Articles from September 2007



Coming apart

I feel it coming apart,
Well, at least I tried,
I can win this war
By knowing not to fight

Me, I’m Not, NIN, Year Zero

Back at the pool practising eskimo rescues and, what do you know, like a moth to a flame, like a missile seeking heat, I honed in on precisely all the things you shouldn’t do most with a good dollop of irrational fear mixed in. Alan performed a few near perfect rolls, even managing to wait while inverted until I blundered into position as rescuer. Next it was my turn and I made the interesting discovery that something happens to my brain when my head is underwater. Basically, it stops functioning – a bit like when you get a blue screen of death on a PC. Or it enters a parallel universe where there is no up or down, all logic is suspended and the only thing that resides there is the specter of a watery grave. (more…)

Change of scenery

Lest anyone should think that I have nothing to report other than our kayaking lessons, we are in fact in the throes of preparing for our belated return to California. We were supposed to go last year, but got caught up in the terror alert du jour (the scary liquids one) and decided to postpone. This is our first trip back to the Bay Area since we lived there for 5 and a half years, returning to Scotland in 2003. It’s going to be fun/emotional/weird/unsettling all at once. It’ll be great to go hang out with our friends, but it will also be strange to re-visit our lives over there now that we’re back and have essentially moved on. The really fun part is returning and not having to check in to the cube farm. It is immensely satisfying to know that we are free from all that, no matter where we are located. (more…)

A Fool and Their Kayak …

The weather forecast for Thursday night revealed a low pressure system moving in at precisely the time we were due at Kilbirnie Loch for our canoe club session. We wondered momentarily if class would be cancelled, but somehow knew that the folks of Garnock Canoe Club were made of hardier stuff than to let a wee bit of wind and rain hold them back.

Indeed we were correct as we arrived to a veritable tempest in the company of most (although not all) of our usual classmates. Admittedly, there was no great rush to enter the fray. As several small children put in ahead of us for their class, however, the adults soon followed albeit with a little less enthusiasm (and a little more trepidation) than normal. I’m sure I saw an evil glint in Richard’s eye as he pronounced that the blasting wind was a mere Force 2 and that we would be using these “ideal” conditions to practise edging and to continue with our self-rescues. Helpfully, he mentioned that hardly anyone had died during previous sessions in such conditions. (more…)

Moving swiftly along

paddling on Loch StrivenLast week’s canoe club session focused on forward stroke technique – the very thing for me, as I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to figure it out for myself . To quote Manuel of Fawlty Towers, I learn it from a book. But that’s not quite the same as the real thing. Richard had us parading our skills (or lack thereof) around the loch and gave us votes out of 10, or some helpful commentary at least. We experimented with straight arms (the Frankenstein technique), then with a wide stroke, and with a slight bend at the elbow etc etc. My most significant learning was to engage my feet in the process of achieving rotation. I’ve spent months trying to get my head around how to get one’s torso more involved in the forward stroke (per the many books I’ve referred to) and this was the key. Once you start “pedalling” (as it were), you automatically involve the trunk muscles which contribute more power to your stroke than just your arms. Another breakthrough. I love these classes! (more…)

Try to save myself …

Try to save myself, but myself keeps slipping away.

Into the Void, NIN, The Fragile

I’m still obsessing over self-rescue techniques. Alan and I duly went along to Garnock’s club night and very beneficial it was too. Richard, the kindly coach who offered to help us, lost no time in getting everyone out of their comfort zone by encouraging us to experiment with balance. This led to some early entries into the Loch as most of us failed to reach the pinnacle of balancing achievement, ie standing in our boats. Alan and I have promised never to call our boats “tippy” (whilst comfortably seated in them) again. In contrast to Loch Eck, Kilbirnie Loch was quite warm, albeit a bit browner. After some expert demos from Richard, we were soon ducking our heads underwater and positioning our kayaks overhead ready to push them up and turn them back to an upright state. This wasn’t really happening for me, unfortunately, as the kayak above me merely pushed me further underwater it seemed. Ultimately, after my assisted rescue produced a double capsize (cringe), Richard showed me how to place the kayak high on to my shoulder and then push it up and turn it over. This worked much better and I succeeded in emptying out the bulk of the water. (more…)