Monday, 25 August 2008

Free Gaza boats arrive safely!

Hurray! The SS Liberty and SS Free Gaza have broken the siege of Gaza by landing medical supplies and equipment for the besieged Palestinian people. They were met by hundreds of Gazans on the shore, cheering and welcoming them. Fortunately, the Israeli government didn't want the unwelcome publicity that a conflict at sea would have brought them and let them land, phew, but they scrambled the communication system between the two boats and tried to intimidate them.
This dry posting cannot convey the incredible tension, fears, courage, joy, solidarity of my friend's e-mail communications from on board the SS Free Gaza, (I haven't asked her permission to reproduce them here, so I won't) but I'm pretty damned relieved they are all safe.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Moving on from Climate Camp

I wasn't too happy that there was going to be another big camp this year. Having helped make the first two happen, as did many others, I thought it would be much more effective now to have regional actions - an intense week of direct actions all over the country. The police couldn't pig such diverse and widespread activities in the way that they were able to focus all their resources on the single site at Kingsnorth. The week ended up as a battle with the cops rather than the power companies, which is what the cops intended - to absorb the anger directed at a corporation.
We have to ask ourselves what the purpose of having a big camp is. The numbers are already there. The Heathrow camp last year brought a whole new load of people into the movement. So is it going to become a liberal media spectacle or are we really serious about taking action against climate criminals and making change happen? People knew they wouldn't be shutting down Kingsnorth for more than a day at best, so the action was symbolic. Seeking symbolic action at this stage is depressing!
I read an interesting posting on the lovely Wagglesmudge blog about George Monbiot and cluttered up their comments box with a rant I should have saved for here! Monbiot represents for me, the turning point of Climate Camp. It may become liberalised (the eternal problem of widening a movement which has to happen if it is to grow) whereby people say "yeah, let's make some noise, only let's not disturb anyone". This may have already started. The first banner put up at the site had an anti-coal message and an anti-capitalist message underneath. After a while, the anti-capitalist message was removed. Or it can stay radical, grass-roots and meaningful and refuse to get into bed with corporations, media and politicians. I know which way I want things to go.
I was at every meeting for the first camp's preparation and the energy and fire and determination was exhilarating. It will be difficult to maintain this with the large numbers now coming to camp meetings, so I hope the movement will go towards affinity groupings and regional groupings that won't get watered down into ineffective co-opted 'pressure groups'.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

IWA - it's like I was there!

The Inland Waterways festival is just up the water from me and it's been canal chaos back at Wheaton Aston lock. I got chatting to a nice bloke from Teddesley Boat hire who said he'd counted 16 boats waiting to come up through the lock yesterday! And there was I, trying to avoid the Llangollen crowds! The rain has been pretty unrelenting up till now and the man told me he'd come to collect a hire boat that a family had left, mid-holiday. They just couldn't bear it any longer in the miserable weather. Poor things, I'm not surprised. It can get a bit dull when it's terrible weather, so I imagine what it's like cooped up with young kids.

I've spotted some interesting boats selling crafts, on their way there and the Mikron Theatre boat and some very shiny, spruced up boats with gleaming brasses. One man, looking at my grey-green brass, told me how he used a varnish to keep his mushroom vents always golden. "I haven't polished them in two years" he said proudly.
"Nor have I!" I said.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Review of

I've been building a simple website for my art/craft job (I make painted folding wood screens and panels) and the time came to find a web hosting service. I thought, as it's my first go and I'm poor, I'll try a free site and signed up with They offer webspace free to all, then also a Premier paying service and I think, another more expensive one. They go through a process of seeing whether or not they want you and there is a bunch of complaints on the support forum about rejected applications. But I got okayed.
Then came the endless glitches and server problems. The support forum seems helpful at first glance, then you notice the barely veiled impatience with which people's questions are addressed. People are admonished for not doing a 'search' first, although the small Search button is difficult to spot among the highlighted, brighlty coloured text around and is, frankly, piss-poor. As a result of the impatience, people post apologetic questions. The support team actually keep a tally of how many times they are thanked! There's an atmosphere of 'tin-pot kingship' going on. I also wasn't impressed by their 'Novice' avatar which is of a stereotypical old lady (not an old man of course) which I find ageist as well as sexist.

