Sunday, 24 July 2011

An uphill task

Volunteer lockie Rob at work
Canalside suburbia at Rode Heath
A sunny Sunday brought cyclists, walkers and joggers out to join the boaters on a busy Trent & Mersey. I'm sure good fun was had by all though the joggers never look like they're enjoying it and the locks are damned hard work for us windlass wielders.
Suburbia has got the canal firmly by the throat for much of its hard climb toward Stoke. Canalside hamlets have become dormitory villages of look-alike 1980s 'executive' homes complete with the Hyundai 4x4 and Golf TDi on the drive. Will they ever gain the slightly shambolic charm of the old canal terraces they sit alongside? I doubt it. Certainly they lack the history - the old terraces were built to serve the canal, the modern houses look on it with a mixture of bemusement and annoyance.
At Rode Heath back in the 1980s the canal society managed to stop the demolition of a historic mill: local MP managed to overturn the decision. So in its place we now have a row of mock-Tudor homes shielding themselves from the canal's gaze with high hedges. A great improvement!
As we neared the end of the climb a pair of eager beavers in bright yellow jackets suddenly biked into view. They are BW 'volunteer lock operators' and whirled away getting us and those around us through the locks at high speed. Chris and Rob were good guys but this isn't just a bit of sunny Sunday volunteering - they are here every day.
Reason is that both are out of work - have never had a job in fact. "There are no jobs at all in Stoke," lamented Chris. I was telling his tale to another watcher a couple of locks later: "I know" he said "I've been out of work since March." After 27 years in environmental health work he was eased out in favour of a cheaper, younger replacement. He too is filling his time with volunteering.
Is this Cameron's 'big society'? A nation of job seekers filling in time opening locks or serving in charity shops before they're forced into some menial, minimum wage employment and join the ranks of Mcdonalds workers or call centre operators. On a boat you travel through ravaged towns like Stoke, where acre upon acre is razed flat, or Middlewich where the old salt industries are visibly rotting into the ground and you worry and wonder where the jobs; where the re-kindling of a flame of life will ever come from.
An uphill task indeed.


Anonymous said...

Yep.....That is the P.M's. BIG SOCIETY. He made the phrase Broken Britain his slogan....well it made have needed some care and attention but it was broken till he broke it.
Enough of this moaning...enjoy the Macc.

Sarah said...

I have noticed recently that charity chops are suddenly staffed by bright, personable young men, which is certainly a new development.