Wednesday, 23 July 2008



I was born in a metal foundry produced from pig iron. There are those who say we had a previous existence as other objects. Some claim they used to be paperclips, others claim to have been part of bridges. I don’t believe a word of it – bollards we are and bollards we have always been. Pig iron not a nice name is it? But there we are; none of us choose our parents, nor should we reject what we are, and pigs are intelligent creatures so perhaps we are the most intelligent of metals.

Anyway I was part of a consignment made in Stoke-on-Trent for British Waterways. Hundreds of us all laid together in wooden boxes. We were bright not too shiny but no rust. Don’t go thinking we were rusty we were young, the world was, well, not our oyster but perhaps our crucible. We didn’t know what the future held. We sat in our boxes outside the steel works watching boats go by on the adjacent canal. Our boxes had been left open-topped and occasionally one of those birds would drop the remains of their dinner on us. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

There was excitement in the box at the thought that we might be part of the canal world. We enjoyed the thought that our life would be devoted to helping the boats that glide past. Perhaps we would become famous, appearing in photographs of canals. Perhaps we would be able to sit in the sunshine embedded in grass. Although there is a rumour that some people sit on us to catch fish. I don’t think that I would like to be sat on. Particularly by fishermen, who some say are grumpy, particularly near towns. I would much prefer to be out in the country next to my own lock. It does not matter to me which end of the lock but you probably get a better view from the top of the lock than at the bottom.

There’s been a discussion as to where in the bollard line you would like to be. I don’t think there’s a preference, don’t think there’s an advantage. They say you can be abused if you’re the furthest from the lock as boaters use you to tie to; sometimes they can block the lock by doing that so I wouldn’t like to be there. I definitely don’t want to be by a water point. All that water will rust me and people do spend the night on water points when they are too idle to find a proper mooring. Don’t want to be involved in that because one boater told me - he talks to bollards and things, his name is David, he told me of a boat at Devizes that spent all night and most of the day moored up on a water point. And when David came to get water with his boat, (which he has named after himself – big ego little rivet we always say) he couldn’t get near the water point. Said the boat was covered in empty tins of beer.

Hang on, here’s me riveting on and there’s something happening. We are moving, fork lift trucks putting us on flat bed lorries. Lots of chatter from my fellow bollards clinking and chunking. Nice white cab with the British Waterways insignia on the door. It’s good to be part of an organisation that has lots of money. They do say British Waterways get millions and millions from the sale of land, but the boaters are still charged more each year. Sustainable waterways having to manage without subsidy but the railways get much more, hundreds of times more, and the roads, well they cost billions. Surely the millions raised like that from Wood Wharf which is being developed in London next to Docklands should keep the waterways going. But what do I know. I am just a thick bollard, not like those clever people at Watford. They just keep thinking up more ideas to raise money from boaters. I wouldn’t be able to do that. I just want to help boaters, not make them poor.

Gawd, look at the traffic. No chance to put your foot down, you can hardly move. When we did get a gap the lorry driver got flashed by a speed camera. Who would travel by road? Not me, rail's no better they say. We could have been shunted into a siding and forgotten about, just like some of the passengers. Here we go, here’s the canal. What’s it called? ‘Rochdale’. Rochdale. Wasn’t that Gracie Fields' home? We should be alright here; nice friendly northerners not like those southerners. We are being dropped in different areas. Let’s hope we get a lock or a nice mooring by a garden. Don’t want to be by a pub. I hear you get – shush - peed on - it’s true they say. It's people coming out of the pub, and don’t get me on the subject of doggy doos. There’s one woman big in many ways with a foghorn voice, has opinions on everything, but lets her pack of dogs go everywhere, just lets them loose from the boat.

Ohh! someone is picking me up. Nice soft warm hands, it’s a contractor for BW. I’m being put by a new concrete lock right next to the lock side. Good views. No grass though, just rough soil and concrete chippings. That hole's not going to be big enough. That hole needs to be much deeper. Where’s the BW men of old? These contractors don’t know what they are doing. Don’t hit me with that hammer, just make the hole bigger. Ulch that hurt.

