Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Which I Take on the ‘Rapids’, and Lose.

Today was one of those irritating days when the air feels cool when the sun is behind a cloud, but turns into a sweltering hot furnace the minute it comes out. I do not do well in this kind of weather and it seems I have passed this gene to my kids who turned into scowling, sweaty, whining excuses for children for most of the morning.

We spent the better part of an hour seeing how much annoyance we could dish out to one another, an endeavour that was helped along by a malfunctioning internet hotspot in the village. I decided to get home and see if we could chill out in the river.

There is a rocky ‘beach’ across from us that is tantalizingly close , but might as well be 100 miles away when you are trying to get your 70 yr old mother and 9 yr old daughter across through the surprisingly fast moving water. Plus there is the picnic issue and how do you get your stuff across etc etc. And so we packed up and drove across the  bridge and down what I think was actually a drainage ditch, but is referred to here as a ‘lane’, to get to the beach. We have walked here before but tempers were running high so I decided that the sooner everyone was immersed in cold water, the better.

The area is called ‘The Warren’ (which I keep mistakenly calling ‘The Burrow’) and is home to a herd of sheep and a large colony of moles. it’s a great place for kids, and dogs, and other creatures who don’t mind cold water. Within seconds, Jacob and Zoe had stripped and were in the water. The lifeguard in me reared its head and I was tempted to start barking out commands and orders like “No Splashing!”, “Take your shoes off, “No Diving!” and “please stay off the lane ropes” but  I’m pleased to say I  didn’t. This is the problem with having been a lifeguard for 15 years or however long it was. I can no longer enjoy bringing my kids to any kind of water without envisioning their watery death, which could come about in any number of ways. In this particular situation, I was sure they were about to be swept away down stream, never to be seen again. To be fair, the water level was much higher than usual, and it was moving at quite a clip, but still the risk was low and clearly I also needed to stop fussing and chill out.


Anyway, to make a long story longer, The kids soon took to wading upstream 25 metres or so, and then speed-floating downstream to a point just above the ‘rapids’. This they did over and over, laughing hysterically, and grabbing at what or whoever was close by, usually me. This soon led to attempts at navigating the rapids, and then much laughter as they slipped and swam over the rocks and into the pools on the other side where they would drag themselves out giggling and coughing.

It all looked like so much fun that at some point I grew tired of being No-Fun Mum and thought I should probably have a go at the rapids myself. How hard could it be? They look like baby-rapids from the shore and besides the kids were doing it just fine. I had seen many people do exactly this many times and none of them had been taken out on a stretcher so really, just get on with it. Even June and Tony were just up stream and they were fine, June’s sensible shoes sitting at the edge of the river, Tony sitting in a deck chair sipping tea from a thermos.

I waded out to the ‘starting’ point and tried to take a few graceful strokes into the water. I realized, after about .5 of a second, that there was going to be nothing graceful about this at all. I tried to bring my legs around behind me thinking that I could use my arms and hands to manoeuvre through the rocks, which were coming up much more quickly that I had planned.  Another .5 of a second passed by during which time I was swept up onto the first rock, arms and legs going every which way. I vaguely heard Jacob yell something about a ‘sliding rock’ but the words took too long to register and anyway it didn’t matter as a dead octopus would have had more control than I did. I slid off the first rock, into a small whirlpool, felt my legs turn 90degrees away from me to the right, which left only my ass between me and the next set of rocks.  As the river merrily splashed along I careened off rocks left and right, much like a pinball  but with less style. With one final bounce, I slammed into the wretched ‘sliding rock’ (which I will here re-name the ‘ass-smashing rock), and shot into the recovery pool where sometime later, clutching at my left hip, I could be observed struggling out of the water, bits of river-weed stuck to my face. The kids were of course, screaming with laughter, and I tried to keep my game face on while the side of my leg turned blue as I watched.

Needless to say I then declared it to be picnic time (diversion) which provided an excuse for me to sit and recover and reflect on exactly HOW pathetic I was. It is clearly time to hit the Gym, or pool or whatever, and get some muscle control. I’ve never seen an octopus with rigor mortis before but I’m pretty sure that’s what I looked like. A wooden chair would have handled that better than I did.

I’m sure you get the picture so I will leave it there. I decided it was time to get out my new bubble wand and spent the rest of the afternoon sending huge bubbles across the water, which the kids used as target practice.


At this point, the sheep showed up for a drink.


Yes, those are the so-called ‘rapids’. I know what you are thinking: the blind baby from that maze at Hampton Court could probably manage these just fine…

The rest of the evening was spent with dinner, fishing, and then a ruthless game of Monopoly in which Zoe emerged as an early leader, scooping up properties with a keen eye. I managed to get Old Kent Road for which I was able to demand 2 pounds rent. Whitechapel eluded me and I was soon in serious trouble as Zoe loaded up Regent, Oxford and Bond Streets with houses and then hotels.

I retired with the fishing rod and watched as dogs, geese, and stumps floated evenly over the rapids without so much as a bored look in their eyes. Huh.

But the swallows were swooping above the river, and the hills were a lovely colour as the sun went down, and there were more wild strawberries, and life is good here.

Thanks for reading



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