After two weeks of trying to upload my site, with constant Error notices about the server and 'disk full' signs, I noticed lots of other people complaining. Free-space's response? We're working on it, have you though of going on our Premium (paying) service instead! It seemed to me that the 'Free' site was a bait to get people in, then as a result of poor service, get them to sign up for the paying option. They are a big business after all. I very much doubt if they suffer such 'problems' on the paying service or they'd be out of business! Here's my first and only comment I posted and their friendly reply:
Originally Posted by carrie

I'm a new client...rapidly turning into an old client waiting for the space to finish uploading my site. Cynical old me wonders if this is boosting Premium sales at all? Not that I'm ungrateful for the good support on here - just a tad frustrated....

Carrie, please find a new host ASAP. For you to make such comments is certainly uncalled for. People like you never take notice of the fantastic range of features and good reliability we offer for no cash, and instead moan and direct sarcastic comments at the service trying to help you. Please leave.
You certainly won't be missed.
We will not allow this kind of negative moaning by members. From now on we will delete, terminate and ban all members who show such attitude.Enough said.

That's from James, the owner who also sent me a rude e-mail.
Well, I must admit I laughed my socks off when I read his pompous response. And when I showed it to friends, they pissed themselves laughing too. But funnier still was when I tried to go back to the site to show them the complaints, I got this message:
You have been banned for the following reason : No reason was specified.
Date the ban will be lifted : Never

Needless to say, we laughed a lot more!
If I'd ever been able to manage to get my site uploaded in the first place, it might have been inconvenient to have to change webhosts. As it is, it's made me realise if I'm serious about getting a hassle-free site going, I'd better pay for it. By the way, might be ok for paying customers, I don't know but I personally wouldn't advise anyone to try their free service.

Giant puffballs!

I was lucky enough to come across this giant puffball last week. Perect condition, firm white mushroomy goodness - yum. Took me three days to eat it though.

Yesterday I saw another one the size of a head in a farmer's field. Probably just as well it was on the non-towpath side or I'd still be eating it next month!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Media coverage and silence.

At last, my friend's boat project with 'Free Gaza' (I wrote about it last month) has got BBC attention and there was an interview on Radio 4 this morning. Anything that can help them NOT get shot at is good. An example of media biais in this country: When one Israeli soldier gets killed, he is named, we hear his age and he gets several minutes worth of news time. When the Israelis retaliate and sixteen Palestinians are killed (including several children), they are nameless non-people worth less that a minute's air-space. The only suffering reported from Palestine is, you'll notice, when referring to inter-factional violence (Hamas and Fatah). Persistant persecution of Palestinians by Israelis is almost never reported by the BBC. Of course, we supply arms to Israel.
Among the wonderful people on the Free Gaza boat is an 84 yr old Jewish lady whose family died in concentration camps. She came to live in Britain as a child. Now she's risking her life on the boat going over to help bring medical supplies to the besieged Palestinians in Gaza. Amazing woman.

Meanwhile, Climate Camp at Kingsnorth power station is pretty much being ignored by the BBC at least. There seems to be no reporting of the fact that demonstrators have been hospitalised by baton attacks, nor that in a 5am raid, the cops came on site and smashed in the windows of the vans protecting the entrance from their dawn raids. The police go in and out of peoples' tents, confiscate guy ropes from marquees, pipes for drinking water, bikes and children's play equipment. The government are the largest shareholders in the UK energy industry, the police are employed to protect corporate interests and the BBC is in the hands of both. You only have to listen to the scanty, biaised news they select for our hearing to realise how far the media is state controlled.
For real information about news from the Climate Camp, try: