#90: Attempt kayak surfing

Over the bank holiday Dave and I had a free pass, to go sea kayaking around the coast of Cornwall. Which was absolutely lush. I have failed absolutely to master the eskimo rolling which was supposed to be one of my challenges, but I guess you have to take opportunities as they present themselves. The sea was too rough for an effective lesson on rolling, but conditions were totally ideal for learning to surf the waves in a boat.

Basically you paddle in front of the wave, the wave lifts you, you put in a stern rudder, then you either power into the shore like a legend or you spin round 90 degrees and come off the wave, then paddle back out to sea and start again.

Or, as I discovered, there is a third way. The wave takes you, you stick the paddle somewhere at random, whereupon you are unceremoniously deposited on the bottom of the ocean. You exit the boat, cursing as cold water penetrates your clothing from every angle, hopefully retrieve paddle and kayak, and retreat to dry land to rectify matters.

This was my preferred method on most attempts. The first day I caught a couple of waves without mishap. But for most of the time, I was upside down. It begins well:
kayak surf 1
It continues well…
kayak surf 2
And then, ah yes – over I go.
kayak surf 3
Ah well. There is some value I suppose, in that it takes the fear out of capsizing. Once I had been in once it didn’t matter if it happened again, and again! So we had a thoroughly enjoyable morning of it!

#80: Do an aerobics class

Lordy, this was everything I feared. A room full of fit-looking, well-coordinated ladies, all in the appropriate garb, all well-versed in the routines and terminology. A mirrored wall that we all faced. A scary instructor clad in lycra, professing everything very easy. Me, in 10 year old running kit, hiding at the back, consistently out of time with everyone else.
aerobics
The instructor assured us it would be fun. I was watching the clock from 5 minutes in. Explanations were given at high speed, in impenetrable language (every move had a name, which the rest of the class seemed familiar with), then the music was on, and we were all off again. Arms and legs were all doing different things. It was entirely impossible. I considered leaving.

I suppose if I were minded to be embarrassed, it was pretty embarrassing. I am confirmed in my view that aerobics is not, and will never be, for me. And I was heartily glad that no one was there who I recognised. But I got through it, after a fashion.

I will not do that again. Not in this life anyway. But at least I gave it a go! Another one down!

#78: Waterski

This was superb!  I actually did it!   

I tried waterskiing once before, in Malawi, behind a boat, and I couldn’t do it at all.  But that was with no tuition, just a couple of lads with a boat trying to make a bit of cash pulling tourists along behind. 

This was entirely different.  The legendary Sam at Lakeside Brasserie in South Cerney (http://www.lakeside-ski.co.uk) gave me wetsuit and lifejacket, explained the position I needed to be in, and how to get up from it.  My tuition lasted roughly 3 minutes.

Then he gave me my skis, I sat on the edge of the jetty thing, while he and my official photographer (oh yes!) got in the boat.  I hadn’t really thought it through, because when he told me to drop in the water I was horrified.  Won’t it be bloody freezing?!  I thought I was to ski above the water, not in it!  I don’t know how I thought it was supposed to work.  But anyway, once in, and cold, it seemed best to get on with it.  First I had a go on the boom bar, and that was all good. 

Then he threw me a rope, revved the speedboats engine, and we were off.  And I cocked it up, panicked, let go of the rope, fell in the water, got soaked.  Gaah. My confidence faltered. 

But Sam explained it all again, and something worked, because the next time I was standing up all the way across the lake!  It was a massive buzz!   Exhilarating and exciting and tremendous and all good things!  The boat turned a corner and I fell off ignominiously in the reeds.  But no matter.  Sam pulled up alongside for further tuition.

We tried again, and this time I crossed the lake, rounded corners, crossed back the other way, and again, and again .. . and this time when I fell off it was only because my arms gave up on me.   Consider me utterly delighted, I couldn’t stop grinning for hours! 

Image

I would love to go back on a fine sunny day, with a whole bunch of mates, have another go, and drink a few beers…  Anyone tempted?

#77: Hang out in a betting shop all morning

This panned out ok in the end. I didn’t mind going into a betting shop, but once there I felt rather conspicuous. As if everyone might be looking, and thinking I don’t really belong in that environment!

To begin with I had to find one! I was wandering the streets of Cirencester, picking my way between the antique shops and the classy cafes, and charming independent craft stores, and wondering where on earth does one find a bog-standard bookies?

I investigated a couple of side streets, found an altogether less salubrious quarter that I don’t think I’d ever ventured into before, and happily there was Ladbrookes. In I went.

It was all rather baffling, big screens everywhere, horse racing and football on most of them, and I cast about for some clue as to what I might do next. I have only entered such a place to bet on the Grand National before – without that focus I had no idea what the form was! I had mentally set myself the target of staying for an hour, and actually talking to at least one person.

