I knew that if we didn't finally get out and go canoeing over the weekend, what with the weather being so perfectly autumnal and all, then I'd be spending the time till next autumn lamenting a lost opportunity. So I prised Katie away from her computer and off we went.
Past the city limits and heading south, we were approaching the big roundabout where the A4 meets the ring road and the road to Keynsham. I started to slow down. The nose of the yellow kayak up on the roof appeared in our field of vision at the top of the windscreen. I eased off the brakes as much as possible, but there was a queue of cars ahead waiting to enter the roundabout, and I had to slow down. Katie and I watched, fascinated, as the kayak continued to advance. Then it launched itself off the roof and down our starboard bow onto the road, bouncing enthusiastically along the centre lane as I banked hard to port to get as close to the side as possible. It was really quite dramatic. It would have been like the bit in Sink The Bismarck, where the Swordfish go in with their torpedos, if their torpedos had been great big yellow things on the Swordfishes' roofbars. And the Swordfish had been Morris Travellers, of course.
Katie went into her hoping-the-ground-would-swallow-her-up mode, which she's getting quite good at. I leapt out, gestured frantically at the cars speeding towards me to encourage them not to mow me down (though they were probably discouraged from doing so by the Big Yellow Kayak, anyway) and hauled it to the side of the road and thus back onto the roof, where I added a rope noose around its snout to discourage any further escape bids.
We paddled along the Kennet and Avon canal, which was both busy with narrowboats and a bit narrow too, so that Katie pranged badly into a thicket of brambles, and had to be rescued. She was rapidly developing a detestation of all things kayak, when fortunately we reached the Dundas aqueduct, and descended to the River Avon, which was wide and placid and entirely devoid of other boats.
This was what we had come for. A kingfisher flew ahead of us. We paddled through a family of swans, all smacking water around in their beaks like wine tasters; TCHTCHTCHTCHTCH. And there was a conker tree hanging right over the water, the conkers just waiting to be plucked from the split shells hanging on the boughs. Heavened with conkers.
That is what we'll remember, for longer than the wet bums and the brambles. Well, hopefully.