Friday, 30 January 2015

Those despicable foreigners

Recently I had to pay a visit to the hospital. As is the norm, I eventually ended up sat in a small area of chairs, placed round three walls. I was surrounded by other patients who were waiting like myself. By way of entertainment, there was a television fitted on the chair-less wall, but the sound was turned off and the subtitles were turned on. No one was showing the slightest bit of interest. It was one of those 24 hour news stations, which also had the ticker tape running along the bottom of the screen - full of small text snippets of news - Snippets that we might have called sound bytes had the audio been turned on. 

However, my attention was taken by a couple of couples, that might have been described as being of a certain age. They were deep in conversation about immigration. Many of the usual prejudices of people born in and around the second world war were on display. You know little quotes like - 'There coming over here in droves and pinching our jobs.' As you might expect there were also the usual claims - that started with the influx of people of Caribbean ethnicity way back in the 50's and 60's. Claims like 'Their all coming over here and living on our benefits, the bloody scroungers.' And as it was a hospital appointment even 'Health tourism was highlighted as another way that the foreigners were exploiting the NHS'.

Shortly afterwards we were called in - each in our turn to see the specialist. The Nurse who was organising the steady flow of patients, was also checking our weight and blood pressure and updating our records. She was a very attractive young lady of eastern European origin. With an excellent command of English. When it was my turn, I was ushered in through the door. I was met by a consultant and a junior doctor. One of Asian ethnicity and one of eastern European ethnicity. We talked about my health history and a solution to my issue was agreed. But only after everything was explained to me in great detail so that I could make an informed choice. Two very well educated and trained people from a different part of the world.

I returned outside into the waiting area - In that typically British way, everyone had returned to the same exact chairs. The conversation continued and covering the same sort of issues. With the same sort of outrageous claims being made. 

One by one people were given further appointments and went on their way. Soon I was the only one left and a conversation between me and the nurse ensued. She told me a bit of her life story, how she had started out in nursing in her homeland. I asked about the conversation which had gone on in complete oblivion to her presence. She said, I'm used to it, it doesn't bother me at all. I sort of apologised on their behalf. It was then that I discovered that the nurse was actually attending my old University to complete her studies. In a few months time she will graduate, I asked if any of her family would be attending her graduation. She said that no one could come as it was far too expensive. So I said, I will come along instead and take a few pictures of her big day that she could send back home.
I was left with one thought in mind, as I walked to my car after my time at the hospital - I did not speak to a single person that for want of a better description we might call British. In fact I was much more likely to have been taken care of by someone from abroad. Than to be sat next to one of those despicable foreigners free loading off the NHS. We still have a long way to go with the older generation.

Continued tomorrow.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

1,647 stoppage days.

NarrowBoat World has recently published information which give some insight into the poor state of repairs that the UK's Inland Waterways have been allowed to fall into. It would seem that during 2013 the inland waterways were closed to 'bona fide' navigation by 'unplanned closures' at some point for 1,647 days. Rather than such numbers being viewed as an indictment of poor maintenance. The trust itself seems to be particularly unperturbed by the number of closures. This seemingly is because the trust continues to allow the state of the network to fall further and further into the funding black hole. The Trust is perpetuating the previous decade of under funding by its predecessor British Waterways. By deliberately continuing the under spending on maintenance, year on year. 

Against what the Trust has acknowledged that the Trust needs to spend. The last figure was £130 million. But even that figure does not give any promise of improving the infrastructure as the figure is just one to stand still. Where the waterways get no better and get no worse. However, just standing still also incurs extra costs year on year. because the projected costs of just standing still actually continues to inexorably rise.

Cruising the canal for a boater is like playing the fairground game 'Tipping Point' - Where every time a time worn and dilapidated lock is operated. Is just like dropping a coin into the machine and the coins are left to ride and slide, closer and closer to the edge. However, in this game there is no financial reward or even enjoyment - there is only bitter disappointment and spoiled expectations as an outcome. 

