Nettie

Nettie

Interviewed on 16.08.2012

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[TRACK 1]

 

TONY WRIGHT:

This is Tony Wright, it’s the 16th of August 2012 and I’m talking to Nettie. Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

 

NETTIE:

Yeah. My name’s Nettie and I was born in Manchester on the 1st of January 1961.

 

TW:

A New Year baby.

 

N:

A New Year baby; I was born at three minutes past twelve midnight, so I was in the Manchester Evening News – photographs and……yeah, publicity the first day I was born, but I didn’t give my consent to that one

 

[laughing]

 

TW:

Right, well…..what was it like in Manchester growing up in the sixties then?

 

N:

Oh………interesting, very different from now; had a large extended family living around……..and obviously it was just after the war with Manchester being quite heavily hit, so there was a great sense of community spirit, there was a great sense of pride in the city and we rebuilding the city and making Manchester great again…….and then obviously there were people from lots of different cultures that had been brought in as well to help rebuild the city, so it was a really diverse community……very safe too, so I’m just looking; it looks like a horse-drawn…..is there and I’m wondering whether they need some assistance

 

TW:

Shall we stop to have a check?

 

N:

I think it might be worthwhile, yeah. I’ll just check…..I’ll just look out the window and see

 

-------------

 

N:

So yeah, it was………it was hard work; there were a lot, you know, people used to work hard but then………there were lots and lots of family members around as well to help, you know, look after the littlies, and could always like run down the street or run down the next street and go and see one of my aunties or my great-aunties or my cousins; it was a…..I’ve got very fond memories of it, looking back.

 

TW:

Do you think that……that feeling of community…..helping other people…..has that kind of lasted with you do you think?

 

N:

Very definitely, very very definitely yeah. When I think about the…….in my own lifetime, my history of the way that……working communities has been stopped, you know, factories, local industries, so that people have had to move away for work and the way it’s disseminated families, and so the lack of support that people now have…….yeah I can see that very clearly, and it’s……it’s one of the things that personally I think……I regret as a way of living for people, yeah.

 

TW:

I mean you live on a canal boat; is there a kind of community of canal people, or is that just a kind of wishful thinking on my part?

 

N:

It’s an interesting one, I mean that is still part of the ethos of the canal……in reality I think that the individualism that has being encouraged over the last couple of years has had an impact on people living on the canal, so it’s kind of in that kind…..in that kind of position where it’s quite tenuous in some kind of ways and it could really go – it could go either way. There’s moves on the canal for it to be……more weekend boaters; people who are using boats as second homes rather than people living on the canal, so that’s gonna have a massive impact on the canal culture as well.

 

TW:

Right…….thinking about back to Manchester really…..how did you end up in this part of the world then?

 

N:

Oh that one

 

TW:

I mean…..sorry, carry on

 

N:

………..that was…..that was really………..I don’t want to use the word ‘difficult’ ……….that was a particular part of my life where……..the divorce between my children’s father and myself had just come through, so I had to sell the family home…….and my partner at the time, it was their dream to come and live in Manchester, sorry, in Hebden Bridge…….so we kind of packed up - packed up the home - and…..but they then decided three weeks beforehand that they weren’t gonaa…..they weren’t gonna move in, so I’d got………the house in…..the house in boxes, we had two cats at the time who were on rescue remedy and the kids had….the kids had got new schools to come to and everything was in place, and then this news kind of hit that they weren’t gonna, you know, that they’d changed their mind and that they didn’t want to leave Manchester, so it was decision time and I decided that I…..that I was gonna do it anyway, because it was a beautiful part of the world and I did see that it was….it had the potential for giving my children a better…..a better lifestyle as well, because Manchester and changed lots and by this time….there was much more aggression and violence amongst people…..we’d moved to South Manchester, Stockport, by then, and the…..what was going on with the local kids was that they’d built an entertainment complex so that all the, you know, the kids would go down there which was a natural gravitation point, but then gangs would pick off individuals and chase them over the A6 onto Stockport Road and kids were getting knocked down and killed, and just seeing the way that culture was changing I thought ‘no I don’t’…….you know, if there’s an opportunity it’s not gonna be your first choice to put your kids in danger, and we were living up in Fairfield by the woods so the kids didn’t have to cross any roads to get to school or to do any of those kind of things, so we decided to keep on any move to Hebden.

