Monday 28 September 2015

Is it me?

Is it me - or is the Canal and River Trust actually fit for purpose. 

I am asking myself the rhetorical question because of the 'distinguished history' of the fledgling, third sector Trust, for getting it wrong. Not just on the odd occasion but repeatedly again and again. 

Its as if the Trust was deliberately trying to do things wrong. Three years into its tenure of office and it seems that the Trust is staggering from one problem straight into another. However today is a day to look on the bright side. Because the old guard of the Canal and River Trust are now being replaced. We have seen some of their passing with scarcely a ripple on the surface of the Inland Waterways. 

The inexorable drift towards the door was led by the staff that were made redundant. Which was followed by Robin Evans with Simon Salem, Philip Ridal, Sally Ash and others helping to clear out the blockage, so to speak. Now, with the exit of Vince Moran which has just been announced. But not only that, we will now see the (twice delayed) back of Tony Hales. I'm convinced that this will now be part of a huge step forward for an improved future.

Everyone knows that British Waterways was headed for what became known as the bonfire of the quangos. To be subsumed into the EA. As I look around, I can't help but wonder if that was a missed opportunity. However as usual its CaRT with a huge elephant in the room. Leaving one trustee to pen the waterways equivalent of a moving eulogy. 
'Under the leadership of Tony Hales so much has been achieved for the nation’s waterways. He had the vision and passion to take the waterways out of state control in what was the largest ever transfer of state infrastructure into a charitable organisation. Since that remarkable achievement in 2012, he has set the path for a bright future for the waterways for generations to come.'
Lynne Berry, deputy chair of CaRT.

I'm not sure exactly where Lynne has found this rare as hens teeth or rocking horse shit 'achievement' but one might have just slipped under the radar. (It could have been the square bollards) I'm not sure where Lynne saw the 'vision and passion' either. Maybe she should have gone to Specsavers.

'The Trust was aiming to achieve, in less than a year, a process and status that had taken the National Trust 150 years. Ms Berry also thought that whilst the industrial revolution had been important for the waterways in the 18th century, the 21st century would deliver a “social revolution” for the waterways.'
Vice Chair of trustees Lynne Berry to the APPGW (All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group) in March 2012
I think that the 2012 statement of intent, by Lynne gives some idea of how well the Trusts trustees have done in achieving in 2015. What was obviously seen back then as being a simple task, all to be achieved in the first year of CaRT's existence. 

Maybe they should both have gone to Specsavers.

My mantra has always been that despite everything done by the Trust, we need to work with the Trust. Because there was no other alternative. So what will the future be like for the Inland Waterways in the post Hales years. Once the 'towpath celebrations' of his twice belated leaving have subsided.

So how well is the trust actually fairing three years into its term of office?

Maybe a pointer can be gathered from the Trusts own 'Boater Research' results which were summarised in 11th of September 2015 Boaters Update. 'The research discovered that the majority of boaters don't feel respected by CaRT'. Which I feel is possibly a mutual standpoint. To be honest I would question the need for the research. It should have been fairly obvious from the Richard Parry 'meet and greet' meetings. 

In view of the Trusts own research into its popularity amongst the boaters. Maybe we should actually reflect upon one or two of the achievements and home goals under the chairmanship of Tony Hales. The achievements that have obviously made his tenure all so popular. The Trust after all has never held back from making 'grandiose statements' and endless 'pie in the sky' predictions of its future. But never its actual less than  'glittering' performance when compared with the outcomes. 

So lets examine some of the spectacular 'achievements' that have come to fruition under the watchful, collective eye of the dual Chairman of Council, Chairman of Trustees and of the Trustees themselves. After all, it would be unfair upon the other trustees to leave them out in the cold.

Lets have a look at the first of Tony and the other trustees lack lustre achievements.

CaRT's performance in recruiting friends has been so 'piss poor' that it has gone into the red to the tune of £3,000,000 in the Trusts first three years in operation. What's more the Trusts own indications are that the losses will continue for the next three. Remember those fateful words of ms berry 'The Trust was aiming to achieve, in less than a year, a process and status that had taken the National Trust 150 years. So not a single penny of the donations given have been used for charitable purposes over the last three years. It also looks like the charitable donations will not be used for charitable purposes for which they were given over the next three years either. 

The missing friends in the friends recruitment target should be ringing alarm bells at Ivory Towers. The question I would be asking is:- 'Are the people who don't want to be friends of a charity, holding the view that the Trust is being less than charitable. That the missing friends don't want to give money year on year, only to learn via the back door, that its not being used in the way that they expected.' After all, charitable giving is done in the expectation that what is given will be used for charitable purposes.

Success 0 Fail 1 

Lets have a look at another of Tony's achievements. The Trusts biggest self proclaimed success and one that I find to be increasing incredulous. It is the visit/visitor figures that the 'lack lustre' Trust reports. CaRT claims 19,500,000 people are making 400,000,000 million visits a year to the canals. That totals more than the population of the top 10 European Union Countries put together.

