It’s the weekend!

As ever at weekends there is always a shed load of stuff for adult males to do around the house. I am no exception to that. PIL has taken Greg and CJ to school and gone into town to do whatever it is that she does there. Probably look outrageously attractive, drink coffee in Starbucks and look cool. I, on the other hand have been given a list as long as your arm of things that need doing. Not least of which is mow the bloody lawn. I love gardening but mowing the lawn is a haemorroid in my life. So with so many things to do I decided to see what was on TV. 499 channels of crap was what was on TV but there was just one channel that caught my eye. Eurosport were showing the World Canoe & Kayak Sprint Championships. Result! Many years ago in my late teens and early twenties I was a keen canoeist and spent many a summer weekend instructing the fine art of paddling a kayak in a straight line.IMG_5693

I met many young ladies this way. Despite what  my so-called friends think, dating back then when I was young did not consist of bopping a young lady on the head with a club and dragging them off to the nearest cave!

Hey honey. Wanna come see my cave drawings?

Hey honey. Wanna come see my cave drawings?

Oh no. What it meant was teaching the correct capsize drill resulting in lots of young ladies wandering around shortly afterwards in wet tee shirts. Best job I ever had! I met my first love being an instructor. Bailey was wonderful but that’s an entirely different story. Omar was my best mate at the time and he too was an instructor and like me, dead keen on canoeing. The pair of us started to compete in Wild Water Racing which is broadly similar to downhill ski racing but you raced through rapids.

A wild water racing C2 like I used to race

A wild water racing C2 like I used to race

It was enormous fun. Omar and I trained twice a day. We ran to work each morning and each evening, come rain or shine, we would get together just up-stream of Kingston bridge on the River Thames and spend another hour and a half in our canoe racing up and down working on our stamina and technique. At weekends in the winter when we weren’t working, we travelled around the country to various rapid rivers and competed in races. We were quite good. We raced C2s which is a two-man canoe with each of us having a single ended paddle.IMG_5741

To say it was like an indian canoe was to compare a Skoda skip to a Ferrari but you get the idea. Unfortunately, some years after we packed up, I lost all my trophies, medals and photos so the images you see here are from the interweb but they give a clue as to what it was like. It was dangerous, some of the rapids we raced down were truly enormous but we were young and therefore totally indestructible.

I think this shows the scale of some of the rapids we used to race down

I think this shows the scale of some of the rapids we used to race down

Sometimes we would look at a set of rapids and think; “Oh this looks good.” and we would jump in and swim down it. We had a brilliant few years. Omar went and lived in Australia and I haven’t been in a canoe or kayak ever since although there are times when I miss it and consider taking it up again but in a more leisurely fashion.

Note the rescue swimmers on the bank

Note the rescue swimmers on the bank

A good friend of ours, Norman (as in Norman Wisdom) would come up to races with us. Norman didn’t compete, he came along to paddle down the river, have a good time and meet a girl in a wet tee-shirt. Norman was a nice helpful kind of guy but very accident prone. Things would just happen to him. He broke his ankle getting off a bus once and what he did to someones house is a tale all of its own. The last time I saw him he was off for his first ever parachute jump.IMG_5239

One particular weekend we were racing on the River Dee at Llangollen in North Wales. It was an important race for us as it was one of five races in the season that was “ranked” and you scored points according to where you finished. Top ranked in each class then went on for selection to the British team. The nice thing about the Dee race was that a canal ran parallel to the river from the centre of Llangollen up to Horseshoe Falls where the start was, and continued on to wherever it went to. Omar and I used this as our warm up before the race.

Love the expressions. I was the guy in the back, while Omar was in front although this isn't us.

Love the expressions. I was the guy in the back, while Omar was in front although this isn’t us.

Race day arrived and we set off up the canal to warm up. Norman drove the car up to the start and met us there. We transferred our boat to the river and got ourselves sorted. However, I was having trouble fitting my spray deck on. To put one on it was a case of back, front, sides but every time I tried to put the bloody thing on at the front of my cockpit, the back came off. We were getting closer to our start time and I needed to get this thing on toot sweet. Norman volunteered to help and thinking he was going to lay on the bank and hold the back on I agreed. So Norm jumped in the river thinking that as we were next to the bank it would be maybe knee deep at most. Unfortunately for him, the river was about 10 feet deep just there and he disappeared from view, resurfacing about 15 yards downstream and heading for a lovely rapid known as “The Serpents Tail”.

“Did Norm just jump in?” said Omar.

“Yeah” I replied.

“Doesn’t he know it’s 10 feet deep there?”

“He does now.”

“Spray deck on?”asked Omar.

“Yep.” I replied

“Ok. Let’s go fella.”

So we went off to the start and left poor old Norm to his fate. We found out later that he had actually ended up swimming The Serpents Tail and was rescued by the swimmers and rescue boat at the bottom of the rapid. He was fine though. We won that race too.2014_Downriver_Worlds_2

I have a great many fond memories of that time in my life and who knows, perhaps soon I’ll start again and race in the Masters or whatever they have these days. Or maybe I’ll just paddle up and down the river. It is a tremendous way to get and stay fit.

Nah. I was never like this.

Nah. I was never like this.

Ah. Just seen the time. I think I’d better go mow the lawn and get stuck into the rest of the jobs I’m supposed to do.

Have a great day.

More Dick soon.auto

14 responses to “It’s the weekend!

