Miles Kington: Driven round the bend by canal knowledge

'How am I expected to report an accident from a deserted bit of countryside'
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The Independent Online

Every day this week I am bringing you a complete holiday novel for those moments on the beach when you don't want a blockbuster, just an 800-word novel to fill in three minutes. Today's is called: 'Into The Lock'

When you are on a canal holiday, there is nothing quite so annoying as having another narrow boat in front of you for any length of time.

Or so John thought.

John was on a canal holiday and there had been a boat in front of him for what seemed like two hours, and it was getting up his nose.

"Bloody boat!" he said to his wife, Margaret. "It seems to be going at exactly the same speed we are. It's getting on my wick."

"You can always stop for a while and let it get away," she said.

"We've got quite a few locks to get through," he reminded her.

"Then you'll have to put up with it," she said. "After all, we came on this trip to get away from stress."

"I know," he said, "but I didn't expect to get stuck behind a Sunday driver."

He found he was speaking to himself, as Margaret had gone below again. But 30 minutes later, when he was still stuck behind the boat in front, and getting even more sick of it, he made his big decision. He had once or twice tried full power and he reckoned he had the legs of the boat in front, so he was going to overtake.There wouldn't be a lot of room, and it would take a bit of time, and once he got ahead of the boat – well, they could see what it was like to stare at his backside for hours on end!

Margaret came up when he was halfway through the manoeuvre. He had more or less drawn level with the boat and Margaret said "John! What on earth..." and he said "I'm just overtaking that's all" and she said "I know that, but what about the boat coming the other way, there won't be room for all three of us" and he said, "Oh, Jesus, I didn't see him..."

He just managed to pull back to avoid an all-out collision, though he did bounce off the bow of the approaching boat slightly, and after that he went very quiet and steered the boat rather slowly and safely, and his wife said nothing but looked at him and went below again. But the next time Margaret reappeared, she said again "John! What on earth..." and she wasn't looking ahead this time, she was looking astern, and, following her gaze, he looked round and saw that they were being overhauled by another canal boat.

A boat with a blue light on top.

A boat marked CANAL POLICE.

With a policeman standing in the prow with a megaphone through which he shouted, "Will you please pull into the bank, switch off your engine and wait till I come aboard!"

"I don't believe it," said John. "I just do not believe it. It's got to be a joke. It's a hoax. It's rag week."

And he went as fast as he could to get away from this maniac, but all to no avail, as the police narrowboat was obviously supercharged, and easily caught up with John.

"I'd pull into the side if I were you, sir," said the policeman as they drew level. "It'll be better for all concerned."

"Since when have there been canal police?" said John, when he had moored and the policeman had come on board.

"Since people started behaving badly on the canal, sir," said the canal copper.

"Behaving badly?".

"Well, sir," he said, opening a notebook, "for instance, overtaking dangerously, as we were about 20 minutes ago, and driving in a manner likely to cause an accident, and collision with another boat, and failing to stop and report an accident and – shall I go on?"

"Failing to report an accident?" said John. "I hardly touched him! And how am I expected to report an accident from a deserted bit of countryside?"

"On your mobile phone, sir."

"I don't have a mobile phone!"

The policeman raised his eyebrows, said "Plus failure to have a mobile phone on board..." and wrote it down.

"What evidence have you got?"

"It's all on film, sir," said the policeman. "Those things you probably think are bollards are actually cameras."

"But..." said John.

To cut a long story short, John was arrested and taken away, but there was a happy ending. He didn't die in police custody.

You're always on CCTV. Someone's watching you as you read this

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