Leaves in my bra and split knickers…

That’s how my day went yesterday.

I’ve been trying to put aside some time to kayak with Mme V since we got into this kayaking malarky. It’s not so easy. I had cakes to eat on Tuesday in between all my teaching and gardening, and this was the last day we could do it before the kayak place shuts for winter. I’d pooh-pooh their closing times, but it was only 15° when we set off today.

To be honest, I needed it. I did a full day yesterday, from 8 am – 9 pm. A little unusual. And then I gear up for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday before I get some quiet time again. It was raining this morning and I was cross. I thought it might be too wet to go. Well, not too wet, since you’re in a river, but once you start getting wet and can’t get warm and dry, it’s not so good.

Anyway, we headed up river to Aunac in the canoe van, and Mr Canoe Man dropped us off. I bet the young guy was laughing his arse off. We were already laughing before we even set off. Partly, because I’d had to bring some gnarly old flip-flops because Heston has got into the habit of taking one of each of my shoes and hiding them. Just one. Only, I didn’t call him Heston. I called him Hitler. I still don’t know why. Freud would have a field day with that slip.

It got worse when I was trying to explain it and said ‘Hitler just came in my mouth.’

Sorry. I’m so, so, sorry. I’m doing this a lot recently. If I were in Victorian England I’d be called hysterical and sent for ‘treatment’.

Anyway, the man got in his van and drove off with an ‘A bientot!’ and that was that.

Madame V got in first. She executed a perfect mount and set off.

I tried. My first try, I flipped the kayak and ended up with my bum on the bottom of the river, the life-jacket up around my ears, crying laughing. I stood up, tried again. Same thing. Lucky for me, Verity was way off downstream and some of my embarrassment is spared. I blame the flip-flops. They were very skiddy.

Anyway, after that, it was a bit Deliverance-y and a bit ‘backwaters of Florida’. It was a bit Huckleberry Finn, too. Every so often – and you don’t see this downstream from Mansle so much, there are wooden docks, boats and pontoons. It’s gorgeous. If a young Huck Finn had shouted ‘Howdy!’ at me from one of them, it wouldn’t have been a shock.

The river is of course very low and calm at the moment. There are lots of bits where it is too shallow to kayak over, so you have to get out and pull the kayak over. There’s also a couple of little footbridges. One is too low to go under and one is high enough to sail under. Every time I got out, it was like dicing with death.

Well, dicing with the possibility of  a wet bum.

Again.

In total, I went in four times. Once was voluntarily. I had planned on taking my camera, but it would not have survived. I do not have a good track record regarding cameras and water. Once I dropped my camera and sunglasses over the side of a boat in Crete and once I dropped my camera in the Amazon. It was worth it just so I could say I’d dropped my camera in the Amazon.

The times we had to get out and pull, I ended up cursing Heston for his flip-flop hiding. They just weren’t tight enough to hold my feet properly, I lost one once and Madame V had to retrieve it.

I also spent a lot of time in trees, or in bushes. I got a nice case of thorns and hit myself in the face on numerous occasions. By the time it came to the end, I was shattered. My arms were aching. My legs were shaking. My face hurt with laughter. On the last bit, you have to pull your kayak over a too-tall weir and I went face-first into the water for a final time. I can’t decide whether my legs were trembling with laughter or with exercise.

Now, somewhere along the river, I felt the all-too-familiar feel of fabric giving way. I suspected it was my shorts. I arrived back at the base with the sinking feeling that my bum was on display. Yet I acted with the nonchalance of a woman who does not care that she is probably the wettest customer they have seen all summer, the nonchalance of a woman who believes her trousers to be split, the nonchalance of a woman who has fallen into the river four times and looks like she has been dragged through a hedge backwards because – why yes – she has been dragged through a hedge backwards. The men at the base had the good sense to let me get away with my act and did not laugh at my sodden state.

I had prepared to be cold on the drive home, so I’d packed only fleecy leggings, fleecy slipper-boots and a thick jumper. But the car said it was 26° and I was tempted to believe it. Thus, I drove home, completely nude except for two towels, wearing my slipper boots. I’d realised my bra was sodden and removed it, only to find a leaf stuck down there. And then I realised it was not my shorts that had ripped, but my knickers. Lovely. I couldn’t have even kept my sodden, tattered underwear on.

You might have thought this is the lowest I could stoop.

Oh how you have yet to be surprised!

The house over the road is having a new roof. I got out of the car, trying to keep the towels in a dignified position, wrestling with the keys, wearing my slipper boots. And yes, I am ashamed to admit I gave the workmen an eyeful.

Now I am sore all over. I have aching arms and aching legs. Mostly, though, it is my face that aches from laughing, and my pride which is kind of in tatters. At least Mme V didn’t get any photographs. That’s all I can say.

And next time I fall flat on my arse first thing, I’m getting out and staying out. There’s a lesson in there.

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