“Just GO GO GO, don’t stop – and hit it with your paddle if you have to”. This was recently shouted to my friend Nems and I on a canal in London, and was a surprisingly effective way to bring out a speed and confidence in paddling that we never knew we possessed. The ‘it’ was an aggressor – a particularly vicious Canadian Goose, hissing and flapping towards our paddleboards, determined not to let us pass. A poor chap in our group received the brunt of the attack, as the goose made multiple swift and alternating attempts to peck out his eyes and rupture his achilles.
Although somewhat unexpected, further research reveals that a goose attack is not uncommon. In fact, ‘Canadian goose attack’ is a top goose-related search term on Google, second only to the famous coat brand.
The following week, Nems and I decided that we should steer clear of the canal, and progress to a paddle on the Thames at Kew. We found the birdlife much more agreeable, although Nems did get bitten by a critter which caused her leg to balloon. Joseph Merrick impressions aside, we both coped well enough with the river to move onto the wide, open sea.
A day trip to Cromer was our first taste of the sea – and we found ourselves receiving many more tastes throughout the course of the session, as we each wiped out a few times, coughing and spluttering after a good buffeting by waves and an insanely strong headwind. It took a hour and a half of concerted effort to grind out about 800m upwind, and no more than 30 glorious wind-assisted seconds to make it back again. If the Strait is anything like that, we don’t stand a chance!
The sea was also not without its hazards – minor injuries sustained include sunburnt hands and a wetsuit rash. You may be pleased, but no doubt unsurprised, to hear that I’ve made a full recovery.
Aside from training, we’re starting to prepare ourselves a little more for the logistics of the SUP trip. As well as sorting practicalities like accommodation and nutrition, I’m keen that we look our best – which is why when I spotted these wetsuits, I messaged the girls immediately to see if I could buy 3:
Disappointingly, our support crew advised that it will probably be too warm for wetsuits, and I for one definitely don’t have the figure to pull off the rash vest in the same range:
However, before I get anywhere near the water, there’s the matter of a 2000+km ride to contend with. Lucky Winona has been on the receiving end of a full strip down, service and rebuild, and she’s now rolling wonderfully.
Cycling’s been going Ok. I’ve gradually been acquiring the necessary kit, booking accommodation, and am almost ready for the off. I’ve also been the beneficiary of lots of advice – certain notable pieces of which I’ve recorded below:
Advice: “Don’t be afraid to eat a doughnut or two” – Jeff Parker, outdoor enthusiast. This is my favourite piece of advice of all time.
Advice: “Perhaps you could stay in Morocco and start trading in dead goat handbags” – Nena Mistry. Given my current ‘funemployed’ status, it’s certainly an option.
Advice: “Hmmm…only 2 cogs? That means your lowest gear isn’t actually that low. Good luck on hills!” – a lovely chap I don’t know that well named Lawrence Lowe. I am choosing to ignore this advice because I have decided that he probably just likes the sound of his own surname.
Advice: “During training, it’s important to simulate match or event-day conditions as closely as possible, so you’re prepared for all eventualities”. Some random forum. To me, this has justified eating and drinking a lot over the past month.
One final comment – I’ve set up a JustGiving page for Calais, as a few people wanted to donate. Meet Tom:
In case you’re curious – Tom’s the volunteer leading the construction of wooden shelters within the camp. There are up to 30 new arrivals each day, some of whom are unaccompanied young people who end up sleeping on the ground. To continue building shelters, the workshop has received a large donation of wood but it will cost £2000 to transport it over.
If you’d like to help, please donate online or by text:
I’m travelling across Europe of my own choosing, and am fortunate enough to have the means to pay for a roof over my head each night. In stark contrast, for many of these guys, living in the Calais Jungle is their best option. Sadly there is still a humanitarian crisis going on on our doorstep – what will help most at the moment is immediate relief for those living in the Jungle. Thanks!