Thursday, 31 July 2008


I'd forgotten what a foul site that is, pretending to be 'the voice of the waterways'. If so, that voice is high-pitched, whining and malicious in tone.
There's a photo of named boats that are supposed to have overstayed somewhere - who gives a shit? Then there's Victor Swift's truly revolting page; he who spends his life looking for boaters to moan about. When he showed his mean impatience with me last year as I went slowly past moored boaters (he was in a boat behind me), I saw what kind of a person he was - mean and impatient!
Then there is the letters page where a woman writes in, complaining among other things, that continual cruisers have logs and blue tarpaulins and bikes on their roofs. Not that people living on boats need to keep warm in winter, their fuel dry or be able to travel to shops. Daft bint. Another wrote to complain, not about her views but to say he was a continual cruiser but didn't have stuff on his roof! Some solidarity. I guess that means he's burning diesel in winter and has a car parked somewhere - so much more acceptable.

But that's got me thinking since I read it because with all the summer boats out in force, I noticed I've been ignored and even sneered at by some boaters on immaculate boats. It makes me laugh that they, with their bland, boring, identikit boats would sneer at my beautiful home!
And it really is beautiful, I promise you!
In fact, now I take a great delight in offending them with my logs, my rampant courgettes and spinach, my long palette and guttering (soon to be rainwater harvesting), my baby trees in pots. I only regret that I don't have a blue tarpaulin up there. Perhaps I should get one. And the lovely thing is that their eyes may hurt from the terrible affront, but they can't do a thing about it. Ha!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Keeping hot and staying cool.

Phew - it's been very hot over the last few days and I've been moored out in an open spot which was picturesque but shade-free. Normally my washing water is heated by the engine whenever I move the boat, but this cools off after a couple of days. So if I don't run the engine for a week, there's no hot water. In the summer, I use my 'solar shower' to get free hot water on those in-between moving days. It's really just a black bag of water but seems to work well enough.

Meanwhile, the boat itself is HOT! I try to make things cooler by keeping curtains closed against the light and making a through draft by opening the front and back doors and hanging wet cloths at either end. That does seem to lower the temperature a bit. I was relieved when the storm broke, even if I was in a long metal tube in the flat landscape!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Solitude (and we deviants)

I've just finished reading 'Solitude' by Anthony Storr. It's a study of the positive nature of solitude, as opposed to the usual view of dysfunction and a failure of human relationships. I liked it very much because it explores something I'd felt about aloneness - that there is a modern over-fixation upon personal relationships as being the prime source of happiness in life. He also looks closely at creativity and the link with a need for solitude. I know that if friends or family visit, I can't paint or write until they've gone, regardless of how undemanding they may be. Delighted as I always am to see them, there's also a pleasure in returning to myself.
In a country where you MUST have a partner and you MUST have a telly and why don't you have a car/ go on foreign holidays/ wear designer clothes?, I'm blissfully happy to be a deviant!

One review on the back of the book says "This is an important, even revolutionary book. If it saves naturally non-sociable people from anxiety about "not belonging" and enables them to come to terms with their solitude it will have done a notable human service" (Birmingham Post) and another... " This book brings excellent news for those who, whatever their reasons for doing so, live alone... It is heartening to find a psychiatrist of Dr Storr's eminence diverging from the received wisdom." (Anita Brookner)

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Daft boating

I know I'm a fussy old hen but I've seen some pretty dangerous boating this last week. First was a boat towing a plastic duck with a chunky rope from its stern that was about 50ft long.
Next was a boat with three little kids running up and down the roof, playing 'tag' while the boat was going along. Only one kid was wearing a life-jacket. Meanwhile, the women sat oblivious in the bow, chatting and the blokes were nursing beers at the back.
Then there was the dog that fell in from a moving boat. I heard shouts, jumped off my boat and ran up the towpath towards a heavy staffy dog that was swimming towards the towpath. Its owners reversed the boat, calling the dog who then changed direction towards them instead. I called out to take the boat out of reverse. "Are we in reverse?" woman says to man. "na" replies man as they continue backwards. Luckily, he scoops the dog up as the stern arrives alongside. Then it's full throttle forwards without a word to me. The usual beers and cans litter the roof...
Today I watch as a little kid stands on the seat alongside the tiller, driving their hire boat. His family have their backs to him, leaning on the housing. The kid nearly slips, unnoticed by any of them, so decides to kneel there instead.