 

TW:

Right. How long ago was that?

 

 

N:

That was ninety-seven, so that’s fifteen……fifteen years ago now.

 

TW:

Right. So are your kids still here?

 

N:

No [laughing] no, that’s one of…..I keep trying to get them back again, I keep saying ‘there’s some jobs here’ or, you know ‘there’s some houses’ or something……they’ve kind of picked up like a lot of kids of their age did, which was kind of ‘oh we’ve got to get out of the valley, there’s nothing here for me’ which isn’t actually true……I don’t think it’s true because both of them have taken……have developed their creativity, and so there are lots……there are lots of opportunities here but they’ve…..they’ve both gone to towns; one…..my youngest son, Alex, is in Huddersfield and James is in Leeds, in Leeds now, so they’re kind of…..they’re living not too far away but……

 

TW:

Was that for work did they go?

 

N:

James went to Leeds to go to uni, so you know that was a good reason and I can understand the reasons why he went, although he’s not doing that now and there isn’t any employment for him in Leeds, so……..but he’s stayed there and Alex is…..he went to Bradford College to go and study Graphic Design so he’s continuing his studies as well, but from a mum’s perspective it’s just not good enough reasons; there’s very good train links here from Hebden Bridge [laughing]……all that kind of thing, so yeah, they’re not living here now.

 

TW:

So do you they get this creativity from you then do you think?

 

N:

I think so, yeah……one of the things that I did when I became a single parent was I decided to do…..expand my education - I left school at sixteen - I wanted to go to college but I wasn’t allowed to go to college; I had an indenture as a hairdresser originally, and so when my marriage, my marriage stopped working I decided as a single parent that one of the things I could do was to go back to college and re-educate…..you know, continue my education so I went from taking further qualifications as a hairdresser to then being….doing a teacher training course so I could teach, and then went back and did Art Foundation so I used to take my…..my two sons into college with me, so they had a whole great big art college to move around in, and both of them have said that that was a huge great big influence on their lives, being with, you know, art students…..and they did have a great time; I didn’t see them that often because they’d be round the college talking to other people in different departments, and they’d come back with these amazing pieces of artwork that they’d created

 

TW:

Really?

 

N:

Yeah, so it has….and then you know, I was……I was…..part of what I was doing was making films…….and so yeah, both of them have said it had a huge impact on their lives which I’m really pleased about as well; they were listening….yeah, it was quite incredible; they did listen and they did take it in…..and I really love that as well; it is something that I encourage with them as well, is to, not matter what, is to keep…keep expressing yourselves, keep being creative, keep producing things that are important to you

 

TW:

What kind of films did you make?

 

N:

……I did…..what I was doing was taking lens based images and then turning them into other media, so……I did some stop…..some stop frame animations….and then I……did films which were…..could be just leaving a video camera somewhere and just seeing what the camera picked up, and then maybe taking one frame from that and then that could turn into a piece of….I was using a lot of textiles as well, so then that could be turned into like a textile piece or it could end up…..as a…..as a print……..and I also…..then some of them…..I kind of took frames and transposed them so my end piece was having two screens……crikey how to explain that…..so you’d have like one scene, one frame…..that would kind of like move……move along and then that would stop and then another, the other screen would start and then that would be a different……..it would be the same topic but with….from a different perspective so it was like the interplay between those two….those two scenes

 

TW:

So was it about time or was it about the images themselves?

 

N:

It was about….it was……I was…..it was about the images; I was looking at women in culture and women’s culture from lots of different perspectives so it could a working woman or it could be a mum who was working….it could be a woman from a different culture, it could be……you know and then transposed against, you know, a woman who was indigenous to this country, so it was about the interplay and the…..the juxtaposition of women and their experiences of being a woman in culture.

 

TW:

Did you use words at all as part of this?

 

N:

There were some, yeah there were some. The……my films were mainly without….without audio, but then there would be some words that maybe…..that were maybe just phrases that I’d heard or phrases that had been spoken and then those were put on the walls around where the screens were, so it wasn’t necessarily that one woman’s words were attributed to that woman, but it was kind of like the collective voices of women that were

 

TW:

So it was like an installation sort of piece really?

