Saturday 31 January 2015

Rupert's and Rodney's declare war!

Continued from yesterday.

Carrying on with the predjudice theme.

We are capable of displaying prejudice to our own kinsfolk on and off the canal. To lighten the tone a little bit, I've taken a light hearted view of the IWA looking all resplendent in their 'kings new clothes.'

Well, I suppose in all fairness it was bound to happen. We all know that the age profile of boaters is much closer to octogenarian end than it is to the teenage end of the age profile. But it should also be remembered that the make up of the rank and file of the IWA (Inland Waterway Association) is also towards the top end of the life expectancy spectrum.

Realising that the writing in this case is on the lock gates - so to speak - as the IWA membership continues to plummet ever downwards. In something of a throwback to the days of 'dads army'. Time has finally caught up with the grey granddads of the IWA. We all know that when you leave a group of the old greys unattended. The Rupert's and Rodney's will soon be reminiscing about their days of hand to hand fighting on the the Rochdale Canal. Wanting to put the rusty boated denizens of the cut to the bayonet. Because as the Corporal said to the Captain the moorings usurping fuzzy wuzzies don't like it up'em - so to speak. 

It seems that the geriatric nurse (probably foreign) forgot their medication again. And the granddads have stayed awake long enough to hold a council of war. It's been a while since the 'granddads' discussed placing the IWA national policy regarding boats without home mooring, into the public domain. This was then closely followed by a show of hands and then followed by a unilateral declaration of hostilities. The Grey Granddads know it will make them unpopular - so there's not much change there then.

The IWA has now singled out a group of boaters - these boaters who are in the main - towards the younger end of the boating age profile. These are boaters who will be trying to hold down a job and get their kids to schools. So they want to move around within a reduced area of the waterways. These are the very people the IWA need to join-up, because more and more of the greys seem about to take their last boat trip across the River Styx. 

The grey granddads now see themselves taking over from CaRT and its enforcement team. So its a case of where CaRT has failed, the grey granddads don't fear to tread. The grey granddads spokesperson who is obviously fluent in Gonads said [we will be working to] ‘Resolving the issues caused by congestion especially in urban areas where large numbers of boats remain in the area in contravention of the requirements of their licence'.

So I'm thinking of holding a collection to purchase some raffia and beads for the afternoon macramé sessions in the old boys playpen. Plus a large load of senna pods which might go some way to helping nurse with releasing the grey granddads urban congestion. 

Read the full story Here.

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!

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Chuff Off

If you are something of a football fan - and you can cast your mind back to the late 80's early 90's. You might well remember 'Saint and Greavsie' on television. This was a light hearted sporting double act, consisting of a couple of ex-footballers Ian St John and Jimmy Greaves.  The two pundits had a great deal of fun while presenting the somewhat oddball football show. Like all good shows there was a catch phrase. Usually delivered by Jimmy Greaves about some unusual happening or unexpected triumph of a little team over a giant. The memorable phrase was 'Its a funny old game!

Its a funny old game! 
I feel the urge to use a similar phrase, when it comes to the Inland Waterways. This is because most of the time I'm perplexed about what's happening on the waterways. Everyday with unerring regularity some sort of unusual happening occurs. Which usually comes with something of a flourish - produced like a bunch of flowers from up a third rate magicians sleeve - When, for whatever reason another CaRT triumph over good sense, gets highlighted. It seems that the unusual is now becoming, increasingly more and more usual.

Dutton Breach Revisited!
Just after CaRT was launched the Dutton Breach hit the headlines, but for all the wrong reasons. Seizing the opportunity and without delay for a moments thought - CaRT launched an emergency appeal for funds to repair the canal. That appeal raised just over £23,000. Like a portent for the future. The appeal was - frankly unappealing - and proved to be a dismal failure. Only having achieved a mere 1% of its target. In the time honoured way, the appeal was then encouraged to die by the simple expedient of being quietly dropped. Predicated on the understanding that the occurrence of such a disaster was a rare and unforeseeable event. Snatching disaster from the jaws of a triumph, within nine months there were a further eight rare and unforeseeable serious failures. Such as the embankment collapse at Rishton. 

