by Robert Williams

"Item one on the agenda?" said Mick.

"I've bought a boat!" proclaimed Des.

"That's nice," said Mick. "Item two on the agenda?"

"I've bought a boat!" repeated Des.

"That was item one!" said Mick. "What's item two?"

"No really, I've bought a boat!!" exclaimed Des.

"What kinda boat?" said Wayne. "Is it a motorboat? We could go water-skiin'!!"

"No," said Des. "I've bought a barge, you know, a canal boat!"

"Oh!" said Wayne. "We'll just 'ave to go water-dawdlin' instead!"

"It's called the 'Jolly Norman'," said Des. "Would you like to see it? It's in my garage."

"That's a stupid place to have a canal boat!" said Mick. "It should be on a canal!"

"I couldn't find one," said Des. "Anyway, I'm not too sure about going on water. I get a bit seasick sometimes. I've created a simulation instead. Come and look."

They tramped down to Des's house and went into the garage. There was Des's narrow boat, surrounded by cardboard waves.

"Once you're inside, you don't notice the difference!" said Des.

"What's this handle for?" said Clive.

"Ah, I'm glad you mentioned that," said Des. "That's what I need you for! Start turning it!"

Clive did so, and the Jolly Norman started slowly bobbing up and down, and the cardboard waves moved back and forward.

"Neat, eh?" said Des. "I got Mechanic the Mike Manic to set that all up! Come and look inside! Keep turning, Clive!"

All except Clive climbed onto the boat and went inside.

"It's very spacious," said Mick. "You wouldn't think there was this much room inside!"

Wayne leapt onto one of the bunk beds - which promptly broke.

"Thanks very much, Wayne!" exclaimed Des. "I was going to say it's a little bit old and fragile, so please be careful!"

Mick went to open a cupboard, and the handle came off in his hand.

"Has this thing got a toilet?" said Mrs Greasy.

"Yes, just through that door, but you mustn't..."

But Mrs Greasy had gone.

"Oh, doesn't matter," said Des.

They explored all the nooks and crannies in the boat.

"Hey, we've stopped moving!" said Des. "Oi, Clive!!"

Just then the toilet flushed, and Mrs Greasy emerged. At the same time Clive also emerged, looking rather wet, and not too happy.

"Hello Clive, you look flushed!" said Des.

"Whose fault is this??!!" exclaimed a furious Clive.

"Hers!" said Des, pointing to Mrs Greasy.

"Mine?!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy.

"You flushed the toilet!" said Des. "I was about to tell you not the flush the toilet otherwise it goes all over the garage floor!"

"And all over me!!" exclaimed Clive. "I was just examining these the side of the boat and I got soaked! I don't suppose you've a shower in here?"

"Yes I have actually, just through that door," said Des.

"I think I'll be a while!" snapped Clive, disappearing into the shower.

"You've got everything in here!" said Mick.

"Yes, it's very good," said Des. "It's surprising it was so cheap! There must be a catch somewhere..."

"Anyway, why don't you take this onto the water!" said Mick. "Could be a laugh! There's the Basingstoke Canal not far away! Come on!"

"Oh, all right then," said Des. "Does everyone else want to come?"

They seemed to be a relatively enthusiastic response.

"What about Clive? He's still in the shower," said Mick.

"He won't mind," said Des. "Come on, let's go!"

With all their collective efforts they managed to load the narrow boat onto the roof rack on Des's van. They drove off, with Clive still showering inside the boat, headed for the Basingstoke Canal in Surrey. As they went on their way passers-by saw something they didn't expect to see.

When they arrived they unloaded the narrow boat and before it went onto the water, a dishevelled-looking Clive emerged from it, once again, not a happy person.

"What's wrong now?!" said Des.

"What do you think you were doing?!!" exclaimed Clive. "I'm in there having a shower and then suddenly I'm racing along the street with all the passers-by watching me!!!"

"Oh thanks for reminding me, I meant to put a new curtain up in there," said Des.