I was out of there for a while. They think that hitting me with a sledge hammer will have no affect as I’m a fathead bollard. Still, they have gone now. Left the surroundings in a mess. My shoulders are above the ground level instead of deep down and no white paint. I’m naked. Still, it’s a good spot. I can see the traffic on the adjacent motorway cars and lorries rushing up and down. You would think they all would come to an agreement and stay where they are instead of the top half of the country heading south, and the bottom half going north.

Boaters have begun to use the lock - haughty private boaters who think they know what they are doing. Out for two weeks a year and know it all - banging the front gate and bumping the back. Arguments between married couples because they think no one is listening. Did they always argue? When they were young and courting did they argue then or has it come with sagging bodies and disillusionment; I often wonder. One-speed hire boaters rushing in, banging the lock sides, making me tremble. Splintering the lock gate as they can’t stop in time.

Hang on here comes that David character. He should know what he’s doing, he writes in the magazines. Yep, in nicely not touching the sides, bit fast. He’s hopping off the back with his rope in one hand and his camera in the other. Rope looped round me, taking a picture of the view, not paying attention and the rope is tightening, boat's going too fast. Argh! the rope is pulling me out of the ground. Help. Too late, here I go ripped out of the ground. It will be years before a BW maintenance crew comes out here and I will rust away, a lifetime wasted. That’s me out and naked in the cold wet air, damn, now he’s taking a photo of me, I’m rusting away and he’s taking a photograph. What’s he mean it’s not his fault? Came in too fast. Look on the bright side. I might come back as part of a 20 ton battle tank, that would be good, or Nicole Kidman’s foot scraper that would be even better. Bye. Not his fault!



Hi, it’s me again, Bernie. When you left me I had been pulled out of the ground by that David character, dumped rusty and naked by a lock on the Rochdale Canal. Well eventually there was a tidy up and I was lifted and despatched to the West Midlands office of British Waterways. This office is known as the ‘Nomads’ since they have moved offices so many times. I think they are trying to escape boaters, to find an office which is not by a canal – such as the main office at Watford. This is difficult in Birmingham with its 35 miles of canal. This week the West Midlands HQ sits in offices at Cambrian Wharf but I was sent to other offices at Icknield Port Loop.

These are great offices built as an old workshop and wharf. If you get the chance pay the Icknield Port Loop a visit. Don’t just go straight down the Birmingham Main Line, drop round. You will enjoy the architecture, honest. Coming from a long line of bollards I know a thing about canal architecture and believe me these buildings are spectacular. Go now, before they redevelop the old factories along the loop and the yard is sold for exclusive development.

Exclusive; now there’s one of those modern words that means nothing. Like ‘Have a nice day’ or ‘How are you?’ people use them all the time and don’t even listen for a reply. Exclusive to whom? Exclusive to those with money. Contemporary, there’s another word used on building developments. Contemporary - characteristic of the present, it’s obvious the development is of the present - it’s a new build. Have you noticed how the artists’ drawings of new developments always show boats on the move, and moorings by the development but when it’s built there are no moorings. Our family of bollards gets excited at the thought of new homes and nothing happens.

Anyway I’ve been dumped along with rubbish on ‘Aquarius’ the electric tug. Not that I’m rubbish, I’m being re-used in another location. It’s just that they have forgotten about me and I’m left on the tug. Our main job is to clear flotsam, jetsam and general floating refuse dumped in the canal; mainly by the inebriated. Now I know what you are saying, that there is far more rubbish on the Walsall canal than anywhere else. But you see if we cleared that it would only help boaters and we form part of the tourist industry. Our task is keeping the waters looking beautiful for the visitors. It’s not just that, we are a tourist attraction in ourselves. Visitors all wave and take photographs. John and Grant who normally drive the boat get on with the job. They are a pair of great guys who love their jobs on the water, working with Aquarius. Just don’t get them started on what rubbish they find or you will never want to open your weed hatch again!

I smile at the tourists and try to wave but it’s a bit hard when you’re a bollard. I do want to wave, I think it’s the same with boaters when one tillerman waves. The other helmsman does want to wave back but some are too concentrated on steering to acknowledge the wave, or perhaps they are just shy. When David once noticed that a lady’s boat had no licence, just a note saying ‘in the post,' he called over ‘Not the old in-the-post excuse’. She got very angry and just glared back at him with her hand on her hips; a bit like when he used to ask girls for a dance.

