{02/09/2012}   Forgiveness

Team GB Paralympic Beijing gold and silver medallist Simon Richardson, a cyclist, was cycling (safely and responsibly) along a road one morning in August last year when a 60-year old farmer, having knocked back a whisky that morning, after a heavy night of drinking, got into his car and set off, drunk.  He hit Richardson on his bike, which flung him into the air and rendered him unable to compete in the 2012 Paralympics.  The drunk driver drove off and tried to hide his van.  Fortunately, by the next day he (still twice the legal drink drive alcohol limit) and the van were found and he was eventually given an 18-month sentence.  I was outraged by the whole series of events and extremely angry at the incompetent, irresponsible and disgraceful behaviour of the drunk.  Who I don’t think should be given the credit of being called a “driver” in a state like he was obviously in.

However, in the article I read Richardson bore no ill will to the man who caused him so much pain and suffering and there was no trace of rage, resentment, blame, etc, for, among other things, losing out on his chance to compete in the London 2012 Paralympics because of one man’s irresponsible behaviour, to put it mildly.

Usually, on reading such a story, I would feel only rage at the drunk.  But because of the gentle, forgiving reaction by the cyclist, I realised that my reaction was to pity the driver, thinking how weak and pathetic he was rather than feel sorry for the cyclist; an interesting and refreshing perspective.

If somebody does something undeniably wrong that affects the life of an innocent party, I think it is a natural response to feel anger at the wrongdoer.  But this whole scenario has left me thinking that I would (sort of) rather suffer someone’s wrath than their pity and I would rather think of the goodness of the wronged than the badness of the wrongdoer, if you follow me.

People have done things that have enraged me and I have been left with a bitter taste in my mouth, as it were, and it’s not pleasant when such things fester and consume you.  To harness your anger and accept what has happened has happened and get on with your life is surely a more positive way to progress.  I just don’t think I could be that calm and seemingly forgiving of someone whose hateful actions caused me severe detriment.  But what good does blame do?  It doesn’t make you feel better and it hinders your recovery.  I guess you’d know and hope (or is that just me?!) that, in this scenario, the drunk would be riddled with guilt and thus have punishment; an 18-month sentence doesn’t seem harsh when his actions could easily have killed innocent people rather than causing complicated injuries to a man already seriously injured as a result of a car accident.

I would like to think I could be as “accepting of my lot”, and maybe I’d surprise myself by managing that, but I don’t think I have it in me to be that forgiving, positive and determined.  But I was surprised by how my reaction was altered by the forgiving, blameless words of a man who has been through so much.


There is much talk during the Olympics of inspiring young people to do more sport, to try more sports and to believe that being an Olympic athlete is possible if it’s something you think you might want to pursue.  This is a wonderful London Olympics legacy but it’s made me contemplate my childhood of sport and whether schools (clubs is a different matter) really do have the capabilities and facilities to let children experiment with sports and encourage and support them where necessary.

I am well aware that things have changed a lot since I was at school but I am not convinced that your average state school can nurture sporting talent.  Private schools have more funds and access to more facilities and fewer students per teacher, and that appears to be reflected in the educational backgrounds of Team GB every Olympic Games.  And therein, probably, lies the problem: too few trainers/teachers to give individual attention and not enough access to different sports.

As I recall, at school we did running, shot put, javelin, high jump, long jump, gymnastics, swimming, hockey, netball (girls), football (boys), handball, badminton, squash, cricket (boys), possibly tennis, rounders … there must have been more.  Oh yes, there was a bit of dry slope skiing as there was a dry slope near our school.  Squash we did at one school in the sixth form by virtue of there being a squash club next to our school.  Swimming we did at a school that had a tiny outdoor pool, shot put and javelin were, as I recall, rare novelty PE sessions, likewise long jump.  A whole group of children of varying abilities in a sports hall or field seems more merely passing the time than nurturing and encouraging.

