Wednesday, 12 August 2015

ReadBev 34. Bankers & Businessmen

Bananas in Heaven  - 12/08/2015

I am blown away by the succinct explanation of human behaviour by Yuval Noah Harari on this TED talk (click link to watch… it’s only 17 minutes). Here we have a simple explanation of how we got here, how it has become possible for us to embrace the story… but now to consider why.

The photo has nothing to do with it by the way... it's just I take thousands of pics, some ok, and never do anything with them so here's an opportunity to air a few.

Bankers & Businessmen

Lie to me
and let me live your dreams.
Your dream of your yachts and your mansions,
you can have them all
because I sweat and slave
and sleep the wretched nights away
with staggering exhaustion.

Punish me
if I dare to resign or get up off my couch
with my crisps and TV where you peddle your tales
of murder and mayhem and world domination saying
“See! Speech is free! Here's BBC!”.

Ignore me
to death
as I shoulder the load of your work and ideals,
heartfelt appeals and the glazed eyes of children that
you starved and made landless
with your profiteering plunder
of the world.

Blame me
for consumption and car and cancer of the ear at my mobile phone
while I gaze from a chemical haze through my lashless lids
at your yacht on my telly as I lie on my bed.
Blame me for the terrible cost I have laid
at the door of the starving society that you,
you  have enslaved.

BS Aug15



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Thank you again for reading; your encouragement has been the wind in my sails.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Painting the Tiller


I’m back. I’m painting the tiller. Buttermilk. Delicious colour goes on creamy and sweet. The brush makes silky streaks in the thick paint that then pulls tight to make a smooth shiny surface… stroke and dip. I dangle my legs over the edge of the stern and feel the water pull at my toes, a cooling breeze lifting up the evening from out this sunny day of hazy heat.

I’m back and didn’t even know I’d gone away. Decided for certain yesterday that if it came to it I would pack in the whole idea, sell the boat and start again at something else. I’ve done all I can do and can fight no more in this oppressive place that I wonder sometimes might be my own head. I start, I fight, I get disgruntled, I move. Deciding that. Acknowledging there was no more I could do, and after all, it’s a joke to think we are in control anyway… that seems to have brought me back.

Back to where? To here where I can potter and feel and be and know I am in present time. I feel the water tug and my Peccadillo hugs my butt to hold me up, up and away from the dark water. Oh what respect the water demands… I heard it call deep and treacherous the night the cat took a look ; a sucking indifference and fathomless disregard for the stuff of air and life and breathing. The canal is not the same as the singing sea. Confined to cut and lock and stagnant servitude it snatches at the drama and desolation of life and grieves for the communion of horses who understood such tethers on spirit that should run wild. And so is sadness drawn to the canal.

A father cycles past with his two boys on the towpath. He opens his voice in a loud cobble wobble and the boys join in with legs splayed, laughing. Merrily we sail along, sail along. The paint sticks and drips, and I wonder if I have added just enough thinners. My dad could have told me just how much if he’d been here. Could have told me what to do with all the paint and the engine and the fixing, so he could. But I’ll be fine and I learn every day. If I lived a hundred years I’d learn something new every day, and that begs the question… how can I assume I ever know anything if there is always so much to learn?

Cathy’s dad tells stories. The first time I met him he didn’t hardly speak till he was well pissed and his first talk to me was to tell me of the fine Scottish words that have been lost. “Kich.” he said. This being my first conversation with my father in law I was eager to continue the conversation so asked the only question I could think of.
“How do you spell it Mr McRae?”
“Q… U… I…”
“Oh for God’s sake don’t be so disgusting.” said Mrs McRae.
“Q… U… I…C… H… E…”
“Rubbish,” Said Helen, “that’s quiche.”

But another time, he cut through the rabble of a family gathering to expound “No welding on the Queen Mary.” Now we were talking. “Rivets. Just millions of rivets.”
“You’re kidding?” I said.
“Nope. Not a single weld. The blacksmith threw the white hot rivet up to the catcher… he had a cup… he’d catch it in his cup and never missed. The riveter would hammer it into the hole and there’d be a guy on the other side… the two of them would hammer at that rivet… one two, one two” … he swung his arms to and fro till you could hear the ringing blows in the ship yard … “and when that rivet cooled it pulled so tight nothing could ever part it.”

