Placidly recalled

Electricity can be, under optimum circumstances, the next best thing to a horse for getting about, on inland waterways. It might be even better — for it leaves the towpath clear for pedestrians, and for horse riders.

I was dawdling this morning, somewhat wearied by the current war hysteria. The mass media cover, at most, one topic at a time, with their round-the-clock blaring. This changes only when a new and more saleable hysteria is selected to replace it.┬áThere are currently several wars in progress around the world, of adequate savagery, where human misery may be found, and countless refugees flee for their lives. Sadism may be observed at many locations. But a law of media is strictly “one war at a time.” Something like the Aristotelian unities govern their portrayal of news events. The emotional possibilities of a sensation must not be diffused, in their dramatic unskillfulness; journalism is the opposite of an art form. It is the first draught of every historical fraud.

Russia is much hated by Western media anchors and correspondents, I have noticed. Their bigotry is for reasons it would be tedious to explore.

England, by contrast, is much smaller and better loved. A canal system was dug out of it, mostly in the eighteenth century. The country becomes vast when one walks about it, and if along ancient rural rights-of-way, and canal towpaths, it will appear to be an immortally green and pleasant land.

“Narrowboats” glide along these canals, or once did. (They still do, but not always gliding.) Most of those in the Midlands are ditches a mere seven feet across, and the locks restrict a vessel’s length to sixty feet or so. Twisting and turning and winding along each “cut” prevents excessive speed. This leaves only noise as a way to be annoying. So when obnoxious petrol (or, Lord help us, diesel) motors came into general use, in the last century, this oversight of progress was corrected.

Formerly, horses towed the narrowboats, from the shore, and long paddles were sometimes used, from the rear of the boats, to propel them. (The best I saw were swayed back and forth like the tails of desultory fish.) Some even had majestic painted sails: once, long ago.

With the installation of electrical engines, we may hope that silence will return to the small and crinkly waves. The swans and the ducks would be approving.