Unexpectedly, I developed an ability to do high jump at the school I was at from 13 to 18, though I don’t remember “having to” do it after 16.  I recall consistently being able to jump the highest and with a very, erm, unique style, namely running and jumping (no flops or scissor jumps, I would just jump and land on my feet and walk off).  I was never taught how to jump or that perhaps I could jump even higher if I did the Fosbury Flop, which I didn’t know how to do.  Then came county championships and, as the best high jumper, I was, as I recall, told I would be going wherever they were held and would be competing to represent Kent.  As a virtually mute, painfully shy child, this did not appeal at all.  As I remember it, and I could be wrong, I was taken to a place I’d never been before (an athletics place) and basically pointed in the right direction by a PE teacher who took us all to the try outs.  I remember feeling completely alone and thoroughly confused.  It was an unmitigated disaster.  All the other competitors for the high jump were smartly kitted out and Fosbury Flopping all over the place.  I might as well have whinnied and set off for the jump with my mane flying.  I was so nervous and overwhelmed I couldn’t even do the practice jump.  I can’t remember if I even competed.  I just remember it was a horrendous experience.  I also don’t recall doing high jump again after that.

It was only in my past-it adulthood that I registered that my mum had done hurdles and I was an acceptable short distance runner and did high jump straight on.  To this day, I desperately wish I could have tried hurdles but I’ve never even seen hurdles other than on the television.

I think if you are exceptional at a sport that happens to be taught at your school, you might end up at a club, where you should get the support and coaching necessary.  I do think schools should have greater access to different sports.  I never did water sports beyond swimming at school, cycling was just something you learnt to do.  I think it was through Brownies or possibly the odd Venture Scouts (?) activity that I tried canoeing once.

I hope these London Olympics do give children greater enthusiasm to try new sports and that they are given such opportunities.  I also wish there were more PE teachers and it wasn’t just, as I recall it, two PE teachers, one taking a big group of boys, the other a big group of girls.  We played a lot of rounders – it’s easy to set up and fun – but a lot of children don’t like or feel confident playing team games; it’s not even an Olympic sport, it’s just a game you play as a child.  I believe that schools and clubs should be attached so teachers can direct pupils to places they can go to improve on their specific skills, if they want.  There is a lot more that could and should be done to nurture our future athletes, sports people and Olympians.

All anyone has heard from me since London won the Olympics bid is ranting and moaning.  Though that all stands, I feel a need to express my positive thoughts for the Olympics and I am going to express them without a single “but”!

As a rule, I have no interest in watching sport.  Unsurprisingly, I never set out to watch the Olympics, but I always end up channel hopping and seeing Olympic events and I pretty much always stop and watch.  For it is a privilege and a joy to see the world’s greatest athletes and sports people competing.  I also love the fact that, unlike, say, football, a lot of these sporting greats are not well paid and it has been through determination, ability and, I guess, the securing of sponsors that has enabled them the training and facilities they require.  In other words, the challenges haven’t solely been to do with their sport and that is a kind of determination and commitment that I find inspiring.

It is also kind of fun to be rooting for your country and there always seems to be an element of camaraderie between people, a sense of unity that doesn’t seem present that much.  I find it fascinating that most of the world has sporting representation.  It is a chance to educate people about different nationalities and cultures and about flag identification!

As for London, over the past few weeks the number of wheelie cases, map-clutchers and people visiting London has undoubtedly increased.  I have found it surprising that, based on the amount of police officers being asked for directions and the general looks of map bewilderment, a lot of people seem to have not visited London, maybe even the UK before.  I like that the Olympics are introducing people to a new country perhaps.  I also hope this influx of tourists does boost the British economy, though most likely centralised in London.

Walking around London, the mix of summery weather and the sense of Olympic anticipation makes for a nice buzz.  Despite there being lots of issues for commuters and pretty much anyone who works in London, there does seem to be a sense of excitement.  Everyone with event tickets and/or Olympic ID badges seems suitably puffed up and smug, and so they should be.  There are a lot of people with tickets who have never been spectators at a sporting event, children who are giddy about the thought of being a part of something so huge, as huge as an event can be, with most of the world represented in one small area.  It is exciting, it’s like we’re all hosts of a great big party, and with that comes the burden of responsibility to make sure it’s great and runs smoothly.

