Sean and Diffy recruit two of their mates for a day’s cruising on the canal. It’s not going to be that simple, is it? Sean and Diffy stories contain VERY strong language. Please do not read on if you are easily offended.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The north of England is criss-crossed by a network of canals that were used in the 19th and early to mid 20th century as a means of transporting resources: mainly cotton and coal, between manufacturing towns of the industrial revolution. Huge narrow barges would gracefully ply their trade along the hundreds of miles of waterway that linked the towns via a system of locks, which allowed the boats to negotiate the ascents and descents of the rolling rural countryside. This method of transport reached its zenith early in the 1900s, then fell into decline as it reluctantly made way for the burgeoning road and motorway system. The canals remain, but are used mainly for recreation: the commercial barges having all but disappeared, to be replaced by the gaily painted narrowboats and cruisers of the boating fraternity.
Élan Narrowboat Cruises owned two dilapidated ‘Day Boats’: one blue, one red, both knackered. Onto one of these boats Sean had recently booked a day on the water. He had seen an advertisement in the local paper: A short article accompanied by a brightly coloured photograph of a bunch of bright young things having the time of their lives, whilst chugging sedately through stunning countryside had seduced him completely.
Sean’s imagination had immediately run away with him, and he could imagine himself at the helm of such a vessel. He fancied the notion, and booked post-haste. He had made the fundamental mistake of giving Diffy the details whilst drinking in The Swan one evening, and had attracted the attention of Tam ‘O’ Shandy, local Scottish inebriate and troublemaker. Tam had insisted on joining them, and what Tam wanted, Tam inevitably got. To balance this unfortunate development, Sean press-ganged young Michael Bretherton, the vicar’s son,onto the motley crew.
Our four intrepid mariners stood on the towpath and surveyed the rusting red hulk rocking gently at its mooring.
‘What a fuckin heap.’ said Diffy.
‘Fuck off, dwarf.’ blurted Sean indignantly. ‘Stop being so ungrateful. Cost me a fuckin fortune to hire this thing.’
‘No it fuckin didn’t. It was 20 quid for the day, and you got a fiver off each of us, fair enough, but then we brought a shedfull of ale, and you brought fuck all.’
‘Tam brought a couple of bottles of whiskey. You don’t think anyone is going to get their hands on that, do you? Brethy brought a four pack of coke, cos he’s a fuckin loser. You my P.O.R.G. comrade have brought enough for the two of us, and will be rewarded in heaven. (P.O.R.G. Person Of Restricted Growth.)
‘Come on then, crew.’ called Diffy over his shoulder . ‘Time to board the good ship “Depthcharge”.’
Tam stumbled along the gangplank and fell headlong into the boat’s ample welldeck. He landed square on his face, which was fortunate because it left his hands free to prevent the two bottles of Famous Grouse being shattered before the day had even begun. He had breakfasted well on Scotch and last night’s left over curry, and was already in a state of semi-inebriation. The Scot was a huge man with a foul temper and fists like hams. Nobody wanted him there, but it was best to just let him get on with it. He would probably finish the booze early into the trip and be asleep for the rest of the day.
Brethy was next aboard and the vicar’s son stepped gingerly over the prostrate Tam before glancing up at the threatening sky and proceeding into the main body of the boat. He was only there to make up the numbers: nobody particularly liked him. The fact that his dad was a minister of the church creeped everyone out somewhat. He tried hard to be one of the lads, but failed miserably.
‘Want me to throw you on, Diffy.’ joked Sean.
‘Get lost, you. I might be a bit on the short side, but I’m sure I can make it across two feet of gangplank onto the boat.’
He stepped onto the plank, took a step, and slipped sideways, nearly pitching into the turgid, evil smelling brown waters of the canal. Sean doubled up with laughter, and Diffy swore under his breath before jumped down into the boat.
‘You crack me up, you fuckin pygmy.’ Laughed Sean.
‘And I hope you break your fuckin neck.’ Replied Diffy.
‘Not going to happen, my diminutive friend.’ And it didn’t. Sean danced across the plank, and leaped lightly down into the boat.
The boatyard’s owner took them through a quick five minute demonstration of the boat’s simple controls, which they completely ignored, and sent them on their way.
The sun broke through as soon as they took to the water, and the temperature rose, as did their spirits. Tam took no time in opening and consuming the Scotch, and became more and more unsteady as the minutes rolled by. He grew more and more aggressive with every swig, and was soon rolling around the deck, swearing like a trooper and causing the boat to roll alarmingly.