Now we are back revisiting the Dutton Breach once more. It seems that the millions of pounds expended on the repair. Which was heralded by the fanfare and an award that CaRT unashamedly presented to itself. Now seem to be a bit tawdry and a little bit premature. The £2.5 millions repair was completed in September 2012. However, unknown to CaRT but visible to anyone passing by. The canal has carried on leaking where the repair meets the original bank. CaRT has now said that it will start work on the failure at Dutton during the first week of January, and expects to have it repaired by early Spring. With a definite date being given once the extent of the repair is known. 

Magic Memorable Moments!
There are of course those stunning and fast becoming memorable moments. Where there is an involuntary shake of the head. Which is closely followed by an involuntary covering of your face with your hand. Moments that can leave you both aghast - and embarrassed for - CaRT at the same time. The legendary poetry carved onto lock gates, done at a time of austerity. Demonstrating a complete lack of awareness of how such an absurdity would be seen as being ill judged.  Or my personal favourite - growing trees in a boat - creating a floating forest - only to realise later that the boat will never be able to pass under the bridges. This was not a shot in the foot moment - this was more like a shot to the head - and intended to do exactly what?

But it did not end there and trees certainly seem to play their part, because there was also the 'plant a tree campaign' where you could text a number and pay for an Ash tree to be planted. This memorable happening coincided with the huge publicity surrounding the dreadful Ash Die Back disease. You then begin to ask yourself - is this just happen stance or is someone inside Ivory Towers carefully choreographing these classic cock-ups.

Off The Rails.
Now we learn that another of the cohort of ex quango directors is about to take to the lifeboats. Simon Salem is going to do a Michael Portiloo and travel round the world by railway. I found out about this when a mutual friend said with a wry smile 'Simon says he is about to Chuff Off.' But there is always the chance that he might do a Tony Hales, who has announced his imminent departure from the platform, only to have more come-backs than Status Quo. 

The Villains
Which nicely leads me to a conclusion. You may have been wondering why the link to football. Well chairman Tony Hales is a football fan. He seems to have been just about as successful in his tenure at CaRT as his team of choice (The Villains) have been in the league. Whether the poor performance is in anyway a reflection of the make up of the clubs board, I will leave you to speculate. Jimmy Greaves was right you know, 'its a funny old game!' albeit on the pitch or on the towpath.

Monday 26 January 2015

The Awkward Constant Cruiser.

There is one waterway association whose members are also cheerfully known as the Grey Granddads. Some of them seem to have a real downer on constant cruisers. It's their opinion that the so called constant cruisers should also pay for a mooring, even if they never intend to use it. They also believe that CCers never move, and if they do, its only to occupy their favourite mooring spaces along the canal. So with eagle eye the Grey Granddads patrol the towpath as 'CaRT's Towpath Rangers' and spying on everyone.

In all fairness the constant cruisers also hold some similar views about the shiny boat greybacks! Does the poem hold a scintilla of truth of their nefarious lifestyles or is it apocryphal, only time will tell. Of one thing I'm sure - both sides will never be able to agree, even to disagree. So the alternate verses in my little poem are intended to give a little insight to the perspective from each side. 

Both sides hold prejudiced views about each other. While the vast majority of boaters are quite ambivalent to the whole charade that is playing out. Looking on with bemused indifference as they get on with life.  We see the occasional reports in the waterways press which just highlight the latest round in their antics. However, there is also a third party, and one who brings a sting in this tale!

The Awkward Constant Cruiser.

I am the jolly boatman, the tyro of the cut;
proud as a peacock, as up and down I strut;
the waterways rules, don't apply to me;
I just ignore them, as you will plainly see.

I am a shiny shiny boater, I wear a captains hat;
with jaundiced opinions, brought up to be a brat;
so I interfere in things, that are nought to do with me;
I also like to strut my stuff, up and down the quay.

I am a constant cruiser and by choice, I don't move much;
ignoring all the licence rules, I'm completely out of touch;
I bath just once each summer, whether I need to bathe or not;
as I slowly crawl from bridge to bridge, I just don't give a jot. 

For I am both old and grey, and my time has almost come;
will he still be mooring here, when I have long been gone;
for its his bohemian style of life, to which I don't aspire;
a life which I could never enjoy, until the day that I expire.

Move along - who me, why should I jig to your song;
If you don't like it then, why don't you just move along;
for I am doing what I like, for a mooring I shall never pay;
I'm a free loading scrounger, and agree with all you say.

All my life I have been working, while on benefits he lives;
for he believes it's better to receive, than too ever give;
I always pay my way, and the boat is my comfort and joy;
a precious polished painted thing, and his a rusting toy. 

