Thursday, 25 March 2010

Memory block

On radio 4 this morning, I heard an interview with a couple of academics discussing work done at Oxford University. AC Grayling and A Sandberg were talking about the possibility of blocking or erasing painful memories. I cannot believe the utter pointlessness of this exercise. We are born, good and bad things happen to us, we die.
We can seek help in learning to live with traumatic events if necessary, but they make us who we are, even if that isn't a little ray of sunshine every day. If this was a couple of guys just chatting about possibilities, I wouldn't mind, but this involves experimenting on living animals of course, giving them severe pain, mucking about with their brains and trying out drugs so that some bloody pharmaceutical company can cash in on some miracle cure for the blues. I think of all the animals, including the poor primates imprisoned at the Oxford torture lab, awaiting their fate. Meanwhile the SPEAK campaign goes on to free them and I wish them every success.
But what also shocked me was the final comment from one of the two interviewees when asked something along the lines of "Do you think in the future, we'll look back on this time and be surprised that we ever endured painful memories?"
The reply: "oh yes, in 200 years time there will be 7ft healthy blonds who will be amazed at how we used to be" Gives some insight into his vision of an 'improved' society.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Stone & bone

Survived the Harecastle tunnel, having dismantled my rainwater-harvesting roof and taken in planters, plant pots, spare fenders and other bits of rubbish I usually keep up there. I'd remembered a very low tunnel roof the last time I'd come through, but that had been after some very heavy rainfall and this time was much easier. I could have left most of the stuff up there! But it did force me to finally tidy things up a bit and that's good.
On through Stoke-on-Trent and the fascinating industrial buildings that line the canal.

I love the bottle kilns you can spot among the factories and read that there are still 47 of them standing in the area. I know it's easy to have a romanticised view of the landscape and a picture I found on this site reminded me of how it was 'back in the day' :

All this pottery industry around - there's bound to be a few mistakes!

Looks like one hell of a Greek wedding celebration!
It's been fun doing locks again after such a long break from them (having had the mooring on the Peak Forest canal for 9 months). The Stoke locks were great though I did struggle a bit with the top lock at Meaford where part of the bridge below it has collapsed onto the steps. There's a road immediately at the foot of the lock so, if you have an awkward dog that won't stay on the boat without you, you have to drop your boat in the lock, bow-haul it out as far as you can, drop the rope onto the roof and hare it across the road, down the lane to the nearest opening in the hedge, then back up the towpath to retrieve your boat as it emerges from the bridge hole. Oh fun and games! :-)
Now I'm at Stone, where there's a shop selling Dunoon china made in Staffordshire. It specialises in 'fine bone china' and I must admit, I hadn't really understood that bone china is still made from bone ash. Something for us vegans to think about when buying our cups! I immediately checked mine and was relieved to find they are stoneware.
Something lovely at Stone is the seat at the bottom of the flight of four locks.

It was made by artist Phillip Hardacre, working with local schoolchildren. (I looked him up and he's done other collaborations which sound amazing, including a memorial grand piano for a much-loved music teacher, though I couldn't find a picture unfortunately). On this seat, there are tiles and ceramic plaques showing aspects of Stone like its shoe-making past, the ale industry, the canal, current organisations and retailers as well as signature pieces by the children themselves. I think it's lovely.

Friday, 12 March 2010


There's a big sycamore cull going on near me. I find it so depressing to see beautiful, healthy trees being cut down - makes me cry. Here's the rationale, on a sign pinned to a recently severed trunk:

It says the sycamore isn't native but it IS native to central Europe and with our changing climate, it obviously thrives here. I've read that it may have been brought over by the Romans and that seems pretty established to me. The sign also says the sycamore doesn't support much wildlife, yet I know it supports many aphid varieties that in turn allow birds to thrive. Dormice also eat the aphids and we know how endangered a species they are. What bloody interferers we are, messing up the environment, then looking for fixes when it all goes pear-shaped.

Apparently the council (if they're still the ones in power in a few months time, and will they have the funds available, and will people allow the money to be spent on tree-planting when their day-centres are being closed down?) will replant with 'native' species like oak. That's great, but an oak will take 30 years to get established and begin to host all the wildlife it has the potential for. Meanwhile, can we really afford to lose the carbon-dioxide absorbence of any tree? We should be planting up areas that are not suited to growing veg and cereals but which are currently grazed by the grossly inflated numbers of sheep and cows bred for meat.
It feels like we've got our priorities all wrong. I was thinking 'this is just sick' when I saw the trees falling and into my head came the name of a boat, passed on the Shropshire Union, called 'Sycnamore'!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

My own private hideaway

Ok, it's not mine, it's not private and I'm not hiding, but it IS a lovely little secluded wharf off the main Macclesfield canal!

Simon (nb Tortoise) came to help move the boat down through Bosley locks which had just opened after stoppages, though I really just used that as an excuse to get him to come and work that damn electric swing bridge for me (by the Royal Oak) that is such a pain to solo boaters ;-) Thanks Simon!
I do like Bosley locks, all arranged at a perfect distance from each other - not too far to walk between, room to tie up, great views, interesting sde pounds, plenty of fallen wood along the way to gather up. At the bottom of the flight, it's very peaceful. You can see The Cloud when it's not too cloudy! We met up with some friendly boaters I'd already met on the Peak Forest canal and shared some cider, wine and Bombay Mix - a very nice combination indeed.

When the stoppages ae over at Red Bull junction, I'll be on my way again, but for now, me and the furry one are enjoying all the woodland walks we can explore. Bliss!