"You could at least have waited until I'd finished my shower!" said Clive. "You should have seen the look on Mrs Watkins from number 32's face!"

"Oh stop complaining," said Des. "Anyway, we're at the canal now. You can have a nice relaxing rest on the water!"

"What??!!" exclaimed Clive. "We're not going on the water in that thing! I was inspecting it earlier! It's not safe!"

"It'll be all right!" said Des. "The man who sold it to me assured me there's nothing wrong with it!"

"Yes, stop moaning, Clive!" said Mick. "You're behaving like a little kid. Now, come onto the boat with us!"

Clive, not wanting to seem a party pooper, reluctantly agreed, and helped to lift the Jolly Norman into the water.

"Sorry!" apologised Des to the people on the other boats who got soaked at that point. They carefully climbed onto the boat.

"See, it's all right!" said Des. "Nothing to worry about! Let's get going!"

He grabbed the rudder and it came off in his hand.

"Umm, well," said Des. "That doesn't matter, we'll be travelling in a straight line anyway..."

The others started questioning the wisdom of this excursion. Especially Clive.

"I'm getting off!" exclaimed Clive.

"You can't," said Des. The boat had drifted to the centre of the canal.

"Oh great, I'm stuck on this rickety old boat," said Clive.

"Stop complaining," said Des. "Come on, let's go!"

"We're not going very far," said Mick. "We're just sitting in the middle of the canal so that no one else can get past."

"I know what we need," said Des. He dashed inside the cabin, and shortly afterwards Clive saw a long pole racing out of the cabin and straight towards him.

"Aaaaarrghhhh!!!" exclaimed Clive, falling backwards into the water.

"Oh, we haven't gone anywhere and you've fallen in already!" said Des, climbing out of the cabin "Look, I've got this barge pole."

"Give that to me!" exclaimed Clive, clambering back onto the boat. "I won't touch you with it!"

"Okay," said Des. "Clive's volunteered to be our punter."

"What?" said Clive, dripping wet.

"You're punting. Stick that in the water, and we're away!"

"Oh great," said Clive.

"How long is this going to take?" asked Mrs Greasy. "If we're going to be long, then I'll rustle up some lunch for you!"

"Oh well, we won't be very long then!" said Des.

"No, don't bother, Mrs Greasy, we're not going far!" said Mick.

"Actually, don't you think it'd be a good idea if Mrs Greasy went up to the other end of the boat?" said Des. "She weighs about the same as all of us put together!"

"Just for that, I'm going to make you some custard!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy.

The boat slowly made its way along the canal, while Des, Mick and Wayne sat up on deck, twiddling their fingers.

"I spy with my little eye, something beginning with B!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Boats," sighed Des. "This is boring. We're going too slow. I'll get Clive to speed us up a bit. Oi Clive! Speed up a bit!"

"I'm just trying to make you feel at home," said Clive. "You're used to travelling slow, what with your car!"

"Right, that does it!" exclaimed Des. "Give me that barge pole!" He grabbed it from Clive, and started punting the boat slightly faster than before.

"Oh my goodness!" exclaimed Mick as they jerked along. "I bet Mrs Greasy is having trouble making that custard now!"

"No, nothing, not even this, will make Mrs Greasy's custard move," said Clive.

Des, meanwhile, was looking queasy.

"Oh no," said Mick. "Des did say he got seasick sometimes!"

"What a softie!" said Clive. "It's not as if we're going that fast!"

Needless to say the boat soon ground to a halt and Des had run inside the cabin.

"Looks like it's your turn Mick," said Clive.

Mick sighed, and picked up the bargepole. The boat returned to its previous speed.

Soon afterwards Des emerged from the cabin feeling better. This did not last for long as Mrs Greasy then emerged from the cabin with their lunch.

"Oh no," said Mick, looking at what Mrs Greasy was going to try to convince them was custard.