I’m in this lavender boat next to some snobby ropes. They think they are cut above the rest of us. Don’t know why, something about coming from hemp which is a superior material and that a bollard would be useless without rope. They claim they are from Birmingham and not Stoke on Trent like me. Asserting solemnly that I’m an immigrant and won’t talk to me, oh, and they wouldn’t marry my daughter. Don’t get yourself in a knot, I said. No daughter of mine would look at a rag-bag like you lot. After all we’re all immigrants at some stage or other, even the bridges who have been straddling the canals for, like ever, they came from somewhere. Even David who claims to have a dash of Viking (his mother slept with the captain of a Viking hire boat), his ancestors came from Scandinavia; it shows that we are all immigrants if we go far enough back. Hopefully the ropes will be dumped in a skip along with their opinions.

I’m sailing along past the Fiddle & Bone public house, closed by the local residents because the music was too loud. It’s a good job that Aquarius is an electric tug and doesn’t make any noise. The only trouble is that we can’t go too far, just down to the Mailbox and back. So if you had hopes that we are coming your way you are mistaken we only do the glossy area of Birmingham City Centre. Those who slag off Birmingham probably have not been here for some time. Most of the old buildings around the canal have been bulldozed and twentieth century buildings constructed. We have lost a lot of heritage but the new buildings are what most people seem to want, bar/cafes, expensive offices… This human world seems to consist of people sitting in offices all day producing paper, going home to watch television, some going to the bars on Friday and Saturday. Not much of an existence. I’m glad that I’m a bollard. At least I’m outside in the fresh air and doing something useful, holding tight to boats. Don’t you wish you were a bollard? No cares, no worries, life is slow and peaceful.

Being on Aquarius and watching the human world has made me wonder about people. Are they happy in their lives? I see them in the mornings pouring off buses, droving their way to the offices a bit like cattle going to milking, a slow, unhappy plod, advancing into work. Most of them never reappear during the day, just sit by the computer. They then rush off home buoyed up a little at the thought of another day completed. A few hours at home, TV for the most part, and then bed. Up in the morning, bus or train into the office, work eight hours. Weekends are better for them, perhaps a night out, a trip out in the car but they still have jobs to do: supermarket shopping, filling up the car. Who was it who said ‘Consider the bollard, how it rests; it toils not, neither does it spin, and yet it goes not hungry, it is happy, contented, and has a peaceful life on the canal.’ It was me, Bernie. Perhaps you might wish to consider which of us has the better life.



Hi, it's me, Bernie the Bollard. I thought you would like to know I have had a communication from my cousin Bertha. She’s a bollard outside Cadbury World on the Birmingham and Worcester canal. She has met a nice bollard down at Bourneville and is getting married. I have received a note inviting me to the wedding. People do this - send you an invitation knowing that you can’t attend. I am needed here looking after the tourists at Brindley Place. No, these invitations are just an attempt to get me to send a present. Now what would you give to a nice bollard that’s just getting joined – ironmongery I suppose.

Bertha says she was listening to an old boater, well that’s all you can do with an old boater – listen. He was very interesting like most of those who did actually boat, not just those who dress up for outings. Now I have to be careful or some dressers up will come and kick me in the letters page. Any way this old boater was saying that the chocolate boats used to have a stock of Cadbury’s bars to hand out to children when they were passing through Birmingham. David said he had to hand out chocolate at Northampton in order to pass through unmolested, an expensive and grovelling way of dealing with youths swimming in a lock in my opinion. The children in the olden days found their way onto the towpath, to watch and ‘help’ with the boats. Of course, back then the general public were not allowed on several areas of the towpaths as they were private.

Private towpaths. Imagine there's no fishermen - it's easy if you try; no cyclists speeding by us, only sky and boats; imagine all the people not being able to walk their dogs. Imagine there's no dog droppings for you to stand in, no thoughts of wanting to rub the owner’s nose in it. Imagine all the boaters living life in peace. Now you may say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us bollards in wanting boats to have priority on the canals and the boating world will live as one. Imagine no possessions being stolen from boats, no ropes being untied. Imagine a brotherhood of boaters sharing all the world of canals. Now I pinched some of that from a bloke called John who sat on a friend of mine at Albert Dock in Liverpool writing a song. Don’t know what happened to him. But I was thinking, isn’t that sort of thing – putting boaters first - what the IWA is supposed to do? Not that we would want to exclude people, the canals are for all, but it might bring into context BW statements that boating is a hobby and should not be subsidised. It’s more than a hobby for most of those boaters. It’s a way of life that keeps the canals alive for the rest. Surely that’s worth a little subsidiary from big John, the politician not the song writer.

