Monday, 23 December 2013

Happy Christmas!

To our boaty mates,
wishing you all good things this Christmas,
from Carrie and her favourite elf (er..I mean Simon!)

Sunday, 15 December 2013

orange cheer

It's not particularly cold here, down south,  but it is a bit dreary and damp. But things that cheer me up are my new sunflower twirly..

my Christmas decorations and lights...

and a glowing stove..

I'm ashamed of my fondness for cheery tat, built from chinese sweatshop labour and comfort myself with the thought that the fire at least is the result of foraging, skip-diving and hard work. Though having said that, I owe this current batch of firewood to Simon, who sawed up a wooden bed, found dumped in the canal. Lucky me!

Thursday, 21 November 2013


I sat here and got a leafy head.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


Lucky it's a narrow boat!

There are still lots of branches in the water after the recent storms. There are also underwater banks of leaves that catch you unawares until the boat stops going forward amidst a great muddly swirl of green and brown. Still, it is lovely boating in this season as the sunny days bring out the gorgeous colours.
This morning, the first frosts, at my boat at least!

I really should have eaten my chard before now, I sowed it too thickly and kept meaning to thin it out by eating it. Hope it's still good after frost!

Friday, 13 September 2013

taken to the cleaners

Pff...the smallest washing machine at West Drayton laundrette now costs £5. What a rip-off for the poorest people. Here's where I meet old folk, migrants, homeless people, single mums, travellers, students. Oh, and the odd wealthier person whose machine has died just before guests arrive and need showing how to work the machines. That happened this morning and I was amazed at the person's apparent helplessness over everything from finding change and the right setting, to where to put powder and how to lock the door. I'd have been less judgemental if I hadn't seen them manage to park their huge 4x4 outside with competence.
Ok, I'm just annoyed by the price-hike!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

'my' otter!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

my otter and other animals

(I can't seem to upload any of my photos from my phone at the moment.  Disappointing but maybe I'll manage later)

We had a great day out at the British Wildlife centre at Lingfield where I finally fulfilled a long-held wish to see a real otter. It was fantastic! There were 4 of the beautiful creatures, who obligingly came out of their pond when one of the keepers brought food.
The animals are either rescued creatures or were born at the Centre, which used to be a dairy farm. Set feeding times meant that otherwise shy or nocturnal animals came out of hiding for their treats, which did seem unnatural but was a rare chance to see badgers, foxes, pine martins, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, rats, rabbits, voles, owls and of course, otters, close up.
We came to a display board with large photos of the animals, along with names of people who had adopted each one. I noticed the label next to the otter had 'Carrie' on it and was just pointing this out to Simon when I saw the date underneath was that very day. The penny dropped as I realised Simon had 'adopted' me an otter! It was such a lovely and funny surprise. There was an 'adoption' package, including a birthday card from the centre and laminated pics of 'my' otter. A bike ride via a pub and pool table ended a petfect day out.
I will try to add pics later!

Monday, 26 August 2013

be afraid, be very afraid..

If you're a female boater that is. And if you listen to the guy I met on a boat in central London today! Yes, I know I've posted about this before but I really do get a bit fed up with being told how I should live in fear, as I'm female and living on a boat. I was informed that a boat break-in was 'like a rape' for women and far more traumatic than for men.
I'm not quite sure how having a penis would save me from the apparent certainty of break-in and violent assault, unless I maybe used it to beat the assailant around the head with it.
Anyway, the unsolicited advice given by the boater was this: to put a pair of mens boots on my roof, to get bars welded over the windows and, most importantly,  to enrol on his martial arts course for women. All became clear. By playing on stereotypes and reinforcing fear and timidity in females, he can keep em coming to his classes.
I did wonder if his attitude might be based on many bad experiences on the cut but no, turns out he's been renting his boat for a short time only and is new to the life.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

slow improvements

I'm fitting a smart new cratchboard and painting the front well deck. Things aren't going that smoothly though as I bought the wrong colour paint, initially fitted the board the wrong way round and am making a big mess of trying to repair the old torn cratch cover. The new board makes everything else look tatty! Still, I expect it'll all come together in the end once I've re-painted, fitted the porthole, mended the cover. I want to do the board that Simon made, justice.
Here's the work in progress...

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Terrible lizards!

The man who invented the word 'dinosaur' (terrible lizard), went on to design a display of concrete dinosaurs in Crystal Palace park. He was Richard Owen and along with sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, they did their best to recreate dinosaurs based on their knowledge at that time (1852). Anyway, we had a wander through the park on Sunday and it was well worth a visit. The gaps in anatomical understanding at that time make it all the more appealing and of course we still don't know everything about dinosaurs. I especially like the way one dinosaur is facing away, head in foliage, because no skull fossil had yet been found and they honestly had no clue what it looked like!

