Denton’s ambition to become a lock keeper stemmed from watching Three Men In A Boat one Sunday with his Nan. While his Nan chortled away, Denton sat mesmerised by the resourceful hydraulics of the lock workings and the strength and precision of the lock gates.
Leaving School, Denton applied himself and was soon working on the river. It took diligence and sycophancy, but finally he was made assistant lock keeper at Shepperton. His Nan bought him a set of thermals to see off the early morning chill and a thermos because his grandad had sworn by them. He had arrived.
Neither he nor his Nan could have foretold the Benson Electronics’ Christmas Party. Terry Benson, founding partner, had invited a handpicked and largely female section of his office staff onto his cruiser for champagne, Christmas Revelry and inappropriate sex. He was hoping that lavish amounts of the first two would lead inexorably to the third.
They actually lead to Moonraker 14, Benson’s boat powering towards the closed gates of Shepperton Lock at eleven at night, with Terry slumped beside the wheel enjoying the oral attentions of Marie, the older of the switchboard operators.
Denton picked up the engine noise early enough to arrive at the centre of the lock gates. He could hear loud music and the erratic cackle of seriously drunk white collar workers. He beamed his powerful torch into the cabin as he bellowed for them to slow down and come about.
Benson powered on. Denton screamed. His beloved lock gates were in jeopardy.
Just before the moment of impact, Benson climaxed and Marie recoiled in puritan displeasure.
This, as the River Police were later to note, undoubtedly saved him from agonising truncation as Moonraker 14 smashed into the gates and jarred Denton into the lock behind.