Considering my options

The canals are a brilliant place to live – or rather, they ought to be. Would I have moved to live full-time on my narrowboat had I been aware of the nature of the Canal & River Trust Ltd? Almost certainly not.

There are two distinct organs to the C&RT Ltd body – the grunt workers (such as remain), “lower”-level/regional workers & volunteers, these being entirely separate from the second part; the “corporate body politic & bureaucratic”. The grunt workers & volunteers & Co do an amazing job and have my total admiration; human, approachable, responsive, doing hard work in all weathers and/or unappreciated, and prepared for fun where fun may be had.

The “body politic et al” however? Well, hmm.

Imagine if you will the English Civil Service – of the nineteen-fifties and earlier. Slap down on top of that a load of… folk… who think that nineteen-nineties style “outsourcing” is the latest and most wonderful wheeze since sliced Slimcea, remind yourself that most of them couldn’t reliably tell a duck from a narrowboat even if one of them quacked, laid an egg and then flew off, and there you have it.

I don’t think that there is any sort of coherent “managerial” aim or vision, those of the swivel-chair bureaucracy are too disparate and solely self-interested a platter of sea-floor sushi for that. Centuries of canal-specific hands-on experience is being – what’s the favourite tittery phrase du jour? – ‘let go’, vast third-party commercial contracts spanning decades are being handed out (far be it from me to suggest that classic banana republic rules pertain). Maintenance is almost entirely reactive and some of the monumental failures near-tragic – whole reservoirs have slipped and slumped, revealing a box-file of “procedures” containing nothing more than cobwebs and stale sandwich crusts. If there is any kind of aim or vision then it’s nothing more than to proudly preside over a series of disconnected linear corporation park ponds used for paddleboarding, angling and the mating of ducks.

Can I continue to live on these utterly gorgeous canals when they are wrapped in an ever-more pungent used-bandage of monstrous mis-management? I don’t know; moot point.

In a couple of years it may be physically impossible. Certainly the jack-boot march of licence “terms and conditions”, Unilaterally and Unconstitutionally and Unlawfully imposed outwith the actual Law of the 1995 Waterways Act will make it less fun – U U U will do this that and anything else we say, while the corporate We Wee Weewee will accept no constraints or responsibilities. Witness for one that they are no longer a boating organisation but something to do with “wellness”.

Marina moorers don’t seem to have even noticed the latest move on that Ts & Cs score, a move that will cause most of them not some little grief in their usual “nip out for a quick weekend” repeated cruising patterns back and forth to the same pub moorings…

There is a purge that amounts to a pogrom underway at the moment in London – hundreds of mooring spaces marked “Verboten” as “safety zones” and “sports zones” are implemented. These “zones” have nothing to do with either safety or sports, and everything to do with reducing live-aboard boaters in London to zero (by removing all moorings), the vague and ill-formed rêve humide du C.E.O. & Coterie of course being that boats are reduced to something like one with that “one” being a for-hire plastic swan pedalo (with a “Made In China” sticker on its arse) and towing a Chablis-chiller tender and behind that an electric barbecue unit (marked “Vegan/Wholefood/Organic Items Only” in yet another fuzzy duck fuzzy duck dizzy f clash of half-formed “social” “corporate” utterly irreconcilable “virtue-signalling” “imperatives”).

Exactly the same core attitudes are in play in the (highly) rural areas that the Cardinal and I frequent, but because they (at the moment) manifest in a sniper-style assault rather than the London carpet-bombing, no-one except disconnected individuals yet notice.

Send in the clouds (we have quite enough clowns about us already).

I’ll go further than that. Almost nobody will pay the slightest heed at all until it is too late and they find themselves facing an ugly monolith of near-impenetrable diktat in combination with seemingly endless “missed replies”, emails to “spam” folders (are we in the twenty-first century or not?), broken agreements and institutional obscurantism.

In all spheres of human “society” the corporation now rules absolutely and it stands at its Nuremberg-esque lecturn feeling nothing but contempt for those that it lectures (and hectors). Some decades since the latest fad du jour was to re-name and re-purpose “personnel departments” into “human resource” departments. That went well, didn’t it (for the corporations that is, not for the “human resources” involved). Zero-hours contracts, more “sweat-shop” environments than ever, millions dependent upon something called “the gig economy” (translation: no steady employment) and a disparity in incomes twixt workers and those of the swivel-chair-name-on-the-door persuasion running to ten, twenty, thirty-fold.

What is happening at the moment is nothing more or less than the re-naming and re-purposing of the “customer” into “customer resources”. ‘Xactly the same process, and the end result will be even less palatable.

Dismal prospect, isn’t it?

Reality has been defenestrated.