So for all my moans, hurrah for the Olympics and their enduring appeal and the great sense of occasion they bring wherever they go.  May the London Olympics be spectacular and may Team GB thrive on the extra support from being the home team; wouldn’t it be great if we did well, the sun shone, the economy boomed and we all had things to smile about over the next month or so.

{09/07/2012}   Watching sport

               Few activities appeal less than spending time watching sport on TV.  It does nothing for me.  I had a mild interest in yesterday’s Federer-Murray Wimbledon final, but no desire to watch it; internet and Facebook/Twitter updates were more than adequate.  I find the concept of armchair sport viewing most bizarre.  I can appreciate it more if you’re there, actually watching it live, but where is the fun in watching sport on TV?

               I can see the appeal a little if you’re at a pub or a venue with lots of other people as there will be a buzz and an excited atmosphere.  But to sit in front of the telly.  Really?  Is it that great a way to spend time?  I know we all have different interests so I am not meaning to criticise.  During major sporting events, I love that the roads and shops get quieter … though this probably won’t apply during the London Olympics on the streets of London!

I feel sorry for people who get married on the day of a major sporting event.  I have known people to turn up late, if at all, or to be listening to live commentary via their mobile phones.  It can be, to put it mildly, all-consuming and incredibly selfish.  I have visited friends in the past and worked out the day’s activities around a sporting event on TV.

I think I mentioned this in a previous post about football but we used to have a teacher (we pupils must have been aged 11-12) who supported a fairly useless football team.  My dad used to watch the results on TV – remember that kind of “live typing” of football results – and I would always look out for – was it Oldham Athletic? – because their victory would mean he’d be in a good mood and a loss would mean a bad mood.  It was an obsession for him.  I don’t know that he went to watch matches, but he wouldn’t have been someone I’d have dared talk to while a game was showing on TV.  Mind you, I’m not sure if he would have been able to watch many games on TV as there were no dedicated sport channels then … so maybe he did travel to games.

Probably unsurprisingly I do not really do any sport.  I have dabbled in kayaking, I used to do a lot of riding, mainly cross-country jumping and even dressage, have had maybe four bursts of squash over my lifetime and a bit of a badminton phase.  I have never felt a need to watch any of these sports on TV.  I am starting to sound a bit pompous, it’s not pretty!  I wrote this because I was getting cheesed off of seeing Murray’s miserable face on the front pages of the newspapers.  I’m not convinced it is national front page news.  Though maybe it makes a change from seeing pictures of civil unrest and flooding.  And maybe I have alighted on a point, that watching sport is escapism.  So where I’d watch a film, say, others watch sport.  There, I shouldn’t be critical, it makes sense after all!  It’s just a shame it seems like the nation, rather than just those interested, is forced to mourn when “our” side loses!

                I hoped London wouldn’t win the 2012 Olympic bid and my conviction that London shouldn’t be hosting them has increased ever since London did win.  I am not against the Olympics; I think the games are a wonderful showcase for sporting talent and something inspirational and for young sportspeople to aspire to.  I also think it’s amazing that it’s a worldwide event.  I just don’t think London should have been the host city.

                Everything I write here is based on what I perceive to be the case, this does not mean it is accurate, it’s just what I’ve read, heard about or been led to believe.

It is inevitable that any host city will be busier during the Olympics.  But London is already overcrowded.  How will our already fragile (and extraordinarily un-air conditioned) transport system cope?  Oh, that’s right, people who work in London should work from home.  My work and that of many others is not possible to conduct from home.  Many train lines will run to an Olympics Timetable, something I have already ranted about.  In other words, the normal, wage-earning lives of possibly even most people who work in London is going to be affected dramatically.  For those of us hoping to go on holiday for the duration of at least the first few weeks of Olympic turmoil, coupled with it being the school holidays, prices seem higher than normal, particularly for flights.  I know some people who have been told they are not to take annual holiday during the Olympic period.  Erm, school holidays?  My blood is boiling as I write!

