musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Surfing….Or Not… — April 27, 2018

Surfing….Or Not…

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I recently went to the opticians. I was due my biannual check up and besides I have spent the last few months peering very unattractively at small print on the sides of jars and considering the large print book aisle in the library.

I turned up for my allotted slot and, after having failed about ten times to not blink as a machine puffed cold air into my eye ball and as the patient lady tried to take a photo of each of my retinas, I finally got in to see the optician. (Apparently I have a very sensitive blink reflex, not sure whether to be proud or not…)

It is a cliche to say it but the optician or opthalmist or optometrist (if you know the difference please do let me know) really did look about twelve. She wasn’t the same optician as last time. But then it had been two years. We trawled through my eye history. How long had I worn glasses. Forever. Had I ever tried contacts. Please see above re my sensitive blink reflex. Did I have a history of eye issues. No. Was I experiencing any issues. Yes I can’t read anymore without the use of a magnifying glass, oh and recently whilst doing a particularly difficult colouring in by numbers with Youngest I had to wear a head torch.

The usual stuff.

Anyway she then said ‘Oh I can see you are a surfer!’

I was a bit taken aback by this.

Many things went through my head. I guessed that I had said this last time. I wasn’t sure why. Then I remembered that I had ordered prescription swimming goggles to wear on my holiday in Portugal where I was determined to learn to surf.

Many of you may have read Surfing. If not I suggest you do before carrying on. As you will therefore know my experience of surfing in Portugal had not been a success.

Despite this fact, and proabably because I was taken aback by the tone of admiration in her voice and that all these recollections were flowing into my brain at much too slow a pace to not leave a really, really pregnant pause I found myself agreeing that, yes, I was a surfer.

As soon as the words ‘Yes I do love to surf!’ left my mouth I realised my mistake.

My optician/opthalmist/optometrist proceeded to tell me how she was desperate to learn to surf and had tried but failed. She then went on to describe the exact problem that I myself had encountered when I was trying to surf. Namely getting up from one’s knees to one’s feet.

I murmured something which I hoped passed for understanding empathy for this dificulty. Which of course I do have. As I myself cannot get from my knees to my feet.

As I was trying to decide which was better ‘lens 1 or lens 2’ she proceeded to ask me for my tips for getting from one’s knees to one’s feet. Apparently she had had lessons, watched you tube videos, the works, nothing had helped. I was her last hope.

I managed to deflect the question by sympathising with her predicament and she was thankfully distracted by ‘are the dots clearer and brighter on the green, or the red’.

She then went on to ask me for my favourite surfing locations. As I have only ever failed to surf at one beach in Portugal, the name of which escaped me, I merely mentioned that we were off to Polzeath in the summer. This is true. I won’t be surfing.

We moved onto reading the extremely small print on a paddle.

I tried to deflect her persistent questioning on the knee/ foot/ location issues. She really wasn’t giving up. I decided on a new tack. I mentioned that if she found surfing too hard she could try body boarding. Thankfully she didn’t seem to know what I meant so I was able to fill some time whilst she fiddled around with the exceptionally ugly plastic frames perched on my nose waxing lyrical about a sport I can actually do.

Once I had outlined body boarding in some detail she seemed to suddenly get what I meant. ‘Oh’ she scoffed ‘that, well surely everyone can body board?’…

Well not really. I quite often leave keen looking middle aged men for dead when body boarding as they mis-time their jumps quite spectacularly.

She wasn’t to be persuaded.

I floundered on deflecting questions by explaining how good my kids are at surfing and desperately trying to avoid giving any advice. Which clearly I couldn’t give anyway.

The session ended. My reading prescription had jumped a whole half a point. New glasses should help with the reading. And colouring. But not my truthfulness.

As I left (rather hurriedly) to meet up again with puffy air, flashy photo lady to try to pick new frames whilst not being able to actually see what I look like, the optician/ opthalmist/ optometrist said to me,

”Well you have inspired me to have another go at surfing. If a lady of your age can do it surely I must be able to…”

The whole experience was wrong on so many levels.

Its two years until my next check up. I doubt she will still be there. Yes?

