Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Narrow Boat Diaries, Chapter Six: Who'd have Thought It?

It was dark now, and Des and I were getting used to a Kettleby Princess without Beyoncé. For a while we spoke little; each of us coming to terms with her not being there, not being stroppy and scary and beautiful all at the same time; we missed our shipmate.

Unspoken, we established the need to ‘do the dishes’. High tea with Jay Z and The Men (see Diaries passim) had left the cabin in a bit of a state, but the chore was a welcome diversion from the business of missing our friend. I dug out the bottle of sherry, a Manzanilla I’d been keeping back; sod tea, we needed a drink.
Donning the chewy Marigolds we found at the start of our holiday, and fishing out a bone-dry J-cloth (are they related?) that had taken on the shape of the ‘Limelite’ bottle over which it had been draped, Des filled the sink and got stuck in.

‘So,’ he began, ‘I’m in LA, at The Marmont for this do; I’m wearing a lovely jacket, that salmon pink one that you wouldn’t let me work the lock in the other day, remember?’ (I did). ‘And this chap comes up all arsy and very drunk and he says “Hey man” (at this point Des O’Connor CBE adopted an eerily plausible imitation of a West Coast rocker) “I know you man, I KNOW you; you’re that English dude I saw last time I was in Lunnun’” and I’m standing there thinking who on Earth is this, and he carries on “You’re.. don’t tell me.. no, no, no.. don’t tell me man you’re..” At which point he fell over. Then he’s back up on his feet: “You’re Des O’Connor man! Tha’s who you are; you’re Des O’Connor!” And he’s looking around the bar with this glassy-eyed stare like we’re all supposed to applaud. “Flattered I’m sure. Who are you?” and he says: “Asssl” and I said “Asssl? Sounds like something else where I come from. What kind of a name’s that?”

“AXEL Man! My name is Axel but I spell it without the ‘e’ ‘cos I gotta make a statement: or should that be statmnt!” at which point he started this sort of whinnying giggle and drifts off. Well, I’m looking for the chap from the telly company to get me out of this and you know what Fred? No blinking where to be seen; it’s just me and this drunk in a bandana and it’s God knows what time in the morning and I’m thinking how nice it would be to just go to the lift and go to bed when he comes back to life and jumps up and stares me straight in the face and says “Des you’re a star man; a real star. The way you’re breaking all those acts; Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld; you’re onto sump’n there man, I tell ya...” and he’s so close I can count his fillings, and he goes on: “ Des; you’re jus’ the man I need...” and he started giving me this funny look; very controlling, and now I’m getting nervous. “See, I’m kinda..stuck; know what I’m sayin? Stuck. Need some ‘vice. Sendin’ a car for you in the mornin’ man; you come to mine; we work it out!” and he’s shouting and no-one’s paying a blind bit of notice I mean, this is Hollywood so I suppose this is all grist to the mill for the staff but I’m finding it all a little, well, testing.

‘Des?’ I interrupted, ‘More sherry?’

‘Thanks Fred; don’t mind if I do’ He stopped to take a sip, some soap suds running off the rubber gloves and down the stem of the sherry glass, catching the light from the feeble strip lamp above the worktop. It was now pitch black outside, and I broke off from drying up to draw the curtains on their wire worms. A dead spider fell into the sink.

‘So next day I’m coming to in my room. Fabulous by the way Fred; fabulous; the sheets! The towels! The pot pourri! And the phone rings and the voice says; “Car’s there for you man. Get over here” and it’s this Axel fellow but with no ‘e’. So I’m in the car, it’s all very nice and there’s a girl there too and I’m thinking; crikey; don’t think so, bit early for all that but nice view all the same. Then we’re sweeping up the drive of this enormous house, porticos and everything, llamas on the lawn, some naked people wandering around with drinks and an ornamental pond that was more like a lake...’ Des paused, and took a draft of the all-too-easily quaffable Manzanilla.

