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When you get to a certain age you start thinking I always wished I’d done that. Or I could have been a brain surgeon. The corollary is but now I’m too old. Driving along a motorway one cold wet August day I was thinking I always wanted to sea kayak…and now I’m too old and I was so choked up with self pity that I became very cross with myself. You could at least try I told myself. I was brought up sailing. Not that I liked it but it was what we did. My sister and I got farmed out as crew. They hadn’t invented modern slavery back then.
Nowadays I’m allergic to even the sound of wire halyards snickering in the wind. But all those salty years did at least give me a respect for the sea. And I knew I wanted to be there. I wasn’t about to buy a kayak on ebay and push out from the beach on a solo voyage. My aim was to do just that but I wanted to learn how to first. My youngest daughter Rosie was a little kayak star. Following her Granny Thyra’s tradition she was a formidable, determined racer. She was Junior Welsh Slalom champion back in the day. She was in the Welsh Slalom Squad looking very sweet and determined in her black helmet and elegant slalom boat. Then she discovered climbing and her boat was forgotten tho, annoyingly, she still has all those skills.
What I could remember from hours spent as a bank side timekeeper at Slalom events was that canoe clubs are full of ferociously competitive, small people. Even the seniors looked extremely young. Joining a club was going to be humiliating. They would take one look at me, laugh and draw back. But I was wrong. Using a scattergun approach I joined three clubs Shrewsbury, Liverpool and Welshpool. I found myself in a world where beginners were of all ages, from nine to…well 65 and people were kind and keen to help. Shrewsbury is right in the middle of the country and yet it has a thriving sea kayaking nucleus. I had launched from the right place and will always be grateful to the generous help I have been given. Dave Butler and Duncan Smalley were the first to realise that they might as well help me as I wasn’t about to give up and they never gave up on me.
I thought sea kayaking would be a solitary pursuit. Sometimes it is but I have discovered the pleasures of being part of a group. How could this have taken so long? I have learnt how to work as part of a team. We are different ages, we come from all different walks of life, we have different politics, different gifts, we like different music. We rely upon each other for our lives. I love it. But I do love to paddle on my own sometimes, to push my boat out into the flow, to go at my own pace, to be silent. And so on this day I pushed out into the Severn and tootled down to Shrewsbury. It was a seven Kingfishers day. Heaven.