This old boater told of how he crewed a working boat from Birmingham to London – fast; three days he was claiming. No way I thought. I want to go to London and it will take me a lot more than 3 days. Now one thing I believe he was right on was that they never closed a gate nor dropped a lock paddle. I believe him on that. We now have lots of rules for boating, ones they didn’t have, not in the old commercial boating days. Four miles an hour? A bit more than that I bet you. Slowing down for moored boats? Not in your dreams. All those paranoid moorers who shout at boats going past should have been there in the old days. Not that I think that boats should not slow down, they should or they will all end up like that David character pulling out bollards like me.

It’s a thought though isn’t it? I mean I’m a dull bollard but I can see that in the old days boating was much different - fewer rules and regulation. Why do all the boaters close the lock gates after them? BW says it’s to save water but I’ve scratched my flathead and can’t see why closing the gates saves water. I will try to listen next time a millboard man from Watford arrives in Birmingham. He will know.

Mind you people look back to days gone by as if it was a golden age. There was no golden age. Most boat people were cold, hungry and overworked. They worked in a world of grime. Imagine what it was like moving coal by boat on the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal. I heard Fred Dibnah died the other day. He was President of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Trust. I watched him on the television the other day. I was peeping through a boat window - they didn’t have the curtains closed. Fred was talking about the Bolton & Bury canal. What a great man, what a raconteur he could make you laugh and cry at the same time. I think steam was his blood and heritage his veins, we bollards will not see his like again.
Still, if they are looking for a new president they could do worse than pick a solid, firm, flathead. Like, like Bernie the Bollard.

I’m hoping to be there at the opening of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury canal I think it will be a really great occasion, one of the significant points of Canal restoration. Don’t want the restoration rushed though, we want a canal that can be used by boaters or it won’t be a success. Let me give a few presidential hints to all those doing the hard work whilst I sit on my fat end. A good navigation channel, if you can’t get a boat down the canal it is not restored. Secure moorings - I suspect that they may be a spot of vandalism in parts of the canal stretch. If boaters are going to be attracted to the canal it has to be safe, therefore create fenced off, secure moorings for boaters; it won’t cost much – honest. Facilities, please BW make sure there are sanitary stations and a couple of your pumpout machines. There is nothing worse than when the boat needs to go that there is no where to go. You can’t cross your legs when you’re a boat you know. See You.

The opinions of Bernie the Bollard are not necessary those of the author, although I do know that Bernie is only trying to help.



Yes, it's me again, the tourists' champion, Bernie famous bollard. Well that’s what Grant and John think, they are the workers on Aquarius the Lavender Boat that plies around the canal by Brindley Place in Birmingham. After the first article mentioned that I was on the boat they decided to keep me on board for the tourists. People are allowed to come and photograph me. So far we have had an old lady and a dog and they were looking for Bella my curvy girlfriend. So much for fame! Now Lavender Boat, I know it’s a rubbish collection boat but did they really use lavender to mask the smell? Must have been expensive or was it just a nickname. John will know. He knows all about the old times.

I know you’ll be wanting me to tell you all about the new, Birmingham Illuminated Canal Boat Parade back in November. Well, I wasn’t there, I was not included in the parade. Six BW historical boats were included. All fussed over by Rachel and the pretty girls at BW West Midlands. Aquarius is not historical but it is a working boat, far more than those so-called working boats that never do any work. It's fashion now, I hear, to have a tarted-up working boat. Met a fashion victim couple the other day with a working boat and butty just back from the painters. Not a clue what they were doing; took them an hour to complete one lock. Let’s hope that bollards become fashionable. Mind you there have always been a lot of fashionable bollards at Watford.

Anyway, the parade was mostly commercial boats with just a couple of private owners. It’s a little known fact that I will share with you – there was a £1,000 prize for the best illuminated boat. Now I know it's difficult for private owners to compete with commercial outfits with lots of money to throw but private owners have passion. Next year why don’t you come and show your boat? November is a difficult month, most boats having been put away, but consider it. There were thousands of people lining the tow path, cheering the boats, so that would be fun for you and the chance of a £1,000 prize. The parade was held to coincide with turning on the Christmas lights in Birmingham and I think they are going to hold the parade in 2005. Go on, Love, give it a go. You might even get to meet me.

