Amy and I bought the Times today (sorry Jim, they didn't have any Guardians!) and they featured a two-page spread in their travel section on narrowboat holidays. Or, as Caitlin Moran insists on calling them, barges.
(Photograph courtesy of the Times website). She doesn't look happy, does she?
Perhaps her unhappiness stems from trying (and succeeding) to do the Four Counties ring- 204 lock miles- in six days. Whilst she and her family and friends managed to enter the supposed "true" narrowboat spirit (instituting the concept of 2pm being Gin Time, getting pleasantly drunk each evening) the photos accompanying the article show a few mistakes that she made, such as leaving the stern rope piled up on the counter ready to be tripped over or wrapped around the prop, or operating locks barefoot. Which, considering the perennial complaints about dog mess littering the towpaths, might not be the most sensible idea... She also claims to have invented lock-wheeling. I wonder what the working boaters would have said about that!
But the funniest part was the statement (which is probably a typo) that their hired boat's top speed was 15mph.
I'm all for the media advocating narrowboating as a holiday, but Moran's stress on how much hard work it was might put people off. Plus, and I know I'm being overly sensitive here, it really, really, REALLY annoys me- to the point of considering writing to the Times- that they call a narrowboat a barge eight times in the article. It just makes the article seem very under-researched, and hard to take seriously.
Nevertheless, having said that, encouraging people to use the waterways is a Good Thing. The article isn't perfect, but then, I couldn't write so amusingly and entertainingly on a subject I know little about without making a few mistakes. They rankle me, as a narrowboater, and I wish in some ways that she'd portrayed another side of narrowboating- relaxing on a realistically planned and scheduled journey, not going hell-for-leather and pushing on. 33 odd lock miles per day is very ambitious in anyone's books!