Back on board and just for fun, I made my own dinopark with some of my 'crew'.
Just as convincing, I reckon :-)


Sunday, 30 June 2013

musical interlude

For my own record as much as anything else,  I wanted to write about two very different gigs I went to this month. First was the long awaited Neil Young gig at the O2 Arena in Greenwich. Fantastic of course, the old-timer still thrashing it out on his guitar with Crazy Horse or solo with his acoustic guitar or on piano,  singing with "a shaky shaky voice that's as real as the day is long".
The venue was overwhelmingly huge and luckily the monitors showed what was going on on stage but I still think we had great seats.

He sang a good mix of early stuff (Comes a time, Powderfinger, Hurricane etc) as well as new songs from his latest album Psychedelic Pill. So glad I went!

Last night was a very different evening but still pretty amazing! 
Went to see Melange Collective in a tiny, tucked away Centre for Peace & Reconciliation in Bishopsgate. Everywhere you look are these massive glass and concrete towers shutting out the light (unless you're in them, high enough up for a great view and far enough away from the dirty grey street and us little people below). St Ethelburga's has a secret garden and a prayer yurt surrounded by mosaics and flowers.
Melange Collective are 7 people playing middle eastern and North African music with jazz influences. They are fantastic musicians.  Oud, cello, double bass, guitar, percussion, accordian, saxophone. 

Saturday, 29 June 2013

'Imagine Watford'

We saw some of the of "extraordinary open air moments" of Watford festival. One of my favorites was 'Glisssssssssando Opus II' - a troupe of musicians who played great music whilst gliding smoothly in formation, puffs of smoke rising from their funnels. Surreal and wonderful. 

There were roaring dinosaurs loose in the street (sorry Simon ;-), which certainly livened up a damp day in town.
The skilled stilt walkers (try saying that after a couple of ciders) made it look easy but it must have been exhausting performing in huge swaying costumes. Heads swooped to peck at children and forage in the flower displays, a grocer's stall and among drinkers outside a pub. Made people laugh though you had to watch out for the wildly flapping tails!

The dinosaurs were commanded by an elegant witchy figure.

There were other really good performances and experiences, such as the onboard show 'Tug', which Simon has written about here

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Growing things

It's great to see everything growing on the boat (apart from the rust, that is), after such a slow start. The rooftop plant's aren't suffering from my sporadic watering but are getting regular showers and thriving so far.
Inside, I have two more 'gardens' that I'm excited about as they're first times for me. I have a sprouter from a charity shop and here i have sprouted alfalfa lentils and radish seeds - yum.
And most exciting of all.. (drum roll) are the mushrooms! I bought some mushroom starter compost from Poundshop and doubted it would work, to be honest. Look!
You just cut them as needed and they keep springing up! They seem to like the dark cool of the engine hole but you have to remember to get them out when you run the engine ;-)

Monday, 17 June 2013


Looks like Silvercross are still making these amazing prams. Great suspension,  loads of room for shopping underneath, a weather-proof hood. My mum had one for us three kids and there was an extra seat installed for me on the front when my little brother came along and ousted me from the pram cave.
We used the wheels as a go-cart when we were bigger. Wonder if the baby in this pram will grow up with the freedom and death-wish we clearly had, to ride it down the street :-)

Monday, 10 June 2013

night-ride home

Blackbird is moored near the Ebury Way, which is a former railway line linking Rickmansworth with Watford.
(photo borrowed with thanks, from
 The path is wide in some parts as shown in this photo; passes lakes and fields before it joins a windy section at Rickmansworth where it's very narrow and dense with bushes and trees. It was delighful to cycle along to the station. I went to see my son and daughter in south London before my son heads off back to his job in France and got back late last night. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to cycle home the way I'd come! Of course, it was completely dark, thick with trees and no moon to be seen and my only light was the bike's dynamo, a little yellow beam that disappeared if I slowed and stopped. At the narrowest part of the path, a frantic rustling and branches breaking close to one side, told me I'd disturbed something large, maybe a fox but it was so close that I wobbled to a stop and of course the bike light went out. In an electric moment of fear and exhiliaration, I felt fur brush lightly against my bare leg in the dark and then the creature was hurtling away. The rest of the ride home was uneventful and so quiet after the racket of London travelling. I'm very lucky to live on a boat.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

a visit to Wales

My son was staying with his grandparents in Wales so it was a good opportunity to go and visit them all for a few days. Apart from eating and drinking too much, me and the lad went on long walks together. Lovely.
 The weather was great and the hedgerows full of flowers.