Mr McRae doesn’t walk so good these days. Years and years kneeling on the steel hulls of boats as a ships plumber have taken their toll. When he tells these stories his eyes lift out of here and now and transport you back to those grafting days when men hammered and strove and worked to build great ships of solid steel with not a single weld.

My Peccadillo is solid steel but nothing like those majestic old birds. But still she is a trusty dame with a fine line to her bows when you see her sail towards you on an autumn cut . I’d decided that whenever possible I would sail towards clients to collect them, rather than having them arrive at her moored. That would make a fine impression and folk could say “ooh what a fine barge I am going on.” and then the trip would be all the more special.

And I’d be standing at this fine buttermilk tiller, smiling.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

For Susan...

This return to CC is inspired by a fellow canal boater who plans to bring her narrowboat up the Clyde…

Well Susan I could gladly run you through the preparations we made, the fixtures, the cost, the hours and the sweat. The considerations seemed legion, and their implementation continued till the day before we left but even then, with all the advice in the world, things happened that we hadn’t prepared for.

I’m so glad we did it in good ship Peccadillo… but I’m even more glad we didn’t sink or die. 

Perhaps my overriding memory of both the Clyde and the Forth is the indifferent application of scale: water to boat. After the rigours of the wind-over-tide on the Forth Jubilee I was breathtaken to see the improved handling of Missee on Loch Fyne, she being 30 tons and 12’ beam compared to Peccadillo’s 16 tons and 9’6”. The 60 ton vessels I currently skipper on Loch Lomond are proportionally indifferent to the rather alarming waves that fetch up in a gale over the 26 miles from the south… but I imagine the calculation works the other way in the case of your 42’x7’ and, I’m guessing, less than 10 tons?

All of this said, I still dream of the day when the west coast of Scotland begins to realise its tourism potential and certainly there are moves to do so. The Marine Tourism Strategy is dubbed “Awakening the Giant” but I feel that better describes the tide of activity on the canal right now! 

Yes, the firth of Clyde. There was a day up Loch Long, surprisingly sheltered from the winds of the morning, with water like glass and a view of Scottish hills that is the envy of the all the world… and I though surely… surely we could get a wee flotilla of canal boats down the Clyde and onto these moorings for a weekend…

That’s the key though; company. The outcome on the Forth would have been very different if Donald hadn’t been there in the rib to flatten the waves so that I could turn Peccadillo out of the wind into the mouth of the Carron. At one point there were to be 5 of us heading west but in the end it was just Peccadillo, and if I was ever in that position again I would get a little budget to hire one of those many lads with their ribs… so many out there who would love such an adventure. Consider that if you do it Susan.

Consider that and plan your tides, you have to use them. Never take any wind over the tide but if you’ve time for a whisky one evening I’ll sing you a story (not really sing!) of a force 5 behind Missee on Loch Linnhe that swept us into Corpach at nigh on 8 knots… oh joy. Not least of all because we were finishing with the sea! 

But with all the planning in the world you can’t predict wash from other vessels, and there is one particularly bad catamaran ferry between Dunoon and Greenock that creates dangerous rolling breakers for a wash… they travel for miles. Our breakdown between Greenock & Sandbank was fuel blockage, with sludge having shaken up in the old steel tanks (who has access to the fuel tanks for cleaning?) so would recommend, for a tidal journey, a gravity fuel feed from a smaller portable; canal boats don’t use a lot of fuel at 4 knots. 

The RNLI were marvellous, and impressed with our chart/tidal/route planning and tow preparations. It was Davie Brown who helped me rig up a large rope all the way round the stern after Jimmy warned of the dangers of towing a steel longboat in rough waters. They can simply tear apart. But rest assured, it’s a known fact with sailors that the RNLI will never ever criticise or correct anyone for calling them out as their greatest concern is that a boater in distress may, through embarrassment, delay making the mayday or pan pan call for even a few minutes, and those minutes may make the difference between life and death.

Fortuitous it was that Peccadillo broke down and turned home… because as she left Rhu for Bowling one of the fins came away from her prop. As I wrestled the old one off (fortunately through the weedhatch, Ian… we didn’t have to crane out) to replace it with the one that the angel Joe had brought, I cast my mind back to the start of Clyde to Caledonia at Edinburgh Quay… to the bump bump bump down the Union that I squarely blame for the large crack that that was evident once we got it off. Man I must have hit at least six large obstructions up there; my wide beam, though technically 18” draft… but she hunkers down in that shallow water, even at 2 knots. With all the preparation in the world we couldn’t have known about this… imagine if it had gone on the Dorus Mor…. 

