In The Bleak Midwinter

Well, last night was most atmospheric indeed. The Cardinal is well and truly frozen in, the broken and re-frozen ice on this stretch being a couple of inches thick in places (with manifold even lumpier bits), and an interesting wind was and is still blowing in from the east. Mr Stove was and still is working his little cotton socks off. The sensors tell me that my domestic and engine starter batteries have, as of 11am, attained the dizzying heights of 3° Celsinghams, and the solar system has adjusted its charging voltage accordingly.

Four days since the latest Commissarunication from the Watery Wellness Trust Ltd., they are apparently considering the information provided (id est this blog and the cruising log), all apparently in no rush even though they are still looming large in my darkest mid-night thoughts and – oddly for a “wellness” charity – still behaving with scant regard for my health (my being only a paying customer of theirs, not a nice cyclist, angler, rambler or dog-emptier). Six weeks since they fired their first shell(shock) opening salvo in the process that potentially leads to (much) more expense for me (short-term) and eventually homelessness. Not a shred of an iota of a suggestion that they see anything wrong in chasing anyone around the system in these Interesting Times. Charity my ar*se.

Enough of that, this drear and mediocre organisation has dominated my thoughts for more than long enough. What probably irks my ire-gland more than anything is the utter, total unfairness and power (and respect) imbalance in any transaction with them; they are accountable to no-one but themselves and have less than zero regard for individuals who must of necessity navigate their wide array of corporate pathologies.

The lock hereabouts nearest has frozen over. It was full when the freeze froze, so to spoke, so the ice layer formed, as you would expect, at the top. Because most locks on the system leak like sieves it is not unknown for ice to form like this and then the water beneath to drain away, leaving a vast lock-shaped void underneath. Quelle surprise were one to fall in…

Ice either side of the lock gates upper and lower.

Whatever the levels, the ice makes it damnably difficult (impossible, if a chap has any sense) to use the lock; you can’t get a boat in there as well as the ice. There can be interesting effects (total loss of boat) if a stray lump of ice jams as a boat locks up or down. The boat can end up either not being lowered with the water level or not rising with the water level, either is a sitty-ation less desirable than the proverbial bowl of cherries.

That said, there’s been much sunshine of late which, given the entitterations with the Watery Wellness Trust Ltd, has been no bad thing in re Seasonal Affective Discomnobulation. Wasn’t it one of Shakespole’s characters in King Lear-Jet who cried out ‘Give me a bright day with a light breeze and little cloud cover or give me death!’ as he swapped his kingdom for a horse?

National House Arrest continues. Messrs ASDA are on a kiss and a promise to meet me under the apple tree early next week with vegetables and other fine comestibles. One distinct advantage of the freeze is that the mud-wallows near Bridge 4 and between Bridges 2 and 3 become solid enough to walk on… with care, and with ice-skater’s ankles. The direction of the breeze currently makes a walk to Barbridge and beyond pleasant in the outward bound direction and a little colder homeward bound, with the Soviet Siberian Steppes in one’s face.

Sun a-rise over quite enough ice to keep James Blond in a lifetime of Martinis.

Messrs Jason on the Fuel Boat BARGUS came surprise (to me) calling earlier this week, so we have coal enough for much plenty while again now, and between you, me and my tartan slippers, I’m not rationing its use.

A-top Mr Stove is this evening’s curry, I’ll bunginate a pot of rice on there later this afternoon. Subtle cooking it is not, what’s needed it is.

From the looks of the forecast tonight and tomorrow will be equally cool and with an equally bipolar bear breeze to gently rock the Cardinal back and forth against the ice.

I’ll do my best not to think on ’em, but if the Watery Wellness Trust Ltd ever do develop any sort of system of morals and/or a recognition of even the mildest duty of care I’ll let you know. Don’t hold your breath, the entire corporation is in its daily systemic operations more Dickensian than a winter workhouse run by The Puritan Heamorrhoids-For-Jesus Society.

Chin chin, chaps. Keep warm and wonderful (if you want to be loved).

Or Jung, or something. Keep Jung and beautiful.



Ian H., & nb Cardinal Wolsey 508533.


  1. It makes me wonder whether the untrustworthy Trust has already gone for AI, replacing humans with some pre programmed bit of electrickery, doubtless bought from a friend’s company at eye watering cost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hesitate to judge and won’t go anywhere near the territory of Libel-next-the-Sea but, well, they do seem to have jumped into some very long-term (ten year) contracts with some less-than-reputable companies (tbh – with absolute cowboy outfits!).

      Trying to communicate with the Trust Ltd I have been wondering whether the “nobody’s home” effect is the result of their being nailed down by internal “procedures” – gags, in effect. All of industry world-wide tried that and rejected it about thirty years ago (I know; I was there!). They do appear to only be able to respond in [ef]fluent “Click & Paste”. There’s nothing human about the operation of the Trust Ltd., I doubt that in its lifetime there ever really was.