‘So in I go, flunky shows me into the drawing room and in walks my new best mate. “Des!” he shouts, “Come here man, lemme see ya!” and throws his arms around me like we’ve known each other all our lives and leads me off to his studio.
‘Well; I’m stunned. You’ve never seen anything like it Fred. It’s fur lined for one thing, and there’s another llama..’ Des stopped suddenly; he’d spotted a bit of dried-on jam on the cake tin and attacked it with renewed zeal. ‘....could have been a yak. Anyway, it’s in amongst the mic stands like it’s the most normal thing in the world and I’m thinking this is a long way from the bar at Television Centre when suddenly the whole mood changes; he plays a tape and Axl’s concentrating, and staring at me hard. “Des, man. Listen to this. I wrote it for my fish“, and as the tape plays he starts crying: “Des, I love’em man, I love ‘em; they mean the world to me man, like you man! They don’t let you down man, not ever” and I’m hearing this fantastic number, a rock’n’roll anthem, thundering chords, stupendous vocals; the works, but poor old Axl’s unhappy; the song’s almost there but not quite; know what I mean? (I did but, not wanting to break the flow, remained silent save for a nod); Des continued.

”Axl” I said, and he gave me that funny look I’d seen in the bar the night before,

“’I can tell you like your wildlife, I mean, it jumps out at you when you pull up the drive, and I can see you love your fish”

“And?” he said.

“Well” I said. “This is brilliant but trust me, I reckon you could sell a lot more copies if you made it about a girl.” Suddenly he’s all ears, and bolt upright, and stone cold sober.

“How many people” I said “are going to buy a record called ‘Sweet Carp of Mine’, I mean, that’s just silly” and you know what Fred; it was like a light went on. “And”, I said “while we’re at it, if you’re asking my opinion, and I think you are, ditch the kaftan and get yourself a pair of tight black leather pants; you’re supposed to be a rock god after all.”

“Des! That’s why I love you man! You’re the real deal; you’re the full tomato; awesome, just awesome. Now, leave me be; I need some space. Gotta clear this thing up”. Then he snapped his fingers and the flunky reappeared and I’m back in the car and back at the hotel; all very odd.

‘I wrote him a note; said how much I’d enjoyed my morning and hoped it had helped; that sort of thing. He sent a note straight back; would I like to come to the video shoot? Well would I ever? And that’s where the next extraordinary thing happened Fred.’ Des paused for dramatic effect, and, knowing perfectly well he had me hooked, took another slug of sherry before waving the empty glass under my nose for a refill. Outside some small waterborne creature, a coot probably, splashed its way back into the canal and paddled away into the night.

‘Do go on’ I ventured.

‘I arrive at the studio and they’re all in a right flap. There’s Axl, who looked terrific I must say; he’d got rid of the kaftan and had taken my hint about the leather pants, but he’s beside himself; running around, yelling and screaming.

“What’s up Ax me old mate?” says I.

“It’s Slash; he’s a no-show”. Now, I’d worked out who was who by this time, so I knew he was talking about their lead guitarist chappie. “And if we don’t get this shoot under way in five minutes the label’s gonna pull the whole Goddam’ thing and I need this video to work man.”

“Axl, where’s Wardrobe?” I said, seizing the initiative.

“Trailer’s in back Des; says ‘Costume’ on the door. Why man?”

“I’ve an idea..” and I left it at that. Well, I found the trailer, which was really a motor home, like a giant Dormobile, and had a rummage. I asked the girl if they had any wigs. “Sure Grandad” she says, and I gave her such a look Fred, I can tell you, before working my way methodically through a couple of boxes on the floor. Soon as I’d got what I wanted, I went straight back into the studio and picked up a guitar (I play a bit see Fred; don’t advertise it but I can pick out a tune).

“How do I look?” Axl looked stunned Fred; totally floored. Then he did that funny giggle he’d done the night I met him. “Des man; that is f****n’ A man, just f*****g A” (he used the f word a lot Fred; I’m leaving that out, I mean there’s no need).