Anyone can have an accident of course, but it amazes me that people can be so careless about the most precious things in their life. I guess I'm just a worrier!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


I got to meet the famous Maureen from Wardle lock at Middlewich who has had a lifetime of working-boats and locks. She's a darlin! And what a fine lock cottage she keeps too.
I was coming through and when she saw I was on me tod, pushed gates for me and even helped bow-haul the boat out the bottom of the lock - this from a woman who is 80! I didn't ask for her help of course but she was so matter-of-fact and just got on with things. We chatted about women managing boats solo, about her beautiful flowers and my roof-top courgettes.
I really wanted to take a photo of her in front of her cottage but it seemed wrong to ask but I'm glad to have met her.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

The 'End the Siege' boat heads off!

A ship is shortly heading off to Gaza, as part of the Free-Gaza movement
( )
They are taking desperately needed medical supplies and medics to the Palestinians who are besieged in Gaza and dying pointlessly from the lack of basic care.
This has to be one of the most creative, mad, joyous, courageous actions ever. And I'm very proud to know the person that got it all started...

Here's part of their mission statement:
We want to break the siege of Gaza. We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation. We want to uphold Palestine's right to welcome internationals as visitors, human rights observers, humanitarian aid workers, journalists, or otherwise.

Who are we? We are human rights observers, aid workers, and journalists. We have years of experience volunteering in Gaza and the West Bank at the invitation of Palestinians. But now, because of the increasing stranglehold of Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine, many of us find it almost impossible to enter Gaza, and an increasing number have been refused entry to Israel and the West Bank as well. Despite the great need for our work, the Israeli Government will not allow us in to do it.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Postcards Afloat
Hurray - the lovely Postcards Afloat are available for download or just to look at on the LILO website (Low Impact Life On board)
I particularly like Jo on her lush boat and 'Maisie in her bilge' but the bread oven one is gorgeous. In fact, they're all gorgeous!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

