The Canoe Club
I’ve been a member of Banbury and District Canoe Club since I was seven years old and my whole family has been involved in it at some point. We first joined because my grandma and great auntie owned a little holiday cottage on the south coast where we would stay for a few weeks every year. At the cottage, my dad kept an old closed cockpit kayak and we would all take turns in it – I did most of my Brownie canoeing badges in this boat. I can remember being swamped by this boat and my dad would drag me around in it on the sea and pretend that I was the one actually powering the boat with the paddles.
Anyway, when I was about six or seven years old, my grandma and great aunt sold the holiday cottage which was a very sad occasion for everyone. I think it was some distant relative that actually built it, so it had always been in our family. After that, my dad decided that he wanted to continue canoeing so searched for canoe clubs in our area and found Banbury Canoe Club. He tried it out and then took all of us along to have a go too. I’ve always loved the getting wet/muddy/cold sort of thing, so I loved it from the word go. Rachel didn’t enjoy it so much at the beginning, but after a few years my whole family were regular paddlers.
We would compete in races during the summer and train hard during the winter (usually!). but after a while Heather went to university and got married and moved away and then Rachel followed suit (with the university bit anyway). That just left me, my mum and dad and my brother. Eventually the time came when I too had to venture out into the big scary unknown that was university and leave the training four times a week at home.
I think it’s probably the thing I miss most about home, which might come across strange – not missing your family most. But my family were all a part of the canoe club, so I include them in it. I miss chatting to my friends before the training sessions and pretending not to care when a 14 year old starts to beat you. I miss getting changed after races and shivering all the way home until you finally get to have a hot shower (believe me, there is NOTHING better than a hot shower after you’ve been canoeing!).
One of the reasons I chose a university so close to home (I live about 40 mins away) is so that I could pop back for the odd weekend and join in a training session. Turns out, that’s not so easy after organising lifts and you know, actually studying for a degree. But every now and then, a few people from the canoe club come and train on the river Avon in Stratford and I tag along. It’s so nice to escape university life for a few hours and just have some good old competitive banter with people you’ve known for most of your life.
Being part of Banbury Canoe Club is so built in to me that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to part from it permanently. People tell me I should join a club close to the university so it would be easier to train regularly, but it’s just not the same. So I’ll continue to wait for Stratford training sessions and remember that in the holidays I’ll be free to train as much as I want (and chat with my friends/share birthday cake after training/enviously drawl over boats that are better than mine etc.).
It just helps me practise my telepathy skills as I call out, “Come to Stratford, come to Stratford!”.