Tuesday 22 September 2009

torpedo run

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.


  1. So it was worth the embarrassment in the end. I spent a week on the Avon and Severn a long time ago, even when it was raining it was beautiful.

    Even if we were perfectly sophisticated and always did the right things we’d still be uncool to our teenage children. It's nice when they get past that stage and actually want to be seen with you

  2. love your analogies and descriptions Dru! hope you treated your fine selves to tea or cake or ice-cream or something...xxx

  3. That sounds like the perfectly rounded adventure: danger assuaged by bucolic bliss :-)

  4. She's not too embarrassed most of the time, Anji, which makes me think I'm not giving her enough to rebel against. Maybe I should get more strict and shouty; another parent 'gently' suggested that I was too soft on her, the other day. How we laughed..

    I would like to explore that Avon, which I've only seen on a school trip to Stratford in 1967. I remember lots of swan poo on the side of it. We were on the Wiltshire Avon this weekend. I've no idea how many Avons there are, but there are quite a few...

    Thanks, Nicky! The journey began and ended in a field, but we made it to a Sainsbury's and stocked up on heaps of junk food, which made it all worth while!

    It was the same trip as we did that time in the Canadian canoe, Suzzy; only this time I was less worried about being swept over Warleigh Weir, having got to know it better in the mean time

  5. Did you know that "Avon" is celtic for river which probably means there are a lot of them? I love Stratford by the river and I saw Midsummer Night's Dream there. That's how to 'do' Shakespeare

    As for being soft on Katie, we were called that too with ours. But we didn't have lots of rules for them to break, perhaps we should have done. Perhaps someone could explain why bedrooms should be super tidy and all of that stuff which never interested any of us at all.

  6. And there I was thinking enviously of the idyllic childhood Katie seems to be getting with you. Where we got bogged down in trivia, you cut to the chase, get child and canoes into (onto) the car and away you go. I would love to read Katie's blog. I bet it's not full of comments like "Drat, kayaks again, and in the rain too, my hair's going to be ruined. How to explain that I had planned to spend today with Chardonnay in Claires Accessories!"

  7. yes, Anji; there's one in Devon, that's spelt 'Avon' but the locals pronounce 'Awne', too...

    Here's hoping, Liz. She's discovered boys now. Hope they don't prove too distracting.