“Now” I said “If this is going to work you’ve got to give me free reign with this thing” and I waved the guitar at him and the rest of the band.
“Des” says Axl “If you can pull off that costume I’ll swear you can play guitar; go right ahead. There’s a section in the middle needs rampin’ up a bit so just do what feels right”

‘This was all I needed to hear Fred. We shot the video in one take, and although I say so myself, I doubt I’d played as well before, and I won’t play as well as that ever again; the licks just seemed to pour out of me; I felt as if I was playing out of my skin. The rest is history; and if you don’t believe me just have a look; there’s a video on the internet*. There’s me in my thrown-together costume; sleeveless denim jacket, stovepipe hat and huge wig, which completely covered my face and stank of patchouli oil, knocking out the riff for all I was worth. It was marvellous Fred; marvellous. Course I’m uncredited; that was the whole point of the wig; no-one would want to know that the world’s greatest ever guitar solo was actually conjured up by me, Light Ents legend and seriously middle aged bloke, and I didn’t mind that, still don’t; just helping some fellow travellers Fred; you’d do the same.

‘Slash came to in a ditch somewhere and wandered in just as everyone was packing up. Axl gave him such a telling off!

“You lousy S*********h! Not only did you nearly screw up the band’s entire friggin’ future, you just missed the best bit of guitar playin’ anyone here’s ever heard and it’s all thanks to my good friend from London England Des O’Connor! Now you better sit down and drink a ton of coffee Man cos’ you got a new solo to learn and learn good before we take this thing on the road...”. I made my excuses and left, my work with Guns’n’Roses was done.’

‘Crikey Des’ I said ‘What happened next?’

‘Didn’t hear a thing for a couple of years. Then, out of the blue, my accountant rings and says “Des? You checked your Jersey No.2 account recently? Think you’d better have a look.” So I call them up and ask for a statement and blow me down if there isn’t all this extra cash, and every entry’s marked ‘G’N’R: THANKS DES’ and a date. You know what Fred; I made more money out of those two days with Axl and the band than in my entire career, which is a bit galling really, when you think of the years of blinkin’ slog I’ve put in, and Morecambe and Wise taking the Mick for a living for God knows how long. Still, good business is where you find it I suppose, and Axl’s a top bloke; still get the odd cheque, even now.’

Tale told, Des slumped back on the narrow sofa, the fold-out table having been neatly stowed when we were half way through the sherry; he looked tired, we probably both did. It was, by this time, very late. Our friend would have completed her set some time ago and would now surely be enjoying drinks and canapés with the rest of her pop star mates at Glastonbury; would she be thinking of us, moored up here in Warwickshire? Ah well, either she’ll come back or she won’t; we would have to wait and see.

Des was by now fast asleep where he sat, and I could feel my eyes beginning to droop too. I stood and tidied the gangway (Des would wake up with a start and make his way back to his own berth in no time; wouldn’t do to have him trip over the recycling bin) and wiped down the sink, placing the freshly rinsed J-cloth over the taps.

Then, checking everything was switched off save the night light, I sat down briefly before heading off to my own snug little cabin. Just as I turned the turnbuckle catch I became aware of a noise. A purposeful, rhythmic yet distant splashing; the sound of oars... and they were getting closer. Who on Earth could be out rowing up the canal in the middle of nowhere at this time of night? I froze, the better to hear; was that a voice? Yes! And Texan too; Beyoncé was coming back!
©Fred Fibonacci 2011
*Author’s note: that video; see for yourself....

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Narrow Boat Diaries: the visitors.

THUD THUD THUD THUD THUDCHIOO CHIOOO CHIOOO CHIooo choo swishhh swisssshhhh hiissss.


The helicopter landed; a door opened. Suddenly the field appeared to fill with very large men in inappropriate suits, curly bits of wire coming from their ears, marching purposefully to each corner of the field and scanning what little horizon they could see through their mirrored glasses (for goodness’ sake; it was almost dark and we were just outside Tamworth). I saw one of them sink up to his ankles in the patch of mud recently vacated by our terrified audience of Friesian cows.

An immaculately dressed Jay Z stepped gingerly from the Agusta AW139, a glimpse of its interior un-missable from our perch on the Kettleby Princess, the narrow-boat from another age and world entirely to that from which the cherry red helicopter had just arrived and which had just plonked itself down in the field before us.

Scanning the wet, soaking grass and the gulf of mud between him and the canal bank Jay (Mr Z?) barked: ‘Y’all comin’ or what?’

For whatever reason, I found myself becoming overwhelmingly protective and stepped forward. Beyoncé laid a hand on my arm; ‘S’ok Fred. He’s fine; pay no heed to him; he’s just jealous’ at which point she let out the filthiest laugh imaginable, doing a lot to break the ice.