You say that I complain loudly, each time that I'm found out;
good at blaming someone else, as my spleen I start to spout;
the only rule a CCer will obey, are the ones I make my own;
as far from this water point, I don't intend to roam.

Responsibilities all my life, have dogged me in every way;  
life seems to be so unfair, as his bills are also mine to pay;
always pay my dues and taxes, my way I will never shirk;
constant cruiser thinks that I'm a fool, and that I am a jerk.

My children now need a school, I don't want to be a weight;
if we are made homeless, we become a burden on the state;
for me its a principal point, for why I will not pay your price;
as for the enforcement team, its such good fun to them entice.  

I don't understand your way of life, to me you are not right;
why you ignore all the rules, and do it with all your might;
your boat stacked high with logs, you look a dreadful mess;
persisting in this pointless, bridge hopping game of chess.

My noisy generator I keep running, all the hours that I could want;
its just another stupid rule, with impunity that I choose to flaunt;
a rusty hull and care worn paint, it is our personal choice to make;
if you object as far as I'm concerned, you can just duck off mate!

But there is something else, one player it seems that you forgot;
the granddads are not alone, there's one more to enter in this plot;
we are the navigation authority, and all the rules are ours to make;
you're dealing with the big boys now, anchored CCers are all fakes.

We could care less what your name is, or just who you think you are;
your playing in the top league now,  and we will decide how far;
you have to do as you agreed, or a price you will have to pay;
until enough of this tiresome game, in the courts we get our way.

Short shrift is the name of our game, and you now have to leave;
rules are rules and will be applied, you have no case to plead;
you are free to lead the life style, one that you have chose;
 just obey the waterways rules, we're fed up of all your woes.

Constant moorers are now sorted, our attention can stray once more;
we can look at the others,  from their pockets much money could pour;
boat licence fees doubled, moorings fees trebled an all time high;
angst and the pointing of fingers, but everyone knows the answer why.

The Epilogue

So now they side stand together, but divided; 
their need of each other, they can't comprehend;
the future of the waterways, spirals ever downward, 
heading towards, an inauspicious dead end;

Issues only molehills, and of no consequence;
to the sacrifice of, the canal camaraderie;
but foolish pride, had now been pricked;
for childish attitudes, that only divide and constrict.

The Alternative Canal Laureate

Evan Keel.
"The events depicted in this poem are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental. No person should without the prior permission of the author assume the identity of any character. These poems are a story that could be based on actual events. In certain cases incidents, characters and time lines have been changed for dramatic purposes. Certain characters may be accidental composites, or entirely fictitious. I was helped in my creative endeavour by my friend's telepathic cat named Huxley. Huxley assumes all responsibility for any mistakes and errors."

Sunday 25 January 2015

Understanding CaRT #10

Most people know that I enjoy poking fun at CaRT, if I did not poke fun, then I would only end up crying into my beer.  So in the spirit of being a bit more upbeat, I decided to do some fractured motivational posters.  As a kid I had a few motorcycle posters on my bedroom wall. So I decided to hang a few inland waterways posters on my blog wall. Many people are somewhat puzzled about the role and function of (CaRT) the Canal and River Trust. Here are a series of helpful pictures that will assist with a deeper  understanding.

When the towpath is overgrown or filled with deep sticky cloying mud. You can always take to the water. Because its important never to feel that the Inland Waterways are not for you.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Even More Myths.

I love the English, we are a nation put together, expecting a life of adversity. We love to support the under dog, but more than anything else, without a scintilla of proof we are prepared to beleive the worst about anyone. Now don't get me wrong, this is not intended to 'whitewash everyone' or even to 'tar everyone with the same brush'. I love all the mixed metaphors. But like discussing the weather its a national pastime. But I digress.

But more than anything else, almost rivalling football as a national sport. We love to bash and blame the local political representatives. Either as individuals or collectively as the council. The council becomes the whipping boy for all ills. If that blame can also include some ethnic minorities - we enjoy the whole grand spectacle even more. 

I have spent a lot of time in and around Birmingham and to be honest - I love the place. Yet there is an oft repeated urban myth, that Birmingham City council tried to rename the Christmas event - in an attempt to avoid offending non Christians. In reality, what happened was that Birmingham city council came up with the phrase 'Winterval'. It was intended to be used to publicise a large number of different events taking place in the city over the winter period. 

