Friday, 26 September 2008

Some Staffs & Worcs pics

The Staffs & Worcs canal is very pretty with lots of interesting things to see including this memorial of a round house built in 1805. Even though it's 'modern', there's something about an enclosed circular shape that seems to hold an ancient significance. Perhaps it's just the shape? People have been making round enclosures forever judging by archaeological finds.

Even though there's a seat inside the circle, all the walkers I saw, seemed to prefer to sit on this bench to one side of the memorial. I was happy to use the bench too - as a useful support to cut logs off the end.

This is Devil's Den, a boat house cut into the rock.
I was lucky enough to come across a beautiful wild apple tree on the towpath, heavy with fruit.
Along with some blackberries, I made 12 jars of wild apple & blackberry jelly. Very yummy.

Sunday, 21 September 2008


Been on a walk along the disused railway line at Wombourne. It's nicer than the railway walk back at Compton (Staff & Worcs ) which is dead straight and covered with stone chippings that are no good for bikes or dog paws. This one is really well used.
There's an old station that's been converted to a tea shop. What a great idea except that it looked sort-of uncared for and shuttered up, even though it said 'Open'. You could have hanging baskets and chairs on the platform and an art gallery there. Looks like it needs a bit of imagination and drive behind it. Oh and it's also called The Olde Tea Shoppe, which is a bummer.

Lots and lots of horses round here.

And surprisingly rural surroundings, considering it's only 4 miles to cycle to Wolverhampton!

I took a photo of the water's edge along some nearby moorings. See how herbicide has been sprayed along the edge? I wonder if this has anything to do with all the deaded fish I saw last week. I must get on to Defra about it, or whoever is supposed to be monitoring water quality and enviromental issues, tho as we know, fish don't have any feelings! Ok, I admit it. I haven't cheered up yet ;-)

Friday, 19 September 2008

Good things, bad things

Good things:
It's been sunny and warm
I saw a kingfisher dive and catch a fish
I met a nice boater with a sweet dog
I made elderberry cordial and hawthorn berry 'leather' and gathered lots of deadnettle and mugwort for teas.
I'm not near a road
I've been getting plenty of artwork done
Capitalism is crumbling as I write

Bad things:
Didn't get to a 'Support the Roma people' protest in Manchester (enforced fingerprinting of that group alone and recent state-condoned violence against the Roma in Italy, all smacking of a fascist past being re-animated), Couldn't go due to difficulties travelling with dog..
Feeling depressed about what we do to people seeking asylum in this country. About men, women and children being locked up for the crime of trying to escape persecution. People and birds migrate. Get over it.
Thinking about Babi Badalov, poet, artist, being deported tonight. Here's his story in case anyone out there cares.
Feeling, I dunno, down. Trying to focus on kingfishers and sunshine.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

A website...maybe!

Who'd have thought it would take SO long to make a basic website! I've been struggling to get a site up for my folding panel thingies for ages now and it's sort-of running now.. for a while at least. There are one or two glitches to unravel still so no doubt the site will be up and down again shortly but I do feel a sense of achievement as I'm not at all techie. Anyhow, I've dared to put a link to my site 'Blackbird Tree' on this blog. I already feel apologetic about its unprofessional look and no doubt I'll get it looking better in the future, with all links working as they should, but yay! My baby!

Monday, 8 September 2008

The kindness of boaters

In my disappointment over veg oil, I forgot to post about meeting Peter from narrowboat Ehawee (think that's how it's spelt). We'd met once before on the Middlewich branch and seeing me struggling up the Wolverhampton 21, Peter stopped off on his bike and helped work me through the remaining 16 locks! I was so thankful as I was going so slowly. As any single handed boater will tell you, it's not that actual locking that takes time, it's the tying up to open and close lock gates. Peter cycled to and fro like a dervish.
I felt horribly lazy on the boat while he worked the locks and we talked about 'give and take' and how hard it is to sit back and take! I'm much happier doing the giving ;-)
I know I sometimes meet complete sods on the canals, but there are also some pretty lovely angels out there too. x

Bitter disappointment - no veg oil for Carrie :-(

It's been a downer day today. All my plans for running my boat on used veg oil have come to nothing. I brought Blackbird up the Wolverhampton 21 locks to Dixon St bridge where 'Diesel Veg' have their business, converting diesel cars and vans to run on veg oil. They are a lovely team, friendly, enthusiastic for a challenge, serious about what they do and their standard of work. But having had a really good look at my engine and how it runs and my fuel pump and calorifier, they decided the conversion just wouldn't work properly.