 

 

If the suit fits… — October 9, 2017

If the suit fits…

westsuit

So today I decided to clean the family room. Nothing unusual in that you may be thinking. Well you would be slightly wrong on that front. For I am a bit of a slob and I hadn’t given the room a proper ‘doing’ for…some… time. I had pushed a vac around a bit and plumped the odd cushion but that really wasn’t hacking it anymore.

I knew this because Middlest’s 12th birthday cards were still adorning the hearth. I won’t admit to his birth date, not because I am worried about revealing his identity, but because then you will realise quite how much of a slob I really am. But suffice to say his birth month is not October or, dare I even say it, September.

Yes the room was in need of a major overhaul.

I like to think I leave rooms for this long because of the level of satisfaction I gain from moving large amounts of dust. But, no, really I am just a slob. Husband had also been making rumblings about the level of dust. In fact when the Sky Q box recently decided to have a minor melt down he commented that ‘there is quite a lot of dust on it’ as if that could be a possible cause… That made me wait another week before tackling the job. And swear.

Anyway as part of the cleaning process I really needed to tidy up first. And part of that tidy up process involved dealing with the wet suit on the Poang chair. And, no, this isn’t a euphemism for an elephant in the room. There really has been a wetsuit on the Poang chair for quite some time.

And here is why.

We got back off our main fortnight’s holiday in early August (Middlest had not turned 12 at this point) and so my husband decided to start planning next year’s holiday. This is a bit of a ‘thing’ for him. I try to be all understanding about his need to have his next summer holiday booked at least 12 months in advance but really I just find it ‘mildly’ irritating to be bombarded with questions and e mails with links to possible destinations when my bikini is still drying on the washing line.

To some extent he is right because we do need to book early as we are (whispers) a family of 5. As anyone who is in a family of 5 will know this is a ‘bad thing’ holiday wise. The accommodation required to house families of 5s is often very expensive and very scarce and books up very quickly.

Still I like to get Christmas out of the way first.

Anyway this year’s process of holiday booking saw him downsize our choice from a 12 day safari to Botswana via 16 days touring the west coast of the US to finally a fortnight in a 4 bed cottage on the beach in Polzeath, Cornwall, England.

I won’t bore you with this process, it was bad enough being part of it as an ultimate beneficiary, but suffice to say we are all more than slightly relieved to be looking forward to spending 2 weeks literally on the beach, returning to our cottage of an evening to eat take away fish and chips and to partake of the good WiFi and a PS4. Instead of ‘basic’ camping in the bush or driving for 9 hours a day down Route whatever. Well the kids and I are anyway.

Not to become downhearted by this downscaling of his holidaying dreams husband has instead gleefully embraced the role of kitting us all out for this adventure. We love to body board and knowing what Cornwall may be like in August we had decided to spend some of the not inconsiderable savings we had made on the actual holiday on better equipment. I saw this as a longer term project.

And so it was that a while ago (!) I took delivery of a new full length wet suit which my husband had lovingly chosen for me completely autonomously. A full 10 months ahead of our sojourn. It is apparently a good time to buy wetsuits as the summer season is coming to a close. Obviously. It is lucky I am not one for fashion or brand new ranges as I am going to be a whole year out of date next summer proudly sporting my brand new not new wetsuit. In some ways his faith in my ability to stay around my current weight and body shape is flattering. In others… Luckily he hadn’t been stupid enough to buy the kids any new wet suits. Which is a good job as by next August it is possible Eldest will have hit 7 foot tall.

He casually threw the wet suit on the Poang and suggested I try it on. My heart sank. I ignored that wet suit for… some… time. Today, however, I could ignore it no longer. It was time to try it on.

We have all watched surfer movies. Blonde, tousle haired youths strolling around with their wet suits around their waists. Shrugging their arms into sleeves and reaching gracefully behind themselves to pull effortlessly at the back zipper before elegantly diving into the waves.

That isn’t me. In any way. In fact I try to avoid donning a wet suit in public. It often involves a lot of very unflattering wriggling and grunting. For I am the shape of a lady. I have a waist and hips and such like. Wet suits usually fit me fine once I have wrestled the small amount of waist material over my arse. But not until that point.

