Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cast Adrift with a Load of Aquatic Fred Dibnahs; TV WATCH

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cast Adrift with a Load of Aquatic Fred Dibnahs; TV WATCH

Article excerpt


Narrowboat Afloat

Discovery Realtime

HAVING frequently journeyed to the four corners of the earth (in my role as President of the Flat Earth Society), I consider myself a well-seasoned traveller. I can say "diarrhoea" in 30 different languages, and have slept in an SNCF overnight compartment so cramped that I was obliged next morning to give myself a full bedbath using only a single Femfresh vaginal wipe, but of all the grim locations I've ever found myself in, none has equalled the sheer misery of a week on the Norfolk Broads.

It's East Anglia's aquatic necropolis, a place where there are more "do not" signs per square foot than anywhere else in the world, a place where the waters are as broad as the boats and the minds are narrow.

As is demonstrated by the residents (snooty, blazer-wearing, non-commissioned officers who personify petty bureaucracy in the full glory of its pompous and ineffectual imbecility), and by the visitors, who are fat, beer-swilling, gold-chain-wearing, foulmouthed scum (and that's just the women), gleefully steering 20-ton hired narrowboats into each other as though they were dodgem cars, as they "self-cater" in a space not big enough to swing a kitten (and believe me, I tried).

Long-suppressed memories of the sheer stifling boredom of life on the river rose forcefully to the surface last night, as I watched Narrowboat Afloat.

The prospect of taking eight days to get from Birmingham to London seemed bad enough (sometimes even Central Trains beat that), but spending them on board a renovated "rusty old hull" like the Dover would be unbearable for me, especially if my sole companion was " narrowboat enthusiast" Alan Herd.

The lack of interior shots of the craft fuelled my suspicions about its cramped dimensions (even with a fisheye lens the cameraman presumably couldn't make it look habitable), but the real cause of my claustrophobia was the presenter's clinical addiction to minutiae about boats and barges.

So relentlessly did he bombard us with facts and figures that even a trainspotter with full-blown Asperger's would have considered him a trifle obsessive, and although there might have been two of us on board as we set off from the Midlands end of the Grand Union Canal, I swear that only one of us would still have been alive by the time we got to Brentford.

"The canal was built to carry cargo from one place to another," said Herd in a statement of the bleeding obvious, adding that working boats used to complete the journey in three or four days. "It'll take me eight days because of pleasure craft," he lamented, but he was wrong there, because what really slowed him down was his penchant for stopping every few hundred yards to interview what he called "various characters,"but were actually just a bunch of aquatic Fred Dibnahs with too much time on their hands. …

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