The events for which Birmingham is famous for, included a series of New Year concerts. It also coincided with Diwali. Birmingham has a population which includes people of an Asion origin - so it was a good idea to include. Birmingham is also famous for the German Christmas market as well as the Christmas light decorations and Christmas shopping in general. However, a journalist put his own biased spin on the story and it was portrayed as an attempt to rename Christmas. 

But there have been other similar outlandish claims. In the twentieth century there have been several controversies an debates about political correctness. Claims such as schools being ordered by the government to change the wording of nursery rhymes.  

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep is an English nursery rhyme, the earliest surviving version of which dates from 1731. The words have changed little over the centuries. Theories have been advanced to explain the meaning of the rhyme. These include that it is a complaint against Medieval English taxes on wool and also that it is about the slave trade.  

This load of round spherical objects was based only on a rewriting of the rhyme in one private nursery. Done as an exercise for the children there and not on any local government policy. Baa Baa Black Sheep is the case in question - it was reported that to avoid causing offence to black people. The words were to be changed to Baa Baa Indeterminate Colour Sheep and a further version. Baa Baa Rainbow Colour Sheep. Further controversy emerged in the late 90's when reservations about the rhyme were submitted to Birmingham City Council by a working group on racism in children's resources. The items highlighted for editing were never approved or implemented.

Like the promise of a free meal - if it sounds too far fetched to be real - it usually is. 

Friday 23 January 2015

Welcome to cloud cuckoo land (3)

There is good work being done by some boating organisations, representing the intrests of boat owners, NABO in particular. The IWA by way of contrast has members already ensconced in various levels of the trust hierarchy. These are the people representing our interests. But don't hold any meetings organised meetings with their electorate. Did they not feel even a small twinge of guilt about their silence. Did they not feel the need to share information, with their electorate. Did they not feel the need to share information with the wider waterways community, one that the IWA claims to represent. Maybe the much vaunted and now discredited Memorandum of Understanding between CaRT and the IWA counts for much more than we first thought. 

What does this say about the 'IWA block vote' like the bad ol days of trade union closed shop conditions. Which usurped any semblance of 'independent' representatives. An independence we were supposed to vote for. With the unholy alliance sounding more like the bad old days of the trade union and the closed shop system.

This brings me round to finishing on a more positive note. After all this was something I was challenged to do by Richard Parry himself.  Which begs the very obvious rhetorical question can we trust the Trust? Well with all the ongoing skulduggery the very obvious answer is no. 

So being positive, maybe I could suggest that one or two people within the trust will now look to their laurels and do the 'honourable and gentlemanly' thing and resign. Starting with the Chairman of the Trustees - it was after all 'on his watch' and could not have happened without his knowledge and consent. 

Charitable Trust?  Don't make me laugh!

Thursday 22 January 2015

Understanding CaRT #7

Most people know that I enjoy poking fun at CaRT, if I did not poke fun, then I would only end up crying into my beer.  So in the spirit of being a bit more upbeat, I decided to do some fractured motivational posters.  As a kid I had a few motorcycle posters on my bedroom wall. So I decided to hang a few inland waterways posters on my blog wall. Many people are somewhat puzzled about the role and function of (CaRT) the Canal and River Trust. Here are a series of helpful pictures that will assist with a deeper  understanding.

Its been said many times before; that dedication or madness is divided by a very a fine line. It takes a certain kind of dedication to be an inland waterways ecologist. Ensuring that the Mink a new species are kept well fed by improving the numbers of bank voles available.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Welcome to cloud cuckoo land (2)

The Waterways Partnerships are a disaster in the making as is the recruitment of funding friends. Not content with that but the Trust has also and rather typically been hanging onto the coat tails of the co-op bank and its publicity disastrous chairman. If the inland waterways are going to attract external funding from wherever that source might be. CaRT needs to show that it is a professional organisation. An organisation with a genuine corporate image. If your business behaves unethically, your customers, clients, and business partners will take note and treat your accordingly. The co-op is a case in question where some of the taint will have spread.

Success should not be measured in £ coins in the begging bowl but by the overall health and long term viability of the business.  CaRT has also got to make up its mind whether all boaters are going to be part of the solution or if it is to continue to pursue the old and vulnerable boater as being the problem. I believe such issues are apparently being used as a tactic to deflect attention away from the huge funding gap. Then yet another mission has failed.

