A Word in Your Ear with Jon Rhodes - 3 March, 2011

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I LOVE a day off. I love to potter and appear to be doing a lot but not actually move either legs or brain cells.

So, with this picture of slothfulness in your mind, you may question what I did on my last day off. That’s right, I jumped into the Lancaster Canal.

To be fair, it was not the weather to get all Action Man and, when I heard the radio forecast warning of a potential snow shower, I knew I should really have stayed at home and watched that Sherlock Holmes box set I received for Christmas two years ago.

But I had promised the father-in-law, and the kids were looking forward to seeing daddy play the hero.

You see the father-in-law King Tat had been having some trouble on his boat, namely he’d wrapped a rope around the propeller.

Given my family’s history as shipbuilders, and my own love of the ocean (well, a love of cocktail bars on Cunard liners), this was chance for me to pass muster and earn my sea legs.

But nothing could really have prepared me for the reality that was stepping into a muddy bog and fishing around at the back of a canal cruiser.

King Tat had come prepared. Yes, he’d brought his camera. “Just catch a few shots to show the family,” he said, almost as if he had disowned me before I had started by suggesting I was no longer part of “the family”.

But, in a borrowed dry suit and a pair of Adidas trackie bottoms, I plunged into the icy waters like a poor man’s Jacques Cousteau.

With the water up to my chest and my hands turning blue from the first minute, I began to fish around for the rope.

King Tat had promised not to turn the engine on given I am quite fond of my fingers and a whizzing propeller would surely bring an end to my typing career.

But within five minutes I realised a greater peril. Me basically crouching with my lower midriff (if you catch my drift) spread-eagled inches away from the propeller.

Thankfully, there were no slips, but 25 minutes later I was ready to call it quits – hero status no longer mattered.

Then, as if by magic, the repeated threading and unthreading of the rope, followed by a snip-snip with a diver’s knife, and the rope was free.

Triumphant, I was ready to accept the applause from my children and a hearty pat on the back from Tat. But no, the kids had got bored and gone back on board and Tat simply passed me a sponge.

“What’s that for?” I questioned.

“Well, as you’re in there, could you go around and clean the bits of the boat I can’t reach from here?” he replied. Sadly, he was serious.

Still, he’s returning the favour by wallpapering my lounge. I reckon, despite the cold, wet and muddy conditions, I got the better deal.

I may not be a natural submariner, but I’m a completely unnatural decorator. I might even pass him a paintbrush and ask him to touch up the garage door while he has his overalls on – you know “the bits I can’t reach from here”.

And yes, I have my camera at the ready.