I am also unable to reach around to my back and pull up my zipper. I lack the shoulder mobility. Usually I have to sort of flick the long zipper tail over my head and tug it up whilst bent double. Again not a flattering look.

Clearly having taken this issue on board wet suit manufacturers are trying something new and my husband had already explained that this new wetsuit did up at the front in a quite complicated neck arrangement. He had taken ‘a while’ to work out how to get in his suit. I have worn bodies. I thought I could manage.

Things seemed to be going quite well (aside from the usual arse through small waist wriggling) until I got to my second arm. I had climbed into the suit through part if the neck. The neck line appeared to have several parts. I thrust my arm into a sleeve and it went precisely 2 inches before coming to a grinding halt.  I had my left arm half in the suit but couldn’t pull it up over my left shoulder until my right arm was in which meant the use of my left arm was severely compromised. I thrust several times and got no where.

I took out my left arm and tried inserting my right arm first and this worked once I realised that I was going down the wrong ‘side’ of the sleeve. After that I grunted and wriggled some more and got my left arm back in and the suit up to shoulder level. Then I realised the other half of the neck zip fastener was behind my head. I had to put my head back through the very small neck opening. Whilst not grazing my nose on the zip in a very unflattering way.

Once I had achieved this I got that satisfying ‘pop’ feeling as all my body parts found themselves in the correct area of the suit. Well all my parts except my knees which never seem to find themselves behind the reinforced knee area because I have short dumpy legs. Never mind I could live with that.

I squeaked upstairs to have a look in the mirror and decided it would ‘do’- the colour way being sufficiently garish to mask a multitude of sins and bugles.

By this point I was getting a tad hot. Which boded well for my future sojourns in the Atlantic.

And then it hit me. I had to get out.

To my knowledge I have never got out of a wet suit unaided.

The problem with the reverse procedure is invariably arms and shoulders. I reasoned with myself that without the added factor of sticky sea water I would be able to take off the wet suit.

I was wrong.

I managed to man handle that neck bit back over my head again without major lacerations.

Then I tried to get my arms out. They were totally stuck. By this point the exertions of trying to remove myself from the wet suit had caused me to break out in an unattractive sweat which wasn’t really helping. I was now seriously hot. And remembering the claustrophobia such garments induce in me.

Ten minutes passed and I had made no real head way.

I was starting to panic. I had visions of having to do the school run in my wet suit.

My mind was in overdrive deciding which friend I could call upon to extricate me from the neoprene hell I found myself in. My best bet was a friend in the next village who doesn’t drive. She would have found it hysterically funny but would have helped. The thought of getting in the car and driving over there, though, was not appealing. I started hyperventilating.

I decided to take five, calm down, and try again.

Thankfully it worked and I managed to get one arm out of the sleeve and the suit below that shoulder. With some more deep breathing the second shoulder was out. After that it was just a case of peeling it down inside out. It sounds a bit like childbirth. The relief at the end was similar.

Anyway the suit ‘fits’. I shall not be putting it on again until August.

No buns for me.

**That is not me in my wet suit up there…

 

 

 

 

 

Surfing…. — August 7, 2016

Surfing….

I have a long held desire to learn to surf. And by surf I mean on a board in the sea not on a computer on my sofa. Which I can already do.

I have always loved the sea. I have lived in many places in my life (at the last count 9 towns in the UK) and only one was in shouting distance of a beach. And the UK has lot of coast. For someone who loves the sea I seem to have a tendency to inhabit the interior of our island. Circumstances I suppose.

The only time I did live near the sea was when I was between the ages of 5 and 10 and for some reason we didn’t go that often. I think mainly because the walk from the car park to the sea was a long, soft sand trek that left us all exhausted. Although it was through one of the last remaining strongholds of the red squirrel. We must have gone sometimes because I have vague memories of dunes, those squirrels and lots of sand.

My paternal grandparents lived near the sea near Weston Super Mare and we did go to the beach there. My overriding recollections are of donkies and the three mile hike over the beach to the sea. The tide went out a very long way.

