You had been sleeping quite comfortably until your face was slammed into the wall. The entire room had jolted to the left, and the force of the movement had also knocked all the jars off the shelves in the kitchen. You can hear them rolling along the hallway as the room bobs from side to side.
“Sleep well?” One of your friends asks as you appear in the doorway of the living room a few minutes later.
You recall your sleep-talking friend (who woke herself up at one point with her weird, injured cries), the incessant squeaking of the airbed and the uncomfortably warm atmosphere of the boat and conclude that last night was one of the worst nights of sleep you’d ever had.
“Yeah, not bad.” You say. “What did everyone have for breakfast?”
It’s your second day on the canal. Swans and joggers overtake you with ease, the kettle takes twelve minutes to boil, biting spiders have infested the front of the boat and the matter of who will empty the chemical toilet at the end of the trip has become the smelly elephant in the room.
All the same, you’re having a good time. You’re passing through swathes of rich green countryside (a product of the wet British climate) and past the overgrown skeletons of England’s industrial past. Dragonflies, herons and swans keep you company beneath the clouds that threaten rain at any moment, and you’re enjoying saying hello to everyone.
On the last day, the drizzle that had plagued you all weekend became a fully fledged downpour. Rain runs off your coat in torrents and soaks into your jeans as you wind the lock paddles and try your hardest not to drop the wet windlass into the canal.
By the time you reach the next lock, the rain has stopped. You put your back against one of the huge black and white arms of the gate and push, but its painted steel surface is slippery, and you fall heavily onto your bum when the gate moves a little easier than expected.
Then, when you attempt the close the gate again, you cannot for the life of you make it move. The sight of one of the boys struggling on the other side makes you feel slightly better, but after a while even they manage to get the gate shut.
“Robert, do you want to go over and help Lana?”
You’re heaving and cursing and using your entire weight to pull against the gate, but you fail to make it move more than a few inches until a passing walker notices your distress and comes to your aid.
At the end of the trip you moor up at Watford and start collecting your things together. The second bedroom is converted back to a dining room, the floors are hoovered and the windows get closed and bolted.
“Guys, do you know what’s worse than a full toilet?” Oliver asks.
Everyone stops what they are doing to hear the answer. The toilet problem is finally being addressed, and everyone is quietly hoping that they will not be the one to deal with it.
“A leaking one.” He answers gloomily.
Nine of you had stayed on the boat for the weekend. The chemical toilet was very small and probably not meant to have been used by so many people.
Oliver dons a bin bag, gloves and a tea towel face mask before disappearing into the bathroom. The smell overcomes the boat and you all retreat outside, where you extol Oliver’s character and complain about the odour in equal measure.
“We should definitely do something for him.” You say to the others. “He’s cleaning up our sewage afterall.”