This is the boat my dad has recently bought and is working on. It's a better size for an  80 yr old than the one they lived on for 2 years!
When I got back to London, they were running steam trains!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Sowing a seed

Seeds for Change, is a 'non-profit training and support co-op, helping people to organise for action and positive social change'. They run great workshops on effective campaigning, overcoming difficulties, widening support, inclusivity and mutual support, and much more (not to be confused with Seeds of Change, who sell pasta). All organising is based on consensus decision-making principles which saw the harmonious creation of the first Camp for Climate Action and which is such a pleasure to see happening in many grassroots movements across the country today.

Anyway, their resources have always been free to download and print off but they've now made a Consensus Handbook which brings together many of the guides and shows in a very practical way how we can come to decisions in a way that exclude no-one. There are practical tools on widening participation, helping overcome obstacles, accessibilty, resolving problems etc. You can dowload it for free as a PDF (i think there are about 200 pages) or buy it cheaper from the Seeds website than elsewhere (£4.90 instead of £6).

I'm declaring an interest - I did the illustrations, (but no, I'm not getting royalties!) but my real interest is in helping spread the adoption of consensus decision-making to all organising groups, whether it's a small bunch of people in a city wanting to start a fresh veg co-op or thousands trying to shut down a coal-fired power station.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

HS2 - Slicing through

So far, the planned High Speed rail link between London and Birmingham (then Manchester) has been a vague idea on a map for me. I knew it was going to cut through the Chilterns and all for a few saved minutes of travelling time. But this morning, it all became more real for me as I sat out on the bow of the boat with my breakfast. I'm moored up alongside an area of woods, wetland and lakes and the birdsong is just lovely now that spring is here. I heard a cuckoo, an increasingly rare sound in this country, then had an extra treat of watching it fly across to other trees.
(borrowed from the rspb site)

Yesterday evening I saw a red kite.There are also woodpeckers, wrens, chaffinches, blue-tits, great-tits, robins, dunnocks and thrushes and probably lots of other birds I wouldn't recognise. There are kingfishers here too, I've been told. On the canal itself, swans, ducks, moorhens, coots and cormorants are all doing well here. I saw great-crested grebes and tufted ducks on the lakes. There are muntjac deer in the woods. Nearby, a Dog Rescue home has volunteers walking the dogs through the woods, along the towpath and around the lakes. But this area is just one place that the HS2 will be slicing through. I see the little tragedies of ruined nature repeated all along the line, completely insignificant to the planners, the profit-makers.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

The way forward for musicians?

I should preface this post by saying that I don't know much about the music industry but have come across an approach to making a career in music that seems honest and real.
Things have certainly changed hugely for musicians and other performers. Bands that used to able to make a fortune in record, then CD sales must have seen those sales decline as people download their songs for little or no money. Live performances can still bring in the dosh but this means touring a lot and I don't know about other people but I often find the price of tickets too high! So how can we ensure our talented singers/songwriters/musicians thrive without pricing ordinary people out of their gigs? How can we make sure they don't starve in garrets when we can download their creations for free?
A singer/songwriter I admire very much is David Rovics

.David Rovics
He writes and performs songs 'of social significance', songs of protest, defiance and celebration. I love his music! Whenever he writes a new song, he sends a Youtube recording of it out to anyone who wants to be on his mailing list, for free. You print off his lyrics for free and when he tours this country, he encourages anyone who wants to organise a gig in their town, to add it to his list. His gigs are cheap, for access to all. True to his principles he is starting a Croudsourced career whereby 1000 people who think he's really good and worth keeping creating, pay £34 a year to him in return also, for lots of goodies (CD's, free passes to gigs, even a guitar lesson!).
I like this idea. It means he can stay creative. It means he can continue to be open and generous with his work. It means people who have no money can still access his music. It involves a personal responsability from his audience - if you want him to be able to make music, you can enable that. Most important of all, for me, is that he continues to write songs about what's happening to the disenfranchised, the downtrodden, the victims of wars, the soldiers that suffer in conflicts, the politicians that lie, cheat and steal and also, how great we can be when we stand together in solidarity. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Jackie dies after deportation

 This is an account of the death of Jackie Nanyonjo - here she is at a recent demo.
I've simply re-posted the account from the Movement for Justice website. To her family and many friends in this country, who fought so hard to keep her with us, I send my deep sympathy.

Jackie demonstrates at Lunar House for the Yarlswood women Jackie Nanyonjo died in Uganda last Friday as a result of the injuries inflicted by the Home Office's licenced thugs who deported her from Britain on 10th January. Jackie was a fighter for herself and for others: a lesbian who escaped from anti-gay persecution and a brutal forced marriage, and a member of the Movement for Justice. In Britain she had been able for the first time to live and love openly as a lesbian; she was much-loved by a wide circle of friends who kept in touch with her after she was deported and who miss her deeply. All of us who knew her, or who didn't know her personally but are determined to end the regime of racism and anti-immigrant bigotry that is responsible for her death, will fight to win justice for Jackie.