That Olympic merchandise appears to not be being made in the UK defies all logic to me.  Yes, it’s supposed to be a world-inclusive event but surely part of the deal for winning host city status is that everything should be made and designed in that country, a veritable showcase for how great Britain can be.  Unsurprisingly, the overspend on all things Olympic is devastatingly high.  So many of us are crippled financially at the moment, this all seems excessive.  As for the huge budget on the 2012 logo, I cannot look at that awful configuration without rolling my eyes and shaking my head in disgust.  Why were “people” paid an obscene amount of money to design a logo which has caused a lot of controversy and which I still can’t read as saying “2012” when we have school children around the country who I expect would have thrived on the challenge to design the 2012 logo?  They wouldn’t have been paid, the reward being the one-off opportunity to see their 2012 logo displayed all around the world.  Surely that would have been more in the spirit of the Olympics.  It feels far too corporate and decadent.  It shouldn’t.  That’s something I like about the Olympic torch relay, it’s actually sharing the host city status with the whole country.  It’s a lovely idea and more in the spirit of the Olympics being for all.

Ticketing.  Despite being anti-London-Olympics, I did apply for tickets.  I was living in London at the time and, as I lived in an “Olympic borough”, I foolishly thought I had a right of sorts to “win” tickets.  The whole system was a disgrace.  I couldn’t apply for too many as I couldn’t afford to win them all, but I didn’t realise I wouldn’t get any.  Friends of mine who live minutes away from Greenwich Park and the horse events are having their lives hugely disrupted with regard to parking and driving restrictions, plus Greenwich Park has been cordoned off for quite some time.  They didn’t get tickets either.  Most people I know didn’t get any tickets, others got a few sets of tickets.  I am not aware of anyone who got tickets who only got one lot of tickets, all those I know with tickets got them for a few things.  How does that work?  Something wasn’t right.

As for advertising, that is something that sends me into overdrive.  I can’t quite believe that spectators (and athletes, I expect) are only allowed to consume or use products that are official Olympic sponsors, from withdrawing cash using only certain cards to what you eat or drink.  Which food and drink manufacturers have the most funds to pay for advertising?  Junk food and fizzy pop ones.  At a sporting event.  Really?  Disgraceful.

I cannot envisage how London will cope, how the VIP lanes won’t wreak havoc with commuters, particularly those on buses who, for example, work in the shops and restaurants London wants and needs the influx of tourists to boost.  Some workers, mainly transport workers, have secured bonuses for the extra work.  Meanwhile, some of us will get no work or challenging commutes.  There are people who are benefiting enormously from the Olympics being held in London, but it does not seem to be your average London worker.

I do hope these Olympics go smoothly.  I know that wherever they are held a lot of compromises to everyday life have to be made, I just don’t think we have the infrastructure to cope with it.  I’m not even going to go into the security issues.  It’s great the venues seem to function and a previously largely ignored part of London is now pretty much centre stage, ie around Stratford, but there has been a price for that.  People have been turfed out of their homes, the “Olympic legacy” does not appear to be for the benefit of those in the vicinity of Stratford to the extent it should be and there is a chance that a once run down area, now full of modern buildings and sport facilities, could end up like the depressingly derelict looking Barcelona Olympics sites.  I hope I’m wrong to be so down about the Olympics in London, I really do.