True to form, at this precise moment the sprightly Des O’Connor stuck his head out of the saloon hatch, his walnut tan glowing through the damp evening air, and shouted: ‘Tea anyone? Come on Loves; you’ll need a brew before you get back to Glastonbury; switch that thing off properly and come aboard; I’ve knocked up some scones’ Well done Des; just the ticket. The whine of the gas turbines subsided and the field was silent save for the steady patter of rain, lighter than before but ever-present.

As you might imagine, getting all these giant men (there were only four but they were so big it seemed like many more) into the Princess’ cramped saloon took some organising; they had to go down the steps sideways, so ample was their girth, and it was clear they could make neither head nor tale of the barge herself.
Soon enough we were all wedged around the see-all, hear-all Formica-topped table, with Des pouring and me explaining the niceties of an English cream tea to our guests. Jay Z I could tell was distinctly underwhelmed by the set up, and glared whenever B laughed at one of my jokes. The Men (impossible to think of them without capital letters) sat very still, using small, decisive movements to load clotted cream and homemade gooseberry jam onto Des’s wonderfully tasty scones. If this is what they’re like eating a cream tea God knows what they must be like in the field of battle, I thought, gulping down a mouthful and beginning to wish they’d all just hurry up and go.

‘So’ said Jay, addressing Des but unreadable behind yet more mirror shades, ‘D’j’all call em’ scones or scones?’ He rhymed the first with dons, the second with tones.
Surprised, and momentarily thrown by this depth of knowledge Des answered: ‘Scones rhymes with Fonz’.

‘No man, wrong; it’s scones rhymes with cones.’ A pause; Des put his scone down and wiped a bit of cream from the corner of his mouth.

‘Well, I beg to differ Poppet’ he said ‘but it’s scones; short o’

Scones, long o,’ Jay Z’s eyes narrowed.

‘Scones Jay; scones’ Des wasn’t giving up without a fight.

Scones!’ A barely suppressed snarl behind the word.

‘Scones’ Countered Des, as calm as you like.

‘No Godammit; no, no, no, no, no; scones’




‘Scones! Scones Man! Long friggin’ o. The word is scones rhymes wid’ loans, phones, zones, Capone’s, bones, saxophones...’

‘Y’all finished?’ Beyoncé cut across the pair of them, and not a moment too soon; our new star guest was getting a little shrill and Des, I could tell, was feeling increasingly foolish for rising to the bait.

‘S’tea is all, and real nice too; thank you Des’ and with that she turned and gave Mr O’Connor that full beam, full wattage Knowles’ smile. She then turned to Jay Z and gave him the polar opposite. Ah! Marriage!

Throughout this The Men sat motionless; one with vast hands placed on the Formica-topped table to either side of his willow-pattern plate, another with a scone half way between plate and mouth and the other two mid-munch. Everyone began to relax a little and then Jay did the most extraordinary thing; he stood, almost banging his head on the cabin roof, and then stooped into a full Shakespearean bow.

‘Beyoncé my Darling you’re right. I took that a little far’ and promptly sat down. Unfortunately in so doing he caught the edge of his plate, flipping his heavily en-creamed and en-jammed scone straight onto his chin. The Jay Z chin, fashionably stubbled as it was, now had cream, gooseberry jam and scone clinging to it like Velcro. The largest of The Men went first, the tell-tale shoulder movement; up and down, up and down, accompanied by a peculiar rhythmic hissing as he tried hard to suppress a fit of giggles. To no avail; the giggles spread around the tiny table like a small but perfectly formed Mexican wave. Resistance was futile, and soon all of us, even Jay Z, rapper billionaire and fashion icon, were shaking with laughter, tears streaming down our faces and napkins flying hither and thither in an attempt to stem the flow; oh for a camera!

