Thames Kayak Christmas Eve

It was a superb birthday and it came a day early. I’m writing about it two days later.


We spent much of Sunday with Harry Whelan on the River Thames. We met up at 9 in a fog so dense we couldn’t see from one side of the river to the next. Over-looked by penthouses costing £7.5m, Liz squeezed into an NDK Greenlander with an ocean cockpit.

Allegedly it was the first one out of the mould, but Harry has a touch of the blarney so I’m not sure whether it’s a story I believe. Did you know the London eye was powered by hamsters?

Going against the tide was not exactly hard work, but it was consistently tough for several hours. We snaked from one bank to the other making the most of the eddies and avoiding the industry. Normally such repeated river crossings would be a little dangerous as traffic moves swiftly up and down the Thames, but today the river was closed to navigation. Three sea kayaks and we had the river to ourselves.


I expect we’ll be on more than a few photos. Harry often finds himself on Flickr. Tourists stared and snapped us as we passed under bridge after bridge. Those on the London Eye had a particularly good view. Actually, we were the only view, since the fog was so dense there was nothing else they could take photos of.

We were called over to a pier just before Tower Bridge and told the harbour authorities were aware of us and, please, could we not go beyond Tower Bridge. As the tide was turning, and we could barely see the bridge from right underneath, this was good advice. Now with the tide in our favour we whizzed back. Passing Parliament, the bell of Big Ben rang out. “Come on”, called Harry, “we’re near the exclusion zone. You’ll get shot”. That’s how to motivate a kayaker.

Within an hour we were in a fantastic pub in Chelsea. God, how I miss decent English beer living in Scotland. Sorry and all that, but apart from a few small breweries (like Isle of Skye), most Scottish beer is awful. Harry and I made the most of it, while Liz smiled and suffered obligingly. Apparently I look like Richard Dreyfus and have to learn to say “however” rather than “but”, which is a preposition to an apology. Or was that the beer talking?

Liz drove me back to Maidenhead while Harry went in search of a pushbike he’d left chained-up somewhere near Canary Wharf two days previously.

I was 49 yesterday, Christmas Eve and that was a great way to spend it.

1 Comments Here:

Wenley said...

Great birthday indeed, Simon. You do hold well your age.