It was the best sort of day for the proverbial messing about on the river. We were finally able to put our conversations with Surrey Canoe Club into action, and handed over 10 young people to the capable hands of Head Coach, Albert Donovan, for the day. Albert has coaching awards coming out of his ears and we had every confidence that the lads could not be in safer hands. He is also delightfully skilled at not taking any rubbish, off anyone. And he has a whistle. Ground rules established, and they all got on like a house on fire, right from the start.
No one had done it before, and there were a couple of expressed doubts about the water in the beginning, which is hardly a surprise, bearing in mind the experiences many have had with dangerous sea crossings in lethally inadequate vessels. But here there were proper life jackets, a quiet stretch of river rippled only by the paddling of ducks, and a team of coaches encouraging them, and any initial qualms seemed to dissipate pretty quickly.
Once they were all on the water, I had my own surge of panic, as M got stuck fast in the reeds and began waving his arms frantically, R discovered a latent Olympic level talent and sped off as though to discover the source of the Thames, and S pitched delightedly over the side of his kayak in an elaborate shrieking capsize, and all at the same time, but the coaches didn’t even raise an eyebrow. “You’re a big shouting chicken mother” K mentioned, as he paddled by, and I can only hope this is a translation of something similar to the mother hen analogy.
It was the best of days, all in all, and we’re already into new proposals for ongoing projects. It seems a day on the river is good in so many ways. Our greatest thanks to Albert, Ian and Pana for the coaching, the patience, the serenity and the chocolate biscuits.
Images © Big Leaf Foundation