One thing I did notice during the parade was how the coal black water of Birmingham reflected the colours. It was quite spectacular, all the lights radiating on the surface of the water. The water itself is cleaner than you think but the black mud makes the water look jet black. The canals are much cleaner now than in the good old days. Take John Farmer’s locks in Birmingham. Apart from the odd beer bottle and a bit of litter they are pristine. When hundreds of working boats a month went through the locks they were black with coal dust, slippy with caked-on grease. Compared with then the locks now are pristine. We live in a surgically clean world compared with years ago. You have got to hand it to the humans; they made a mess of the world in the past but I don’t think they appreciate the strides they are taking to make the world clean and modern. I just hope they don’t do away with all the past. The canals I think can be a big part of this modern cleaned up world. Join Bernie in praising the good things we have now, not just concentrating on the bad - yobs, violence, drugs and the safety scheme.

I know some of you are going to say the boat safety scheme is a good thing keeping unsafe boats off the water. But does it. I see many scruffy dirty boats on the travels I have made. Real heaps that makes you wonder how they get their safety licence. Do you think its like the old MOT car scheme where one could always get an MOT in the early days but then it became more and more difficult to get a dodgy MOT. Do you think the safety scheme was worth all the trouble and expense? Surely you could save more lives by insisting that everyone wore a life jacket. We still see burnt out boats. Has Watford any figures of how many boats burnt before the safety scheme and how many now? What about a press release to tell us something positive about the scheme, instead of just the bad news of more regulations and costs to the boater.

This month I have included a photograph of my girlfriend, the curvy Bella. Now I know you will think that I’m boasting about having a girlfriend, but its not always easy pleasing girlfriends. They can be very fickle, girls. Never know what they want in a bollard; some say the bigger the better, but they don’t really mean that. A big bollard can be difficult to get one's leg over, where a little one is no trouble to manage. They say they want someone with a sense of humour – hey! am I not the funniest bollard you have ever met? Does it do me any good? The Arabs say a girl bollard that laughs is half taken; it’s the other half that I have difficulty with. They say they want a boy bollard with intelligence – nonsense! They always pick the dullest bollards I have ever met. They want a body, they want pecks, whatever pecks are. But if it was a boy bollard looking at a stunning girl’s bollards they are called perverts. Anyway, Bella threatened to dump me unless I got her photograph in the magazine. What you think, curvy hegh? – Pervert.

I’ve been thinking, and I’m just a thick bollard, not clever like what you are. Why don’t we form an independent waterways association that works for boaters' interests? We could charge a small annual fee and use the money to campaign for boaters. Fight outrageous increases in licence fees and mooring charges. We could be aggressive with BW at Watford, withholding fees. We could demand the old green uniforms back, insist on less painting and more dredging – do you remember dredging? We would not take any money from BW for anything, just use the money we raise for the good of boaters. It would just be for boaters not for commercial enterprises, or trade or other associations. Its main aim would be to campaign and work for boaters, all boaters, those on glass fibre boats, those on narrowboats, those on working boats and those on gin palaces. It could get in the national papers campaigning against price increases, it could challenge ministers who know nothing about boating. It could challenge BW on canal side developments that disturb the peace of the inland waterways. We could be noisy, we could clamour, we could be heard. Shall we have an independent waterways association? Or is that just a load of bollards?




Hi, sob, Bernie the broken hearted bollard here. Yes, I’ve been dumped. Now I know that most humans believe that bollards don’t have any feelings but what do they know? For thousands of years they accepted the sun was a golden chariot pulled by horses. They spent millennia reckoning the world was flat. Most humans still think that there are only three dimensions – up/down, across and sort of back. It was only when a man stubbed his toe on a bollard that he realised time was a dimension too. Even now, the cleverest human being is convinced that there are only eleven dimensions. How long will it take for them to realise that there is an infinity of dimensions. There, I’ve let it slip out and now some human will get all the science prizes. Just watch Mr Smith Nobel Prize winner; it won’t be Bernie.