Ignoring the state of water management (weed, fish and levels) for fisherfolk. Ignoring the state of the towpath (mud, potholes and vegetation) for walkers and cyclists. I am only concentrating on what this sort of parlous state of the network infrastructure does or rather doesn't do, for boaters. Boaters tend to come in three broad types. The short term holiday hire, privately owned boats operated from a home mooring and continuous cruisers. For each group there are some shared and some particular concerns.

First of all lets clear one fact - the rivers were improved and the canals were built for navigation. It was their whole 'Raison d'être' an oft used phrase meaning 'reason for existence'. While boaters and their craft have taken over from the old working days. Plus to a point, provide something of a link to the canal heritage.  For its part the Trust trumpets the canals and rivers as some sort of national treasure and linear public attraction. Yet at the same time the Trusts waterway maintenance continues to be deliberately underfunded. Presumably so that the money can be spent elsewhere on some 'investment' or other. 

The canals infrastructure have been placed in the care of the Trust. If the trusts want some investment advice. Then they should spend the public's money, where it was intended to be spent, with a priority upon the canal infrastructure. The canals and rivers should not be deliberately left to deteriorate. In the current situation, with only reactive dredging or reactive infrastructure repairs. With the occasional spot vegetation management whenever a fallen tree blocks a waterway. Maintenance only being applied when the waterways come to a complete stop. Rather than being a waterway, carefully managed by a careful proactive repairs.

The phrase 'unplanned stoppage' as used by the trust is an oxymoron. The correct phrase should at least be 'foreseen stoppage'. Because for all the above reasons the number and frequency are going to continue for the foreseeable future and continue to have a foreseeable rise in numbers year on year.  These stoppages are not unforeseen and they are not unexpected. The waterways system is currently managed to scrimp and save money for other purposes. The  trust is obviously content to see the current levels of 'foreseen stoppages' continue. The trust is seemingly quite happy for the level of 'foreseen stoppages' to continue and grow. 
Lets give these stoppages a real name to differentiate them from the planned stoppages. How about 'Hales Halt' because while the trustees under chairman Hales continue to let this situation continue. Seemingly with the blessings of the trustees.' 
Here is my definition of a 'Hales Halt': 'Continue to do nothing or alternatively to do as little as possible, until such time as a point is finally reached where things can only get better. Because physically the infrastructure can get no worse.'

For hire boaters.... The question they should be asking prior to setting off, is can I complete a planned holiday trip within the time constraints not withstanding the risk of stoppages along the route. My advice to prospective boaters planing a family holiday on the inland waterways is to choose a boatyard and location where the number of locks is minimised. 

The effect on the enjoyment of the holiday caused by a  (not unforeseen) closure. Then add in the level of difficulty in operating the lock infrastructure and navigating the boat due to lack of basic maintenance.

You can also add into this mix the effect this will have for the boat hire companies and the extra constraints on managing their business. The effect this will have for future holiday hires. Especially when people go away with a tainted view of the waterways from disrupted holiday plans. Who then go on to share that tainted view with their friends and acquaintances.

Privately owned boats with a home mooring. Will have similar sorts of issues to hire boaters brought about by some of the similar time constraints. However, when things go wrong (where the hire boater can walk away from the boat at the end of the allotted time period) the owner can't leave it to someone else to manage the issue. The boat owner has now an extra problem of getting their boat home and the further issue of the boat being left untended.

The constant cruiser whose life style revolves around time constrains that are maybe not as arduous. Unless there are problems of availability of water, toilet emptying issues and turning the boat to cruise in a different direction. But the CCer will also have 'plans' for their cruising year and might well have made prior arrangements for a winter mooring which can be compromised.

I had thought that maybe its time for the trust to look at some form of compensation for waterways users. For spoiled holidays, disrupted cruising plans and providing a worthless level of expectation.  But then you have to balance that against the trusts love of litigation compounded by the fact that its only money (our money) and when its spent on anything other than maintenance, it seems to be of no consequence. In the main its the expectations of the general public and boaters that are being ignored. Lets give these spoiled expectations a name as well - How about a 'Parry Puzzle'.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Spanish News for the English (1)

The 'Spanish News for the English' is a service in support of European Multiculturalism for English Boaters considering a different type of winter break as an alternative to the more usual ankle, leg or arm. Due to language difficulties and the unavailability of translation services. There may be one or two small inaccuracies in the news provided.

