the towpaths in the last year. is now a staggering 385,000,000! This equates to exactly 527 visitors every day to every mile of the trusts waterway!
Tragedy struck when the Canal and River Trust suddenly found that it had become trapped in a mire of its own wealth, with no possible means of escape. The rudderless CaRT creative accountancy apparatchiks now report that all of the 385,000,000! visitors have been posthumously recruited as friends. Now it seems that CaRT has fallen victim to the success of its own band of Towpath Chuggers.
However, all is not lost and the beleaguered Truss is trying a number of new tactics in order to escape from the cloying, claustrophobic horrors of having several humongous piles of unwanted cash. 'We simply do not have time to spend the money on any remedial work on the canal infrastructure. Because we are still far to busy counting the incoming tsunami of donations.' said Mr Knob a truss spokesperson. 
The government and especially Defra have however, not been blind to the savage strictures created by the accountancy workload for the truss.  'I understand the problem that the Truss is experiencing. As someone who was born into poverty and has lived an exceptionally underprivileged life. I also found myself trapped in wealth after I inherited even more money from my father’s estate.' said David Cameron.

It should be remembered that David Cameron still has shit loads of money holding him prisoner in his own rented out mansion. Now forced to live by circumstances not in his second or third home. He is now slumming it at Downing street. It is a hopeless situation. 'I am becoming desperate – I guess only those grubby Oiks who have to use food banks, can really appreciate my plight.' he said. 
The Truss revealed that it has recently invested some of the loose change from the public donations in 'Bootsmiths' to help speed up the legal hoop jumping before it could finish the final solution in the cleansing of the inland waterways.  

In an amazing coincidence Mr Cameron continued to highlight problems he shared with the Truss. 'Poor people just don’t know how lucky they are. Impossibly rich people like me – who don’t even have to do a days work – are treated like minorities. It’s not easy being rich and privileged. Why only last week I had to evict 35 families from the homes that they rented from my late father’s company. I increased their rental by 280% and they couldn’t pay! It was horrible – I actually had to speak to some irate poor people – imagine that?'

Our reporter suggested that if Mr Cameron were to pay some tax on his fortune, it might relieve him of some of his financial burden. 'Tax? that’s that thing working people have to pay isn’t it? My accountant in Panama deals with all my tax affairs and they are a private matter' he replied.

Our reporter then proposed that Mr Cameron should donate some money to the CaRT charity or did some voluntary work along the canal. 'Work, Good Lord no! Now get the fuck off my land, before I set the dogs on you.' he said.