And that’s quite enough of a story Susan… forgive me for waxing lyrical but it has been wonderful to return to the Odyssey. I’m so glad I did it but I really don’t want to do it again… but if you do, call me for crew! We need more adventures, more boats, but yes, sensible ones.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Here are the Clyde to Caledonia Waters

Collected from Peccadillo, Missee and a little dolphin watching vessel in the Moray Firth...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Bowling Beach and Margaret

I’m picking up the blog again after coming somewhat undone with Clyde to C…
Never mind, all journeys are good and it seems I’ll get a chance to gather my waters after all, setting off with Colin and Ann on their barge Missee tomorrow, Wednesday, headed for Ardrishaig. Meanwhile come for a walk on the beach with me… a letter to my sister Juliette.
(You can also see it on the Clyde to Caledonia blog .)

Margaret Donaldson
I learned today of the passing of fellow poet Margaret. What an aching space this will make in our Bank Street Writers group, but I am glad to hear she went peacefully. The poem below is not finished but I wanted to put it up today.

Bowling Beach
Keep this secret Bowling beach to yourself; it’s an Eldorado for mosaic artists like Jane and Julie and for stained glass masters like Joyce. Just before the Erskine Bridge at bowling the River Clyde narrows significantly, and Julie and I believe that boats of old (and, sadly, of today) ditched their rubbish overboard when entering and leaving the city. Tumbled glass and pottery can be found in abundance, and this is where, after the gales of 2 January, I found 46 complete vintage bottles, perfectly preserved in river mud, in which I am now collecting waters of the west coast. She heard a story once that tea clippers from China would bulk up their ballast with that blue and white china (broken or no?) and then ditch it before they docked to deliver their cargo; can anyone confirm or refute?

Letter to Julie

How generous Bowling beach was today! Clambering down to the beach I could tell there were major changes; two huge trees had been deposited in the middle of your stick drawn sand grid, long gone. Standing next to them I raised my eyes to the tops of the wall staves, way above my head, and sensed the volume of water that must have been swirling about this very space … my head under water…. for these giants to drift over and settle here. 

It was a spring tide, low. Extremis. Low low low. I knew it because the timing of the tides has woven into me after weeks and months of watching them and the weather. I still watch the weather… check the winds and their direction. Winds and rain, wonderful rain that flattens waves. So low was the tide that treasures stretched in all directions; I hardly knew where to begin. As I arrived the Waverley was passing, her grand red funnels towering through the trees as she pattered her way to Glasgow along the dribble of river the tide has left.. Richie took fright and bolted away from the beach. I remembered that the last time we were here the Waverley came by when just as fireworks display had gone off at Erskine Hospital across the water… he’d been terrified. Poor chap. Had to keep him on a lead the whole time.

To the high wall  I went first, where we found the stag horn driftwood. Among the scabby plastic I found a whole coconut with a missing eye. Peering in I could see the solid white flesh, perfectly in tact, and when I tipped it up the creamy milk poured onto he beach. What a thing! Where could that have travelled from? A distant island or a fairground in Largs or a passing ship… such stories we could tell! I split it on a rock to reveal clean white coconut…what to do with it?? Couldn’t eat it; much as I love this beach its filth is poisonous. Failure to wash hands after foraging will guarantee a dose of the runs. I could take it home for the birds… but in the end I left it there on the beach.

What other treasures were there? One complete wee green medicine bottle, ancient bits of blue & white pottery (can I put them in your box?) and one extraordinary piece of green tile, well worn. Many excellent bottle necks and just one glass stopper. A tiny round compact, so old that all marks were gone. The little catch dutifully opened as I pressed it but alas, the hinges came apart as it opened, and the dark, odourless, sandy kept its history for a secret.

Richie was leaning forever shoreward in his collar, whites of his eyes straining backwards on his face in relentless anticipation of explosions and certain death at the Erskine Hospital for old soldiers.

The sun was getting on down by now and a wistful sunset began to paint itself on the Clyde. I cast a loving glance ever and again towards the Kyles. Such an ache was in my heart for this firth; not sad or regretful but full and hopeful. It is not done yet. To get a boat for THESE waters, now that would be worthwhile.