We are on our winter holiday. But we are bitterly disappointed, what would you expect on a winter holiday. Frost, ice and snow covered mountains. We discovered the mostly empty beaches are bathed in sunlight and much to warm. OK, some people go on a winter holiday for the skiing and the Après Ski falling over hospital visit that comes with it. For other people it is seeking out the sunshine and an extra bit of warmth. But why on earth have the Spanish changed all the names of the products in Aldi and Lidl that we are so used to.

Its a funny old world, I live and learn something new everyday. Even out here on in the lowlands of the  Costa Blanca (costa packet) I discover some things that have me scratching my head. For one thing the Spanish like the French insist on driving on the wrong side of the road. Despite my best efforts to demonstrate to them the error of their ways.

Not only that but I find it a bit unnerving to see the 'body part donors' Seemingly attired in brightly coloured latex and spandex bodybags. (easier to find in the dark?) Riding in groups on their bicycles along the hard shoulder of the motorways. Even joining in with the traffic in the slow lane from time to time. There also seems to be an ambulance chaser  just behind the main group. Flashing his hazard lights and picking up the bikes and putting them on the roof of the car. 

I have long thought that the logic used by CaRT to be skewed. But then maybe its not just the Trust that has financial problems that make the grandees that are in charge act so oddly. As reported on a Spanish radio station yesterday (Bay Radio a popular station that has improved its following by the simple expedient of adopting English as its native language of choice)  It seems that the Spanish are so short of money they have had to turn to a new form of highway robbery as they try to fight their way out of austerity.

Its so bad that the authorities have decided to prosecute a British couple for speeding in their car. Nothing unusual in that you might think. Well maybe there was one slight anomaly which has escaped the Spanish authorities. The car was actually broken down and un-drivable at the time that the offence was committed. A weird situation I know, but remember we had to put this lot in their place once before when the local boat club sent an armada up the English channel. You would have though the name 'English' would have been enough for them to recognise who had right of way.  

But I digress from my story...

But as the Spaniards were soon sent packing with the remnants of their boats by Walt. After he finished his afternoon game of Crown Green Ten Pin Bowling. It should be remembered that the Spaniards have been wanting to get their own back for some time now.

But I digress again from my story...

The sensibly dressed couple attended the court of the Spanish inquisition in Zaragoza. (like our English courts, the Spanish have an ancient legal system, where the penalties tend to be a bit harsher) In homage to the late Demis Roussos the beaks were all wearing caftans. The stiff upper lipped couple in a show of English strength of character, asked Johnnie Foreigner for a view the picture of the alleged speeding vehicle.

The lightly armed police officer said that the photograph had been taken by a mobile speed camera. (a present from his sergeant so he could get out more) It was the couples vehicle that he snapped travelling at 83kph in a 70kph zone. However, the vehicle belonging to the brave English couple could be clearly seen to be travelling on the back of a breakdown truck. However, the registration number of the breakdown truck was not in the picture. But the registration mark of their disabled and un-drivable car was.

Their appeal was turned down by the head poncho of the caftan crew. They were found guilty and ordered to pay 80 Euro fine and burning at the stake. (the burning at the stake was reduced to a lesser punishment of an Indian burn each, for previous good character) Which would rise to 100 Euro the next day as interest would also be charged on the fine. (Payday rates for mates)

In retaliation to this heinous slur upon the good character of the English couple. Our friendly and recently almost independent Scots have decided to send Rob Roy and his cohort of the Bannockburn larger louts to Benidorm. Flying in from Glasgow (a small fishing village on the west coast of Scottiesland, near where we park our submarines) Arriving in time for Easter. When the Spanish celebrate by throwing goats from towers and driving the cattle to market through the streets Pamplona.
The Spanish certainly know their onions and how to bring tears to your eyes.

You couldn't make it up!