 

N:

Yeah it was an installation piece; and installations have really fascinated me because they could involve all of your senses as well, so……and I also used to use different smells as well, so it was very much a….a totally sensory kind of experience in installations, which I really loved….loved doing, and it was really interesting sitting with all the information that I’d gathered and then how to best kind of convey those experiences….and what methods to do that with, yeah, that was really interesting.

 

TW:

Well I have to ask this now…..alright……did you see that creative process that you were going through….did you see that as……as helping you develop yourself, your personality, or were you looking to aim it at some kind of a market or state a message to some sort of an audience, or was it a little bit of both maybe?

 

N:

It was a bit of both…..a bit of both, yeah. I’d………I naturally became a feminist through my upbringing I think……my dad was an only child and my mum was one of five daughters, so….and obviously being at home, there was a lot of women around when I was young…..and then seeing the way that it kind…..that culture changed and the impact on women from women being at home during the day and being the networkers and the community workers and the community supporters to…..the men having to go out to work, and my own experiences of…..you know, the changes that the divorce had had on myself and my living, that had cost a huge…..that had a huge impact and so it was…….it was a personal process of delving deeper into feminism and women’s culture, but then it also led me onto eventually becoming a Transcultural Councillor, and Relationship Councillor as well, so then my training… first of all I went to Manchester Met, Metropolitan University, and did a degree in Art and it was during that…..that period……you know, looking at different images and looking at the…..the way that art represents…..represents life and the people that were involved and affected by…..by the changes that were going on….took me on to training to be a councillor and a Relationship Councillor and a Mediator, so it did…..for me it all……for some people it seems like there were very big changes but for me it’s a really fluid kind of process, so, yeah.

 

TW:

What do you think about this…..okay, the women are at home and they did community networking and all the rest of it, and as society changed they had to…..or wanted to….go out and work and be independent. Now it seems to me that you’re saying that both of those are good things, so is…..is that right? Is that how you feel? Is it just an individual choice on which way you go with it then?

 

N:

I think it is……I personally…….it seems to me that women’s culture, women’s….. women’s gender…….isn’t…..it doesn’t have the same value as the masculine patriarchal, so for me it’s very much about value and importance being equal although it’s different, so there isn’t really any difference between going out to work and staying at home, but there are very much perceived differences and perceived values which I think influences women’s decisions as to whether they’re going to stay at home or go to work, I mean there is the…..there is….personally I think that there’s a lot of pressure on people you know, to have a job outside of the home or outside of the community, and that’s very much based on titles and labels and…..value of….value of an outside job rather than the intrinsic value of…..of what women can create, including children, so…….for me true equality is about equal value within…..within diversity and difference and I think that’s what’s very much missing at the moment.

 

TW:

Right. Well I suppose either way…….I mean you were raised with an extended family with lots of aunties and cousins I presume, but like you say a lot of that has disappeared, so if you’re a woman today and you decide to stay at home, do you think you get a bit isolated because you haven’t got that kind of network support?

 

N:

Yeah, I think that it can be a real struggle; I’m particularly thinking about young mums at the moment, because there aren’t the aunties around and there aren’t the…..the grandparents around who can kind of give you that advice when your child wakes up in the middle of the night with a temperature that it’s teething, and actually you just keep your child cool and it’s a natural…..you know, it’s a natural stage, you know, tantrums…..all the developmental stages that children go through……and because there are so many people who are at work, then you know, there are a lot of empty houses whereas at one time those houses would have been full and vibrant and busy and noisy and…..smelly as well, you know, all that really rich kind of cultural experience would have been much more present, so yeah I do think that it can be much more isolating for anybody to be….to be at home these days. I think in Hebden we’re kind of…….because it does have its own uniqueness, I think that…..I think that people still do value being at home and the network of people that are around during the day…….one of the jobs that I did was as…..it’s called CAMS; it’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health, which basically means that you work in the community and you support families basically, but you get paid for doing it……and that was a really interesting job and one that I loved because I would be working with mums who were, you know, or parents who would be saying ‘there’s something wrong with my child’ because they’d keep having temper tantrums, and they’re two and three years old, well it’s a normal developmental stage and there’s nothing…..there’s nothing abnormal about that, but actually helping the parents to manage that and to understand that it was a normal developmental stage; because they didn’t have any experiences and you know, very often there aren’t other parents around who are going through a similar thing……..and the other thing about it is because it’s somebody who isn’t part of your family, there’s a natural kind of cultural, family cultural….. experiences which we all have, and so the next family might do something very slightly different in the way that they’re managing things, so it kind of creates that……that very normal, usual kind of hesitation, slight suspicion, slight uncertainty about whether that is the right……the right thing, so……yeah there’s loads and loads about……about mums and people not being part of their natural family network.