The lead photograph is a few days old, it is a shot of a section of one of the canals that the Cardinal frequents under current agreements (now broken, and not by me) and conditions (and “pandemic” laws and restrictions) pertaining, and is one of the places where he is being chased around and threatened (in corporate not-speak) (by person and persons un-named who doubtless also think that narrowboats quack, lay eggs and can fly off). Crowded beyond belief, isn’t it? A chap can barely move for inconvenienced paddleboarders, anglers and mallard’s todger-ticklers.

Cheerful huh? Well, yes I am but it’s entirely in spite of rather than because of.

It’s been an exciting old week. I did the laundry the other day, half of it’s still on the horse, drying next the stove. Drying-next-the-Stove sounds like a small village in Lincolnshire. The Bro and I met and consumed the best of English lunchtime take-aways*, variously delivered and received parcels and post, and spotted trouble brewing in Bunbury (giant mole-hills, signs of some new-build glassfibre-colonnaded multi-bedroom triple-garaged horror and the death of another patch of green-belt). Ought to have stopped for a moment, Bunbury ladies and gents, to actually read those planning permission notices nailed to the telegraph poles, for tis too late now…

*That being chips, mushy peas and conversation for me, chips and a – topical – SPAM fritter for the Bro.

Messrs AhSDA & Co are on a promise to deliver comestibles today, although I have yet to receive the customary “changes to your order” email – perhaps ASDA have taken up the bulk use of “spam” folders too?

Tsk tsk, Hutson; such cynicism in one so young and inexperienced.

The C&RT Christmas tree is still up and fully-decorated at the Cholmondeston lock:

The Cholmondeston Lock Christmas tree, nicely offset by the tasteful new “half-sunken tyre logo” sign.

In years past it used to be a doggy-poop bin, but of course that was a “facility”, and had to be removed under the creeping scorched-earth policy. Before you know it they’ll remove the lock, too, and the only option for passage of 57′ 17,000kg narrowboats will be portage. ‘Portage’ is a woody word, and looks good on paper, when you’re in your swivel-chair in Birmingham city centre. Kayakers, canoeists and paddle-boarders do it, so why are you narrowboat folk being so damnably intransigent in adopting the new procedure?

😉 and then some.

Seriously folks.

Cardinal Wolsey, causing a nuisance.

I do witter on rather, but then I do rather have a point, and what is life without a point, if not a broken pencil?

With any luck (or happenstance) Messrs AhSDA will deliver my pies, and – for a while – the world can jog on, Doris, do one.

I shall have comestibles options, and consider my way through those.

Chin-chin, chaps.

Ian H., & Cardinal W., Scourge of the Canals, Disturber of The Peace, General Nuisance by Royal Appointment, Assistant to The Devil & All of His Minions.



  1. Do you suppose the fact that they can’t tell the difference between a duck and a narrowboat has confused them into creating narrowboat breeding ponds?

    Breeding is a different goal than transportation. Just saying.

    The culling doesn’t really jibe with that assessment though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anything’s possible with these quarter-wits! The system limps on for the moment through simple inertia – and because, for the moment, they aren’t quite bright enough to come up with a plan to get rid of all but day-boats and pedalos. The work gets done by the remaining grunt staff and by thousands of volunteers doing incredible manual labour. Those who ought to be – those who are paid to – run the joint honestly couldn’t blow the froth off their own morning coffee. It’s all very sad indeed – and exasperating for anyone who has to deal with the bureaucracy! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the reasons why we sold our boat and left the canals was the continuing and, seemingly increasing, belligerence of the CRT. Between those in charge incorrectly accusing us of not moving far enough and often enough (despite heaps of evidence to the contrary), and the continual chain of towpath-idiots who didn’t seem to care that the boat they were allowing their kids and dogs to treat as a playground ride was actually our home, coupled with the increasing difficulty in finding suitable/any mooring spots, it felt as though we really weren’t wanted on the canals any more; a sort of water-clearance rather than the old land-clearance, ousting the peasants so that the rich and the powerful could enjoy their cabin cruisers and drinking parties without us ugly residents with our need-to-be-emptied Thetfords spoiling the view. I loved the canals and miss them massively, but like all the best places, us lowly ne’er-do-wells are clearly only spoiling them for our betters and we have no right to be there. I’ve now taken up hunting conies on the Duke of Westminster’s estate and live in a bivouac in a patch of thick nettles, where I belong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The general consensus of the folk I’ve spoken to is along the lines of that with C&RT we have rather put the proverbial swine in charge of some of England’s finest pearls. I’ve spent four decades working for some incredibly dreary companies (IBM, EDS, ITSA, Norwich Union, AVIVA et al) and I’ve worked for the King Boor of All; the British Civil Service, but for sheer eager, belligerent, bull-headed incompetence wrapped up in ignorant, obdurate unpleasant pointlessness, the Canal & River Trust Ltd Corporate take the biscuit.