I have never supported the idea of London getting the Olympics, but I am not going to rant and rave about that.  My issue at present is more to do with transport into, out of and in London, particularly in light of my challenging afternoon on tubes yesterday.
Yesterday I got on the much delayed Central line, it having been very badly flooded the day before around Stratford, with no service between Bethnal Green and Leytonstone.  I was on the platform for over ten minutes (about 2pm) and couldn’t get on the sardine-packed first tube that came along.  Below ground, on a reasonably mild but wet day, it was stifling, even worse on the tubes.  My three or four tube journeys took longer than they should have, it was hot and busy and an entire line (Central) was either partly closed or running an erratic service.  This was not rush hour, though it was half-term.  I kept thinking how much worse it would be during the Olympics.
How long is London going to be even busier than normal?  Will it be sporadic or just a full-on onslaught of chaos from the end of July until the latter half of September?  It’s all very well encouraging people to work from home but there are a lot of us who can’t.  As it happens  I don’t get much work over summer, but even if I did I would struggle to get to work as the high speed trains that I use are largely suspended so the service can shuttle people between St Pancras – Stratford – Ebbsfleet.  The other trains take almost an hour longer and I expect they will also be extremely busy.
As for the bus lanes being made into VIP lanes, what about the buses?  Is normal traffic going to be held up at each bus stop as the buses try to cut into the VIP lanes to let people on and off buses?  What about people who go to work by bus, say in the shops that are expected to flourish financially during the games?  Indeed, are tourists who are in London for the games going to want to go shopping on Oxford Street, assuming the tubes aren’t down, the taxis aren’t full and the buses aren’t gridlocked by Olympic traffic?
While battling through crowds in the stuffy Underground system yesterday, I felt the horror of weeks of challenging conditions.  The tube can’t cope during every day rush hours, there is no air conditioning (it works in the drivers’ cabins on at least some tubes), there are now fewer staff at the gateline and, as happened yesterday, the staff are often asked time consuming questions, in yesterday’s example being asked how to walk from Covent Garden to Wembley as the man had no money for a ticket.  In the end the Customer Service Assistant pointed, “That way”.  I fear that will have taken a good few hours for him to walk, especially in the rain.  But during the Olympics, that might have been his quickest and easiest option.
Somehow the UK usually manages to pull things off, seemingly against the odds.  I hope that this is how things go for the Olympics.  But with travel, I am not confident.  I am already incensed by certain unions securing extra money for certain transport workers during the games owing to the added stresses and pressures.  But, hey, there are a lot – a lot – of other workers who will also face increased pressure and security threats but they either don’t have the backing of influential unions or just see it as something they have to deal with.  In all likelihood I will lose work opportunities, as I suspect will a fair few other self-employed workers.  What about the NHS (many of whom aren’t allowed to take time off during the summer holidays, particularly an issue for those who have children on school holidays), shop owners around the Olympic Village, cleaners, emergency services; there are a lot of people whose working life will be made a lot more difficult, even more dangerous, yet they will not receive compensation for working during the Olympics (as far as I’m aware).
I hope I am just being melodramatic and am just an Olympics-in-London ranter.  Unusually, I want to be proved wrong about something; I want the Olympics to run smoothly, there to be no terrorist or other attacks and for our transport network to be efficient, both for people travelling to Olympic events and those trying to go about their daily business.  Not long to find out, though I am hoping to be out of the country for the end of July and most of August.

{25/05/2012}   Cheating

     Through work yesterday, I learnt about performance enhancing drugs used by athletes/sports people.  I was shocked, in part at the apparent prevalence of drug use, but mainly at the amount of drugs you potentially need to take to counter side effects; side effects which include men developing breasts.  I really don’t get it beyond the obvious drive to win and excel at your sport.  Surely a chemical (often intravenous) in your blood stream counts as cheating.  Well it officially does, but people still do it.

     If I were to play word association with “cheating”, I would say “school”.  I remember playing board games at junior school, aged c11, and realising that one girl in my class in particular was blatantly cheating.  It made me angry.  It still makes me angry when people cheat.  I want it only to be children who cheat, that it’s something you realise is pathetic and spoils games and social interaction, but unfortunately it does spread into adult life.  I have, and probably still, cheated, but as far as planning to cheat goes I can only think of little things that affect me that have no bearing on other people.  Or so I perceive.

I suppose part of the issue with performance enhancing drugs is that if you know “everybody” else is doing it, you think the only way you can win is by adopting the “if you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy.  How scary is that when you think of the ripple effect?  It’s a huge, huge disappointment when you discover athletes you admire are winning because of chemicals.  Sadly, it detracts from the fact they were good, exceptional, to have ever got to professional athlete status.

Likewise, it’s a huge disappointment to discover you have friends who cheat at games.  I am not saying this because I have any friends that I think cheat but because I remember that horrible feeling of being aware that someone you’re playing a game with is cheating.  I’m on the cusp of repeating myself but childhood memories of cheating really do linger with a bitter taste.  A few years ago, I played a board game with some children who were blatantly cheating.  I had to excuse myself because it was making me inner angry; at least children don’t try to hide it in the way an adult would, and that’s because by adulthood you should know it’s wrong and not in the spirit of games, friendship and respect.