 

TW:

Do you think that reflects in modern society, where there seems to be…….cultures or places where the culture for young people is……very difficult or deprived, and some of it has to do with bad parenting, you know, it’s not a great phrase to use, but because they didn’t have what you’ve just been talking about; they didn’t have like other family support, and…….and it just kind of goes that way because there isn’t the help that should be there.

 

N:

Yeah…….yeah definitely, I mean you hear a lot about, you know, the teenagers in the park, you know, I know I remember somebody making a comment that they were scared to walk through the park at night and I’m thinking ‘but they’re teenagers – you were a teenager – I was a teenager’……you know, and parks are the ideal places for teenagers to go to, you know, we don’t have youth clubs any more, you know, so that developmental stage isn’t kind…..it isn’t held in our culture and it isn’t……it isn’t something that’s facilitated or seen as normal; it’s kind of like being seen as abnormal……..you know and also, you know like…..you know, there’s that normal separation process that goes through and the individuation process that teenagers go through where they are gonna be different from their parents and they are gonna have different values, and having…..you know, those natural conflicts that kind of happen between parents and teenagers; at one time the teenager would have maybe gone to their grandma or the great-aunty or the cousin and you had a rant, and had a complaint about the parents, and it was normal, it was usual, there was nothing wrong with that, and now because there aren’t those kind of sounding boards, then children and teenagers are kind of pathologised within that process, and it’s a huge great big problem; and it’s not a huge great big problem, it’s just part of life……you know, they’re all so…….there’s a lot of………unnecessary concern about…..you know, paedophiles, people who are going to hurt [coughing] excuse me…..people who are gonna hurt children, and a lot of that is…….a lot of that is kind of media-led, it’s not…..it’s not true, so children are kept in their homes, they’re kept in their bedrooms, they’re put in front of their screens, you know, and the screen……dictates culture and it dictates values and it dictates lots of things……..it’s not my preferred way, but that’s the polite way of putting it, yeah.

 

TW:

Well just to follow up on one more question; do you think society then, or the powers that be I suppose is a better way of putting it, kind of undervalues young people in the sense that they only focus on them if they perceived there’s a problem with young people? They don’t actually give them good things to enjoy and do, and facilities in the hope that they’ll somehow struggle through but when the ones that go wrong go wrong, ‘oh those are the ones we have to focus on and try and sort out’ so you’re actually undervaluing all that youth, all those years of…….you know, teenagers I suppose, that sort of age; do you think that’s true?

 

N:

……yeah, I think that…..the…..we’re all organic, energetic, creative human beings; we create all the time and I think that with the way that media is, the way that the television is, the way that the computers are, it’s very limiting; it doesn’t allow the whole human freedom and creativity of expression, so you end up with people who are limiting themselves because we’ve given these very artificial limits by visual media and images, and…….when you have people, human beings going through developmental stages, human experiences of……..of becoming more energetic, because as we grow bigger we become more energetic – we have a bigger energetic field – and if that energy and that creative energy doesn’t have a place to move in, it doesn’t have a focus, then people become frustrated; it’s a natural human response, and so you get teenagers who have got all these hormones which are affected in the way they think, the way that they feel, their bodily changes, the way that they express themselves; when all that is suppressed and limited and not contained and facilitated and encouraged, then you get these explosive kind of reactions, and of course that’s gonna happen, and that is then pathologised and there is something then made wrong with that expression……you kind of get into this self-perpetuating kind of cycle. I think that……I do think that there is something in the naughty, undisciplined problem children……where that’s seen as something to be brought back into line, back into the mainstream, and more so it’s an interesting question – I’ve not really thought about it in these kind of terms before, but I’m thinking about my experiences of working in the NHS and working in the system, and what…..what occurred to me was that…..what was actually going on underneath the work that I was doing was that…..the purpose was to bring everybody back into line, into a system which obviously wasn’t….wasn’t working for the vast majority of human beings, so I think that a lot of the…..a lot of the services that are provided for the wayward ones is actually just to bring them back into line rather than to find a way of those individual…..human beings finding a place that they can naturally gravitate to, so it’s an interesting…..it’s an interesting kind of question. I’m gonna think about that one a bit more Tony.