This year between April and September we have travelled over 500 miles of the Inland Waterways. I can't hand on heart report that we have seen or witnessed anything that would make me believe that figure.

Putting the canal visit figures into perspective. If you break down the figure by the days in the year. That's 1,095,890 visits a day. Now divide that figure by the miles of canal and river managed by CaRT. This gives a figure of 498 visitors per mile of canal each day.  There are very obvious factors that will effect the day to day density of people on the towpath and therefore the visibility and chance of meeting significant visitor numbers. 

Daylight -v- Darkness or Summer -v- Winter. Good Weather -v- Bad Weather as well as Weekday -v- Weekend. If you give some thought, you will soon realise that the above factors will actually squeeze the visitor numbers into a much shorter time frame. Mainly during the daylight hours which can be very short depending on the season of the year. So we should be seeing about 1,000 visitors on each one mile section of canal in daylight hours.

What is very apparent from the back deck of our boat as we cruise around the inland waterways. In the countryside for tens of miles, the towpath is devoid of all but the serious walkers, cyclists and fishermen and they are in turn, very few in number. In the towns and cities the numbers do improve but even there are still not enough people to be seen walking, jogging, cycling or fishing.

This then started me to think more about the generalisation over the numbers being possibly concentrated into a number of hotspots. With the exception of (a drink in a pub, sat or stood by the water, visit to a heritage attraction or museum) all the rest (on a boat with an engine, canoeing, rowing boats and sailing boats, cycling, walking a dog, a walk, a ramble, a run or a jog) would require some significant movement along the waterway and towpath. So we should be able to observe the huge rise in the numbers of these visitors along the towpath. Not necessarily congregated around a hotspot.

At the popular floating market in Birmingham I stood on a footbridge and counted the number of people in one hour passing along one section of the canal.  So here I was in the middle of the day, at a weekend, in a popular venue in excellent weather.  It came to 123 people, some who were also on bikes. So that's an 8 hour average of about 984 people.  However, Birmingham has a number of other festivals going on such as the 'big hoot' and 'The Birmingham Weekender' Not only that but there were even the two huge Rugby events that had drawn 10's of thousands walking around the city centre wearing rugby shirts.  Even with all these attractions Birmingham could not attract the average number for any mile of canal. 

Success 0 Fail 2

However, I do hope that the Trust is being careful where it is encouraging the visitors to visit. The central hub for the Trust managed Inland Waterways, is Birmingham. Recently when we came into the city centre via the Farmers Bridge Flight. We were unable to avoid watching as three people living rough, got their fix of drugs. Two injecting it between their fingers and in one case dropping his trousers and injecting directly into the groin. When you are locking up the flight and such behaviour is taking place in full view alongside the canal. This is indicative of how the canal infrastructure is seen, by the local population on a regular basis, day in and day out.

Is this a place you would want to frequent?

Would you be happy to bring your children on a visit here?

Would you want to give a charitable donation to the Trust that manages this area?

Success 0 Fail 3 

I suppose when looking at other achievements of Tony Hales – it would be crass not to look at cycling and his part in changing the use of the towpath. This exemplar demonstrates what a wonderful place the inland waterways are. Sustrans says that cars make the roads too dangerous for cyclists, Whilst cyclist in turn make the pavement too dangerous for pedestrians. Not wanting to be left out of this two wheeled arms race, the Cycling and River Trust are now making the towpath too dangerous for pedestrians, boaters, joggers and fishermen.

The press has been reporting the incidence of high speed cycling on the towpaths for a decade. Social media is full of instances of people coming into conflict with high speed cyclists. There are social media groups made up of towpath users who are campaigning for something to be done about the speed racing on the towpaths. It would certainly require a visit to Specsavers if not one of the trustees had the 'vision' to see the impact on the safety of the public.

Now because they feel like front line troops - boaters have formulated their own Facebook group to publicly draw attention to the lack of any effective action beyond words, leaflets and duck lanes.  I know that there are petitions being organised and there is the promise of action days with the media invited to attend. 

'This [FaceBook] group are trying to make the Trust aware of the problems faced by some users, walkers, wheelchair users, hard of hearing, people with limited sight, dog walkers, people with prams... I could go on... the tow paths are becoming skittle alleys for some people as the speeding cyclists don't slow down and treat the towpath is like a racetrack.' Leslie Pearson

The upgrade to the towpath should be something that everyone is able to enjoy. Whilst at the same time look forward to using, especially in poor weather with improved conditions under foot. However, the commuting cyclists who are part of the group of users, are supposed to share the space. However, a minority simply cycle too fast. The Trust, through an ill thought through policy, are putting those 400,000,000 visitors on the front line. No amount of 'educational leaflets' handed out and no amount of 'educational duck lanes' will actually provide the much needed protection to the primary user and primary funder - the pedestrian.

