Saturday, 10 November 2012

Spinning and Turning.

The various canal restoration projects contain stories that are the stuff of legend. Much of the work done by people giving up of their free time. Starting at a time when the inland waterways were destined for closure and abandonment. The volunteers campaigned and worked to keep them open and eventually to reopen other canals section after section. There were many notable people who fought in many different ways to keep our canals from closure. An indomitable spirit abounded at the time. All seemingly born out of wartime privations and nurtured with, can do, will do attitudes.

Much has been achieved and almost seven decades later there is still much left to be done. However, the canals have now effectively been abandoned once again, in a turbulent time of financial constraints. Now, set adrift to become a self funding charity. Though the estimated number of CART's paying friends has already been halved. 

There are some unanswered questions about the capability of the metaphorical hand on the metaphorical tiller. In all such scenarios, there still needs to be some sort of independent oversight of what is happening. In a way a totally independent watchdog who can question proposals and decisions. Whilst  at the same time offering independent advice. So who is left to fill such a role, who will be the independent guardians of the inland waterways for the future. Narrowboat World surprisingly seems to be the only one.

"This is far from the end of the story for IWA; we still have numerous restoration projects that we want to see finished as well as new waterway links that have been proposed and which we support.  Nor is our progress any more exempt from setbacks than that of those who battled during the early years, especially with the recent downturn in the economy, and thus available funds from government sources, but looking back on the foresight, ambition, determination and persistent hard work of IWA's many supporters through the years gives today's members the inspiration and confidence to take on the role of guardians of the waterways for the future." Quote from the IWA website.

A memorandum of misunderstanding.

The canals have a new management team;
who know nowt of what canals all about.
Some have signed the capitulation pledge;
for yesterdays leader it's an easy bailout.

Once upon a time it was not so easy;
the waterways unwanted and left to die.
The rallying call for their preservation;
came from folk with a fire in their eye.

It all came about at the end of the war;
after Tom Rolt wrote his famous book.
A letter from Aickman arrived in the post;
for our canals, twas a stroke of good luck.

The owners left the canals in a terrible state;
with broken locks and fly tipped rubble.
Filthy stinking overgrown and neglected;
our waterways were in serious trouble.

Hot passions within the founding members;
led to disagreement on policy in the ranks.
Whilst our canals continued to deteriorate;
with more breaches and collapsing banks.

The call to preserve and improve the canal;
had by now been carried far and wide.
Herbert stood with the great and the good;
at Scott and Aickmans side.

Prominent activists from many walks of life;
joined in the campaigns, festivals and rallies.
No talk of amenity, habitat or environment then;
canal closure continued its growing tally.

Nationalisation of the canals was the first change;
the fledgling association was a thorn in their sides.
The battle lines with the BTC were drawn;
the challenge accepted with pride.

Lock cottage and buildings lay neglected;
demolished a value for them was their non.
With no plan or thought for a continued future;
the abandonment and closure went on.

The hidden agenda was removal of all watercraft;
be they used either for your pleasure or trade.
Independant opposition was met with derision; 
requiring direct action to break the blockade.

Volunteers began the canals reconstruction;
from the limited funds there was no pay.
Their reward will have to come in heaven;
or the warm feeling at the end of a hard day.

Friend worked alongside friend;
new bonds grew ever strong.
For volunteer brickie, carpenter and navvy;
the battle continued all along.

An association built preserving a national treasure;
came a pennant flown with pleasure and pride.
Knowing that the restored canals now reopening 
their hard won history could never be denied.

But what now for the waterways future;
because this wolf has a lap dog become.
Who will keep in check our new fat cats;
who when summoned like a cur, will just come.

Rolling over is to be their new way;
why, the tail is now wagging the cur.
For the scraps they have come to the table;
with a tail wagging yelp, or was it a purr.

For some time the numbers have dwindled;
disenchantment or tight budgets the cause.
Fierce independence now a thing of the past;
is this to be the final faux pas.

What is causing that deep underground rumble;
one that's growing louder and louder each day.
Why its the ever faster and faster spinning;
of Herbert and Aickman in their graves.

Know it now the future is still not secure;
its become a megalomaniacs playground.
The importance is still pay and pensions;
they have only one meaning for pound.

The chugger is now their best friend;
the public is confronted in the street.
Can I just ask you a question;
is the charity muggers first plea.

Donations for large pay and pensions;
or donations to restoration groups direct.
Who do you think the public would support;
who do think they would sooner select.

Forget all their just made up rhetoric;
forget the crossed finger promises made.
Just let go of the spin doctors coat tails;
do you honestly think their the grade.

Is it to be a pat on the shoulder;
or a genuine partners handshake.
is it to be a scratch around the neck;
or to deliver an independent mandate.


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