 

TW:

Okay, fair enough. I wanna try and change it a little bit………….now I don’t wanna get too personal here, but living on a canal boat…..It would be interesting to know just a little bit about what you have to do to live on a boat that’s different than living in a house shall we say, and…..how you kind of like do it differently I suppose.

 

 

N:

Yeah, okay, well I mean the first thing is you’re not hooked up to the mains in any way, so I have….so I use a solar panel so that means that I’m dependent on, one on the weather to provide me with power but also I’m very conscious of how I distribute the power that I do have, so I run on twelve volt mainly…..so I don’t have a TV, I limit my……my screens, the screens that I have are very limited and I enjoy that; it’s nice unhooking from the mainstream……mainstream culture, but then there are things like……water, so most boats have a water tank so it means that you become very conscious of the amount of water that you use……..things like collecting wood and coal to, you know, to keep warm, that’s another one, so generally what….what I tend to do is to collect my resources in the summer when I’m not using very much of them so then I’ve got supplies of them during the winter…….I have a pump-out toilet so that means that although the toilet looks like quite conventional it goes into a storage holding tank which then has to be pumped out, that’s about once every six weeks, so it means travelling from…..wherever I am into a pump-out station to get those done, so I call it my empty and fill time, so I’ll go and empty the loo and I’ll go and fill up the water tank, so those two, kind of like those two kind of change balances, and then you’ve got a smaller space as well so your space becomes much more precious…..and there is….part of the culture of the canal is that you don’t go on anybody else’s boat without…..without knocking and getting permission first. People that come from houses don’t really understand that a lot, you know, so if the doors are open it’s seen as an invitation to walk in and it isn’t; it’s because actually I’m just getting some air into my boat, you know, and I’m just airing…..just airing it out……other…..other differences……is the maintenance that a boat requires as well, you know, so there’s always something that needs to be done; it’s a bit like a combination between a house and a vehicle, whereas you’ve got all those daily routines that need to be done but then there’s keeping an eye on the maintenance of you know, of a water vessel as well, so….yeah, so those need….that needs to be checked and maintained…………yeah, it’s very much about…….it’s very much about your own individual day-to-day maintenance and survival so you have to keep a check, you know, on all those things that I’ve mentioned……….and it’s…….it’s a very much more self-sufficient, more autonomous kind of way of living which I personally really enjoy; you’re not dependent on the state for……for your day-to-day resources; it’s, you know, it’s very much about you being much more…..it makes you very much more aware of…..your relationship with resources and your relationship with the outside world as well; I really enjoy that.

 

TW:

So you don’t have to pay like council tax or any of that sort of thing, which is what people in houses have to do because that pays for………you know, the water in the toilet and all the rest of it, so is it a much cheaper way of living?

 

N:

It has been………the way that it kind of works is that you pay a licence to be on the water and then a licence to be able to stop as well, so there’s two different taxes that you have, and so really you’re paying for the maintenance of the canal and the towpaths which is obviously part of the bigger……the bigger community, and then what the authorities, how they kind of distribute that money with the local Town Councils, is their kind of….their kind of business. Traditionally it has been, it has been a lower cost than living in houses but the…..there’s kind of……there’s a……it’s being structured now; there are lots of changes going on and it’s being structured so that it isn’t seen as a cheaper way of living. I don’t know quite how that’s gonna work, but there is……

 

TW:

It’s become a charity; it’s been…..the waterways have been given over to a charity now who…..who kind of run it rather than the British Waterways…..has that happened yet? I’m not sure it has or not.

 

N:

It’s just come in at the end of July.

 

TW:

Oh right.

 

N:

Or the beginning of July; it has just come in, so there are things like all the vans have now got new sign writing on and all the sign posts have got……have got new signs and the workers have got new signs and new uniforms and badges and everything…….and we’re told about the changes that have been implemented; one of the things that they’re talking about, one of the big changes that it seems to be is that they’re not very keen on liver boards, so people who actually have their home on a canal boat, that isn’t now being encouraged……they’re wanting to stop the canal side mooring; that is something that they’re not very keen on, particularly between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden they’re turning it into what’s known as a leisure corridor, so all the…..so your licencing fees are now being spent on tourism rather than the maintenance of the canal.