Success 0 Fail 4

We should also broaden out the view to take a look at the Trusts performance in embracing the Internet and social media. There is the old rule in business, if any idea to improve the business model will require further work to fix any ensuing issues. The idea was fundamentally flawed in the concept stage. A further rule similarly applied in computing is - GIGO [Garbage In Garbage Out] if you put garbage into a system - you will get a garbage out.

The age of letter writing by 'Disgruntled of Milton Keynes' to the printed waterways press is almost gone. In the new world of social media everyone is a critic, everyone could be a supporter and more than anything else, everyone is a publisher. This maybe news in Ivory Towers, but the Trust is increasingly coming under social media scrutiny and is found to be lacking. In a way, the Trust is reacting abysmally to a change to joined up communications that took place over a decade ago. The Trust behaves itself as if the world has stood still in the meantime. Today the news is instantaneous and everyone gets to comment upon everything. So what the Trust would have us believe and published in its press releases. Is often critically bombed in social media within moments of being released.

Success 0 Fail 5

Then there is the enduring and perennial hot potato that has been inexpertly juggled by Tony. It is of course the lack of maintenance investment. The latest figures are an improvement, but only in accuracy. Unfortunately the figures are going in the wrong direction. No longer bandied at being around the 50,000 mark. The number of outstanding issues requiring maintenance is now trending upwards. The Trust has confirmed that the number of outstanding defects on its system has grown from 52,000 to 59,133 in less than 18 months.

Success 0 Fail 6

The promised 'openness and accountability' is another one of the chairman's achievements. Increasingly it is becoming more apparent that the Trust is now operating with a silo mentality - Where everyone on the inside of the silo is convinced it has all the answers. While those on the outside are more and more convinced, that the Trust has utterly lost its way. Managed by an insular management who are incapable of working with the users. The silo occurs whenever a management system is incompatible with the requirements of its remit, not integrated or incapable of providing a coherent plan.

Success 0 Fail 7

Another of Tony's achievements are the Waterways Partnerships which are a part of that silo mentality. Grandiose claims made for the future, which like most of the Trusts ideas have come to nothing. Vast sums of money were projected to be flowing into the Trusts coffers. The partnerships however could not even reach the break-even point by  the end of last year. However, it should be noted that there is money flowing between the Trust and the partnerships. Its actually flowing out of the Trusts coffers to prop up a piss poor idea. Mainly because the partnerships are disjointed and operated as the personal fiefdoms of an unelected whoever. I still have no idea how and in what way they are accountable. A cursory glance through the various meetings notes will certainly not give any crumbs of comfort for the future.

The APPWG for Waterways published a report on the Waterway Partnerships in April 2013 that raised concerns over the lack of clarity of the Waterway Partnership's financial role. Including a reminder of their aim to be self funded in all their activities by the end of 2014.

Success 0 Fail 8

Then we should also take a look at Tony's shining edifice that is BWML.  Just how well is the Trusts BWML subsidiary performing. Not so long ago it was bringing in a small profit. Then just when I thought it could not get any worse. There is what has become known around the waterways as the 'dirty tricks' campaign. We are regaled by yet another fiasco on the Chairman Hales watch. Geoff Whyatt, BWML's Managing Director, has now publicly apologised to other marina owners for his actions. However, in addition to making a loss of £877,642 last financial year, BWML had also written off a further £714,087. However, no apologies have been forthcoming from the Trust or the chairman for that loss.

Success 0 Fail 9

Well, I'm finally convinced, against my better judgement, it can't possibly become any worse than it already is. Things can now only improve, but only if the newly liberated Trust can take on board that it needs to change its whole ethos and that change can't come soon enough.

So who will take up the 'poison chalice'. Step forward Allan Leighton, chair of the Co-Operative Group, and formerly CEO of Asda Plc and chair of the Royal Mail. He will formally take over as chairman of the Canal And River Trust in September. Allan joined the Board of Trustees in September 2014.

Do I have any words of advice for our new chairman.  Unsurprisingly, yes I do.  The main problem for the trust is the 'us and them' entrenched positions between the Trust and its customers. As evidenced in the Trusts own 'Boater Research' results which are highlighted above. The entrenched attitude has been around since the days of British Waterways. It requires a move of ethos from 'exclusive to inclusive'. 

Is there a solution - well yes there is. Surprise, shock, horror its a simple one. 

One which I would like to see the new chairman implement. The Trust has to be answerable to the people who own the waterways the public. The customer base is the public that choose to use or visit the waterways. There has been a promise made previously of an open and accountable Trust. Which unsurprisingly the Trust has so far failed to deliver. It requires a new ethos, it requires someone with the strength to grasp the nettle.

