I had to take the boat out on bank holiday Monday, not something I would usually do, but I was overdue a diesel and pump out visit to Kings Bromley. It was predictably busy and I didn't start till about 9.45. However there were more volunteer lock keepers about than you could shake a windlass at so help was at hand.
All was well until I reached the third lock in the flight. There was a boat waiting to go through the next lock that was tied on the lock bollards in such a way that I would struggle getting in behind him. I slowed right up and saw the boater chatting to people on the towpath. I called out in my most friendly and polite manner and asked him if he minded moving his boat forward on the bollards so I could fit in behind. I saw him say something but couldn't hear him so I repeated my request. This time it was obvious the man was annoyed. His wife then had a word and reluctantly and making a great show of effort, they moved their boat a few feet so I could get in.
The wife went off to the lock and the man, in his 60's, stayed with the boat. I secured mine and then wandered up to have a word. I said I was sorry if I caused him a problem to which he replied "I don't like bossy females at the tiller" I was about to respond in kind when I noticed his boat (Rosy) was covered with Boater Christian Fellowship stickers. I asked if he was a member, he said he was. I said "well you aren't a great advert are you?" To which he asked what I knew about it. Well I couldn't resist and said "I was an evangelist for the Church of England". I paused and saw him thinking maybe I was part of his club and then said " but then I saw the light and left."
His response honestly shocked me. He came up very close, poked his fingers at me and hissed in a low, vicious tone "get away from me you devil!" I said "devil?" He replied that if I was "an ex" then I was a devil and then he disappeared inside his boat, even though the lock was almost ready for him. I was stunned by the mixture of fear and fury that flowed from him and decided not to speak again as he was clearly unhinged.
But I still had to follow him up the lock flight and being that he was slower at the locks, I kept catching up with him. I noticed he was smiling and chatting and even handing out chocolate to the volunteer lock keepers but when he glanced at me, which he did regularly, his mask slipped and I saw what was underneath. At the last but one lock he got his camera out and appeared to take a photograph of me and then nodded as if to say he had me now. No doubt I should check their website in due course. I might find my mugshot on it with warnings about the devil!
I know I should just shrug it off but it still bothers me when I see such an ugly face purporting to be Christian. I also know he is in a tiny minority (although I have met two other rude members of the same organisation) but as I tied up in the woods I was very grateful again that I no longer have anything to do with organised religion!