Sunday, 4 September 2011

pictures or it didn't happen

The more interesting life gets, the less you're likely to hear about it. It's a 'revolution will not be televised' kind of thing. Thus, for instance, these pictures of Catherine and me, canoeing along the Avon the other day, up towards Bradford on Avon. It was a good trip, along a stretch of river we'd not been along before. Kingfishers flitted about the place, the purple loosestrife flourished on the banks, the sun was just the right shade of warm, and the breezes were always following ones.

What the pics don't show are the bloody great plastic barrel with the dry gear in it, which I'd secured to the afterdeck of my kayak; I spent the first mile wobbling like a drunken tightrope walker, until we found somewhere to land, and from then on I towed it behind me, like a faithful mine.

But you can't see that in the pictures.

Another thing you can't see is the weir at Limpley Stoke.

The trouble with weirs is that, unless you're the sort of masochist who thinks that 'only dead fish go with the flow' and therefore only ever paddles upriver, then your first inkling of a weir ahead is the roaring noise. Then you will see a slight ripple, which is where the water is going over the weir. Approach with caution, and try to determine whether it's the sort of weir that you can shoot, or if there's anywhere to get out and inspect the thing.

We came alongside the central section of the weir, which was dry. I laboriously uncorked myself from the kayak, and found that Catherine's had taken advantage of the kerfuffle as she got out, and was drifting towards an ominously-roaring sluice.

It got caught in a tree. I got back into my kayak, and bore down upon it, Catherine holding the rope that was tied to the stern. I grabbed the runaway kayak, and she pulled me back to safety.

And then we scrambled down the wall of the weir, and carried on our way.

But there aren't any pictures of that either.

That weir is like poetry, as Wordsworth described it; 'emotion recollected in tranquillity'. Except back to front. I was quite calm at the time. Now, I think back to it and imagine getting caught in the sluice and drowning. Funny how things are just 'what-you-do' at the time, and give you the horrors afterwards.

It wasn't that bad really, though. Quite fun, in fact. It's like breaking down in the car. As i said to Katie the other day (just after the clutch linkage on the Moggy had broken, and I bodged it back together with a safety pin) "It's really good when you break down, if you manage to fix it and get home, because the happiness you feel at sorting out the problem outweighs the misery of the problem happening in the first place".

She didn't agree. Tchah.


  1. Yes it's amazing what you can do at the time, but on hindsight was quite scary...

    Sounds like a fun day though :)

    As for the broken down car, my feelings generally go with my level of stress at the time. One of the silencers coming off when I hit some debris in the Spitfire one time was interestring and makes a nice anecdote. The time when the alternator (brand new I may add) started to make a horrible noise when I was already late for the ferry back to Holland was less interesting and more panic inducing :)

    I did manage to fix both on the side of the road though :)


  2. The thrill-seeking teenager in me who used to paddle for miles on the millpond-flat Thames to do silly things in the six feet of white water at one of the weirs on a backwater parallel to Iffley Lock would have probably done something rather stupid in pursuit of that errant kayak. Thinking back I sometimes wonder if we had nine lives, the number of times we had to rescue each other from encounters with genuinely lethal Thames Conservancy hardware. Who knew that there's a little dip in the water at the bottom of a weir that a kayak gets trapped in if you go down sideways, for instance!

    Your solution with the rope sounds far more sensible.

    Sigh... As with so many things, they don't make many kayaks to fit people my size.

    The Wreck doesn't have a clutch linkage, it's all hydraulic. But it's not for nothing that I carry a get-you-going kit that includes many varieties of bits of wire, sticky tape and string.

  3. Note to self, check will before going on picnic with Dru! It is guaranteed fun but...

    Don't forget chewing gum, horrible stuff but didn't Biggles swear by it for getting him out of sticky situations?

    Perfect snap btw.

  4. Fortunately when you're in the thick of it you don't realise. I spent a week on a boat on the Rivers Avon and Severn when I was a teenager. I couldn't swim and I didn't wear a life jacket. If one of mine did that I'd kill them - if they survived, that is.

    I've all ready blogged about the state I get into when I break down...

  5. Don't you believe it. Pictures like this can be mocked up using any household bathtub, a ball of string, mirrors etc. See that reed on the left? It casts a shadow in a different direction from its neighbour. This monstrous hoax is no doubt the work of the same covert MI6-directed group that would have us believe that jumbo jets underfly the Clifton bridge, if you please.

    Now they want us to believe not only that canoeing near weirs is technologically possible, but also that anyone would be mad enough to attempt it and expect to return. 'Why?' is the question we must all ask. 'Why? Why?' and again 'Why?'

  6. Sometimes it can be horribly stressful, can't it, Stace? -nursing a wounded car through a rainy winter night, and so on.... the clutch on my MZ fell off once, when I was on my way to join a ship in Weymouth. I dumped it in a barn and hitched down; got there in time, and collected the bike a few weeks later... hey ho...

    I really must revise my get-you-home kit, Jenny. I'd left all the disposable latex gloves at home, and ended up filthy. Now added pair of overalls to the clutter in the back, too...

    The safety pin was jolly useful, Caroline, and what's more, I had no idea why it was in the back of the car in the first place. Strange times, strange times.

    Yes, I remember, Anji! ...I get far more stressy over Katie taking risks than over me doing it. Silly really, but you just can't help it, I guess...

    I was about 25 before I first saw a kingfisher, Deborah. I wonder if they're more common now? -saw one in the local canal in South Wales last year; back in the 70s, it would have had to fight through the rubbish and oil to get to the water. When did you first see one?

  7. Good morning, Suzzy! Time for your medication, I think :-)

  8. Old car gets sold today and what a lot of junk came out of it including bits of wire, screwdriver, multitool, mole grip and two pairs of work gloves, bottle of oil, bottle of water, etc, well you never know...

    All in a bag to get slowly put into the next motor.

    Half a century since I saw a kingfisher, I was very young, just seagulls and the like on my river.

  9. Nice pic, honey.... :-)