 

TW:

What kind of tourism have you got between here and Tod?

 

N:

Walkers mainly.

 

TW:

Oh, so it’s nothing to do with how the canals are being used that encourage other people?

 

N:

Yeah……yeah, it’s very much about other people; it’s….so it’s kind of like the historic….it’s interesting because they’re talking about…….information points about the history of the canals, but the canals are crumbling; the canal walls are crumbling, the locks aren’t working properly. Because you get a lot of tourists on the canal who aren’t really conscious about…..about how fragile actually the environment is at the moment…….they can be quite forceful in the way that they’re actually using the locks and……and using the canals, so a lot of damage is done and then the…..the money isn’t there, or we’re told the money isn’t there to….to repair and replace things that need doing, so…….it does seem like quite a fragile environment and the….the change-over……is interesting; I’m not really quite sure where it’s going yet. It doesn’t look…..on paper it doesn’t look like…..there’s room for the facilitation and the….the continue…..the continued use of the canals as somewhere to live, you know, it’s more about people living in the marinas, so that is people…..in marinas it tends to be that people live side by side and that the canal boats face, you know, kind of like alongside each other, so

 

TW:

Another form of terraced housing [laughing]

 

N:

Yeah definitely, yeah, without the insulation and without the soundproofing, you know, so that’s not something that I’m…….I’m resisting; I’m gonna resist that really strongly and I know a lot of the people are going to as well; it’s……it kind of takes people back into the very thing that you’re trying to get away from, and if you kind of think that they’re not really going to be encouraging people to live aboard the boats, then the marinas are very much kind of like car parks you know, and, you know, so people will be on the boats at the weekend, and I’m assuming from that that’s when people will take the boats out……they’re looking at…….instigating kind of like parking metres along the canal as well, so if you moor overnight you pay your car park, you know, you pay your mooring fee overnight, but then again, you know, it’s kind of like being taxed for the same thing that you’re already paying for because you have a licence which is kind of like…..your mooring fees……..so how it’s gonna be in….I think it’s interesting because like they’ve got the new things that they want…..they want to implement and legislate, and then there’s actually the practicality of how it’s actually gonna be managed and how it’s gonna transpose into real life……it’s……it’s an interesting situation. As far as I know……CART, the Canal and River Trust, has negotiated with the Government but the Government has no legislation or jurisdiction over what the charity actually does, so whereas before British Waterways was told that they couldn’t make people homeless, CART don’t have that same responsibility, so how that is gonna transpire is anybody’s guess….I don’t want to go back into a house; there aren’t houses available to house all the potential thousands of people that could be made homeless now; it’s gonna be an interesting situation.

 

TW:

Well to…..to look at the silver lining perhaps, and I might be totally false here, but do you think this might be a blip; it’s brand new……there’s an economic crisis going on and so they’re thinking ‘how can we make money out of it?’ but maybe in you know, a few years’ time, five years down the road, they’ll realise that…..to make money is to keep it sustainable, and part of that process is by having people live on it; do you think they might think that way in a few years’ time?

 

N:

…..I’ve no idea how these people think! [laughing]…..they have a very different way of thinking to the way that I kind of think….I do think that perhaps they’re, you know, it’s……..they’re trying to problem solve all the time rather than looking at it as a sustainable way; that’s the only…..I don’t know, I don’t know Tony…….the way that I see it is that the people who are in power, are in control….create the problems……and then they leave it for somebody else to…..create the solutions, I don’t know……..I don’t know…I’d be making things up if I tried…..if I tried to answer that one, so I don’t know.

 

TW:

Okay………..okay, well we’ll stop that….that bit then. I suppose more generally about the canal, I mean what you’ve been saying is that there are a fair few people in this area who live on boats on the canal, but you also get quite a lot of tourists passing through, and I know you mentioned that they sometimes mock up the locks because their knowledge of the…..of the working mechanisms and what have you isn’t that great, but how….generally how do…..you know, people who live here permanently, how do they actually get along with tourists, people who pass through, you know, on weekends or whatever, you know?