There are many issues where poor management and a lack of judgement have lost and us (the boaters and the paying public) and the Trust millions of pounds. Knostrop Wharf is a typical example. The ill conceived waterways partnerships that are also providing nothing tangible. Apart from a further layer of disjointed 'loony tunes' management and a further drain on the ever dwindling financial resources. In a sort of Midas curse - everything the trust touches turns to 'merde.' 

Then there were vague promises made about CaRT embracing an ethos of honesty, openness and transparency. But still the problems and issues continued to manifest themselves. Now suppressed revelations from a Section 8 court case. Appear to give some credence that it would be unlawful for the Trust to set a minimum distance that continuous cruisers must travel to comply with the law. But where was this much vaunted promise of openness and transparency when the judgement was passed down?

The senior officers and trustees within CaRT knew about this judgement for over a year. But chose to keep it a closed secret! Despite the knowledge of this judgement CaRT have also held meetings with various boating organisations. Which begs the question why was the information not shared with various boating organisations. Imagine how those association representatives will be feeling now. Certainly disenfranchised, certainly undermined and certainly being manipulated.

Charitable Trust?  Don't make me laugh!

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Welcome to cloud cuckoo land (1)

Hello, and welcome to cloud cuckoo land. 

I was one of those boaters with the mistaken belief that with the demise of British Waterways there would be a new and progressive future for the inland waterways. One full of promise. The waterways were to be unshackled from the whims of whatever flavour of government happened to be in power. A new future built upon putting the bad old days of British Waterways where they belonged in the past. That together we would collectively enter a bright new world. One where the inland waterways would metamorphose into something much better and that the waterways would eventually prosper and blossom.

Now lets come back down to Earth.  

However, I was still old and cynical enough, that I never thought it would be an over night exchange from quango to charitable ethos. Especially when the old BW management team were parachuted into the fledgling trust. For the management, it was a lifeline from the dole queue as the quango was about to be consigned to the bonfire by the government. For me the transfer of the old guard was an unmitigated disaster. I remember having serious misgivings, but foolishly I also tried to put those misgivings behind me.  Later, I had hoped that with the departure of Robin Evans and the arrival of Richard Parry as the new CEO of the Canal and River Trust, a positive and progressive change was finally on the horizon.

But the same old problems and issues continued to manifest themselves.  The maintenance backlog and the deliberate obfuscation over the detail of just what was being spent. Plus the acknowledgement of just what was actually needed to maintain the steady state.  Only when it came to a written statement, which was prepared for the courts did the trust actually admit (albeit unintentionally) that there was a requirement for £130 million a year spend on maintenance to maintain the steady state.  CaRT is no longer a directly funded quango it is now allegedly a charitable Trust. One that operates in the third sector. However, the question still remains unanswered, how is CaRT going to bridge the ever growing funding gap? 

Charitable Trust?  Don't make me laugh!

Monday 19 January 2015

You can't make it up. (1)

There has been a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. They are believed to be killing bees and other pollinators. Our government has joined in the Pan European field experiment to find out if bee's are being poisoned. 

Who is conducting the experiments? 

Surprise surprise - Its the Pesticide Manufacturers. 

So that's OK then...

Seeing fewer wild birds around?

The large declines in some farmland birds have many known and potential causes. Many of the declines have been caused by land management changes and the intensification of farming that took place over a long period, such as the loss of mixed farming, a move from spring to autumn sowing of arable crops, change in grassland management (e.g. a switch from hay to silage production), increased pesticide and fertiliser use, and the removal of non cropped features such as hedgerows. The rate of these changes, which resulted in the loss of suitable nesting and suitable  feeding habitats, and a reduction in available food, was greatest during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the period during which many farmland bird populations declined most rapidly.

Grey Partridge down 91%
Turtle Dove down 96% 
Tree Sparrow down 90%
Corn Bunting down 90%
Starlings down 81%

Read the full PDF document here: Click Me 

Sunday 18 January 2015

Understanding CaRT #6

Most people know that I enjoy poking fun at CaRT, if I did not poke fun, then I would only end up crying into my beer.  So in the spirit of being a bit more upbeat, I decided to do some fractured motivational posters.  As a kid I had a few motorcycle posters on my bedroom wall. So I decided to hang a few inland waterways posters on my blog wall. Many people are somewhat puzzled about the role and function of (CaRT) the Canal and River Trust. Here are a series of helpful pictures that will assist with a deeper  understanding.