How can this new ethos be brought around. By the simple expedient of dropping the Trusts opposition to being a charitable Trust with a contributing membership. The Trust needs to become an inclusive membership organisation. The vast majority of charitable Trusts are membership led organisations. Further more the Trust has to be answerable to that membership. The insular mantle and inward looking ethos inherited from British Waterways is not fit for purpose. The notion of a no member charitable trust should be turned out to pasture, along with the outgoing chairman.

Remember what I said earlier 'The old rule in business, if any idea to improve the business model will require further work to fix the ensuing issues. The idea was fundamentally flawed in the concept stage.' The transition from British Waterways to the third sector was fundamentally flawed because it carried over the British Waterways ethos, management style and management team such as it is/was. Wisdom expressed by many people working in the charitable sector said the Trust would flourish only under a membership organisation – One that was accountable to the membership. Well the alternative has been tried for three years and failed. What is there to lose by moving over to a membership accountable, charitable organisation.

It was discussed at the APPWG. (All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group) Where the new trust was envisioned by the Minister as being 'The National Trust for the Inland Waterways'. Many recommendations were made by a list of invited professionals and experts working in the third sector. Almost every recommendation from the experts were subsequently ignored by the Quango drop outs.  One of the more prophetic warnings came from Cliff Mills, a charitable consultant. In what looks like at this distance to be some form of second sight or through the aid of a crystal ball. Which was in fact Mr Mills exercising his expert knowledge. He told the APPWG about his experience in setting up mutuals and membership-based organisations.
He said that he was struck by the potential for engagement with the wider community. He believed that the statement of intentions in the consultation document – with membership as an option for the new body to consider later on – was wrong.
The new body needed to start as a membership based organisation to generate engagement – membership was the point at which the public could become engaged leading to a sense of ownership. Unless membership was built in from the start of an organisation it could be very hard to move to membership later on. Membership empowered the community but empowerment required power to be given away and there could well be a disinclination for the trustees of a Charity to give power away at a later stage.
He said If the design of the organisation was right from the outset it need not be incompatible with a charity but accountability would be undoubtedly improved through membership. Under the currently proposed constitution arrangements, it seemed that preservation was fundamental to the purposes. But the opportunity to challenge, change and evolve would be lost with this model and there was a danger of preserving something in aspic. Membership would allow more freedom to direct evolution of the waterways in a positive manner.
Mr Mills continued, 'That in his opinion there was a danger that failing to adopt a membership structure - at least in the sense of identifying clear stakeholder representative constituencies that could generate elected representatives to Council - could result in bad publicity and be seen as a device to cling on to power.' In effect it would hold at arm’s-length those who might benefit the new organisation most through their enthusiasm and potential financial contributions. Cliff Mills Consultant.
The APPGW did not leave it there, but added 'In the light of the evidence we conclude that following the route outlined in the consultation document (setting up a governance structure which initially does not allow for membership) is likely to foster a perception of a lack of democracy and public engagement and to engender a concern amongst stakeholders that the new organisation is British Waterways under another name. This is a concern that we note that the Waterways Minister is on the public record as being keen to wish to avoid.'

The APPWG stated in its Governance - Conclusions and Recommendations. 'We accept the practicality that the New Waterways Charity should begin life with fair representation of stakeholders but we believe that a membership model of democratic stakeholder representation to Council should be developed, with representatives elected by their organisations rather than appointed by the New Waterways Charity'.

'We believe that membership has so much to offer the new organisation in terms of engaging the public and developing a sense of ownership that there should be a clear timetable for moving to a full membership model. We recommend that the Charity should begin life with a Council that comprises members that are elected by the relevant organisations where that is possible, and with representatives of other interest groups provided for through nomination in the first instance; and that the process and timetable for achieving a fully elected Council, and moving the Charity to a full membership organisation, should be incorporated into the articles for the New Waterways Charity and be a required milestone in the Government contract with the Charity.'
The APPWG stated in its section on Finance. 'Projections by British Waterways of the expected New Waterways Charity voluntary income indicated a gain of £5.5 - £6million by year ten of the Charity. We queried this figure as being optimistic, given the altruistic nature of the covenant between the charity and the giver, but were pleased to see that it was significantly reduced from the figures published in the consultation, that had projected the figures at £8million. Many charities see revenue from donations flat-line at some point in their growth. 
We were informed by British Waterways’ own charity consultant that the marketing and fund raising costs were substantial and likely to require sustained large amounts of investment to generate the indicated returns, with a return of £2 for each £1 invested at year ten, and making a loss in the first years, breaking even only in year four.' 

Success 0 Fail 10

'The public funding was not to be used for restoration purposes and the Trust did not intend diverting any monies towards the costs of restoration. Its contribution on restoration would be to provide technical support and fund raising support. The Waterways Partnerships would play a role.' Chairman of trustees Tony Hales.

