Under a canoe in the middle of a lake. Fully clothed. That was where I didn’t want to be...
Eight days earlier, the four of us had arrived in the Lake District for our fortnight summer holiday. Neither the sky nor the weather forecast offered us the remotest hope of seeing any sun, so it was decided that we should embrace the opportunities offered by the area and seek adventure in the form of outdoor pursuits.
There are four of us: overworked professional husband, two daughters - daughter one: advanced twelve year old, fully equipped with teenage hormones and attitude, daughter two: a boisterous but well-meaning eight year old and me. It was decided that canoeing we should go.
“Are you sure you want to come?” enquired husband of me anxiously, anticipating complications.
“Why not?” I retorted, “I’ve been before.” (As a girl guide. Three decades earlier...four stone lighter...but how hard could it be..?) The expedition was booked.
We arrived one grey damp afternoon to be introduced to our jovial young instructor, Kate and our fellow adventurers: sporty slim Mum with two athletic pre-teenage sons.
After a brief induction, we found ourselves afloat, me partnered with daughter one. The lake was still. As we glided towards the centre, the drizzle subsided and, for the first time all holiday we felt the warmth of late afternoon sun. Surrounded by lush green mountains, floating peacefully, all was well.
“This is the life,” I mused contentedly.
Seconds later, I was less happy with my lot. Whilst admiring the view, Sporty Mum had allowed her canoe to drift and gently nudge ours. With lightening reactions, daughter one and I had leaned sideways to compensate. Too much, too soon. Cold. Bitter cold. And wet. Shock. We were IN.
It took a while a) to breathe and b) for my maternal instincts to prompt me to see how daughter one was faring. She retained her teenage cool and was impressively unruffled. So ten years of the weekly trudge to the local baths for swimming lessons had not been in vain – yay!!
In a fleeting glance at my fellow travellers I was able to gauge their reaction to the situation. Daughter two was guffawing. “Guffawing” is a word I rarely use, but to describe her actions at this time it is perfect. Husband was cringing, really cringing, stiff upper-lipped and wishing himself to be elsewhere. (Thanks love). Whilst sporty Mum looked concerned, her offspring were trying politely to conceal their amusement.
Kate turned out to be a kindly heroine, who had the unenviable task of getting us back into the canoe. We emerged as creatures of the deep: daughter one the minnow, I the lifeless whale. In a blink, daughter one had flipped nimbly aboard. My rescue was a slower, more painful process, with my lower half unwilling, or rather unable to join my upper body in the canoe. My size 18 bottom (thankfully covered by wet trousers) was on display for what seemed an eternity, while Kate cajoled, coached and attempted to haul me into the vessel. My incessant giggling may have misled the others into thinking I was amused, but it was simply a more comfortable alternative to the crying which would have better reflected my feelings at the time.
Somehow, mission impossible was achieved. My wet mass was returned to the canoe, which then made it safely back to the shore.
When I look back on the episode, I didn’t want to be in wet clothes in the lake. Neither did I want to be the owner of that immobile bottom, that made Kate’s rescue the “funniest ever”. If only I’d stuck at my slimming club meetings, it could easily have been a pert size 12 bottom I could have displayed proudly, even moved elegantly.
But every cloud has a silver lining. A witty Facebook status was provided for daughter one. Daughter two had a holiday highlight to recount in her first “big write” of the autumn term. Husband relaxed and counted his blessings that we’d been with strangers and not potential clients. As for me, I have never missed slimming club since.