Dumped; it physically hurts, you know. It’s a bit like dull indigestion linked with depression. I know what you're going to say: ‘Be a Bollard’ – ‘Plenty more bollards on the bank’ but I really thought this was it, my one and only romance. Bella was the first girl I asked to go out with me, first one to hold hands with, to kiss, to fumble. It's something you remember all your life, that first romance. It is easy to forget the emotion as you grow old and cynical.

Bella sent a message round with her best friend, a shopping trolley. One of those thin spidery cold shopping trolleys you see dumped around the canals. ‘Now it's your turn to be dumped’ she spat. ‘Is your name Bernie?’ she demanded ‘Well, you're dumped’. Got herself pushed up to Tesco Five Ways. The supermarket that David thinks is the worst in the world. The premises scruffy, the staff surly, the trollies absent taking messages. David won’t go there anymore, sends Brenda. That trolley girl left me with tears running down my sides.

I know who's got Bella’s heart. I’ve been hanging around the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham where she sleeps. I got Grant and John on Aquarius to drop me off Aquarius the BW tug. I spied on her. Shouldn’t have done it, spying on her but what can you do? You need to know. She’s meeting a tall, silver security bollard called Steven, who lives with his sister, Sylvia outside a jewellery shop in Birmingham City Centre. He’s younger than me, he can pop up and down – which I can’t do. I’m more steady. It won’t last long with silvery Steven, sliding Steven, slippery Steven; it's just a passing metal attraction. I bet she will be going out with a string of bollards next, when we could have settled down on a nice stretch of banking. The next thing you know she will be in Broad Street, the club capital of the Midlands. Bollards to Broad Street I say. Better to stay home with the one you love, Bella.

It's lonely now, even though I’ve only just been dumped. Life seems empty, just like those bollards with nothing inside. I now know what a mooring ring feels like. There’s no one to wait for, no surge of elation when you spot them coming, no lifting of the senses, no joy of anticipation. There’s nothing to get spruced up for, no point in attempting to glow at night nor shine in the morning. This was really going to be my great romance Napoleon and Josephine; Duke and Duchess of Windsor; David and Brenda. You think this is just a load of bollards, but it’s a crux point in my life, all my plans and dreams smashed like a broken bollard. I’m smashed inside.

Apart from me being dumped, there is little news on the Birmingham canals. I watched coal being delivered by working boat to the boaters at Gas Street Basin. Ironic I thought, I’m in that sort of mood. Ironic that years ago there were 60 coal merchants around the wharves in Birmingham and now the boaters have to have coal delivered. Coals to Gas Street. It made me think, did you know that people have been living on boats in Gas Street Basin since 1794, and the community is still there hanging on. Pressure from BW to turn the basin commercial and pollution noise from the bars crowded around, but they hang on. One thing made me smile – well, grin. I’m not smiling for a while. As soon as John Jackson had delivered the coal, 10 bags to each boat, BW decided they would pressure wash the pontoons. All coal to be moved onto the boats. Great timing.

So what now for me, I think that I might travel, get out of Birmingham, move on. Don’t expect there will ever be another Bella, she’s not the same sweet young bollardy Bella I knew. Can’t be, having been in the company of Snaky Steven. So I’m going to hitch a lift with that Mr David. Serves him right he pulled me out of the ground and got me on the move. Think I’ll get him to take me to London. Had always planned to take Bella, nice spot by a posh hotel, moored lawns, flowery beds, watching the toffs. Just Bella and me. Bollards heh.

Being depressed has turned me into a songwriter. If that bollard sitter John can do it so can I.

No joy, no hope, no consolation
My life is nought but desolation
You took away your love, your charm
And tried to do me no hard

How could you be so blind
As to choose one of his kind

I still recall the tears
And the wasted years and years
I thought we’d found a love to last
To give us a future not a past

How could you be so blind
As to choose one of his kind

My mind seeks only down to kill
That part of my heart that can’t
Forget the girl it held so tight.
No other girl this emptiness can fill

Bella Bella.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008



Now if you’re a woman you will have been there. You’re his first girlfriend, right, and he’s very keen, can’t wait for you to come into the room, rushes forward. He wants to spend all his time kissing and fondling. Too intense, you know, too clingy, too hot and he’s in love with you. Hey that’s fine I don’t blame him, I’m something else, look at this body, look at the paintwork, no wonder he’s in love with me. But we’re young, we had only been going out a few weeks and he’s talking about getting engaged. As if my parents would agree me still at private bollard school and him not always going to school.