 

N:

It depends; I think it’s very individual……..part of the problem with…..because of the tourists and the limited knowledge that they have is that they don’t realise that when they’re go past…..a bit too closely to other boats, especially those that are moored up, or they go a bit too fast, you know, what you see on the outside is the boat rocking a little bit; what you can get on the inside is your washing-up crashing onto the floor, or things being knocked off shelves, so…..that can be frustrating……you know, things about, you know, the water because……again, because a lot of people are coming out of houses and cars and roads which is a very…..quite a fast pace of life and the canals area a slower pace of life……there is quite a lot of impatience which kind of goes on. I’ve had situations where it’s necessary for me to flush out my water tank periodically and people who are on hire boats don’t realise that that is a part of…..the necessary part of the maintenance of the boat, and so they see you kind of like flushing water through and…..and they want to get to the next…..they want to fill up with water and get to the next place really quickly, you know, and that can mean that there’s frayed tempers that, you know, that kind of happen. I’m not……I’m not a great fan of people bowing down to the tourism and the tourist pound…….in my experience it means that a lot of the……..when things are being planned and designed the focus is on tourism and that means that you kind of get a two tier system kind of going on. In Hebden now we’ve got lots and lots of coffee shops but we’ve….we’ve lost shops which were fundamental to the survival and the provision of……provision of every day necessities for local people, so people are now travelling out of town to get the things that Hebden Bridge used to provide quite naturally……so…….it’s…..it’s an interesting situation and I guess that if……if your focus is tourism and providing limited facilities for limited people for a limited period of time, then their agenda is very different from providing services which need to be maintained and maybe have more longevity in them, and the balance hasn’t been reached yet I don’t think; I think there’s…..I think hopefully that is something that will kind of transpire and will develop naturally over a period of time, but there is very much a two tier system, you know, going on. Sometimes I’m kind of told that……that I’m seeing it wrongly, is that you know, what we need to do is to look after the tourists and we need to be nice and benevolent towards the tourists and I kind of think well hold on a minute, how does that work? It has to be a two….it has to be a two way thing; there needs to be much more education, and much more understanding from people who come in….for a week or two…..you know, and the impact that they actually have on the local economy and the local infrastructure of communities, the canal included.

 

TW:

Who tells you you’re looking at it wrong then?

 

N:

………I’ve been told that by Town Councillors, I’ve been told that by…….tourists, I’ve been told that by some people who live around here, so it comes from lots….it comes from lots of different kinds of areas.

 

TW:

I wanna talk a little bit about technology. I mean you have this solar panel which is like…..new technology in a way, but obviously you can’t generate huge amounts of electricity so you’re gonna be very limited…..to the other sort of things that you can have. Do you have any kind of technology at all, like computers or phones or iPads or any of these sort of things?

 

N:

Yeah, I have a phone; I’m charging that on twelve volt at the moment. I have a music system; that’s all twelve volt so…..don’t know whether you can see the speakers; these speakers were designed by LED Fantastic which is a local company, so that everything…so I’ve had things made specifically on twelve volt. I have a twelve volt…..DVD player and I have a notebook which is similar to a computer or a laptop but doesn’t have as many resources, so it means that some of the processes that you would use for games or you would use for…….a lot of the highly interactive parts of computers aren’t in a notebook, so I use it for collecting e-mails and for doing research and that’s kind of like the limitation of…..of the notebook that I have, but I’m quite happy with that…….but that was a lifestyle choice that I made quite consciously, is that I don’t want to be told what to wear, what to eat, what to think……what to buy from a screen, so I’ve quite consciously unhooked from a lot of the mainstream media…..I do have back-up as well on the boat, I mean I can run my engine and I do have an inverter as well so I can, if I choose to, use a different way of collecting power; I prefer not to because I don’t actually think it’s necessary to life to have lots and lots of gadgets and things; it doesn’t really bring any enhancement to my life, I’d much more get out and go for a walk than put the telly on and……watch a programme on the countryside….yeah! [laughing]…….and yeah, I like it like that……..you know and also I think that twelve volt solar panels and some people use wind turbines as well to generate power; it’s a much more sustainable way of being and the more people who choose that as an option, the more the technology will develop, so……..I like it, yeah, I like it like this, it’s good, it’s good

 

[laughing]

 

TW:

Other people who, you know, live on canals; are they that way inclined as well or is there quite a wide range of views about…..you know, energy and technology, and that in general?

