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.

But we do have to endure the 10 hour flight to LA first. I’m lining up a couple of books, including “Blazing Paddles” by Brian Wilson, as well as a fully loaded iPod of course. The latter includes an essential soundtrack of a gazillion songs (although, as usual, I doubt I’ll get much beyond NIN), as well as the entire Fawlty Towers series (albeit the battery won’t cope) plus some miscellaneous podcasts. It’s a sad state of affairs when Alan and I both find ourselves, quite out of character, looking forward to the flight as it represents an enforced state of doing nothing-ness.

Once we get there, we have a few things planned. First of all – shopping! If you are envisaging us trekking around the fashion malls, you are quite wrong. Fashion extends no further than REI or the North Face outlet store for Alan and me, and that’s where we’ll be headed, as well as the paddle shop. As everything in the US is 2 for a pound/Euro right now (at least the dollar rate is), it’s like one ginormous sale for European visitors. We will have to set ourselves a budget before we get carried away in a consumerist frenzy – the very thing I’m prone to disdain. But think of all the gear we could get, and so cheap …

Naturally, the trip won’t be given over entirely to shopping. We do intend to go paddling in the Monterey area, as well as to call in on a very special old friend – one of the most awesomely beautiful places on the planet and scene of some of my most special memories: Yosemite. That’s the bit when it gets emotional.

No blog entry is complete without a small paddling update. We have now moved off of the loch and on to the pool, being Garnock pool on a Friday night. We’ve made tiny little inroads into learning support strokes and bracing, leading up to (sharp intake of breath) rolling … eventually. We’ve started to get a feel for hip flicks, although it’s all very new right now. I’m going easy on myself in view of how much new information/sensation there is to take in. Once I adapt, I’ll be in a better position to learn technique. The first big task is to overcome an instinctive aversion to having one’s head underwater. This is manifested in particular whilst practising hip flicks when, as novices, our immediate reaction is to get our head out of the water first, whereas it should in fact be last out. Upon attempting an eskimo rescue, I did, however, learn that being fully immersed under your boat isn’t nearly as unpleasant in a warm swimming pool as it is in cold Loch Eck. I managed to fall out my boat, of course (if there’s a wrong way to do it …). This is going to take time and a whole lot of practice. If only I had a pool of my own … and a wee playboat … and a personal trainer …

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