Here are the problems we looked at:
- We had intended using the main fuel tank for veg oil and installing a 20l extra tank for diesel to start the engine and flush through before stopping it. Because the fuel tank is below the waterline, the veg oil would be too cold, encouraging sludging. Therefore, we decided we could install a small tank for the veg oil inside the engine room and continue to use the main tank for diesel. No room in the engine hole but wall-mounted space available in the engine room itself.
- My fuel pump was a problem, as I'd known it might be. It's a Lucas CAV pump and these often break down with veg oil. It would have been better with a Bosch pump apparently. We were going to add a whole new fuel filter and lift pump to help overcome the problem.
- I was going to have a purge alarm fitted to ensure I always switched back to diesel before stopping the engine as the veg oil would thicken and cool overnight and be impossible to de-gunk in the morning.
- Filtering the waste veg oil. The oil has to be filtered down to 1 micron - much finer than my efforts to filter with muslin. Diesel Veg sell an electric filtering system but I learnt today that it's a 240V pump. The guys said I could maybe manage okay with a filter 'sock' they could provide me with, that could drain through overnight.
Each problem was sort-of being overcome until we hit the real stumbling block - temperature.
The team were looking to heat the veg oil via the calorifier pipes to lessen its viscosity as it entered the engine but the temperature just wouldn't get high enough for this to happen. Chugging along at 4 miles an hour wouldn't do it and the calorifier heats the water to about 60 degrees only. In a car, you'd be at the right temperature in a few minutes. They were reluctant to do the conversion, knowing it would be very unreliable and highly likely to break my fuel pump and I had to agree.

I'm gutted but would defintely recommend Diesel Veg for converting a car or van as they were so motivated, friendly and professional. Check out their website:

Saturday, 6 September 2008

New Oxford lab & dead fish

Well, this week, the new primate lab opens in Oxford. It's where monkeys get tortured to prove the bleedin obvious - that pumping chemicals into your body will kill you, that rubbing creams into your eyes can make you go blind, that sensory deprivation leads to madness, that cutting away parts of your brain means that parts of your body stop working. Duh! But of course, all you have to do is bring out the old 'we may be able to cure cancer' mantra and you can get away with any amount of animal cruelty. Pharmaceuticals is where the money is at and while there's big bucks to be had, people will continue to justify their jobs there.
SPEAK ( ) has continued its campaign against the lab, pointing out the 'Bad Science' and poor logic behind animal testing.
Today I've been noticing plenty of dead fish in the canal and when I've asked around about this in the past, I've been told that it's due to the run-off of nitrogen from farmland fertilisers when it rains a lot. When you think that this stuff is on our crops, in the grass that animals eat; that we pump pollution into the air we breath, dump chemicals into our rivers and seas, coat our bodies with chemical perfumes and detergents; that every material in our homes is treated with toxic paints and preservatives, that those eating meat and drinking milk are swallowing hormones and antibiotics and animal vaccines. It's hardly surprising we get illnesses like cancer. The irony is, the chemical industries peddling all this shit are also cashing in by producing 'The Cures'!
It reminds me of what happened in Iraq. The U.S bombed the place to pieces, then awarded all the reconstruction contracts to U.S companies, paid for from Iraqi oil money. It's a win-win situation (for some).
Right now, I'm feeling very depressed for the thousands of animals who will be used and thrown away like old tissues after every 'Botox' test, obesity drug or hairspray trial, whose lives will be short and full of pain and fear. Generations of students will repeat the same experiments year after year. There will be no cure for cancer. What there will be is huge revenues for the lab and associated companies. For those doing the experiments, I have nothing but loathing.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Wild Wales & Gaza

I've had a few days in Wales, visiting my mum 'n dad. My son and daughter came too so it's been lovely to be all together, especially as we all have our birthdays around now. We've been scoffing great food, opening presents, drinking too much (ok, that was just me), walking on the beaches, looking at the peaches, getting bombarded with rain, trying to stand upright in gales - great stuff!
I had some good presents from my dearest ones: waterproof trousers and jacket (hurray!), Ray Mears's Wild Food book which is brilliant, a hedgerow medecine book which looks fascinating, CDs (Sigur Ros and Vincent Delerm, love em both), a couple of books I couldn't show my mum and vegan chocs, yum.
Tomorrow I head back to the boat, hoping it's still there. Hoping too that the dog behaves himself on the 6 hour journey on train and bus.

Meanwhile, my friend in Gaza hasn't been having such a great time. She's one of four activists who have been refused permission to leave Gaza, having arrived in the country aboard the SS Free Gaza. Egypt won't allow them to cross their border - hand in glove with Israel. In the news, the only person that actually gets mentioned is Lauren Booth cos she's Tony Blair's sister-in-law! The other three, including my lovely friend isn't newsworthy ;-). Blair's supposed to be the Middle East Peace Envoy but is refusing to get involved in this case. What a shit.