      It’s just my considered opinion after six years of close contact, study and personal experience…

      …but I wouldn’t trust the “Trust Ltd” to run a bath, let alone a canal system. Metropolitan snowflakes all, floundering wildly because they have no experience of heavy industrial practicality (so they ignore the infrastructure as much as possible) and they don’t have the imagination of a contemplative sloth, and so have no idea how to attract and raise funding. This is why they are so near-universally nasty and unpleasant to deal with; their own grinding insecurity.

      “Wellness”, I ask you! It’s one step away from art college fashion sketches. When they’ve reduced the system to a few dozen disconnected linear park ponds surrounded by cycle-paths the “management” will fade away like poodle piss on a hot pavement, resurfacing only to be thoroughly mediocre somewhere else, on salaries and expenses that professional spivs can only dream about. The original builders of the canal system ought to be connected to dynamos and thence the National Grid – they’re spinning so fast in their stone tombs that they’re about a megawatt apiece.


  3. ‘Tis a global phenomenon I’m afraid … which is one of the reasons we are packing up our troubles in our old kit bags and heading for parts away from the madding, and maddening, crowd.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I often imagine how wonderful it might be if the “canals” of Mars were both real and accessible – and then I remember that they too would like as not be run (into the ground) by drab little people who probably fiddle about in their trouser pockets as they make speeches and pronouncements.

      The most encouraging thought I can muster is that all of these drab little people are stuck being themselves, for life… what miserable existences they must lead! They thoroughly deserve themselves.

      England is far too dangerously over-crowded to have much hope of physical escape from the tinpot Napoleons – so they must be poked with sticks at every opportunity instead.

      The very best best best of luck and happenstance on your travels, which I (hope!) I shall be following with fascination. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Take care, Doris has decreed you are no longer allowed to be a nuisance with your protestations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My instructions are for a no-frills, no nothing, no-one present “collect & burn” upon my death, but were I to be buried instead I’d leave instructions that my right hand must remain proud of the earth, with two fingers in gesticulation… 😉


  5. Does this body simultaneously neglect & strong-arm all the canal ways in England? Are you free to pick the Cardinal up and tuck his 17 tonnes under your arm and decamp to a different jurisdiction, if such a thing were possible? That your life and home is being so rudely interfered with by the Management class does smack of desperation to be relevant, for, apart from Caravan Travellers, what other sector of society is so Managed in its existence? Heaven forbid that suburbanites could lose their lands title for not gardening enough, or gardening too much! I have read a theory that the Era of the Managerial Class is in its death throes. If so and you could out-wait them, you may yet have the last laugh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They do indeed manage almost all of the canals. There are a couple of other bodies that manage smaller and other sectors – the Environment Agency some, there’s Norfolk Broads Thingy and a (cowboy) commercial outfit runs a couple of canals in England – one of which, I kid you not, was sold to them for a song by being “accidentally included” in the sale of other National property!

      Being officially classed as “of no fixed abode” and/or on the move, a lot of the Draconian laws relating to Travellers and anyone in vans or caravans of any variety also apply to we live-aboard boaters – and, oh boy – doesn’t the C&RT love to know it. There is a bill working its way successfully through Parliament this very week to introduce even more Draconian laws allowing H.M. Police to seize “vehicles” if the [quote] ‘think’ that a person ‘might’ intend to cause ‘nuisance’ or ‘inconvenience’. So, little room for further mismanagement and misinterpretation there then!!!

      Eire has canals but they are as cared for and as unfriendly to boaters as are England’s canals. Europe is positively awash with the things, but they too are now off-limits since Brexoid and further so now with the imposition of Travel Permits. I’d like in future years to be mobile in some sort of stealth campervan conversion, but this too is becoming damned near impossible if not actually totally Verboten.

      I look on the bright side – the E.L.E. asteroid may yet solve the conundrum for me.


    1. This much is true – the views from some of the canals are stupendous. I wonder if I could wear blinkers and ear-plugs and just ignore the sights and sounds of the little tin-pots? It’s worth a go!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Rolt would be turning in his grave…the canals turned over to worm drowners and duck fuddlers.

    But what, practically, can you do? The narrowboat community seem to be as oblivious to their fate as do the general public to theirs in the open face of a police state, while as far as proper communication with the tyre drowners goes…to use a phrase beloved of my grandmother’s neighbour….. ‘ you might as well shit in your hat.’