I love this poem by Chrystos


Especially when I mention land theft or rape or genocide
They go to therapy to understand themselves
pound anonymous pillows safely with a stranger
in the closed room of improper behavior
There is
no pillow I’m angry with
As far as I’m concerned i’m too tired to be angry enough
Angry that I can’t go anyplace
without seeing demeaning images & outright lies about Indian people
I’m livid that we can’t even keep the few pitiful acres we have left
if they happen to have uranium or copper or coal
Furious that I never feel safe alone on the streets
Angry that other people of Color
are somethimes as oppressive as whites
because whites taught them
everything they think they know about Indians
Riled that an Indian friend asked me why
I hang out with all those Black people
Angry with myself that I wasn’t fast enough to say
Why do you hang out with all those damn white folks
Steaming mad that a million people in this country
which is no longer in a recession
have no place to live
while office buildings sit empty for years
Enraged that you can buy a submachine gun in Florida
about any orher kind of gun any place you want
while the army & the cops amass more than enough weapons to kill
every person on earth
Furious that my cousin got shot in the head
& lives now barely able to say his name
I’m mad as hell at alcohol, crack and child abuse
I could easily kill several million random white folks
just to feel a little balance on this poor earth
But I’ve known since I was little that no matter how many
Of us they kill
it’s only ok for us to help them kill other brown folks
or to cheat each other or hate each other
or to buy stuff and imitate whiteness
or to act like our own people are the real problems
& we’re above it all
This is the pillow i’m hitting without any repercussions
Angry that women are in therapy
while men have increased tenfold raping and murdering
Furious with child porn
the use of children to sell toilet paper and laundry soap
Spitting with rage at intolerance starvation waste greed
all of which are reflected in myself despite my efforts
to seek balance
Boiling mad at my inadequacies & terror
raging that i’m still tortured by terrible nightmares
more than 20 years after I last saw the man
who raped my childhood into razors and nut houses
a man to whom nothing has happened or will happen
a man who did it to many other children
a man who my aunt handed me a picture of & said
This is when we were all such a happy family
though she knows what he did
a man whom even my closest friends tell me i shouldn’t kill
They’re wrong
Furious with the beaten parents who didn’t protect me
because they didn’t think I was worth it
or that they were
who beat me to shut me up
Enraged that the black medical student was suspended
for punching out a white one who wore blackface to a party as a joke
Ha ha it’s so funny when you pretend to be one of us
Ha ha we’re not angry when you do any damn stupid thing you please
then punish us for our feeling in the matter
Ha ha we love it when you buy your children fake tipis & headdresses
& books by whites of our stories with pictures of us
as pink charming savages
Ha ha we’re so happy you want to get rid of us so you can have all our stuff
and rename it & explain it & defame it
I’m enraged with every lying son of a turd
who takes our taxes to go to Bermuda & relax
after spending our money to murder whoever is
the current enemy & it’s sometimes us
I’m spitting with rage that most of my friends can barely scramble by
I’m angry that I cant sleep that I hate myself
that I can’t write as well as I want
because I’m so damn angry I can’t breathe
Furious that nobody else seems to be angry
& they don’t want me to be either
Enraged at this whole sodden rotting mess they keep calling
as it poisons the air and the water & kills everyone in it’s way
which is so barbaric as to lock up it’s Elders
for the crime of not being able to care for themselves
which thinks of age as disease instead of wisdom
which persists in calling queers sick or depraved or immoral
despite the so-called separation of church and state
which doesn’t exist
Red hot that I have to defend my anger
that sometimes I’m the nice one in comparison
to an even angrier woman
& then I’m treated with more respect
which demeans us both
I’m sick to death of blank eyes/zombie/nice girls
& lesbians who take drugs so they won’t be depressed
as though depression is bad when it is a very rational
response to our lives
& I have spent my life living inside numbing depression
without drugs, gritting my teeth through another hour & resisting suicide
with my bare hands because I can’t bear to let them win
when so many of my loved ones have blown their brains out in despair
I’m disgusted with drunks
and everybody who thinks
they’ve alive only to please themselves
even though some of them are my friends
I’d like to kill reality
which I don’t understand
I want to blow up every stupid university
pretending that it is teaching something new
when all that's happening is that students are officially treated like fools
until they care only about a piece of paper
& whether I have a piece of paper or not
All the pieces of paper all the degrees are burning up in my anger
Everyone will have to face each other as human
I’m sick of everyone who asks
What do you do?
As though some corporate title or college bs
is an identity
I want to tie up all the white supremacists into crosses
set fire to their hatred
I want to fight back with every tendon of my weary body
run by a mind who remembers the toilet taste of jail food
knows the brutality of nut houses
arms that remember straitjackets & forced drugs & the screams
of women being dragged off to shock torture
knowing that to speak up too loudly means to be killed
because decent people
beat pillows or their wives instead of racism or hunger
because the idea of being nice is more important
than the idea of being real
It’s the cotton candy we’ve all been eating
Until I, at least, am sick to death
I’m furious with English-only laws
with Japanese-bashing celebrated
as some kind of special holy cleancut sport
Furious that anti-semitism is as respectable as ever
& everybody who wants to talk about it must be a pushy Jew
I could kill those thousands of people who claim the nazi Holocaust
didn’t happen
I’m angry that as these words rattle out of my mouth
I’m already cutting them back cooling them off
taking the sting out because im afraid of what I might do
if I hear one more damn time
WHY are you so angry?
Raging that common sense & kindness are passé
not quite with it
Angry that breast cancer kills twice as many women
as men who have died of AIDS/SIDA but we’re all
still paying attention to the poor men
as usual
I’m blowing my top about clear cuts, abuse of resources
abuse of workers, torture of animals for testing cosmetics
with the terrifying idea that wearing fur makes a woman sexy or special
with the largest slave labor force in the world which is called
the u.s. bureau of prisons
Sick of everyone watching light-filled shadows on a screen
more important than life
that your average citizen spends more time
adoring those shadows than speaking to their own children
I’m furious with my incoherence
my inability to affect almost everything in my life
I’m angry with everyone who said some appallingly stupid thing
about peace pipes or pow wows or totem poles or tipis
Furious that the accepted ways to solve our pain
are to pay somebody to listen to us
or to adopt some party line without deviation
& preach it to everyone else
or to get high or to buy yet another piece of crap we don’t really need
or to disappear into games
Angry with organized and disorganized religions which fill peoples lives
with ignorant laws or hocus pocus or convince them that pain is holy
although I reserve most of my venom for the catholic church
which ruined my life with lies im still unraveling
I’m angry that none of us lives to our potential
that we’ve frightened into being the least we can be
to survive
Outraged that so much is swept under rugs
that we can barely walk
Furious that almost everyone still uses the word blind
to mean ignorant or insensitive or clumsy
that millions of trees are slaughtered to print romance novels or spy chillers
& every kind of wall street garbage
until I’m ashamed
to put words to paper at all
Most of us can hardly function
poisoned by corporate nonsense
assaulted with unnecessary chemicals
making somebody who hates us a nice fat profit
Angry that my back hurts all the time
from cleaning the houses of the lazy wealthy for 20 years
not one of whom is as intelligent, creative, or powerful as I am
Angry that I’m going to die this angry
& probably not be able to change a damn thing
Enraged that every place I go is inaccessible
even when they’ve altered the bathrooms inside because its the law
when a chair still can’t get up the outside stairs or in the door
At the braille signs inside elevators where there are none outside it
Furious with ignorance & apathy those smug cousins in every family
I cant shut my heart to the pain thudding all around us
Here in my hands are all the faces of those I’ve seen begging
in doorways, on freeway ramps, on sidewalks
begging for change for a meal or a drink
whose desperation is now against the law
This is just the scratched raw surface of my anger
which is fueled by the righteousness
of knowing we don’t have to live this way
We could embrace our profound connections
& our deep differences
learn from each other
Honor each other
begin to live without torturing
If you aren’t as angry as I am we probably shouldn’t try
to talk to each other
because I’m furious with your fear of anger
I’m angry that others are always telling me
that they feel them same way I do but they are afraid to say so
or they dont know how
or they’d lose their job or their lover
If you can speak
you can be angry
if you can’t speak bang your fork
If you’re furious with me
because I haven’t mentioned something
you’re angry about
get busy and write it yourself
There is no such beast as too angry
I’m a canary down this mine of apathy
singing & singing my yelow throat on fire
with this sacred holy purifying
spirit of anger