‘C’mon B; s’time to go;’ said Jay, now composed, ‘there’s a field full o’folk waitin’ ta hear you sing, an’ we ain’t about ta let ‘em down. Saddle up!’ At which point dutiful, beautiful Beyoncé walked to her cabin, emerging moments later in the most extraordinary costume I have ever seen (how? Where had she hidden it?), skipped up the companionway, jumped onto the only dry bit of canal bank to hand and stood, imperious, while The Men scuttled around her like so many worker bees. Two of them, unbidden, hoisted her aloft and squelched through the mud to the Agusta, now winding up its turbines in readiness for departure and beginning to heave and wrench against its muddy launch pad. Jay was soon on board, and then the last of The Men. The door slammed shut; the briefest of waves, and one last smile from Beyoncé before the noise increased. Des and I clung to both each other and the Princess’s tiller as the rotor wash threatened to blast the pair of us across the canal. More noise; deafening now, and then the helicopter broke free and soared, straight up like a lift, hovered briefly, spun on its axis to face the two of us, dipped its nose in salute to all that had just taken place, turned, accelerated, and was gone.

Silence returned to our little water borne world. Des and I, embarrassed, released the vice like grip in which we held each other, and stood at ease. We stayed like that for some time; I’ve really no idea how long, enjoying the peace of the damp Warwickshire evening, the cows slowly reclaiming their field, the sound of them chewing the long, wet grass the only noise to be heard.


‘Yes Des?’

‘Did I ever tell you about my time with Guns’n’Roses?’

‘No Des. Shall I put the kettle on?’

‘Think you’d better Fred’

To be continued...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Narrow Boat Diary; rain and Flounders

Crikey: where to begin? My last entry had the three of us in a state of near-perfect harmony; Beyonce fast asleep at the far end of the boat; Des, from the light showing under his cabin door, propped up in his bunk reading an old and very well-thumbed copy of 'What Hi-Fi' magazine that someone had left on board; and me sitting at the heart of the Kettleby Princess, her fold-out Formica-topped dining table, writing up the journal. Next day we were all three of us tested: we had weather, lots of it.

The rain came down in sheets; remorseless and surprisingly cold for June. Keen as everyone was to maintain the happy atmosphere all of us were taking our shared responsibilities seriously, with B getting better and better at steering the boat (tricky in high winds: 60' of narrow boat becomes 60' of uncontrollable timber and steel without keeping a close eye on the bow) and Des doing what he does best; endless pots of tea and funny stories. Your correspondent was on light chores on-board, heavy chores at the locks, Des having put his back out showing off at Foxton (no comment) and we were making good progress. I mention 'near-perfect'; one word hung over the Princess unspoken and affecting all three of us in different ways: Glastonbury.

At the outset Beyonce had promised Jay Z, Michael Eavis, the record company and of course her fans that, in spite of her commitment to our holiday (for which she, like myself and Des O'Connor CBE, had paid £450.00 plus share of food, and logs for the wood-burner) she would honour her contract and play the festival. After all, business is business and the girl has an album to promote; neither Des nor I would dream of standing in her way.

Well; that was then, this was now, and we were chugging through a sodden Warwickshire searching for a field big enough for Jay to land his wretched helicopter. We were soaking wet, running out of daylight and Des was, I could tell, fuming over having his last pot of Lapsang slighted by B, who was coming over all Sascha Fierce as she psyched herself up for her return to the real world: “Des? See this tea? S'cold” and with this she had given the lovely man the iciest of stares and proceeded to do the whole turning on her heels and walking away thing we'd seen the other day. Des and I shared a look; this was getting to be a habit; we needed to put a stop to it once and for all.

I walked the length of the boat; just as I was about to knock on her door and give her a piece of my mind I heard the unmistakable sound of crying coming from inside the cabin. Giving the gentlest of knocks I asked; "May I come in?" Silence; I knocked again; more sobbing; "Oh Fred, Fred, Fred!" she cried, the door still firmly closed "I am just so sorry. I just' gon'an' done it agin didn'ah? Me an' mah stoopid superstar temper. 'S jus’ I gotta prepare for some concert in a field to a bunch o'folk ah don'know, I love 'em mahnd, they mah fans and they what ah live for but, but ah’m havin’ so much Goddam fun out her widj’all I surely wish I didn’t have to go. An’ now I’m lashing out at Des, and you coming down here to make the peace, again” By now, the sobbing had turned to sniffles, accompanied by a low moan of anguish.

