Kayaking was such glorious fun, I'm thinking of buying one. What could go wrong? – Susan Morrison
My house is cluttered with the remains of hobbies I thought I’d be good at, only to discover the shattering truth.
There’s a bit of a sewing machine somewhere. I had notions of arts and crafts. It's astonishing how quickly you can sew your own fingers together.
Climbing shoes lie at the bottom of the wardrobe. I’d seen a programme about freestyle rock climbers. They were as lean and lithe as thoroughbred racehorses. Unfortunately, I’m more of a Shetland pony with weight issues. That’s a lot of backside to haul up a climbing wall.
I found the smashed bits of a compass the other day. Orienteering, that one. Never actually got out of the car park. Dropped the compass, spent ages looking for it in the rain, then a Land Rover drove over it.
So when the notion of kayaking popped into my head, I thought, this time, I’ll learn how to do it properly. A lovely bunch called Driftwood Adventures came highly recommended, and a booking was made for Sunday.
The weather for Scotland was stunning. The first scorching sun since May. Temperatures were soaring, the heat was making headlines on Reporting Scotland, sunscreen was being sold openly in Scottish shops and it looked like people were going to use it all over, but not in Portobello.
The haar rolled in like Boris Johnson, pale, clammy and thick.
Undaunted, I saw kids on the sand gamely construct sandcastles they could barely see and people waited for ice creams with an air of grim resolution. Word of sunshine was passed along the queue. Gilmerton was hotter than Venice. Blackhall was sweltering. Stockbridge baked.
A brass band had turned up. They had probably planned to entertain promenaders strolling in the sun, and by jingo, play they would. Bands that play with salt in the air are tough. Look at the Titanic.
Haar or no haar, we had come for kayaking and kayaking we would go. Niall was our instructor and, like all these outdoorsy sorts, delightfully bonkers in a wild, optimistic way. You know, those lovely nutty people who, if dropped onto a remote Scottish island with only a bar of Kendal Mint Cake and a box of matches would think, “What larks”. By the time the rescue team got to them, they’d have built a three-bedroomed bungalow with a hot tub on the patio.
The sea fog was so thick we couldn’t see the water at one point, but we picked up our kayaks and marched to the Forth. The brass band struck up The Emperor’s March from Star Wars. Odd, but apt.
It was the most glorious fun, haar be danged. We learned to scythe our little kayaks through the water, go sideways, and backwards, and stop. The fog meant we couldn’t even see the shore. We thought we were deep on the ocean wave, until a wild swimming bloke walked past us. The water was only up to his chest. Not a lot of depth at Porty.
If anyone is thinking of having a go then Niall and Hugo at Driftwood are your guys. They’re like a pair of Vikings who’ve adapted to the modern world and given up the raiding and running amok for outdoor training and excellent customer service.
Y’know, I might just buy a kayak…