This month there were two ‘adventures’. Or to be more precise. one micro-adventure that turned out to be more of an adventure than expected; and one trip that honestly wasn’t in the slightest bit adventurous but was none the less enjoyable for that.
Messing about on the river
First the micro-adventure. It was Malcolm’s 60th birthday, and for him to decide how we would celebrate it. My own birthday celebration was such a lovely experience that he decided he would like to do the same, but with a twist. The twist was that instead of the long walk we would hire canoes on the River Wye.
A brave move you might think, as one of our number can’t swim at all and had already had two perilous experiences of canoeing, two of us had never canoed before, and four of us were to say the least directionally challenged in boats. Or to put it more clearly, we’ve never found steering boats came naturally.
The hire company was great. They provided good information beforehand, clear and concise instructions, and excellent backup.
They gave us two unforgettable and seemingly simple instructions: stay away from the banks, and particularly overhanding trees; try to keep to the middle of the river, but avoid any debris.
It all started so well, and we were loving being at water level, watching the martins skimming the surface of the river catching insects. Malcolm and I were even working well and effectively as a team steering our canoe (not to be assumed – as two people who are both right even when we completely disagree, cooperation is not a given).
But all of that changed suddenly when we found ourselves racing past oldest son who was clinging on to a tree truck midstream, shouting loudly for help, his partner nowhere to be seen. At that moment, we looked frantically for her, lost sight of our own steering, and veered suddenly into the river bank and a large clump of willows, from which we repeatedly tried to extricate ourselves, with little success.
Thankfully by that stage we’d realised that she was safe and well, though in the river and soaked through.
Eventually we managed to free ourselves, but then – CLUNK – we hit something else, the canoe tipped sideways and Malcolm jolted our backwards, leaving me all alone in the canoe with water in the bottom and just one paddle, being swept away by the current.
I’m rather proud of my quick thinking at that point. I managed to turn the canoe around so I was facing upstream, and used the current to take me to the other bank, where I grabbed hold of a clump of Himalayan Balsalm and held on tight with one hand, waving the paddle high with the other hand.
In the meantime, a kind and experienced canoer had rescued oldest son and daughter-out-law, Malcolm had got to the bank, and they were all ferried across to the same bank as me. They walked down to where I was, we got our barrel of dry things (clothes, food, mobile phone) to safety, then they helped me out. Strip, rub down with towels and dry clothes and we were all fine. Luckily daughter-out-law and I are similar in size so my dry clothes fit her fine.
So, the upshot of it all was that we managed just two of the 11 miles we had planned to go downstream, and we were all safe and well, and managed to see the funny side.. (Youngest son and daughter-in-law managed the whole trip and had lots of fun).
In the event, the organisers were sweetly un-phased by us losing one of the three canoes, 3 of the 6 paddles, and four of the six of us needing to be rescued from just two miles downstream from where we started. They offered us hot drinks on our return, and we had already planned to eat lunch in their cafe the next day (which by the way was delicious).
A fun day was had by all, just not quite the fun we had expected.
We’re not put off canoeing altogether, but we’re thinking maybe our next outing will be on the canal. Or maybe in a paddling pool.
More of the same
Our main ‘adventure’ in July was the trip we had booked last summer to go back to the same house in the Black Forest where we have stayed for many years. So many years, that twice now we have been invited to the village Mayor’s office to receive a ‘long service award’.
We planned this last year, to follow on from Malcolm’s 60th birthday. Back then we hadn’t yet decided that we would also be newly retired, nor that we would be having a ‘gap year’. nor that we would also be doing so many other trips during the summer.
So as things turned out it proved to be a lovely relaxed and relaxing interlude in an otherwise busy summer. The weather was very hot, I had several minor but irritating ailments, and we decided to have a week of walking, cycling, and relaxing.
As always, we ate and drank well from local produce and local shops. He enjoyed photography and birdwatching longer walks and cooking and reading. I enjoyed knitting and reading and doing frankly very little. We travelled by train and bus when we weren’t walking or cycling.
Such a treat, such a pleasure to return to the familiar and the known and the comfortable, and just relax into enjoying it. A reminder that life doesn’t have to be always about the new and the unfamiliar. That there is still much to be learned from what we think we already know. Including allowing ourselves just to be, rather than always have to be doing.