Now, I'm not so sure in its current configuration that the Trust is the way forward for the Inland Waterways. Maybe the Trust could and should be absorbed into the Environment Agency. Some will look upon this as a retrograde step. The EA previously did not have a good reputation with its own boating users. More recently the EA has had to undergo significant operational changes - in the main the driver behind the dramatic change has been created by the various flood management issues over recent times. The EA has undergone a significant restructure, changes in its working practices and in its management structures. Its a leaner, smarter agency now, a much different animal from its previous incarnation.  Maybe the EA is much more fit for purpose.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Birmingham Cycling and Navigation

I have to say that our frequent stays each cruising season in Birmingham, have always been interesting as there is so much for us to do. A couple of days does not even scratch the surface of all the many attractions. Now that some of the 14 day moorings have been taken out of use by the general boating population. So that only in the main only the shorter 48 hour moorings are available.

Generally we avoid Canal Festivals because we having been to one or two. They are we find, much of a muchness and not to our taste. That's not to suggest that festivals are a bad thing, its each boater to their own. This time our stay happened to coincide with the floating market. So we were able to catch up with a few boating friends and acquaintances who were there for the market.

One of our catchups was with Richard Parry who we bumped into while walking our dog along on the towpath. He was doing one of his usual meet and greet sessions with some of the boaters and traders. He had with him a couple of new senior staff members. 

When I spotted Richard I had intended to have a bit of fun at him. Which I did anyway, with a little bit of friendly banter.  So I first asked if there was any truth in the rumour (based on Hales, Ash, Salem, et al leaving) that he was also planning to leave the trust. I was going to follow on and ask if there was any truth in the rumour that the trust was going to move over to a membership model now that hales had departed. Then I was going to thank him profusely on behalf of all members of 'Strava' for yet another new CaRT cycling innovation. One that we had come across on the Birmingham Cycleway and Navigation (BCN). 

However, rather than put him on the spot. I decided to let the membership and Strava bit roll, as he politely introduced me to his new colleagues. I was upstaged so to speak when Richard described me as a 'critical friend' of the trust. I actually like the CEO and we seem to have a respect for each others opinions.

So what was I going to make him aware of?

Speed up Ramp.
Most people who have visited Birmingham will have seen the towpath gates around the Sheepcote Bridge area. These have now been upgraded. Its a simple upgrade - the gates have now been locked.  However, this time the gates are permanently locked in the open position. So now the cyclists have a free downhill run from the road bridge which will allow them to get up to speed much quicker. The Strava enthusiasts will be thrilled!

Open for Business

The gate alteration has been made by the simple expedient of a heavy duty chain and a couple of locks. So now cyclists no longer have to dismount. I wonder how long it will be before CaRT removes the gates altogether.

Here is another
Once again, as we walked around the market a few cyclist were weaving their way along the Towpath. As usual one or two were travelling at silly speeds.  Members of the public were grumbling about the experience.  

As if it had been pre-ordained. We were returning to our boat, when I literally came into contact with a cyclist who gently bumped into the back of me. It was at low speed, the cyclist was very apologetic and no one was hurt.  

The thing is - I never heard him coming. No amount of 'Faux Education', no amount of the 'Two Tings' and certainly no amount of 'Duck Lanes' or 'Share the Space' is going to make a blind bit of difference. I anticipate that once the good news spreads about the open season on towpath pedestrians - the 'Where there's a blame there's a claim' culture will come to the towpath. With faux whiplash injury claims being levied against the trust.  With actions like locking gates in the open position, I think m'learned friends will have a field day.

Friday 25 September 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❼❹

Oouzel Street to  Hawne Basin

Date 25th September 2015

Overnight the weather was overcast and cold. The fire was allowed to go out for the first time in over a week.

Morning: Preparations were made for an early start, after having a two week break in Birmingham.  Poppy the dog was not well and we knew that we would need to consult a veterinarian. We were soon under way. We passed a boat and butty which was making steady progress in the same direction. Which counted for two out of six boats seen moving today. The sun broke through and after lunch it became quite warm.

Afternoon: By early afternoon we were entering Netherton tunnel, as we turned on to the branch we could see the headlight of a boat already in the tunnel. What was to become apparent was that the headlight was so bright it was impossible to see where we were going and we had to navigate by watching the railings. I could see that the headlight was huge and pointed straight forward.  Rather than pointing up towards the roof and canted to the right.

Evening:  Its good to be back at Hawne basin and on our mooring. Poppy had a visit to the vet who prescribed an anti biotic for an anal gland infection. We bumped into a few old friends and on-line friends around the marina.


Birds: House Sparrow, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Starling, Blackbird, Mallard, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Coot, Moorhen, Canadian Goose, Grey Heron, Wood Pigeon, Kestrel, Buzzard, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull the highlight being a flock of about 50 Lapwing.