Jackie had been through the mental torture of the immigration and asylum system, with its arbitrary, subjective decisions and impossible demands to 'prove that you are a lesbian'. UK Border Agency and an Asylum Tribunal had dismissed out-of-hand the ample evidence of friends and her partner that Jackie was a lesbian and rejected her claim for asylum. She was sent to the further mental torture of Yarl's Wood women's detention centre in November 2012 - a few weeks after detainees had shaken the power of the UKBA in an uprising of mass protest against brutality and injustice led by the Yarl's Wood Movement for Justice group and Jackie had been part of a solidarity demonstration at the UKBA headquarters in Croydon. Jackie continued her fight in Yarl's Wood. When the UKBA tried to deport her in December Jackie resisted bravely despite the brutality she suffered at the hands of the 'escorts' provided by the contractor, Reliance. She forced them to abandon the attempt and when she got back to Yarl's Wood she lodged a complaint to the UKBA - a complaint the UKBA rejected.

With all the limited avenues of Britain's racist immigration laws closed to her and facing deportation to a country where it is a crime to be gay and where the political and religious leaders have whipped up a murderous anti-gay witch-hunt, Jackie's only option was physical resistance. On 10th January, on Qatar Airways Flight QR76, Jackie fought bravely for her freedom with all the strength she could gather against four Reliance guards. She continued fighting when the guards drew curtains round their end of the plane to hide their crimes. She struggled for as long as she could until, beaten up, half strangled and bent double, she was overcome by the pain in her chest and neck and was unable to breathe.

When Jackie arrived at Entebbe Airport the 'escort' party handed her over to the Ugandan authorities, who held her for many more hours without any medical attention. When family members finally met her, long after the flight had landed, Jackie was in terrible pain and vomiting blood; they rushed her to a clinic, but in a country with widespread poverty and limited medical facilities they were unable to get the medical attention Jackie needed. Since Jackie was in hiding as a known lesbian, protected by relatives, every trip to a doctor or hospital involved a risk to her life and to the safety of her family. They were condemned to watch the agonising decline of Jackie's health and strength over the next two months.

The Home Office and the UKBA are guilty of Jackie's murder. They have licenced the brutality that Jackie suffered, even if they pretend 'to look the other way'; they protect the thugs and the security companies if an asylum seekers' death or injury becomes public knowledge. Their policies and decisions are responsible for Jackie's death. The guards who brutalised Jackie should be in jail and Reliance should be condemned as an accessory to murder, along with Qatar Airways and the repressive Qatari Government that is so willing to do Britain's dirty work - but the real guilt lies with the politicians and bureaucrats who run the Home Office and the UKBA, and ultimately with the Coalition Government. Jackie Nanyonjo was a victim of the immigrant bashing policies of Theresa May, the racist Home Secretary.

The Movement for Justice is putting the UKBA on trial for Jackie's murder. Jackie is by not the first person to die at the hands or through the actions of the UKBA but we want to make sure that she is the last. Justice for Jackie means above all exposing the UKBA before the Court of Public Opinion, challenging its power so that what happened to Jackie never happens to anyone else, and shutting down Yarl's Wood detention centre. It means building the movement that Jackie joined, in Yarl's Wood and other detention centres and outside, in our communities and on our campuses, and end the injustice of detention and deportation. Join us this Thursday at the demonstration and speak-out at the Home Office on Marsham Street, London SW1.

End Detention! Stop Deportations! Defend Asylum Rights!
Open Borders & Equal Citizenship for All!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Kew diary 1

What to do with a year's pass for Kew gardens? Go there lots and record the beautiful plants, trees, wildlife of course!
I'll never be able to do it properly justice but will have a go over the months, maybe do a bit of drawing there when it's less busy. This visit was on a very cold day so was mostly spent indoors. March is Orchid month at Kew - hundreds of the things in wild bursts of colour - so exotic when all is a bit drab and wintry outside the glasshouses.


 I'm particularly drawn to the cactii - the shapes are just wonderful.

Another indoors gem is Marianne North's gallery. It's possibly the worse presentation of paintings I've ever seen but is strangely compelling after the initial overwhelming tumble of colour and detail. Two rooms stuffed with botanical paintings by an intrepid woman born in 1830 I think. She set about travelling when she turned 40, visiting around 17 countries, often painting alone in forests, jungle, plains and swampland. What a woman!