 

N:

Well yeah I mean there are different ways, you know, just because you’re on a canal boat doesn’t mean to say that you’re all living the same lifestyle; some people will have hook-ups so the boat is connected to a source of power, you know, back into the main grid again so some people do have televisions and microwaves and…..you know, computers; some people do have that……..and you know, and that’s their choice. I’m part of Calderdale Boat Club which is subscribed to what’s known as LILO which is the Low Impact Liver Board, so that is very much about…..it’s called alternative isn’t it? Alternative technology and actually I don’t think it is alternative technology; I kind of see televisions and microwaves and things as the alternative……so it depends on your…..it depends on your perspective, you know, some people have access to houses as well so they may have a family member who has a house so they can go and use the house for certain parts of their existence and their subsistence……..I don’t and I choose not to.

 

TW:

Are there people who live on boats who, instead of being moored up in one place or one area most of the time, kind of spend their life touring the country and just gradually…..you know, move from this area to that area to the next, and their lifestyle is basically just moving around all the time? Do you know people who do that sort of thing?

 

N:

Yeah, there are some people that I know and they tend to be retired people or people who have…….who have got the wherewithal to travel round and some people do. Most people tend to stay in a locality, so I have some friends who come back here for the winter will travel around, and at the moment they’re in Lancaster but they have jobs as well, so it means either that they have to use public transport to get back to their jobs every day or they have an arrangement where they can work from home…….and then for me personally, I have travelled round quite a lot. Hebden Bridge is the longest place I’ve ever stayed anywhere so I purposely want to stay locally; I’m not really……that interested in moving around continually. It’s an interesting situation to be in, living on a canal boat but actually wanting to maintain my roots in Hebden, so in some ways it’s kind of like an anomaly and in some ways it’s……it’s a means of me actually staying in Hebden where my community is, so it’s…..I think one of the things about canal boats is it does give you those options and it does give you the fluidity and the flexibility to…..to make your own kind of choices and to…..it’s a much more adaptable kind of way of living.

 

TW:

Well I suppose my last question in a way is……is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to talk about or mention?

 

N:

…….if I get on to political subjects I can be here for days…….yeah I think, actually I think one of the things that is important is actually the culture of the canals…….and I’m gonna get onto politics again [laughing]

 

TW:

Well we can carry on if you want to onto another tape but….say what you were gonna say

 

N:

Okay….because everybody….there’s this idea that we’re all the same; it get backs to, again to diversity and difference and equality within that, and I think that what kind of…..what’s happening currently is because we’re all, you know, we’re all the same, which we are in some aspects, and we’re all treated the same which is true in some aspects, is that the…….within that it doesn’t give enough allowance for the diversity and difference that goes on, so…..you know, living on a canal boat, you can have people stood outside the boat talking about you and your home outside the window, but not actually referring to you as a human being, so you get a lot of objectification that kind of goes on, and people kind of think it’s okay, you know, to stand on your boat without permission or to put things on top of your boat – ‘oh I’m just putting it there for a minute’ – and actually this is my home, you know, and I pay for it and I maintain it…….and I’m sure, you know if you kind of like put that…..put that same attitude into living in a home, into a house, then…..then it kind of gives people a different kind of framework to understand what it’s like to live on a canal boat. I’ve had……people, tourists, you know, taking….undoing my moorings because they want to fit in and they want to move my boat so that they can fit in to a particular spot and actually, not actually understanding……it’s the respect and you know, it’s the respect that goes that has been lost because of the respect for different cultures and different ways of being, and it’s the impact of that I think is…..is one of the things that really….it would be lovely that that was addressed and that was thought about by people, you know, people letting their dogs pee on my mooring line, you know, and explaining to them that actually I’m just casting off and I, you know, I actually have to hold those, and people being quite offended because I’ve told them, you know, because I’ve brought to their awareness that actually this is what they’re doing and this is the impact of them just not being aware of the environment that they’re in……so that is…..that is one of the things that I think’s really important, you know, it’s not an object, it’s not a tourist attraction, it’s not something for you to photograph, it’s somebody’s home and there’s a whole great big culture that goes around living on canal boats and living in a tourist environment.

 

TW:

Right, okay, well I think we’ll just stop now and I’d like to say thank you very much for talking to me.

 

N:

I’d like to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to express…..express things Tony.

 

[END OF TRACK 1]

About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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