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is monumentally tragic – H.M. Public here aren’t just sleep-walking into a totalitarian state, they’re riding unicycles, pedalling little circus cars and giggling and chattering excitedly while they are doing do. That’s been the most terrifying thing of the past year+; having demonstrated for me the total passivity of most humans, their absolute -love- of being ordered about and confined. Some of the Bills passing through Parliament (on a grunt and a nod) are worthy of a State run by and for any number of little Napoleon-esque tin-pots – and try as I might, I can’t interest so much as a passing hound in the danger. The populace has been so well-trained in its new role that the only way a revolution would occur now is if SOAPs were removed en masse from the television schedules and pre-cooked boxed food similarly removed from supermarket shelves.

      Aside from this, it’s all cheerful! 😉 Who wouldn’t want a ‘Metropolis’ style life ruled over by some unholy and exclusive mix of Public-Schoolboy politicians with an emotional and intellectual age of “puberty” combined lumpily with all-powerful global commercial corporations run by Mammon’s many deranged bastards? What’s not to like?

      What is your neighbourhood like at the moment in the Human Society Stakes? Good, bad, ugly or just ho-hum?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The government is seeking a loan from the IMF, successive national assemblies having blocked reform of a system which overpays the public service, allows big companies to evade tax and welfare obligations and pays out huge pensions to not only ther person contributing but in some cases permits inheritance of said pension! The conditions will be onerous, and will, of course, fall on the ordinary person…who is already suffering from the closure of businesses in the one and only lockdown. Protests were mounted, blocking major roads, until the Constitutional Court – probablu looking to its pensions – decided that the free movement articles of the constitution over rode the right to protest. Oddly wnough, the free movement related to the state of the Pacific province of Limon, mostly peopled by Jamaicans brought in to work the sugar plantations, who were forbidden to enter the rest of Costa Rica until 1948! The government has managed to use the COVID scare to keep people from more protests, that that is wearing thin now….the problem is that there is a proposal that property tax will pass from local authorities – who cannot confiscate for non payment – to Hacienda – the taxman – who can. If that surfaces again then there will be violence, which, in the end, is the only answer to an overweening state,

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So many little tinpot Napoleons, so few arrangements with rope, knots and trees. It is ironic – and truly tragic – to see that the preference of most parliamentarians is to themselves be as near to absolute rulers as they can contrive. Between the politicians and the corporations the general population is lost – if only the violence and deaths would manifest on those that cause the problems; those same little tinpot freaks in power and with eye-watering money.

          I was trying to remember the other day when last we had what used to be called a “statesman” (or stateswoman!) in politics in England, Great Britain and even the Benighted Kingdom. Someone who wasn’t entirely self-serving, amoral and quite without intellect and conscience, but who actually tried – even if only once in a while, with the occasional Bill – to serve their electorate. It’s been a long, long time. Here we don’t even have large characters anymore, they’re all drab little toadies, grey from head to tail.

          Do you feel personally safe – as safe as any of us get these days? What’s the atmosphere like and do you have to arrange yourself in any precautionary ways?

          Whatever the scene, please do keep safe and as h.a.p.p.y. as may be. I think that perhaps the trick to all life these days is to be able to manage the best of it “in spite of”. It’s not always possible. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I feel a lot safer out of Europe and the U.K,
            We can still have opinions and express them.
            For now.
            We bought our place, moved in and found ourselves in the middle of a water war as a developer wished to build further down the valley and was intent on usurping our water rights in order to have enough water to sustain his project.
            It was, shall we say, interesting.
            Death threats, a totally unjustifiable case brought against us…the developer protected by the equivalent of the CPS…but eventually we and our neighbours won.
            The last president tried to reform…but was ambushed by the national assembly and their business cronies, so a good man loses his reputstion

            The last statesmen we had were Tony Benn and Enoch Powell. Distinctly diverse in attiude, but with a great respect for the separation of powers. Needless to say, never entrusted with real power by their parties.

            The tyre drowners are coming for us all…every time a politician gies to Europe they come back with another scam to rip us off…

            Liked by 1 person

  7. I was just writing I was expecting my pies to be delivered when the telephone rang and the driver informed me he had broken down and there were no spare vans to complete my delivery. First time ever Mr Morrison has let me down. Fingers crossed for tomorrow then! Hope Asda gets through to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Finally received my AhSDA email, the only thing they (say that) they can’t deliver is the Aspirin – so I shall perforce limit my consideration of and interaction with C&RT Ltd until my next order!

      Fingers crossed that they arrive with the remainder. I shall eat like a king (wild-eyed, dribbling and with no intention of doing the dishes).

      Hmm… broccoli. Cabbage! Potatoes… carrots… cauliflower…

      Liked by 2 people

Comments are closed.