The annual directors canal inspection, is conducted from the specially designed directors launch. This was an old working practice from the days of the old canal owners.  Now that the bank side staff have been made redundant or redeployed. The inspection launch comes into its element once again.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Stove Problems.

It your boat stove causing problems - There are no default answers to a boat stove problem. Each situation is different. The fire in the stove is a controlled conflagration - the more air it gets the faster and hotter it will burn.

Restricting the air supply damps down the rate of burning and cuts back on the amount of available heat. But there is a point where the rate of burning is insufficient to keep the fire in. The fire needs a certain amount of internal heat to maintain combustion. Starve the fire of air and it will go out.

There are lots of issues to understand. The first is with the type of fuel being used. The second is the construction of the stove. The third is how you control the heat and how much heat you want. The fourth is how the heat is used.

I will stress one point - you must get a good pair of smoke and CO detectors fitted at each end of the boat. Test them on the first day of the month.

1) Different fuels need different amounts of air to burn efficiently. Mixing different types of fuel can create additional problems. The efficiency of the fire can be judged by the flame colour. The more yellow and floppy the flame, the more air is required for complete combustion. Adjustment of the air flow below the grate should be done in tiny amounts.

2) Some stoves only take air from below the grate and others have an airwash which allows air to enter the fire above the grate. This is useful as the air will not pass through the coals, but will help to burn all the part burnt gasses entering the flue. Additional air fed to the flames improves the combustion efficiency and reduces internal sooting. 
READ the Stove operating manual so you know what controls are available - where they are located and how to adjust them. If you don't have a manual - download one from the internet.

3) There are other controls such as a damper which maybe a fixed item and located in the top of the fire. The damper maybe in the flue pipe and adjustable. Hot air rises and heat is given off by the body of the stove as well as the flue pipe. As the air/gasses in the flue cools it becomes heavier. You can get a situation where the top of the flue is quite cold. A double skinned chimney can help in such situations especially if the air gap is filled with a fireproof insulation material.

3a) Down drafts can create unpredictable situations within the fire. A chimney cowl especially one that turns in the wind can help to reduce such situations. As soot and other products of combustion build up inside the flue they also act as a constrictor and as an insulator making the flue pipe less efficient at passing heat from the hot flue gasses into the boat. Clean the flue every couple of months and clean above the damper once a week. The damper is a restriction which can block well before other parts of the flue.

3b) Under and over ventilation. To much ventilation will take away heat. Not enough ventilation can cause condensation problems. The spread of heat in open plan boats will perform differently to boats with internal walls. Err on the side of safety and never block the bats ventilation system.

3c) The roof area will always be warmer than the floor area. When you are sitting down the majority of warm air is above your head. You might want to consider a small low speed fan to circulate the air more. Check the difference with a thermometer - you might just get a surprise at the temperature gradient.

4) If you have a back boiler, the temperature inside the fire box can be even more difficult to control. Especially when there are thermostats controlling part of the flow of water. Our bedroom bathroom radiators have thermostats which we use to provide comfortable heat in the different areas of the boat. Always have one radiator without any restrictions as a safeguard. Our calorifier is also unrestricted. Fans on top of fires do work - however, you may not notice the movement of air. To prove the point, get a joss stick and light it, next to the fire then go to the far end of the boat. You will be surprised how soon the scent arrives.

Friday 16 January 2015

The Rules of CaRT.

The Rules of CaRT.

Rule 1. CaRT is not fair, just get used to it!  Give CaRT money, then you can feel good about yourself.

Rule 2. CaRT doesn't care about you. If it doesn't care about the maintenance underspend why should it care about you! Give CaRT money, then you can care and feel good about yourself.

Rule 3. You will not make 185 thousand pounds a year. You won't ever be the CaRT Chief Executive officer with a company car.  Give CaRT money, then you can start to feel good about yourself.

Rule 4. Picking Litter for CaRT as a volunteer is not beneath your dignity. CaRT have a word for litter picking they called it job skills opportunity. Give CaRT money, then you can feel good about yourself.

Rule 5.  If CaRT mess up, it's not CaRT's fault, so don't whine about CaRT's mistakes. But you can learn from them. Give CaRT lots of money, then you can feel good about yourself.

Rule 6. CaRT doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to anything worthwhile in real life, so don't be judgemental. Give CaRT all of your money, only then will you feel good about yourself.