  1. Love this!!! I spent a summer canoeing through the Boundary Waters and the Quetico – 6 weeks straight of canoeing. The worst part of the whole thing was the portaging, carrying those stinking huge canoes from one lake to another. Fighting off the mutant black flies and mosquitoes and running from the occasional bear. Beautiful country up there, amazing lakes and we had our share of nail-biting rapids. I have to mow the lawn too. My husband asked my strapping young teenagers to do it, but they groaned and carried on, so inevitably I will have to do it (after I pick up 30 pounds of unmentionable stuff – think waste of a Great Dane and a Golden Retriever). Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember that time of my life with a great deal of happiness. I travelled to races all over Europe, made some good friends and despite training and racing with ice forming on the front of my buoyancy aid I loved every second of it. But time and circumstances change, my mate emigrated to Australia, my knees gave out after years of abuse (you kneel in racing canoes but you probably know that) and I began to realise I was mortal! It sounds like you had an amazing 6 weeks despite the bears and mozzies. I would recommend canoeing and kayaking to everyone. It is such a great way to get fit, relax and enjoy yourself. Lawn is now done but not a lot else. I could be in the poo with PIL!

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  2. Was it wrong that I laughed out loud at poor Norman’s fate? I know, I am thoroughly ashamed. (titters quietly to self) I have an ENORMOUS fear of water and feel as though I’m drowning in the bath, so I have nothing but respect for you sir. When I was part of the Prince Of Wales Trust in my early 20s, we took a group of disabled children on an adventure week where canoeing was on the activities. I did try it, I also cried like a new-born. But I did feel a sense of achievement when I didn’t die.
    Again, much respects Mr D.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not at all. We laughed about it. Norm’s a lovely bloke, or he was as I haven’t seen or heard from him in years, but he did get himself into all kinds of situations. When he jumped in to help me, he was fully clothed and it was December so it wasn’t particularly warm. These things happened to him so often that it was water off a ducks back really. If you have a fear of water and still went canoeing then much respects to you Lily.

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      • Thanks Mr D. Well I thought, that if a group of kids with various disabilities could do it without complaining, then so could I. The funniest part looking back, was those same kids all comforting and encouraging me when it should have been the other way around. I learned a lot from them that week.

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      • Sorry for the delay in responding but I was at work. Now at home stuffing my face with cheesecake! It is amazing how you can learn things from unexpected sources. I do know how you feel to an extent as my mum was equally frightened. I don’t think I ever saw her get more than her feet and ankles wet when we were at the seaside. When I was instructing I was very aware that beginners could easily panic which is why capsize drills were so important and the first thing they had to do. Girls in wet tee shirts were a bonus but the drill did have a very important safety issue to deal with. Capsizing in a kayak is an extremely unusual and disorientating experience for beginners. You are upside down, under water and your legs and hips are enclosed. (I hope I’m not freaking you out here!) Follow the drill and you do not have a problem, panic and you do, although instructors do know how to get you upright again. If you messed it up, you had to do it again until you got it right. After the first few occasions it becomes almost second nature. Then, as you improve the likelihood of capsizing reduces and then you learn how to do an eskimo roll and bring yourself upright. Trouble is, now I’m talking about it I want to do it again! Not compete cos I’m too old for that shit but perhaps take up instructing again because I’m still rather fond of women in wet tee shirts!!! Plus do some rapids when the fancy takes me. Anyway. I could go on and on and on and on forever and frequently did. I did enjoy your A-Z Challenge although I came into it late so I’ll have to go back to the beginning now. And Monkey Boys. Your Spawn did it too I understand. Sweet Jeezus, I’ve got a lot of reading ahead of me. Have a lovely evening

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      • Can’t breathe after reading that…*takes deep breaths* Heehee, woman in wet t-shirts. You naughty man.
        I admit that I almost drowned twice that week. Once during capsizing and the other whilst caving. I hate enclosed spaces, so caving was another challenge. After crawling through all those tight spaces, we entered into a huge cavern, but the only way to reach the entrance, was by diving underneath a bar that span the width of the cave. The instructor counted to three and down I dived under the water…and stayed there. When the poor man realised that I wasn’t coming back up, he grabbed me by the back of my neck and pulled me under the bar. Gotta say that despite that, I bloody loved caving! In fact, I did it twice more. With Canoeing, I felt trapped and so panic set in. The kids absolutely loved it, but I was never tempted to try it again. Though I am really glad that I attempted it.

        I am so proud of my Spawn for finishing the challenge, although he found it a bit of a slog towards the end. (A-Z Of Monsters and Villains from Doctor Who) Maybe you should think of doing it next year Mr D. I’m sure it would be hilarious. 🙂

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      • Lily. I have nothing but admiration for you. Not only canoeing but caving and facing up to two of your fears. You have balls!!!! Well, figuratively speaking. As for the A-Z challenge, I’m pretty certain I won’t be as it’s a question of time. I work long hours so it’s often a case of work, home, eat, shower, sleep, work, home etc. I’m often away from home for days at a time as well. I am currently enjoying the hospitality of the Premier Inn in central Hemel Hempstead until next tuesday (and with due respect to the residents of Hemel Hempstead, it’s a pretty dull place). Plus, I’m not sure if my brain can take it. However, never say never and it may well be that I might just review that closer to the next one. We will see.

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      • Thanks Mr D. Well all that is not as impressive has abseiling down the highest mountain in Cumbria…ahem…okay, climbing up it was easy but once I reached the top, I thought ‘no way.’ So I walked right back down again…on my bum. That’s right, I bum shuffled my way all the way to the bottom of a mountain. It took some time but I did it.

        I forgot that you worked ‘stupid o’clock’ hours. Maybe you could do a one sentence proverb like, ‘a life without love is like a life without chocolate…pointless.’

        Hope you have a good day Mr D. It’s time for me to kick my Spawn out of bed…for the third time.

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