      Desperation is setting in now among the Generals because the taxpayer funding is coming up for renewal/refusal, and the best that the great and glorious and good in High Office have come up with is to be some sort of nebulous “wellness” charity (open air and angling and cycling) – during the currency of a chuffing pandemic, with most of the planet’s population under house arrest! One wonders, seriously.

      In times like these in the more genuine “banana republics” of old, the classic thing was for one or two of those with access to the silver to be photographed running up the steps of private jets, the contents of the coffers stuffed into a suitcase under their arm and a hunted look in their eyes, the aeroplane’s turbines already spinning up and drowning out the approaching sigh-reens.

      Luckily, this is modern England not a “banana republic”, and the leadership of the Trust Ltd have much more moral fibre, backbone and integrity than that, so this scenario is redundant here. They’ll engage their brains-the-size-of-a-planet, Janet, and fight on through until the canals are secure and safe. No jumping ship here for pastures new and un-ruined. Damn it, where did the aeroplane go? It was an aeroplane a moment ago – where did that ship come from? 😉

      [Extracts tongue from cheek, and sashays away to exit stage left, wondering how he said any of that to the peanut gallery with a straight face. Uncrosses fingers, whistles and turns three times, j.i.c. there’s a sound basis to superstition.’]

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I see its winter on your side of the pond too. We have been wintering a bit more than is normal in my part of the world,. I do Not like it. Supposed to get 9 inches tomorrow. Of snow. To be clear.

    I’m glad the fuel boat came by. I worry about you all in the cold. In my head it seems like the ice would crush the boats. Titanic style. It obviously doesn’t since there are lots of boats on the canal all winter, but…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like a proper dose of snow – the sort we used to get in my childhood and youth and youngadultth. I remember on (the Isle of) Lewis we used to roll up 5′ snowballs in the playground during breaktimes. Much fun (if you’re a kid). Are you all prepared for it and will it last?

      The ice can damage boats – usually the GRP ones or those with wooden or thin steel hulls. The Cardinal’s well-healthy in that respect – but nonetheless, the sound when someone does cruise past in ice-breaking mode is horrendous outside, almost unbearable when within. [High] Wind and ice stop play, I can cruise well enough in rain and drear (not so well in summer heat – I’m weird like that)!

      The ice hereabouts for a couple of days was of the more dangerous variety, having been broken up repeatedly and re-frozen; it was already up to an inch thick, in places it was both jagged and two or three layers frozen together. Yikes, gadzooks and please; nobody go a-boatering. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve here, Cholmondeston volunteer lock keeper.
    Disgusting what CRT are doing. We all have more than enough to get our heads around at the moment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi there! Long time no C. It does seem a bit odd for a charity to be chasing anyone around the system during these Interesting Times, especially when it’s hardly over-crowded around here at the moment! C&RT really is a divided company – volunteers and workers who are great; “management” who really could do with a kick up the &etc. 😉


  4. So what is the answer to the awfulness you find yourself in? I feel so crossed on your behalf, I wouldn’t mind but the only time I spent on a canal boat I absolutely blooming hated every moment of it!

    Have you considered having the Cardinal lifted out carried to a wood and suspended between the trees, enabling you to sleep soundly like a babe in the woods being gently buffeted by the breeze. At least you wouldn’t have the annual barnacle bottom inspection and The Bananas Bureaucracy would be rendered toothless. Just the Forestry Commission to lock horns with then?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. The bullying is easy to stand up to – what’s nigh impossible is genuine communication through the concrete bunker veil of Corporate Stupidity. I know that there are humans, real live humans, working somewhere within the Canal & River Trust Ltd., but it’s just not possible – it would seem, on the evidence – to communicate with them on a human-to-human level. I speak human, they reply – if they reply (if I am not consigned to the corporate “junk” email folder! How plausible is that???) – in Corporatese; pre-formatted copy & paste emails, not addressing anything that I’ve said, no intelligent or one-on-one response, just blah blah corporate line blah.

      It must be soul-destroying (St Assumption being the mother of all hicc-ups, to paraphrase) for those in the organisation. They must have brains, how rotten must it be to not be allowed to use them at all during the course of your nailed-down dumbed-down wholly proceduralised work? Perhaps that’s the problem – their “souls”, their humanity has already been crushed beyond working repair? Communicating with them is as much fun and as productive as is communicating with a talking toaster.

      Customer Enquiry: ‘Human experience, art, philosophy and the wonders of the Universe, eh?’

      C&RT Reply: ‘Would you like some toast?’

      I don’t know, they are driving me nuts with this corporate bullying and attendant uncertainty. I feel as though I am hitting my head repeatedly against a cold brick wall.


  5. Out of curiosity, I thought I would go to the Watery Wellness outfit’s website to see what they have to say about those who live in their boats. To my surprise, there was not one word about boats. Walking, cycling, swimming, and sightseeing are mentioned, but not boating. That says something!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is amazing, isn’t it?