I sat on the top of my plastic bag of treasures, promised the river I’d stay there till the curlews cried again in the shallows across the way. For an age that soft crrrr crrrr crrrrrr had carried across the water from the mud flats like a river’s caress. They were quiet now. Only oystercatchers and seagulls shouted to echo the noise in my head… stupid thoughts squawking incessantly.

I sat. I waited. But the curlew didn’t cry. The dog strained in his leash and the cold of wet sand began to creep into my buttocks. 
What’s the time Mr Wolf? 
Two curlews past a heron.

The sun dropped further in the sky, clouding over, chilling. 
Come on curlews I whispered, chastising myself for such pathetic commitment to even this, the tiniest of meditations. In the end the dog began such distraught whimpering, casting back and forth, that I abandoned my vigil with a soft apology to the waiting curlews.

What else did I find? Two tennis balls for Richie, a beautifully rusted big spring and the tiniest bright red apple you ever did see. Perfectly formed. Perhaps the greatest treasure was an ivory and tortoiseshell clothes brush… ancient… bristles all gone to reveal a startling pattern of dark, black holes in contrast to the soft brown magic on top. NOW I wanted you there, wanted to shout LOOK at THIS my Julie!!! And looking up I thought how if you were here we’d come picnic here, spend a whole day… or if not a day a good few hours round this lowest tide, scouring the beach and maybe making wobbly sculptures with our finds. I laughed to think how others might turn their noses up at this filthy beach, littered with tampon applicators and old plastic bottles bleached and blind. But for you and me? A treasure trove! And if you’d been here you’d have helped me wrestle free that fine length of coir rope around the trunk of that well travelled tree. We’d coil it up and bag it and march back to the boat for all the world like two hunters with the low slung dripping carcass of a stag, slain to save the starving village.

Back at the boat we’d brave the rolling of disbelieving eyes as we laid out one precious piece after another on blank, damp swathes of kitchen roll. The air would be filled with happy chat of mosaics made and to be made, or candlestick sculptures of white wax dripping over tumbled green bottlenecks.

Eventually the rolling eyes would shout and the table would be conquered in favour of dinner. Precious blue pottery would be packed into cardboard boxes as you flew back to Canada and I returned to a world of nonsense in which coconuts are not shy of their labelled packets, brushes must have bristles, apples must be largely eaten off pieces of pottery that form entire plates. Bottlenecks must needs be attached to their bodies to make soft glugging sounds as we pour their whisky out.

And boats? Boats must be sold to settle mortgages. Not sit expensively round to welcome home marauding beach parties and tease dreamers into planning voyages of folly.

love, Bev

Margaret Donaldson
You are the dark green of the moss.
Not even the moss but the shadow beneath it,
moss, so damp, long after the rain has been.
You are the brightness of the sun on stone
long after its story has set.

I find you in this sacred ancient place,
find the prints of horses hooves,
myths in soil turning to gallop past
the bark of a thousand trees into
a sky of a thousand blues.

You are the air between the feathers
of  the gryphon swan, the story of
a thousand lives, from knighted lands
long, long ago. A glint
in the storytelling eye.

You are all around.

I was there you said, I was here.
And now I go elsewhere.

BS Aug12

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Prop Repaired

A million thanks to Joe and Teresa for bringing a replacement prop out late last night (getting home to Kirkintilloch goodness knows when he had to be out on the road by 5 this morning) to Davie Waterson for the prop, Davie Morrison for tracking another down, Jimmy and Anne for putting up with running commentary of procedure and panic... Wow how lucky I am to be so surrounded by loving support... And how I aware I am I have stretched it to the limit! Let's not forget Mike who hung around with his indomitable good cheer as I got the prop off and, even as I type, is undertaking yet another arduous bus journey to Rhu to crew with me today.

My writing, you observe, has descended into relatively inarticulate functionality. So tired sweeties but pregnant with stories that I look forward to harvesting. Meanwhile if you want a flavour of the magic go to the breathtaking blog of Gerald... The Frenchman who materialised out of the mist of some mariner's tale on a hand made yacht with a matching dog called Vega. He and his photos are out of this world. Just enter these search words in google and click on the translate option next to the link... Unless, of course you would like to read it in French? keikiwai gerald blogspot