You know who I mean; that Bernie who styles himself Bernie the Bollard, right. Do I go around calling myself Bella the Bollard, do you go round calling yourself, Moonface (no offence) the Human –no. Your just who you are, right, first names and second name right. No one goes around named something the something. Sorry about the Moonface but that’s how we bollards see you humans as moonfaces. We can tell you apart, but you claim not to be able to tell us bollards apart. I admit Bernie looks like the rest of his family but that is just in-breeding. If one of his family were trying to ring your bell you would be able to tell which is which.

So we get thrown together down by the Birmingham canal I’m doing my evening security job looking after the ICC building and he comes along, all full of himself sat on the Aquarius boat with his two mates. To be honest I was more interested in the rope that was with him. High quality, if you know what I mean, smooth exterior. Bet that rope knows how to treat and caress a bollard. I only spoke to Bernie in the hope that the rope would join in and get interested. But Bernie was amusing I’ll give him that, made me laugh with his stories. So I agreed to go out with him, a rock venue at the James Brindley pub just what I like, plenty of go, bang and wallop. That venue is not Bernie he just sat there trying to stroke my metalwork, hoping to get at my seams. A couple of weeks and he’s trying to get inside my bell whilst we’re in the pub, so we had to stop going and just met up, quite like. But you soon get tired of spending your date fending off a young bollard. I let him down gently, restricted the dates to one a week, and then skipped a couple. Then let it peter out, sent him a Dear John letter in the end, well what can you do, it’s no use dumping them bollard to bollard. Have you ever tried to dump a bollard? Not something you should attempt; there’s always screaming and wailing if it all goes wrong and your foot is in danger. So I sent a letter and did not realise it arrived on Valentine’s Day, how was I to know he thought it was a valentine. And him, for all his so called humour could not see the funny side of that one.

And there was Steven, he is an upmarket security executive at a jewellers in New Street the main shopping street in Birmingham. Much taller than Bernie and a gorgeous silver body which, wait for it, he can make go up and down. How fabulous is that for a young bollard girl like me. Well he had always made a fuss of me when I had been out shopping, and its half Bernie’s fault, he took me to the jewellers to look at engagement rings. Not that he could afford any of them, just wanted to look and dream. Steven can afford a decent ring with his wages as a security executive and he gets a discount. Soon he says we will be able to get engaged, he has to look after his sister at the moment, and can’t commit himself. You see what a lovely bollard he is, putting off his future so he can look after his sister. And he’s so exciting, there’s a steel edge to him, other bollards don’t get too close to him, they keep their distance. He makes a girl seem – well protected, you know what I mean. He was brought in after a ram raid on the shop and he insisted on bringing his sister. So you see how brave and dedicated he is, he has stopped ram raids just by being there but so brave to be able to stand up against a ram vehicle. And dedicated to his sister, insisting she came along, she’s quite aloof but has given me some tips like on deportment - holding my head up, ‘Don’t slouch, Bella’ she always says. Am I going on too long about Steven, sorry about that but he has brought something different into my life, an excitement and if I’m honest I like the uncertainty – living on the edge.

Bernie says he is going to travel which I think is best for him, it won’t do him any good hanging around here like a stray bollard, about as useful as a British Waterways price rise. No my future is with Steven, his silver body next to mine, his shiny top with his cute built-in-lock next to mine. Just think of the children we could have his silver surface with my bell shape we could produce silver bell bollards, populate the world with them. A know there have been others before me with Steven, but I’m sure this is it for him, no more line of bollards one after the other. He can put down concrete roots with me, a settled existence. See if I can get his sister hooked up with one of those new electric bollards outside the Mailbox, that would be a step up for her, she would like that.

Once Bernie goes travelling he will forget all about me, I will become a distant memory, a forgotten bollard, just one of many bollards he knew in Birmingham. I know he’s hurting now, sobbing his little metal heart out, but he will get over me, the bollard will move on. “Bella who?” he will be asking. We were not made to be, my future is not on the canals like Bernie’s, my future is in security. That’s what I do now and in the future perhaps I can stand outside the jewellers with Steven, imagine that Steven and me on New Street watching the crowds together, for ever.