"We could try getting Mrs Greasy under the trades descriptions act," said Clive as Mrs Greasy handed them each a bowl of custard.

"Pretend to spill it overboard," said Des.

"There's a problem with that," said Clive. He tipped his bowl upside down and the custard refused to budge.

"There's only one answer," said Des, as another boat approached them in the other direction. As the boat passed by he rapidly grabbed a ham sandwich out of the hands of a bewildered person in the other boat and swapped it with Mrs Greasy's custard substitute.

"Hmm, yummy, enjoy your lunch everyone!" smiled Des, tucking in.

They continued on their journey, with Mrs Greasy offering to take over the punting so that Mick 'enjoy' his lunch. However, they soon came across an obstacle.

"A lock!" declared Mick.

"Well get the key then!" said Des.

"No, no, locks are gates between different levels of water," explained Mick. "We stop here and wait for the lock-keeper to let us in. Then when we're in the lock he'll drain out the water until we've floated down to the level of the second lock."

"You're very educational," said Des. "You should be on schools tv."

"Thank you," said Mick. "And then after that there's another lock, followed by two more. This is a very steep hill."

"Oh that could take forever!" said Des. "We haven't got time for all this, it's time we were heading back. Mrs Greasy, avast behind!"

"That's no way to talk about Mrs Greasy!" said Mick.

"No, no, I'm asking her to stop! We're turning round!"

So they turned round to face the other way.

"Oh no, it's that man I stole that ham sandwich from!" said Des.

"And he's blocking our way!" said Mrs Greasy. "How inconsiderate."

"Oh come on," sighed Clive, taking hold of the barge pole and expertly and rapidly steered past the other boat, while Des and the others grinned at the man, and Wayne stole another ham sandwich from him.

"This seems to be taking a very long time," sighed Mick as they slowly continued on the return journey. "Let's go inside, it's getting too cold to stay out here."

They went inside and sat inside the sleeping quarters.

"I'll be back in a minute, I'm just going to the loo." said Mick.

After Mick had been gone five minutes, the others began to get suspicious.

"He's been in there a long time," said Mrs Greasy. "I need to go as well, I'll go in and see if he's finished."

Another few minutes went by.

"Now where's Mrs G got to?" said Wayne who was sitting with his legs crossed.

"Go and see if she's still in there," said Des. Wayne did so.

"What is going on?" said Des after a few minutes. "Mick, Mrs Greasy and Wayne have all gone into the toilet and just vanished!"

Him and Clive went inside to investigate. They opened the toilet door to find the room filling up with water and a large hole in the floor.

"Oh dear," said Des.

"I knew this boat wasn't safe!" exclaimed Clive. "The wood's rotten!"

"Hang on!" said Des. "None of them can swim! And neither can I!"

They rushed out on deck to find that the boat had began to sink into the water.

"Oh no!" said Des. Clive dived into the water to find the others, while Des tried to make the sinking boat move towards the bank. He scrambled onto the bank and watched as the Jolly Norman, now not so quite so jolly, completely sank into the water. At that moment Mick, Mrs Greasy and Wayne came walking along, completely soaked, and not looking too happy.

"Oh hello," said Des, as he caught his breath. "Clive's just dived in to save you lot."

"Luckily we were quite close to the riverbank!" exclaimed Mick. "We were all able to make it to the side!"

"You know I had some rock cakes in your oven!" said Mrs Greasy. "They'll be ruined!"

"Oh well, never mind," said Des. "At least we can all laugh at Clive when he comes out of the water soaked."

"Just like the rest of us!" said Mick. "Haven't you noticed there's only one person here who hasn't fallen in the water yet?"

"Yes!" exclaimed Clive, coming up from the water. "Come on, Des, in you go!"

"No, no!!" exclaimed Des.

With one mighty push from Clive, Mick, Wayne and Mrs Greasy, Des was thrust into the water with a mighty splash.

"That's the last time we go canal boating!" exclaimed Des.

Copyright © Robert Williams

All stories