Butterflies: Meadow Brown.
Bats: Pipistrelle
Dragonflies: Four Spot Chaser.
Today's Total.
Miles: 12.5
Locks: 0
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 3
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 6.0
Solar Panels: 24 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2644.1
Locks: 1681
Swing / Lift Bridges: 362
Tunnels: 57
Pump Outs: 25
Engine Hours: 3501.9

Solar Panels: 23900 Ah

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❼❸

Cambrian Wharf to  Ouzel Street

Date 23rd September 2015

Overnight the weather overcast and cold.

Morning: Just a short distance today. Going round the Oouzel street loop and taking on water and doing a pump out.




Birds: House Sparrow, Magpie, Mallard, Pied Wagtail, Canadian Goose, Grey Heron, Wood Pigeon, Herring Gull, Greater Black Backed Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull.

Bats: Pipistrelle
Today's Total.
Miles: 1.1
Locks: 0
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 1
Engine Hours: 1.0
Solar Panels: 30 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2631.6
Locks: 1681
Swing / Lift Bridges: 362
Tunnels: 54
Pump Outs: 25
Engine Hours: 3495.9

Solar Panels: 23876 Ah

Saturday 19 September 2015

Hypocrisy has no limits

The hypocrisy of the gutter press has no limits. It is no less breathtaking for being so predictable. The British newspaper industry is owned by Billionaires. Each with a lust for money and power. The content is manipulated to protect their financial and political interests. The billionaire press damns Corbyn for not singing the 'national anthem' when he stood in a respectful silence. 

These are the same newspapers that made money from biased reporting of the slaughter of countless innocents throughout the middle east. Newspapers that now, pillories the new shadow chancellor for being (in their warped minds) a supporter of the armed republicanism in Ireland. Smear and innuendo is their way.

I don't know of any armed conflict beyond total genocide that was not resolved by both sides talking. What the newspaper proprietors are supporting is a form of genocide by prolonging the conflict - Content couched in fine rhetoric because it makes for good reading but more importantly excellent sales and improved profits.

The gutter press pillories McDonnell for seeking to understand the republican view of the British State.  The State was clearly involved in a decades long war it could not win. However, by talking to the protagonists  the Good Friday Agreement was obtained.  Do not for a minute suppose that if Thatcher or Blair had found a way to crush republican resistance, they wouldn't have seized it in an instant. Yet, through out this period the work done by the Secretary for State for Northern Ireland - Dr Maureen 'Mo' Mowlem. Work which as it came to fruition. Was given over by warmonger Blair to apologist Peter Mandelson to garner the tainted glory. Mo's part has since been almost airbrushed out of history by the press. 

What does any ruling class want? Everything. What does it fear? A popular movement which for the first time since the thirties threatens to open up in a big way the idea that the interests of humanity and those of profit, aren't quite the cosy fit it would have us believe. But what of the Labour lightweights on the right. Before the election result was out we had people we'd never heard of resigning from jobs they hadn't been offered. The muttered threats from sore losers contained talk of loyalty not to the millions disenfranchised and impoverished to pay for the bankers' crash. But to an ideology promoted by the gutter press. The needs, hopes and aspirations of millions don't enter this narrow and spiteful reckoning.

So what is to be done. It needs you, it needs me to become active.  The Corbyn victory must be followed rapidly by practical proof that, this man has touched the pulse and awakened the hopes of so many. The stakes are high. It is down to us that Jeremy Corbyn cannot be reduced by the gutter press to a marginalised leader. It will be worse for us all than if he'd never won the leadership. Far worse and for decades to come. Because the gutter press is determined that the new way of honest and open politics will be crushed. It will be without our support and pressure.

Friday 18 September 2015

Electorate apathy a thing of the past.

Brothers Sisters Comrades. You don't know and I can't begin to express how much those three words make an old man happy.  I was around for the lean years spent in opposition and I also witnessed the mean years under war monger Blair.  I never faltered in my belief that the labour party was a socialist party. It was the labour party that gave up its heritage and left behind its glorious history. Well that has changed now, the labour party has a long last come home.

For years I thought that the British electorate was apathetic when It came to politics. The reality is the electorate was waiting for new inspiration. It did not want to pick between two shades of blue. The electorate wanted an alternative choice to austerity and at the same time wanted a new style of politics. That time has arrived.

The electorate has and still is being spoon fed lies by the media. Newspapers lost their moral compass and sold their birthright. Metamorphosed into daily outpourings of  cheap as chips 'celebrity' news. Yet, at the same time this 'false moralising' media was more than happy to break the law and hack phones. To make money on the plight of families like the Dowler's and the McCann's. Building on the foundations laid by the Sun and the fabrication of news at Hillsborough.   What right do the media have to preach. What right do the media have to be allowed to continue to lie, spin and twist the news into a grotesque parody of the truth.  With their long history of lies and deceit of the last three decades. Its time we challenged them.

