Music Played13 items
Bonnie Tyler Holding Out For A Hero
The No.1 Movies Album (Various Artist, Polygram Tv
The Brilliant Things Dance
(CD Single), Spokes Records, 1
Queen Killer Queen
Queen - Greatest Hits, Parlophone, 2
Robbie Williams Feel
(CD Single), Chrysalis
Gerry Rafferty The Royal Mile
City to City
Nerina Pallot All Bets Are Off
Year Of The Wolf, Geffen, 1
Roger Miller King Of The Road
The No.1 Country Album (Various), Polygram Tv
Free All Right Now
Back To The 70's (CD1) (Various), EMI, 15
Deacon Blue Queen Of The New Year
Our Town- Deacon Blue (Greatest Hits), Columbia
Blondie One Way Or Another
Blondie - Parallel Lines, Chrysalis, 2
Don McLean Castles In The Air
Don McLean-American Pie/Greatest Hits, EMI
Black Sabbath Neon Knights
Heaven & Hell, Vertigo, 632
Kate Rusby The Village Green Preservation Society
(CD Single), Pure Records
Confession: The Boat That I Row
Dear Father Simon and the esteemed collective,
Many years ago, a friend I shall call “Walter” and I were passionate about white-water canoeing. It was the advent of plastic boats, where a combination of bravery, brute force and ignorance would get us down many fast and powerful rivers in Wales, the French Alps, and even the Himalayas. We’d venture to the mountains, often in the depths of Winter to catch flooded waters, and pit ourselves against dangerous rapids up to Grade Five – which was well ’ard in those days. I suppose we got quite good at this game.
However, back in the UK, we begin to dabble in the sport of competitive canoe slalom; a discipline which perhaps demands a great deal more skill in terms of athletic ability, finesse and fine boat control. Instead of heavy plastic, the kayaks used here were lightweight and fragile, with a highly streamlined shape, designed to be piloted, against the clock, through a series of narrow gates on the river. My bored spectator girlfriend at the time, simply referred to these state-of-the-art creations as “pointy boats”.
We were looking to improve ourselves, and perhaps even climb the ranks and be taken a bit more seriously. In a field of perhaps 50 or more kayak competitors, we knew how difficult it was to gain a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, however the less attractive discipline of C2 (that’s a Canadian Double) would often attract just 3 or 4 entries. Yeah – we’d have a go at that – we’re bound to get placed in the top three, thus easily gaining promotion to the higher ranks just by default.
So we acquired a battered old C2 slalom boat, which no doubt had been quite competitive way back in the mid 1970s, but 15 years on it was quite a cumbersome old beast for a “pointy boat”.
Of course, we became total beginners again. This was now a totally different game. C2 paddling means two-in-a-boat, kneeling up, and using single bladed paddles. Our new sport required a much higher level of team work & coordination.
Anyway, after much fettling and adjustment, our new (old) boat was ready for trial on a slalom course.
It was almost dark when we arrived at a well-known artificial slalom course somewhere in The East Midlands. Junior and Senior members of the British slalom teams regularly trained here, and indeed, it looked like there were some pretty good guys out on the water right now.
Unusually, we donned our wetsuits because winter was approaching, and a swim in the chilly waters was certainly not entirely out of the question, given our cackhandedness. Although the boat was new to us, we already knew the slalom course pretty well, and were soon enjoying the fast currents, eddies, waves and stoppers which are said to mimic Grade 3 / 4 wild river waters.
Gaining in confidence, we thought we’d tackle the slalom gates, in practice for future competitions, where we intended to rise through the ranks and win a few cups. This is the point where it all went wrong…
Whilst descending rapidly along the central flow of fast current, we aimed for a “breakout” on the right hand side. There’s a bit of skill required to perform this manoeuvre accurately, and indeed without capsizing, due to the very rapid, 180 degree change of direction. To add to the pressure, sitting a little lower downstream in an eddy were a couple of young famous British Team hotshots, dressed in fully matching kit, in a gleaming brand–new C2 boat.
I’m sorry to say, that’s where our ambitions fell well short of our abilities. We overshot the eddy, and a combined 28 stones of fat & lard propelled the very pointy tip of our barge straight through a top ranking team’s brand new, full carbon-fibre racing boat. I watched in horror as the bow of our old C2 speared right though theirs – almost skewering the thighs of the front paddler.
I’d like to think this was merely a canoeing version of a “racing incident”, par for the course, so to speak, but the aggrieved competitors didn’t quite see it this way. They demanded that we met up in the top car park to “sort this out”.
Given we didn’t have two bob between us, let alone a Grand or so, there really was no choice. We ran back to our car as fast as our wobbly legs would go, lobbed the boat on the roof, and sped off still dressed in dripping wetsuits. We fled to a girlfriend’s house just down the road, and hid the boat in her back garden, then recounted our sorry tale over a cuppa in her kitchen.
I’d like to ask for forgiveness from Kate – whose kitchen we dripped muddy water all over whilst hiding from the pursuing angry young men.
And I have to ask forgiveness from the angry young paddling stars, who I dare not name here, for the damage to their canoe. I only hope their sponsors replaced it for them.
Biker Bill, & “Walter”.