      In the eight years since they were handed actual ownership of the canal infrastructure on a plate at the demise (execution by squiring fod) of British Waterways C&RT have disposed of the expertise (historic canal skill sets) and move entirely to “out-sourced” re-active (not proactive) maintenance – when it fails, they look at mending it. They’ve sold off almost all of the family silver for short-term cash (canalside property), leapt into long-term (10 year!!!) contracts with highly disreputable “cowboy” companies (such as for collecting mooring fees in some areas).

      Not long after C&RT make it effectively impossible to live aboard a boat they’ll cease to worry about having a navigable, joined-up canal system, and they’ll be happy with a few hundred disconnected, silted-up linear park ponds (for the anglers and ramblers). I wait with no great store of surprise for the first stretch of “troublesome” canal to be filled in and surfaced, the better to service cyclists!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sounds like a sneaky way to change the status quo. You and others may have reconsidered your decision to live on your boats if you had known what the plan was. I hope you still have good prospects of pootling about and mooring in comfort.


  6. I don’t know the details of the WWT, but suggest it is sadly unreasonable to assume that all charities are charitable, anymore than all businesses purporting to provide a service actually manage to do so. Some charities of my experience are not only inept, but disappointingly guilty of the same introspection and misplaced self-importance that public authorities are. But there is a worrying trend in corporate bullying too; and it needs to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The WWT (C&RT) was – to use the apt trans-Atlantic term – “gifted” the entire canal system when British Waterways was laid to rest. It has since sold off all of the family silver (extensive property holdings), and divested itself of the incredibly valuable, unique-to-the-canals hands-on experience and knowledge of staff, instead outsourcing each job to (cronies?) third-party companies. It is hearsay but I did have it on good authority that there are now more office staff than there are workers, and from what I’ve seen, I can believe that.

      I don’t know the source of this trend for corporate bullying, but it’s growing frighteningly fast – and C&RT are at the van.

      One corporate skill-set that they have mastered at the “top” is that of faceless, unaccountability! There is no oversight, Freedom of Information requests are routinely blocked, and the salaries of the directorship are at the pudding end of the economy trough.

      Other than that, from what I’ve seen first-hand in five years. [engage sarcasm mode] they’re doing a wonderful job of preserving canal heritage. 😉


    1. Living on the canals in winter is sort of magical (even if it does have many demands) – going to sleep in my oak-panelled cabin while the wind howls and the boat rocks just enough to scrape against the ice-sheets is brilliant (so long as I remember the extra blankets!) – but the Watery Wellness Wallahs do rather suck the life and fun out of it at every opportunity.

      It’s a shame, the core of the canal company (sorry – “charity” Ltd!) is its grunt workforce – the many many many with pickaxes, shovels and all of the real tools of the trade. The “leadership” however, well – as my Father was wont to say, I wouldn’t pay them in penny washers. It doesn’t take much effort to find the most monumental metropolitan silliness about them – fancy the timing of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds throwing away the canals and boating in favour of putting all corporate effort into being some sort of nebulous “wellness encouragement” charity… immediately before a chuffing pandemic!

      That’s a clanger similar in size to predicting that there would be a need globally for maybe some six computers… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think you have sufficient photographic evidence to substantiate a case for harrassment, telling you to ‘move’ when you actually can’t move at all especially if it puts you in danger if you try, is most definitely unlawful (and that is before you add the breaches in the water system itself which they are responsible for). !”£$%^!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is gobsmacking that I should even need such “evidence” but you would think so, wouldn’t you? There seems to be not the slightest acknowledgement from C&RT that they ought not to be chasing anyone around the system at the moment – having re-branded themselves as a “wellness” charity they’ve not, so far, been very convincing!

      Actually, they’re not even terribly impressive as a “canal” “charity” (Ltd) – the latest gnus from They Who, On High, is that the Anderton Boat Life, one of the half-dozen jewels in the crown, will likely have to close soon for TWO YEARS for inspection work on the pistons that raise and lower the caissons… I’m glad that I’ve already been on it!


  8. Situations like yours make me grateful that I can afford a lawyer and know a good one. It’s the only way I know of to keep my blood pressure below stroke levels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having dealt with the Corporate Gestalt for five years now I finally fully understand the trans-Atlantic term ‘going postal’! The organisation is infuriating, there’s just no way to communicate intelligently, everything’s swamped in uber-old-fashioned meaningless and unquestioned bureaucracy. Other than that, I think that they’re brilliant! 😉

      Actually, the most infuriating thiing of all is not the total brick-wall “customer service” and the inefficiency, it’s the top-down attitude that reflects the directorship’s pathological hatred of anyone who lives on their boat. It’s classic “David and Goliath” except that Goliath has his underpants on his head, is certifiably insane and thinks that ‘megalomania’ is the name of a chain of, like, you know, totally rad awesome coffee shops, dood…

      Liked by 2 people

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