Social media and its content and commentary is beyond the control of the print media and the government. Hence the changes being currently being put in place to try and stifle free expression. The United Kingdom was listed among the 'Enemies of the Internet' in 2014 by Reporters Without Borders. The UK is now in a category of countries with the highest level of internet censorship and surveillance. It means there should be no sharing or linking of pages from The Sun, Daily Mail, The Express, The Telegraph and especially Sky news.

Well things have come full circle and I feel once more politically alive. The groundswell of public opinion has taken the the whole of parliament by surprise. It has shaken the establishment and its decades of complacency to the core. The Labour party under Corbyn has enthused and invigorated a whole new generation of the electorate. It has commandeered the political high ground and has set a political agenda for a changed spectrum of politics. Its called empowerment of people, politics. Now we the electorate have to follow the lead of the resurgent Labour Party and challenge the press as well as the Tory Party.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Tory 'yar boo' boys are thick.

Conservatives tend to be less intelligent than socialists, and people with low childhood intelligence tend to grow up to have racist and anti-gay views, says a new study. Conservative politics work almost as a 'gateway' into prejudice against others, say the academics. The paper analysed large UK studies which compared childhood intelligence with political views in adulthood across more than 15,000 people. The authors claim that people with low intelligence gravitate towards right-wing views because they make them feel safe.

Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact


Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviours and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice. We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on anti homosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socio economic status. Our results suggest that cognitive abilities play a critical, albeit under appreciated, role in prejudice. Consequently, we recommend a heightened focus on cognitive ability in research on prejudice and a better integration of cognitive ability into prejudice models.

Crucially, people's educational level is not what determines whether they are racist or not - it's innate intelligence, according to the academics. Social status also appears to play no part. The study, published in Psychological Science, claims that right-wing ideology forms a 'pathway' for people with low reasoning ability to become prejudiced against groups such as other races and gay people. 'Cognitive abilities are critical in forming impressions of other people and in being open minded,' say the researchers. 'Individuals with lower cognitive abilities may gravitate towards more socially conservative right-wing ideologies that maintain the status quo. 'It provides a sense of order.' 

The study, by academics at Brock University used information from two UK studies from 1958 and 1970 , where several thousand children were assessed for intelligence at age 10 and 11, and then asked political questions aged 33. The 1958 National Child Development involved 4,267 men and 4,537 women born in 1958.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Corbyn Mania

The latest news of Jeremy Corbyn has been a daily event and in a way one that I enjoyed to read, list and watch. There were interviews, sound bites, articles in support and the expected onslaught from the mainstream media against. The problem for the media was that the more they attacked him, the stronger he became.

The speculation over what his role might be within the restructure of a refreshed and reinvigorated Labour Party. Was followed by dire predictions for what might happen under his leadership in the future. His three opponents for the position of leader could not understand, never mind capture any of the outpouring of support for Jeremy. He however, like an elder statesman looked the part, walked the walk and certainly talked the talk.

The tension has been palpable and yet at the same time the whole process has been exciting.  No one can say that they have not harboured doubts about the possible outcome. Especially when there was a policy of weeding out people from amongst those eligible to vote.  Based upon what was the most perfunctory and seemingly flimsy evidence. The belief was and is that they were all supporters of Corbyn. They were derogatory labelled as being 'Corbynites' and the title was instantly absorbed to the mystique. 

The party needs to have a serious look at what has actually transpired within the election process. Every one who was 'outed' needs to be told what that reason was and specifically why they were excluded. Its the thing you do in a democracy, everything has to be open and above board. Where the evidence is unsustainable. The party must make a written apology to those people. It must also welcome those people to come and join or rejoin the party.

I don't see any reason why someone should not be able to change their political allegiance. After all the labour party is returning to its root and many people myself included felt that the party had abandoned its socialist ideals. Now that has changed and I have a role to play once more in furthering the future of MY PARTY'. 

I wanted to put pen to paper several weeks ago because I was certain that Jeremy Corbyn would secure the place of leader.  Several times I sat down to write a triumphal piece because as an old but savvy socialist, I was sure that Jeremy Corbyn would be elected by a majority in the first round. Even I was not prepared for the scale of the outcome.

Now we have a few days to enjoy the euphoria, to celebrate and bask in the sunlight of a wonderful victory. The strength of the victory is such that Corbyn is now Teflon coated, he has the mandate of the people, backed up by the strength of will of the people.

I spent a great deal of time, weighing up the various deputies. There was not one that I felt at the outset was of the right calibre. I discounted people for many different things. Watson I thought would always have a weather eye on the leadership. So I was not enamoured to him. So it went candidate after candidate until the only one I wanted to vote for, was Angela Eagle to be Jeremy's deputy. The more I looked at her political career the more It was that she was the right person.

I have little more than a nodding acquaintance and a small pile of correspondence that I have exchanged with my own Labour MP over several years. However, I was not enamoured to read some of his thoughts and ideas expressed in the Tory press. These thoughts and ideas had certainly not been expressed previously to party members. He like me made his choices and they were made from a privileged position of knowledge.  All of which have made me question whether we have the right man in place.

