Sailing expert and trainer to the TV stars, John Inman has come up with perfect advice for the Prime Minister
Lock-keeper John Inman looks after TV celebrities on the cut
1 What first attracted you to the waterways?
An offshore yachtsman had a small baby and went on holiday. That was over 40 years ago, now I have to lend him and his family the boat.
2 Which is your favourite canal?
The one I haven’t been on yet. I love exploring.
3 What do the waterways have to offer the country?
Peace and tranquillity even in the midst of the bustling masses.
4 Tell us about your boating experience…
Started sailing at the age of seven in the Solent, stuck to cruising as I couldn’t afford to race yachts and keep breaking them. I am really a natural canal man, but all the offshore experience helps sometimes.
5 Have you ever fallen in?
I refuse to answer that question in case it happens, but lifejackets are a good idea.
6 What do the waterways need most?
The formation of Canal and River Trust has enabled a structure to be in place that lets people like me volunteer and contribute more than money. Lots of us with years of various work experiences should just get stuck in and help as looking after it all is a massive undertaking.
7 What are you reading?
Other than Nicholsons usually a crime novel. Maybe I should write one on a canal... Bank robber escapes in narrowboat!
8 Who would be your ideal cruising companion?
Lorraine Chase was a lot of fun, though I might struggle with my blood pressure. Theresa May could probably do with a break on a narrowboat.
9 What did you want to be aged 12?
A motor racing driver. 60 years later its 4mph.
10 How was your TV experience?
Great fun to be paid for. I have had previous media experience and am used to that environment. Once you accept the waiting about and just relax its great. Plus I love teaching on the water, it’s very rewarding, hence my activity as an RYA instructor with Castaway Canal Boats near Bath.
11 How were the stars ?
They were really very good. Given that they were all nervous and were taken aback with 60ft-plus boats they were ordinary people just like any other RYA candidate or a show out that I do from time to time at Sally Narrowboats in Bradford on Avon
12 Any other brushes with stardom?
Too many to mention, but the most recent was David Dimbleby at Bradford on Avon lock when I was working with CRT as a volunteer lock keeper. We had a great chat whilst his wife managed the boat. He was on a 75th birthday jaunt with a couple of days on a boat and then planned a big family lunch at a canalside pub.
13 What are your fondest memories of the waterways?
Driving a narrowboat from Bath to Dundas on the Kennet and Avon for a TV programme which was totally silent and filmed in one take. I was given one hour and 55 minutes to do the journey, not 54 and certainly not 56. It’s the only time in my life when I helmed a narrowboat with a stopwatch round my neck.
14 What do you think of people on the canals?
Absolutely wonderful. There is camaraderie amongst the majority of continuous cruisers, and mostly the visitors are just grateful for help and polite guidance. Us regular boaters and volunteers just get along – it’s great.
15 What is your proudest achievement?
My son. What else can one say. JOHN INMAN
16 What would you like to see happen to the waterways in your lifetime?
Adequate funding from a nation that finally realises the amazing legacy left by Brindley, Telford and Rennie, and allows development in the context of progress without always scrimping and saving.
17 How’s retirement?
I don’t really know, I’m only 74 and haven’t really tried it yet
18 What were your previous jobs ?
I started life as an engineer but found general management and running businesses far more exciting. Ten years in national newspapers were great fun, you get to meet amazing people and see aspects of life that are hair-raising.
19 Where in Britain would you most like to cruise?
Under a constant sun on an inland waterway anywhere in rural Britain, perhaps in the Pennines, but maybe I should try the south of France for the weather.
20 What would your superpower be?
The ability to see round blind corners and through overhanging trees, and survey a boat by just looking at it. X-ray eyes and ultrasound ears would analyse the hull and save on survey fees. Sorry surveyors.
John Inman with Lorraine Chase, Nigel Havers and Debbie McGee