As is often the case with my ramblings, I am failing to find a point other than emphasising that cheating is very annoying and shouldn’t be done.  If you want to recover faster, have better endurance, bigger muscles and/or more rage (seriously – boxing) so you can improve your results, is that any different to, say, secreting a winning card, taking more toy money than you should, positioning yourself so you can see your opponent’s hand …  is the victory as sweet and deserving if you get away with it?  Does it make you feel good about yourself, confident that was a deserved victory?  And all that is assuming that cheating actually means you win; it’s not a given.

Yesterday I went kayaking on the sea for the first time (having had two sessions on a relatively still, ie merely windswept, canal).  I loved being on the sea and out in the open, especially as it was a largely blue sky.  However, I found the ripples that rocked my kayak quite disconcerting.  I tried to work out why I felt a slight fear, but falling in the sea doesn’t bother me (capsizing in the canal bothered me more, it’s the muddy water and squelchy canal bed that bothers me!), I wasn’t worried about drowning or being far out, I have no issues with any fish that might be in the water and neither does the depth bother me.  Then I realised what it probably was: I wasn’t stable or in control, in part because I am a complete novice and haven’t grasped any of the fundamentals of kayaking in a remotely intuitive way.

All that got me lamenting my pre-15 self, the one I didn’t appreciate, the one who was a little bit daredevil and when put on a horse (as was my beloved hobby from age three to 19) would want to go as fast as possible and over as many cross-country jumps as possible.  I say 15 because it was then, while climbing Cologne Cathedral, that I suddenly developed a fear of heights, and with that I think general fears started to creep in.  As it happens, I did try kayaking when I was a teenager but I recall being horrified about capsizing and rolling (I was a late developer in terms of embracing swimming, particularly as a “friend” “playfully” went a long way into the process of drowning me at a younger age).  I did all that and progressed to a lake that was so full of weeds you could barely kayak for getting wrapped in weeds at almost every paddle.  A slight digression.

I find it incredibly frustrating to not be able to do something with immediate competence (skiing, roller blading, ice fishing; things I have tried in my adult life for the first time and things which I appeared not to be able to do with immediate and apparent talent!).  I know the joy of a new pursuit is learning and improving, I just don’t like feeling out of control or unable to do something with at least a modicum of skill or potential.  Impatience?!

I suppose fears in this kind of context are born of over-rationalising and over-analysing, thinking far too much.  It’s just disappointing that I find it difficult to just go out and do things with that sense of really throwing everything, physically and mentally, into what you’re trying to do and ignoring the, “oh, but if I do this, this will happen and I might not like that”.  My mum used to repeat a phrase her mother used: never trouble trouble until trouble troubles you.  If I embraced that wholeheartedly, I can see I could learn and do things so much better.  There is an awful lot of fun and carefreeness to be had from, to use yet another phrase, throwing caution to the wind, something I think a lot of us stopped doing once we left the less responsible school years.

Kayaking is fun, tiring and my new hobby! Outfit-wise, by the time I was encased in a life vest and spray deck (skirt thing!) it wouldn’t have mattered how stylish (or otherwise in my case) I was. Exercise-wise, previously unknown muscles are making their presence felt.

As the sea was choppy, my first kayaking experience was on a canal, which was perfect. It didn’t rain for the c1.5 hours we were out, it was just my friend and I with two instructors and for that we paid £20 each. Our kayaks were heavy duty plastic, each one weighing 27kg. We shared carrying both at the same time, which was the most strength-demanding thing we did. In total we probably carried them 150-200m, so a fair way. I didn’t disgrace getting into the kayak, to my immense surprise, in fact by my standards my transition from land to water was quite smooth!

Then the four of us paddled, not in the desired straight line, along the beautiful Napoleonic canal. It was delightfully idyllic and I felt a bit Jerome K Jerome, though “One woman in a kayak” rather than the three men in a boat!

My waterproof trousers saved me a lot of leg splash and, unusually, minus the hoodie, I had on the right clothes for warmth levels.

