“You only have to float around and tie up a couple of ropes – how hard can it be?”

I’ve always thought that holidays are about freedom. Freedom to explore, to relax, and to discover new things.

In the quest to stay socially distanced and safe, we recently decided on a longboat staycation and headed towards the Kennet & Avon waterway for 3 days of leisurely travel on tranquil waters. Surely a perfect way to de-stress. Who, after all, has heard of canal rage? We took our two grown-up children and the dog. What could go wrong?

The day arrived and started well. No middle-of-the-night alarm clocks going off to catch a flight at the crack of dawn.

“Don’t take the dog,” people said, but he’s an old man now and part of the family, so we turned up with a strong harness and stepped on board for a quick instructional tour of ‘Little Bunting’, our floating holiday home. After a bit of zig-zagging, we sat back to embrace the pace.

Fast forward a couple of hours and suddenly everything changed. Ok, there were more than a few challenges – the canal got bendy, a road bridge needed pulling up (traffic doesn’t like being stopped), our first lock was broken (all my fault, obviously) and we mis-timed our dinner booking (the waterside pub garden looked lovely as we sailed past, frantically calling up to apologise). Then shouting happened – it seemed we all knew the best way to negotiate a mooring. I mean, you only have to float in and tie up a couple of ropes, how hard can it be?

I considered the 22 locks that we still had left to go and poured everyone a large gin and tonic.

Day 2 began calmly, barge life took on a rhythm of its own, it was warm and sunny, as were the canal ‘people’ and we finally began to work as a team. Bacon rolls appeared and it felt good to watch the world of wildlife whilst holding a hot mug of tea. Even the dog managed not to eat the 3 ducks swimming by for his dinner. Life was good.

The peace didn’t last long – a contretemps started over whether you can steer a boat in neutral, then we took our eye off the dog who misjudged the gap from ship to shore and fell in the canal (he was hauled out by his collar before he knew what had happened) and we watched a towel fly off the roof and sink before you could say ‘quick, get the hook!’ It was pistols before lunch.

But as with all family holidays, everything went quiet for a bit, we all separated (thank god for towpaths), had a little think and came back together again to give teamwork another go.

It’s hard to stay angry when life happens at 4mph. It’s not Barbados, but the canals of England definitely offer a beautiful landscape and a unique viewpoint on the world.