Thursday, 23 October 2014
Duck keeping. But not for long.
Live aboard boaters who squat the towpath or river bank are never that popular with local communities. I have always reckoned this antipathy and suspicion is partly due to jealousy and the "why should they" factor. Why should they, not have to pay mooring fees, sit about all day smoking roll-ups and drinking tea when I have to work to pay my mortgage on this dull little house etc. It's part of the human condition to want freedom but also to fear it, and fear those who we think may have more of it than we do. But another reason for a negative attitude toward the towpath squatters of our inland waterways is the junk that tends to accumulate on the bank. The cramped conditions on a narrowboat or small cruiser mean that it's very tempting to keep stuff out on the bank and although this might start out as a pile of firewood and a couple of bikes, it's amazing how stuff builds up. I was certainly no better than anyone else in this respect when I lived on the canals, graduating eventually to the keeping of poultry on the towpath. There is a sad story attached to this that I was reminded of by a recent comment on the blog. The poultry keeping started with a few bantams but eventually I decided to diversify, as farmers say nowadays, and expand into duck rearing. At no small expense I ordered four Khaki Campbell ducks from an advert in the Exchange and Mart. The beautiful looking birds were dispatched by rail, collected from the nearest station and bedded down in the new home I had made for them. In the morning they were gone. Had made a successful bid for freedom and were happily swimming along the canal where all efforts to recapture them proved futile. I was heartbroken.
My efforts at guerrilla gardening were far more rewarding. I found a small clearing right next to the canal that was almost completely surrounded by brambles and by some adjustments to the hedge was able to create a secret garden safe from both the cattle in the adjacent field and the prying eyes of passers by. The watering of the plot during what was to prove to be a very hot, dry summer, was a masterstroke. As the hidden plot lay below the level of the canal I was able to rig up a syphon with a hosepipe and in this way was able to grow quite a bit of veg and a not inconsiderable quantity of dope. That's yer towpath squatters for you all over - give 'em an inch and they take the piss.