This Thursday I will be taking my first ever driving lesson. I am pretty confident that the majority of road users will decline the inevitable temptation to shout abuse at me or give me the finger as I weave slowly across the white lines when they spot my L-plates. They will know that my poor driving skills and obliviousness to ettiquette is due to me being a novice so it seems only fair that they will only curse me under their breath.
This is categorically not the case when you move from terra firma to Britain’s waterways, as me and my friends discovered on Saturday afternoon as we set off on a relaxing boat trip up the River Lee. Having temporarily parked up to operate a lock, we encured the wrath of a barge owner (though not a proud one, given the delapidated state of his vessel) when we accidently tried to close the gate on him when he was waiting to come through. We did this not out of malice or any desire to annoy. It was a simple mistake by the crew of the good ship ‘Ratty‘ (below), eight people whose combined experince of canalboats ran to a single visit to The Boat Museum in Ellesmere Port and one individual catching half an episode of ‘Rosie and Jim‘ in 1996.
Upon realising our error we immediatley opened the lock-gate up again and let the good ship ‘Pikey’ take it’s righful place at the front of the queue. As we did this we heard no ‘thank-you’ or an acceptance of our heart felt apology, but merely the tillerman calling out “fucking renters”. He followed this up by asking who was going to move “that fairy boat” out of his way as we were stationed where he wanted to park up. He obvioulsy felt we were the equivilant of ‘Sunday drivers’ and he was right, but surely an eye-roll, a bit of tutting and some private slagging off once we were round the next bend would have sufficed.
Now, whilst his appraisal of us as “renters” was entirely accurate and ‘Ratty’ was,as my good friend Ed said, little more that a water-going milk float, I thought this was pretty unreasonable. We probably added, in total around 20 seconds to his journey and it doesn’t make sense to me that someone would get angry with someone enjoying a day out sampling the lifestyle that he obvioulsy holds dear. The equivilent would be someone who lived in a house shouting “Oi! Hold the lift door’s open, you fucking booker” at him for staying in a hotel over a weekend. Perhaps I’ll take a leaf out his book and hurl abuse at the next temp who comes to work in my office.
All things considered I suppose the animosity was a bit of turf war (surf war?) bravado mixed with annoyance that we all seemed to having such a good time drinking beer and pissing in bushes whilst he ate sandwiches with his father-in-law, who resembled Gorden Kaye with long hair.
He may have had the know-how and the bigger boat, but there was no doubt that the “renters” enjoyed their Saturday afternoon more.