‘Sit the fuck down, Tam, for fuck’s sake.’ Said Sean eventually. ‘You’ll have us all in the fuckin water. Christ! Johnny fuckin Depp didn’t have this much trouble with them twats off the Black Pearl.’
‘Watch your wee tongue, laddie.’ slurred Tam from behind the second bottle. ‘I’ve killed men for less.’
It’s me your talking to, you fuckin daft Jock. Sit down, you’re rocking the fuckin boat.’ Sean laughed raucously . ‘Did you hear that Diffy, you fuckin dwarf. I made a funny. Sit down you’re rocking the boat.’
‘Very nearly, Sean. Very nearly.’
‘Miserable twat. Give me a beer, will you, Diffy.’
Diffy passed Sean a can and opened one for himself. Brethy sat quietly in the bows, nursing a warm can of coke and trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
‘Cheer up, Brethy. You’ve got a face like a well smacked arse.’ Sean ruffled Brethy’s hair, then slapped him playfully round the back of his head.
‘I have a feeling this is all going to end in tears, Sean.’ replied Brethy. ‘Tam’s as pissed as arseholes already. Look out! There’s a boat coming towards us!’
Sean looked up to see a shiny blue narrowboat slowly approaching in the opposite direction.
At a closing speed of approximately four miles an hour there was plenty of time to take evasive action, if only Sean had listened to the boatyard manager’s instructions.
He immediately went into panic mode and started pulling and pushing the tiller in opposite directions in a vain attempt to get the fuck out of the other boat’s way. He failed miserably, and the boats closed on each other with the opposing helmsman waving frantically and mouthing profanities that were lost to the frenzied revving of both boat’s engines.
Like a couple of “men‘o’wars” the boats caught each other a glancing blow. Michael fell off his seat, depositing tepid coke down his shirt. Diffy bounced round the inside of the boat like a bagatelle ball and Sean felt the tiller being ripped out of his hands, to be promptly returned with force into his midriff.
Only Tam escaped the consequences of the impact. Standing like Ahab on the bows he hailed the helmsman of the other boat. ‘Ye fuckin lunatic. I’ll put the fuckin heed on ya!’
‘How dare you, you Philistine, ‘called the other boater from below his peaked cap, and from behind his military moustache. ‘You’re drunk, man. How dare you.’
The boats had slowed to a crawl due to the impact, and were passing each other at less than walking pace.
Tam was incensed. ‘Ye’ll pay fer that ye fuckin will.’ he roared, and launched himself into the slowly increasing gap between the two vessels.
His huge bulk arched gracefully through the air, then came to rest face first in the stinking water. He disappeared completely for a few seconds, then came spluttering to the surface like a drunken narwhale. The crew of the other boat took a quick appraisal of the situation, and shoved the throttle into ‘GO’ with an enthusiasm that was commendable. This didn’t help the situation a lot. Tam was immediately carried under again by the boats churning wake, only to appear a moment later, covered in plastic supermarket carrier bags and used condoms. His face was purple with rage, and his language was something to behold. He attempted to close on the boat, but it crept away, gathering speed until it moved easily away into the distance.
‘Bounder!’ shouted the helmsman from a safe distance, and the boat disappeared round a bend in the canal.
Sean and Diffy hauled Tam back aboard in silence. There was nothing to say, and anything said might just provoke a dig in the face.
The day was a write off, and the only thing to do was to head back to the boatyard, and home.
Tam sat morosely in the stern of the boat, all thoughts of whiskey and carousing forgotten as he dripped evil smelling, rank water into the welldeck.
They bumped into the timber moorings of the boatyard, tied up and killed the engine. What a waste of a perfectly serviceable day. One by one trudged off the boat onto the towpath. Michael, who had hardly contributed to the conversation all day, carried his remaining coke past the boatyard office towards the bus stop. Sean and Diffy stood on the towpath looking back at Tam, who was wringing canal water out of shirt.
‘Fuck me, look.’ Said Sean, and Diffy looked up just as the blue boat they had had the altercation with chugged slowly past, its engine on tickover. Tam’s gaze followed theirs, and his bloodshot eyes suddenly widened. A triumphant look came to his face, and he leapt into the air like an athlete, coming to rest on the stern of the boat only a foot or two from the startled and let’s face it, positively terrified helmsman.
‘Not a bad day after all.’ Said Sean, as Tam proceeded to punch the other boater mercilessly in the face.
‘Not bad at all.’ replied Diffy.
Sean, ‘What time is it?’
A decent end to the day, then.