Well, what’s a chap to do? Tiresome though this pattern of behaviour was, it appeared to be sincere, and, I reminded myself, Beyonce was a lot further from home than either Des or me. “Des will understand I’m quite sure.” I said, silently shelving my ‘We’re not at home to Mrs Angry’ speech. “Perhaps, when you’ve had a chance to compose yourself you might like to come and play Flounders. It’s getting dark; we can moor here for the night. I’ll send Jay a message and he can pick you up in the morning; I’m sure he’ll understand” Silence.

Des, I could see, was hopping from one foot to the other in the galley desperate for news, his novelty ‘Strippergram’ pinny giving off tiny electrical flashes as it brushed against the Velour covered cushions he’d used to ‘make it more homely’ (Des’s phrase)(and yes: I worry too). I held a finger to my lips; patience Des, patience. Still the rain beat down, drumming on the roof, the decks, the canal, the field; one could even hear it splashing out a leathery rhythm on the herd of cows that stood watching from the bank at which we had come to rest. At last the cabin door opened; “An’ jus’ what” she said, those extraordinary and now red-rimmed eyes staring balefully into mine “in all hell are Flounders?” “What is Flounders, B; singular; it’s a game. You play it with dice. You have to match up bits of cardboard fish. Each bit of fish has a number and you have to throw the dice to get the number and when your number matches the bit of fish then you can use it to make more” I paused, “of your fish”.

We stared at each other for what seemed like an age. At last a grin began to spread from ear to fabulous ear. “You mean” she yelped “we get to roll dice! Bring it on!” Then we heard it; the unmistakable sound of a helicopter, thudding towards us with all the inevitability of the school bus, the school bus you prayed would break down in the village before yours because you hadn’t done your French homework. Whop whop whop whOP WHOP WHOP WHOP; it was directly above us and preparing to land, the cows bolting in all directions. I had had no time to send the message! Flounders would have to wait...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Narrow Boat Diary: bottle this.

Well, no news has been good news. The potentially combustible mix of myself, Beyonce Knowles and Des O'Connor CBE travelling through the Northamptonshire waterways on our hired narrow-boat, The Kettleby Princess, has been rendered harmless by the combination of fresh air, good food and the happy routine of canal navigation.

As you may recall, some tension had arisen over the issue of washing up and the fair and reasonable distribution of chores on board, all resolved over one of B's cakes and a pot of Des's lapsang. We went on to navigate Foxton Locks, and with some panache, Des insisting on winding every sluice gate (some showing off perhaps; neither of us is immune) and a highly satisfactory evening at 'Bridge 61', a canalside pub.

This was interesting; like so many very famous people, my travelling companions have a capacity to turn it on or turn it off, seemingly at will. Des's fame is so complete and his face so familiar that people say hello to him all the time, as if he were their neighbour. In a way he's just that: he has been in the corner of our living rooms for over 40 years; he just never got around to asking for a cup of sugar. His easy charm was there for all to see last night, everyone in the bar assuming he was a friend of a friend, or someone they'd met at at a conference a few years ago but couldn't quite place. This could have gone either way, but Des chose to keep a low profile for the common good.

Beyonce's impact is different, and I write this as she sleeps, snoring lightly in her tiny cabin at the other end of the boat, her Paddington Bear 'Do not disturb; bear sleeping!' sign swinging slowly back and forth with the gentle swell of the canal. First there's The Look, the look that says 'I'm buying two pints of Marston's Pedigree and a packet of Quavers and I appear to be to standing next to Beyonce' look. What comes next is a mixture of disbelief, close inspection, wonder; then finally resignation. The sheer implausibility of the setting weighs heavily on the subject. To a man (and it's always a man) they choose disbelief over acceptance ('this just cannot be') and we continue with our evening, or our shopping trip to Somerfield's. In mitigation, wearing one of my old Gap shirts and a pair of Levi's, and free of make up, B could be any other attractive boatie wife (albeit Texan).

This lack of attention went down well with my guests, revelling as they were in the joy of a quiet pint in a Leicestershire pub. As the acknowledged king of showbiz anecdotes, Des had us in fits. Once we had explained the significance of Morecambe and Wise, Beyonce begged Des to go on, her enthusiasm no doubt fuelled by the three pints of Pedigree she had downed. At this point people were beginning to look over into our corner so we thought better of it and got out while we were ahead.

