Sunday 23 September 2018

a sinking

The Kennet and Avon Canal can be a tricky place to moor your boat; often the sides are shallow, and you need to keep your distance from the bank and use a plank to get ashore. You also need to protect the boat against the pull and drag of passing boats, especially if they're going fast; which they shouldn't, especially past moored boats, but often do.  

Where I'm moored near Avoncliff, there is a concrete cill below the surface; I space my boat from it with a floating car wheel, and brace it with a plank; then run a spring line in addition to the two mooring lines. That combination is usually proof against whatever the canal throws at it.

On Friday evening, the boat started sliding to and fro, and scraping violently against the cill. After the third time, I swung open the galley hatch to see what was going on; speeding boats will push water far ahead of them in the canal, rather like what happens to water in a syringe when you push down on it, and I wondered what was coming.

Two hireboats had just come at speed round the bend from Bradford on Avon. They lost control and went into the offside bank; careered off with the use of poles; and collided with Deb's boat, just up from mine.  George, whose boat is just around the corner they'd come round, was following them; their wake had thrown his boat around particularly badly; and they were shouting abuse at him, then at Jim and Deb, who had come out too, and Jenny, in the boat between us. "When was the last time you paid Council Tax? -Are you on drugs?" and so on. They were drunk, and obviously enjoying the fun. "Do you want to say anything to me?" asked the young bloke on the bow of the first boat. "No; I do not" I replied. I did, though, call the shouty fellow on the tiller a "fucking entitled shit". He, indeed they all, had that braying drawl that you associate with the feral middle classes and the arseoisie. He responded by calling me a "tranny". I suppose it was intended as an insult.

They carried on at speed, their shouting receding into the distance. Passing Laura's boat, they cause things to fall off the shelves in her kitchen; she asked them to slow down; they responded with "Oh shut up; not you as well; fuck off you cunt".

The canal social media was alive with reports of their progress, and of complaints made to the police and to the hire company. Apparently the police did come out and have a word with the young men. But the next morning there were further reports of drunkenness, speeding and abuse as they proceeded to Bathampton.

But the next morning also revealed that George's boat had been sufficiently damaged by the thumping it had received, to sink overnight. He'd been woken at 4:30 to find the cabin awash. By daylight, it was sitting firmly on the bottom of the canal.

The boaters swung into action, bringing the community emergency pump down from Bradford wharf, collecting dry clothes and Useful Stuff, brewing coffee, making bacon butties. The day was spent shoring up and pumping, in rain that varied from light to heavy, but always persistent.

And by dusk, we'd got absolutely nowhere. 

George is being put up on a friend's boat for now. There may be further attempts at salvage today. But he has lost his home, at least for now and possibly completely; and all he owns is soaked through or ruined.

And still the jolly young men are on the hireboats, partying, at Bathampton. Though I understand that the hire company will not be letting them steer the boats back to Hilperton themselves. So the canal continues to be a theme park where outsiders can come to act out vicious, drunken and antisocial behaviour with impunity, and then go home to their 'respectable' lives.

There's a Crowdfunder to help George, here 

back to it on Sunday afternoon

Tuesday 4 September 2018

further adventures in Cisland

I was just getting out of the car when the phone went.

"Hello; I'm standing outside your boat and got the number from the window. You do bike repairs?"

"Sort of; for friends and emergencies. What's the problem?"

"Oh, my bike needs a service..."

"Sorry; I'm trying to get some paintings done just now"

"Oh! You're an artist?" -he sounded very excited.

"Um, yes..."

"I wonder if I could make a video of you at work? -I make films; I'm in a club, and there's a competition..."

"I'll be back at the boat in a few minutes; if you hang on, we can talk face to face."

He could. We met, and introduced ourselves. He showed me one of his videos on Vimeo; it was very well filmed and put together, about a chap who goes flying. I tentatively agreed to do a couple of hours filming; he referred to me as "your good self" rather than simply "you", and as we were winding things up he called me "sir" - I thought I'd heard that earlier too, but didn't pick him up on it; sometimes life's too short... but the thought of spending more time with him without clarifying things was unbearable.

"You called me 'sir'. That's not what I am. My pronouns are she and her..."

"Oh! I really don't have a problem with that; I've a friend who's gay..."

He called me sir yet again and corrected himself to madam. And off he went on his bicycle that needed servicing.

I thought a bit about how much of a mission I felt to Spread Enlightenment. Once upon a time, people in academia were falling over themselves to find tame trans people to participate in their research for their PhDs. These days, of course, they just take the easier option and make things up, and then get them peer reviewed by their chums on Mumsnet. And then there was a flurry of interest in canal dwellers, as we are obviously lively and colourful and excitingly bohemian, and a gift to the
photographer, some of whom are cheerfully expanding their portfolios with us.

But I just couldn't face it. It's not my job to educate someone when they don't even consider that I may not care whether or not they have a problem with me.... I txted him. Sorry....