Saturday, 30 October 2010

Leaving Aylesbury

I've left Aylesbury basin after 2 weeks of having town and station right on my doorstep. No problems apart from mysteriously finding a large stone in my fireplace that I can only think can have come down the chimney!
It was only when I left the basin yesterday that I had my first encounter with bridge-kids. I saw two teenies, one of which lowered himself down onto the parapet as though to jump on my boat roof as I approached. So I stopped the boat and hovered, thinking they'd just get bored, counting on them having the well-publicised short attention span an' all. They stuck it out for 5 minutes (I'll give them that), before nipping into someone's back garden to collect stones. I was furious and if I could have got into the side and tied up, I'd have gone hareing up the towpath to give em an ear-bashing. I mostly feared for my solar panels! Luckily, for us all, they chucked their stones (very badly, rubbish aim, not even close!) and took off.
It made me think about the cop I'd been moaning about in my last post - would I have summoned him to my rescue? NO! Unless it's an physical attack on someone else, I honestly wouldn't bother.. I realise this attitude does make solo boating feel more precarious. A refusal to recognise the State as responsible for me and my safety means I have to accept the responsibility for keeping safe, defending myself etc. Solo boating can be a vulnerable way of living, even without crime - accidents do happen, don't they. But I guess we just hope bad things won't happen. And after all, that's the first bad bridge encounter I've had in 4 1/2 years ;-)

Now I'm out in the sticks again and have seen plenty of basin folk going past on their boats, heading out of town. Coincidence? Well, it's half-term, Halloween and I can hear a lot of fireworks going off in the direction of Aylesbury!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Happiness is...

..a wheelbarrow full of logs :-)
I think the last time I posted a photo of my lovely wheelbarrow was when I mentioned trying to wheel my dog about, but that he kept jumping out. He didn't seem to mind much cos he'd jump back in again! Now of course, I don't have my dear Milou companion anymore. But there's something very uplifting and cheering about chopping logs with an axe! Especially on such a crisp sunshiney day.

A big willow branch had come down by a lock and BW had cut it into sections.
I managed a barrow and a half of logs before a cloud came along in the form of a copper. Even though I was off the towpath, on the other side of a lock where the only access was across the lock gates and in a large clearing with no passers-by, he just had to cross those gates to come and interrogate me. Did I have permission, what was my name, where was I from? I knew I didn't have to tell him a thing unless he was going to arrest me for summat, so I didn't and just cleared off, my winter fuel gathering session over for the day. I wonder if other liveabords get any hassle while foraging?
Yesterday was a day of sun and heavy rain - that's usually when I go out without my coat ;-) I saw these cormorants in spooky pose on a dead tree.

Further up, I had seen this bridge being carefully repaired with new brickwork when I came through with Blackbird. I was thinking at the time what a skill that was to follow the curve of old bridges like that, so I was upset when I saw what I thought was vandalism, with all the new brickwork pushed down and onto the towpath. Most of the ones on the towpath were broken.

(isn't the light in this photo great! Got a soaking shortly after :-)
But I was wrong. I talked to a BW guy who explained the bridge had heritage status and the new bricks didn't match properly but that they had found some old ones that would look better. I guess this must be the ones he meant here, in a BW workboat nearby.
I'm not sure whether to be exasperated by the waste and lack of forward planning or be happy at the efforts made to preserve the character of our old bridges. As I'm trying to err on the side of positivity, I'll go with being happy :-D

Thursday, 14 October 2010


I had several goes at mooring up here, but couldn't get my boat in as it was so shallow and muddy. The next day, I walked back along this bit of towpath and found a willow had come crashing down on the same spot!

Much more welcome was the discovery of a huge overgrown and neglected orchard at Cheddington. I've never seen so many apples, the branches bowed down with them all. All different kinds too! I asked at the nearby church and was told that the orchard had been bought by a retired man who, finding the supermarkets weren't interested (don't know if it was the need for perfection or if the costs of harvesting made it non-viable), was letting it all go wild. Such a shame, although I guess it's a wonderful source of food for insects and birds.
The person I spoke to told me how the womenfolk of the village used to be employed in apple-picking there each year but now they just went in and collected what they wanted for themselves. I brought a few home myself to wrap in newspaper and see if I can keep some over winter.

I'm on the very peaceful Aylesbury arm now, enjoying the narrow locks and rural setting. There was a long section of reedy narrowness I enjoyed very much - quite exciting moving through that rustling corridor.

Now however, the grim reaper has been up and down, cutting them back, which I suppose is more practical but less fun.

Blackbird out in the sticks. Very little in the way of passing traffic here :-)

One exciting thing: at last I have a toaster! It's brilliant!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Freedom of movement

I’m back on board Blackbird after some gallivanting and it is lovely to be in my dear home. I’m so privileged to have a home and to be free to wander to and from it, travelling abroad where and when I want to. But as with most privileges, we often don’t value what we have and, more importantly, don’t realise that the majority of the world’s inhabitants don’t have that basic freedom of movement.
Since the closure of the Sangatte refugee camp in Calais in 2002, migrating people are still living a precarious life, camping in the squats and sand-dunes along the French coast. Every day, they are harassed and often beaten by the police, neither allowed to stay there, nor allowed to cross the border. It’s the UK Border Agency that pay for this policing.
This harsh policing is reflected along the European borders, that don’t hamper our own movement, but keep ‘Them’ out. We know who ‘They’ are – people from the other side of an invisible and arbitrary line, drawn on the world by a bunch of so-called leaders I certainly didn’t vote for. Turns out that the line stops where the predominantly non-white populations begin.
Money and commodities flow freely of course. Cheap migrant labour can visit for a short while only. Meanwhile, we ‘explore’ and exploit the world freely, taking from it what we want. We use the equivalent of slavery to get our stuff as cheaply as possible from poor countries and when those people unionise at huge personal risk (death squads and ‘disappearances’), we drop them in favour of an even cheaper supply. Our ‘needs’ cause wars over oil, minerals, drugs, cheap food. Yet when someone tries to escape their situation for a better life, they are hunted down, imprisoned and sent back. Instead of fighting for equality across the world, we pursue a policy of greater acquisition and increasing exclusion. Our wealth increases and the walls get higher.

I know this is just another rant against the racist and unjust border controls that are surreptitiously tightening all the time, excluding more and more people. But I don’t know if people think much about the individuals concerned. When we remember those who died in the second world war, for example, I don’t think of the vast numbers (around 60 million I believe) but of the individuals and their own stories of suffering and that of their families. What it might have been like for that single person buried now in this little churchyard. There are about 60 million refugees and displaced people in the world today, who would rather be peacefully at home, like me. And every single one of them has a personal story of a family, loves, hopes and fears.
I think of them, individually, and take some small comfort in knowing that sooner or later, all walls must fall.