The kayaking itself was both relaxing yet satisfyingly challenging. I am definitely more weedy with my left arm and I didn’t paddle with the smooth left-right action of the instructors. I was more left-right-left-left-left-right-paddle in water to brake and start from straight. Though I did have a very satisfying few burst of straight line speeding along.

As for the 360 degree turns, it took me an absurdly long time to grasp which direction to lean and when to paddle which way. But on finding myself at the end of a complete circle without having encountered canal bank or rushes was quite an achievement.

There is more to be aware of and moves to learn than I probably expected. I like the idea of getting to grips with them and I would very much like to be a proficient kayaker, and in particular to go on kayaking holidays. However, I have yet to capsize and this worries me slightly. Hopefully, that will first occur in a nice warm, clean swimming pool!

As a form of exercise, my arms and inner thighs are feeling it most today. My thumb/forefinger area, ie where the paddle pressure is exerted, is a little tender and my waist and shoulders have a mild exercised feeling. My legs were all aquiver when I got out of the kayak, but that soon abated!

All in all, it was fantastic to be outdoors, exercising, admiring the scenery, being on water and not being aware of time or usual stresses. I really, really enjoyed it and I feel very smug and satisfied by the kind of aches I have this morning. I had expected to write today about incidents and capsizing, but no. Maybe they will come! Having a flask of tea and some caramel waffles on the beach afterwards was a genius reward, despite the fact we were both cold by then! I wonder if we’ll be on the sea next week, surely it won’t be possible to be incident free again?!

Later this morning I am going sea kayaking for the first time. It is raining and windy and, I strongly suspect, quite cold. I have a list of clothing to wear in lieu of a wetsuit. I realise I don’t really know what to expect so thought I would write today about what it might be like and tomorrow about what it was like.

For my bottom half, I have very thin silk long johns, nylony tracksuit bottoms (I am not expecting or even hoping to look good!) and waterproof trousers with a pair of sort of trainers without laces. On top I have a thermal top, maybe a t-shirt over it, a hoodie and a waterproof jacket. There is a slim chance I could actually look better in a wetsuit and that really is saying something!

Progressing from fashions, I am prepared for incidents getting into the kayak. I feel that clawing back dignity after everyone has seen my outfit will be well and truly scuppered during this process. I have some uncomfortable flashbacks to a teenage day or two canoeing where similar problems surfaced!

I think we will be on or by the water for two hours. If the sea is choppy, which I think is likely, we will be on the Royal Military Canal (onto which more members of public can view our escapades!). This may be a good thing for a complete novice. We are told to bring a change of clothes as we might get wet. I am actually envisaging full immersion and being cold and wet, albeit in an adventurous, heroic kind of way! I also assume we will have to be able to exit the kayak in the event of overturning. Believe me, I will take every measure to not get wet/overturn. Again, there was an eskimo roll series of incidents in my canoeing experience. Writing this is making me wonder if kayaking really is for me!

When I lived next to someone with a selection of sea kayaks in Seasalter, I decided then that I liked the idea, just never did anything about it. In October, swimming in the sea at Folkestone, hot though that weekend was, the water was still icy cold and I looked on in envy (the kind which makes you contemplate how you can have what they have in a theft kind of way!) as a few people got into their kayaks and floated on the beautiful calm sea. They didn’t get wet and, to my mind, had a better deal than me as I never warmed up while swimming in the sea (but I did enjoy it in the sense that it woke me up and there is always something exciting about being in/on the sea). But it’s thanks to a friend who did all the research and organising that I am going, so I might not be the only one to disgrace myself in some novice way!

I figure if I enjoy it today, in the rain on a canal with possibly inappropriate clothing (might be too hot, too cold, too wet, too restricted), this could be a great new activity for me. Physically, I am expecting a lot of sitting in a kayak for this first lesson and I predict the most cardiovascular exercise I will get will be from getting in and out of the kayak. If I do get to paddle any great distance, I suspect it will shock me how difficult it will be to paddle smoothly without dousing myself and anyone near me in water. All this said, I am very much looking forward to it!

et cetera