Saturday 12 September 2015

Git Gap's some sage advice!

Don't you just love the camaraderie we all experience on the cut. Don't you just enjoy the way that the less knowledgeable boaters. Look forward to receiving the sage advice of the more experienced shiny boaters in the boating community. Which is usually acknowledged in the shiny boat owner direction with the waving of a masonic fist. 

Everywhere along the cut, where the more experienced boaters venture, on their annual pilgrimage. Travelling from the marina, on the Friday evening run to the pub moorings. Which is then followed by the post Saturday shower, dash to the waterpoint. Then its the post Sunday lunch afternoon cruise to the winding hole and then back to the marina. You can see them giving freely of their sage advice. 

Why only this morning there were people going out and drawing their boats closer together. To share a ring and to remove what has become known as the 'git gap' created when mooring up. This presumably following a request from a more knowledgeable boater. Or it could be because their pontoon friend was arriving late to the party. 

But it doesn't end there, the more experienced boaters are giving sage advice on the correct speed to pass boats that are moored up. Already I detect some consensus starting to evolve. The moored boat is using the relativity theory as piloted by Mr Einstein. From their lofty position they can judge the speed of the passing boat by the relative number of breakages. While the moving shiny boat is able to judge the correct speed by the number of of people making making the masonic fist and rapidly shaking it up and down.

Thursday 10 September 2015

Photo (14)

Throughout the last few years of boat ownership. I have been taking a number of photographs around the canals and rivers system. Obviously the subject would vary depending on where we were and what we were doing.  The photographic images are taken using a Canon 550d DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) which is my camera of choice. I use Coral Paintshop Pro X6 photo editing software for adding the logo and creating a smaller thumbnail image.

There is no particular theme, other than most of my photography is waterways inspired. It's whatever that caught my attention at the time. So I thought I might include a few of my photographs into the blog. I am looking for titles to give to the images, you might like to suggest one of your own.

The North Oxford Canal comes together with the Grand Union Canal at Braunston. The wide vistas give plenty of opportunity for sunset and sunrise photographs.

I take photographs for my own personal pleasure. Whilst I reserve copyright ownership of the photographic image. You are free to use the image for your own purposes as long as the logo is not removed and you give credit to where the photograph came from. The image provided on the blog is a thumbnail of the original photographic image. 

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Photo (13)

Throughout the last few years of boat ownership. I have been taking a number of photographs around the canals and rivers system. Obviously the subject would vary depending on where we were and what we were doing.  The photographic images are taken using a Canon 550d DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) which is my camera of choice. I use Coral Paintshop Pro X6 photo editing software for adding the logo and creating a smaller thumbnail image.

There is no particular theme, other than most of my photography is waterways inspired. It's whatever that caught my attention at the time. So I thought I might include a few of my photographs into the blog. I am looking for titles to give to the images, you might like to suggest one of your own.

A famous footbridge and swing bridge landmark on the
Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Drayton Bassett. The swing bridge can be seen on the left of the footbridge portal.
I take photographs for my own personal pleasure. Whilst I reserve copyright ownership of the photographic image. You are free to use the image for your own purposes as long as the logo is not removed and you give credit to where the photograph came from. The image provided on the blog is a thumbnail of the original photographic image. 

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❼❷

Curdworth top lock to Birmingham

Date 8 Sep 2015

Overnight the weather was overcast and with a heavy mist.

Morning: Early start soon had us at the Minsworth Locks.  Where a boat set off just in front of us. But they had to turn the locks.  Little else in the way of movement of boats. Then at Factory Tunnel - a hire boat was having difficulty finding his light. Though there is plenty of light inside. He was however not concentrating on the steering and we had to take avoiding action.

Afternoon: Saw us arrive at the Aston lock flight. Again we had a boat in front of us however a few boats were coming down the flight which helped. The second lock had something stuck behind the gate which made it difficult to enter the lock. (Must get a keb) Another round of washing - meant that we had to take on water at Cambrian Wharf - the slowest water point on the system.

Evening:  Found a 14 day mooring in Birmingham so we will be here for a few days.


Birds: House Sparrow, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Starling, Mallard, Mute Swan, Chaffinch, Robin, Coot, Moorhen, Canadian Goose, Grey Heron, Wood Pigeon, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Swallow and House Martin.

Butterflies: Meadow Brown.
Damselfly: Common Blue Damselfly, 
Dragonflies: Four Spot Chaser.
Today's Total.
Miles: 9.7
Locks: 27
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 2
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 7.8
Solar Panels: 6 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2630.5
Locks: 1681
Swing / Lift Bridges: 362
Tunnels: 54
Pump Outs: 24
Engine Hours: 3494.9

Solar Panels: 23846 Ah