So I sat down, and skimmed through the Racing Post. It may as well have been in another language. For the first 10 minutes it was excruciating just to be there. I assumed everyone was looking at me, and I didn’t have the least idea how one was meant to behave, or what possible reason I would find for being there. I had no idea how to place a bet, especially on horses. There was one old man scanning all the paper cuttings on the walls, and 2 young-ish men working there. That was it. No one looked ripe for a chat. No one looked as if they would find it amusing that I was visiting by way of a personal challenge.

After a while I acclimatised. And some greyhound racing came on one of the TV screens. I have been to the dogs, and I at least know how the betting works for that. And so I filled out a betting slip for the next dog race. And promptly lost £3. Doh.

I took advantage of the free tea and coffee facilities. How marvellous! Then bet on a couple more dogs. Lost each time. A couple of women were loitering about, and we had a bit of banter about losing on the dogs. Not an in depth conversation, but enough. I took a punt on tonight’s football match. Arsenal to win, 4-0. I will be in the money if that happens. I wasn’t feeling awkward at all by this point! I could have stayed! Except the dog racing was sucking me in, and I’d already squandered a tenner.

Luckily I had booked myself in at the waterskiing lake, so had to make tracks. Here I am trying to take an inconspicuous selfie in Ladbrookes!
ladbrookes

#63: Do something unique and special with each of my children, part 3

None of the 3 unique and special things have been earth shaking events, but the challenge is in separating one child from the mass, and doing something that is special for that child, without then doing exactly the same thing with the other two immediately afterwards. They are all very different, and so enjoy different things, but all too often we do the same stuff with all of them, either together or by turns, just to keep everything ‘fair’. So this challenge was to try and address that, and think about them all individually.

The opportunity for Eva’s ‘thing’ occurred spontaneously, but it was no less special for the lack of preplanning.

We were staying with the in-laws. The weather was bleak. It had poured for 2 days, and we all had cabin fever. We had done swimming and watched films and eaten as much as anyone can humanly eat, and the only thing for it was to put on our waterproofs and go out anyway. So we did, for a short walk, ending in a flat clearing, with a slightly soft football. And we started to play with it. Two children quickly got cold and bored and went home. But Eva, she was onto something. She couldn’t get enough of it. We kicked and passed to one another, and for an hour she had the undivided attention of me, her dad, and her Great Uncle Howard; and none of my children have ever in their lives known that much undivided adult attention! She was running all over the field, dribbling, passing to each of us, receiving the ball and sending it on to someone else, all of us passing back to her… And the compliments flowed, because she really was very good. And very energetic! And she was working really hard.
Eva footballing
She totally loved it, for a good hour. And eventually when we called it a day, she was sopping wet, hair matted, muddy faced, eyes shining. And she said, ‘I don’t want to go to football club mummy. But can I play football again, with you?’ And so I expect we will!
me and eva, football

#55: Learn some bike maintenance skills

A couple of weeks ago, Dave and I were cycling in the Forest of Dean when my chain broke. We weren’t carrying any of the right tools, and he had to suffer the indignity of standing by, while I flagged down a passing young man and allowed him to fix my bike for me. The very next day, Dave went out and bought a chain tool, and every possible form of quick link, lest such a thing should ever happen again.

That very weekend, he was biking with mates, and someone’s chain snapped. He was delighted to save the day with his armoury of quick links and the knowhow gained from our previous misfortune. Pride was restored. A godsend!

But then imagine, simply imagine, my delight, when today I was biking with a different male friend and his chain snapped, and I had the right kit in my bag for the job! Here I am, affixing the new link to the old chain, in insufferably smug fashion!
bike maintenance
The oddest thing is, I have never known a chain to break among any of my cycling acquaintance in the last 10 years! All the people I ever bike with are now signed up to a maintenance course in May!

#52: Go biking in the dark

It is often hard to galvanise myself to go out biking even during the day.  Even though I know I will like it!  But somehow the temptation to sit on my arse always has a greater pull.  And that is doubly the case, when I am already in my pyjamas, it is 9.30pm, and cold and dark outside.

So I am particularly pleased a) that I gathered myself to do it, and b) that it was marvellous!   It was quite liberating to be out, alone, in the dark, cycling by torchlight along the paths round the lakes.  Visibility was reduced to where the torch was pointing, so it wasn’t exactly scenic, but kind of dramatic in a different way. The sounds were more noticeable.  The bird calls, and the sound of swans wings flapping as they entered the water in flight.   The moonlight sparkling across the lake surface was lovely.  The feel of the breeze and the night air perked me up no end.  It confirmed my suspicion that I spend far too much time indoors.  There is no need to think a day is over just because the sun has set.  I must do this more often!

The whole point, when this went on the list, was that I have been meaning to affix proper lights to my bike for about 3 years.  I have never quite got round to it, and hence can only cycle in the daytime.  And tediously, I still haven’t got round to it, but I’ve managed to tick it off the list by borrowing a powerful head torch and compromising on safety (don’t try this at home children..). 

But now I am even more motivated to sort the bike lights, because it was great! Excellent.