(For Ayofemi Faloyan)

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Engine conversion

I'm hoping to be able to get my engine adapted to be able to run on used cooking oil. I've been in e-mail conversation about fuel pumps and purge alarms with Dieselveg - a company based in Wolverhampton. They do lots of diesel cars and vans but I think a narrowboat will be a new challenge for them.
The cost has been putting me off for ages (a DIY kit costs about £500, a conversion will cost about £1000 I think) but I can't keep banging on about polluting cars etc and be adding to the problem myself, even if it is on a much smaller scale.
Anyway, I'm waiting to hear if/when a slot might be available and if there is anywhere to moor near their premises. If all goes to plan, exciting times ahead!

later update:
Yippee! I've set the date - 8th September!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Wild camping

Well, sort-of wild! While Blackbird was in dry-dock, I wasn't allowed to stay on board so I stayed in a tent in an obliging clearing by the canal. It was a really beautiful spot, tucked up high among young trees and surrounded by the gorgeous spires of common spotted orchids. They may be 'common' as the book calls them, but I think they're lovely! My 'Food for Free' book says we in the UK used to make a drink from the root called 'saloop', back in the days before coffee became popular and available.
It was like being in a hide as birds perched so close and snuffly creatures rustled past the tent in the middle of the night. But it wasn't very restful as my dog wanted to investigate every noise, so I was very glad to get back on my boat after 3 nights away.

The good news was that it didn't need a steel plate after all - hurray! Once the needle-gun had blasted away all the rusty parts, it wasn't so bad as we'd thought. They cleaned up the whole engine/bilge space and treated it and it all cost a lot less than I'd feared. More hurrays.