Wednesday, 27 April 2011

our iranian friends

There are six iranian men on day 21 of a hunger-strike in London. They were arrested, detained and tortured in Iran, for taking part in anti-regime protests. There are photos in the Iranian press proving their links to opposition groups - the very people this government is encouraging to fight for freedom in Iran. One man has deep slash scars on his back from torture.
Their case was dealt with in the usual arbitrary way by the Home Office (you really wouldn't believe just how arbitrary, dismissive and hastliy cases are 'dealt with' until you talk to human rights and immigration lawyers!) with vital supporting evidence not even translated in court.
In a final bid to appeal against the Home Office decision to deport them, they have sewn their mouths closed and are refusing food. (More info..)

The online petition is here: PETITION

The BBC has just put a video report on their website: Iran asylum seekers

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Down & out

Gawd! I swear I will write something uplifting soon, but I just have to let off more steam first! It seems, from reading a few bloater blogs, that BW have been pretty busy recently, clamping down on unlicenced boats and removing them from the waterways. The jubilation of some boaters over this just baffles me! Maybe I'm being dim but I don't get it.
One person talked about hoping BW could sell a little boat (a fairly valueless one by the look of it) to recoup some money - as though that means we would all get lower licence fees as a result! As I pointed out, all that would happen is that the guy whose boat was siezed will probably now need to be housed in B&B accomodation (social housing being so scarce) at huge expense to tax-payers. Housing benefit and homeless accomodation apparently costs us £12 billion/year. Or he will be sleeping rough.
Another boat blogger actually helped BW impound a 'dosser boat' as they called it (from the delightful comfort of their new shiny boat). The guy living on the impounded boat was, apparently, drunk.
I've met a number of alcoholics living on boats. Some cling on to something resembling a stable life while they have their boat homes. Somewhere to live privately, a small pride of ownership, of being 'A Boater'. Take that away and you have a vulnerable drunk sleeping in a doorway and with all pride gone.
A couple of posts back, I was banging on about the hidden homeless and see how this can be the direct result of our witch-hunt of the 'dosser boater'.
Why should we do BW's work for them? We play into their hands when they try to get us to inform on unlicenced boats or overstayers. (That's how you get a country to support oppressive regimes - set the people on each other, drive out anyone dissenting.)
We could be a powerful, self-regulating community if only we acted in solidarity with each other. Solidarity and inclusivity. A strong inclusive community could support those not coping well with life (that can come to all of us at some point), help them move about enough to not be a nuisance to other boaters (fuck BW rules, I'm talking about our own co-existence here), offer support and advice on organising money for licnce and repairs, help out with maintenance etc.
It's when you treat someone like a pariah that I think they become isolated and stop caring what anyone thinks of them.
Too many people have come onto the canals from a life of priviledge and then spend all their time moaning about and waging war on those without the advantages of the opportunities that education and a loving family brings.
Personally, I would hate to see the day come when there are only identikit shiny tubes on the waterways owned by wealthy retired people. I love seeing families afloat, non-white boaters, young couples, craft of all strange and ingenious fabrication and interesting people with vastly different life-stories.

Sometimes I think this is why I have a blog - so I don't endlessly rant in the street :-)
I'm really looking forwards to the Little Venice cavalcade at the weekend. All the boats together looking lovely and festive. Good company, hopefully cider and sunshine!

Sunday, 17 April 2011


Just wanted to mark the death of a very special man, 'Vik' - Vittorio Arrigoni, who was murdered in Gaza on Thursday. He was the partner of my friend who, like Vik, has given so much of her life over to supporting the Palestinian people. Everyone says what a beautiful, selfless person he was.
Indymedia link

Monday, 11 April 2011

'Proper boaters'

Whenever I hear complaint about people afloat who aren't 'proper boaters', I get mad! Canal boaters come in all forms, have all kinds of craft, have all different reasons for being there, moor up along towpaths or in marinas and have different ways of moving about or staying put. Get over it! We all shuffle along a man-made ditch - we are none of us 'proper boaters', if that phrase means anything at all.
It's just a way of excluding people, making yourself seem more important than them, pulling some weird sort of rank, or belittling the efforts of those new to the waterways.
One of the most interesting boaters I've met has been afloat for nearly forty years (a fact you only learn after a few days acquaintance) and is quiet, gentle, tolerant and helpful. To my mind, he puts those boastful self-publicists to shame.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Hidden homeless

It's difficult to find out how many people in the UK are homeless and that's one useful piece of information the census won't reveal of course. The government statistics estimate about 99,500 households were newly homeless in 2007 but the trouble is that only 'official' homeless people are counted in government statistics, i.e those who make a declaration and are eligable to apply for accommodation.
The charity 'Crisis' talks about an estimated 400,000 'hidden homeless' who haven't been allocated housing. It's probably pretty well known now that many of these are youngsters who feel unable to stay on in abusive households, people who come out of institutions, hospitals, foster homes, casualties of relationship breakdowns, home repossessions, mental health problems, drug and alcohol dependencies, etc. And there are also people who simply choose to live in freedom outside without the traps and trappings of modern life.
Why am I talking about this now? It's because I was out walking the other afternoon and came across no less than six separate shelters (some tents, others made from palettes, branches and tarps). Each discretely tucked away among trees and bushes. It made me realise that there must be thousands of people living like this all across the country. For people who aren't there by choice, I feel very sad. But I'm also glad that those looking to live differently can still build themselves a shelter and survive.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Out with the Herbies

We've had a couple of fun days out with Kath and Neil from nb Herbie. First we accompanied Herbie down the Hanwell flight with nb Tortoise breasted up for the locks. It must be a bit tricky driving something like a widebeam but from one side only but Neil did a fine job bringing them into locks, not helped by a frequently fouled prop - there was loads of rubbish floating in the canal!

A few days later, Simon and I went along for the ride when Herbie braved the Thames. I was a bit anxious about it but the river was calm, wide and wonderfully interesting. The sun made it all the more enjoyable. We were spoilt with two types of vegan cake: Kath's famous banana cake (which I have never quite managed to copy to the same high standard) and Marilyn's yummy fuity cake with just a hint of rum.
After a good vegan lunch at Kingston I'm afraid I forgot my manners and, in the style of Oliver Twist, asked rather pointedly for more of Kath and Marilyn's cake!
I may not be asked back :-)