Waterway SOS

by Ian H Bruce (2015)

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Just twelve more locks 'til we reach the top level
Just twelve more locks, then we'll stop for the night
Though lock walls are leaking, paddle gear's creaking
Through hell and low water, we'll get up this flight

We've struggled through duckweed, deep silt and tall reed
Removed poly bags and rope wrapped round the prop
We've scraped and been scratched as we pushed through the bridge holes
Despite all obstructions we'll get to the top

Is this a song of canals in the sixties?
Unfortunately not, it's a tale of today
While towpaths are tarmacked so cyclists can fly past
Boaters are struggling with stoppage delays

Am I bitter and twisted with glasses rose-tinted?
'Cos I can't help but think how things were in the past
Dereliction, restoration, a waterway salvation
Now in decline, with repair list that's vast

Where is the workforce that maintained the system?
Now we only see those who work for no pay
More public relations and pleas for donations
The responses to crises occurring most days

With a crumbling system near unfit for purpose
Boaters and boats may soon disappear
Heritage in distress, waterway SOS
A plea for paid workers, don't exploit volunteers

Just twelve more locks 'til we reach the top level
Just twelve more locks to paint on this flight
The locks are still leaking and paddle gears creaking
But the balance beams shine - pristine, black and white

A modern canal protest song which, I would like to make clear, is not 'anti-volunteers', many of whom do a very valuable job. However, there is a huge list of significant repairs needed to be done on the waterways and insufficient funds and workforce to carry them out. The idea that honest working men and women should lose their jobs as a result of the greed of bankers and financiers (who seem to have suffered little during the current austerity measures), and that a lot of the work previously done by this workforce should then be done for no pay by volunteers seems incredible. How do the politicians get away with it?