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.
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:
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.
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.
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.