Back on board, cocoas, Calvados and a packet of fig rolls to help us on our way, the evening carried on in a similar vein; lots of giggles over the game of Ker-plunk we found in the cupboard under the bench, and Des giving us a fabulous 'Wrap your troubles in dreams' with me and B tapping out the rhythm on the Formica-topped fold-out table; bliss. We even danced. Who could ask for anything more?


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Narrow Boat Diary: a thaw

Phew. After a suitable cooling off period I am pleased to report that the three of us are back on track.

It was Beyonce herself who broke the ice, although as Des and I kept getting the giggles (nerves) it was probably only a matter of time; there's no hiding place on 'The Kettleby Princess'. B was actually very sweet, calling us in from up top, where we had been sharing the helm and enjoying the sunshine. As soon as we heard "Y'all wanna get down here; I got sump'n I wanna say" (how exotic Miss Knowles Texan twang sounds in the rural idyll of the Northants meadows) we went below, having taken the precaution of laying off our craft to the northern bank of the canal, looping a rope (sheet?) around a willow.

Indulge me; I shall try to write it as Miss Knowles said it, because I cannot over-emphasise the effect her Southern drawl had on we two, her travelling companions.

'Thing is', she began, 'I figured it out; y'all call it washin'up. Home we call it doin' the dishes. Makes no difference; wouldna'known how anyways' she continued, flicking her fabulous hair back and settling herself, with an almost imperceptible shimmy, onto the foam cushions by the fold-out dining table (and reducing Des and I to jelly in the process).

'See, me and Jay? We got people do that stuff, and, and now ah'm 'barrassed; you puts that list up on the side o'the boat sayin' "Miss Knowles to wash up"? I figured y'all tryin'a tell me I needed take a bath, and I surely don' need no bath, I mean I know it's kinda primitive here but we got a shower an' I been usin'it, and I know you have too Des, cos I figure you been usin' ma shampoo, but ah'm gonna let that pass on account of wantn' ta get along wid y'all, and anyways it makes up for the houmous. Now I just feel kinda dumb 'cos y'all jus' wanted me to do the dishes, an' I will, I surely will if one o' you fine gen'lemen shows me how, an' I wanna say sorry, 'cos I know y'all meant no 'ffence. I wan'us to be friends: I made us all a cake'. This last, pleadingly.

Des and I, I realised, were now in a sort of trance and quite unable to speak. It's not for nothing that this girl is a global recording and performing phenomenon with a net worth that must rival Luxemburg, I told myself, gathering my wits. Yes, of course, we blurted out, and proceeded to trip over ourselves in the process of making amends, with much talk of 'Two peoples separated by a common language' and so forth. Needless to say, Beyonce's cake was delicious, and with a nice pot of Des's tea to wash it down, all was well once more.

It is my fervent wish that our holiday can now proceed in harmony.

Tomorrow: Foxton locks.


Monday, 13 June 2011

The Narrow Boat Diary: In The Beginning

From a related social network site last week: 'I have this very evening shaken hands with Des O'Connor. We hit it off immediately so it looks like another narrow-boat holiday's on the cards (although how me, Des AND Beyonce are all going to fit is a bit of a mystery).'

The Narrow Boat Diary: The Story So far

Well, it's all kicked off today: Beyonce's thrown a fit over the washing up, so me and Des are keeping a low profile (not easy on a narrow-boat). With hindsight, it was probably a mistake to suggest to La Knowles that she might like to do her bit, especially after I had gone to the trouble of putting up a rota. And while we're there, says I, could she please not keep dipping into Mr O'Connor's houmous (bless; Des had been too polite to say anything). Life on the canals is about sharing and co-operation, I went on, and we'd all get a lot more out of the holiday if we each put a bit more in. I was, by this time, talking to her fast-disappearing rear and trying not to listen to her colourful, and very loud, response. This was a while ago: all three of us now going about on eggshells until things have calmed down. Northamptonshire continues to slip past at a steady three miles an hour, the dunk dunk dunk of our Kubota diesel engine and the gentle swish of reeds our only soundtrack.
More later