We also used to holiday on the south Devon coast every year. Our hotel was another quite long trek from the beach, along buddleia lined pathways which were covered in butterflies, past the Copper Mine where we spent many happy hours feeding machines with pennies and over the railway which skirted magnificently around red sandstone cliffs. I remember hours of bobbing up and down on waves with my bottom in a rubber ring. And I remember my dad’s wooden body board.

I like waves. I like the wild magnificence of the seas around the UK. I like cliffs and rock pools. Groynes encrusted with barnacles. And even seagulls. Although not the one that terrorised Eldest aged about three by knicking his sausage roll directly out of his hand.

The problem with the UK’s coast is that the sea is cold. As I get older I react more and more badly to the cold. I don’t venture in the sea in the UK that much anymore. I cannot imagine how I spent hours in merely a swimsuit in the Atlantic as a child. But I did. The North Sea is worse.

When the kids were still quite little we went on holiday for a couple of years to the Vendee in France. Our campsite was literally on the beach. We would get there early every day and come back at lunch time for a siesta and then go back for the afternoon. I did hours of body boarding.

The waves were immense and very rideable. It was the first time in my life I managed to catch a wave in shoulder deep water and ride it all the way to the shore until my knees were scraping the sand. Awesome. I could have spent even more hours doing it. But the kids were little and needed watching. I needed to time share that with my husband. And body board to the schedule of their desire for regular meals and naps and my attention.

And also the air temperature was unreliable. The second year we went the weather was not great. Too far north. We tried Biarritz for more likelihood of high temperatures but the waves there were far too big for us amateurs.

We then ended up at the Med. On a Greek island. Because we were sick of unreliable weather, self catering and caravans. Sunshine was guaranteed the views were stunning and the food delicious but we needed to leave our boards at home. The Med. Like a large lake.

We did a year in Cornwall. Again great body boarding. Ocean absolutely freezing.   Middlest and Edlest had a surfing lesson and managed to stand up within the hour. And that is when my desire to graduate from a body board to a surf board really took hold.

This year we have come to the south of Portugal where the Atlantic coast meets the Mediterranean coast. I had high hopes. The town we are near is apparently the surfing Mecca of Portugal. Unfortunately our hotel and its beach are on the ‘wrong’ coast.  Sheltered and perfect for families. Not quite what we were after but still lovely. And it is only a short drive to the right coast.

Yesterday we had an all day surfing lesson. We got picked up by a suitably fit, young, tanned and tattooed man who looked like he had been plucked straight off the beach. On the drive I discovered he had two children and his wife was pestering for a third. He wanted the benefit of my wisdom. Had it been hard? Should he consider it? Tricky conversation to have in the front of a mini van loaded with surf boards and over excited kids, not all of whom were mine.

We got to the beach. The car park was full of camper vans and beaten up Corsas loaded with spectacular numbers of surf boards and beautiful young people. We got into wet suits in the car park. Never an easy or dignified process especially when being gawped at by hosts of beautiful young people. And then we hauled all the boards and our kit to the beach. And wow what a beach, I could hardly wait to get in the sea.

First, though, we had to go through the warm up and instruction. We had to be those mad fools pretending to paddle and mount our boards on dry land.

And then in we got, the water warm, the waves beautiful.

I tried. I really did. For three hours. I managed to sort of get to my feet once. For about three seconds. Somewhere between step two (push up with your arms) and step three (get your back foot on the board, the one tethered complicatedly to the end of the deck) it all went wrong. I ended up on my knees toppling sideways. Knees had not featured in the instructions. But then I am neither strong enough nor supple enough to go from lying prone to both feet, whilst balancing on a wave. Apparently.

And tugging that board around is seriously hard work. Dragging it through the waves and realising that with each breaker you have lost all the ground you had just made. I tried lifting it out of the water which is my body board technique. Not so easy with a 6 foot piece of whatever they are made of which is attached to your foot. Density akin to lead.

In the end I gave up and just body boarded on the surf board and I managed to catch some brilliant waves all the way in. Which was cool but not really what I had hoped for. I am not sure what I had hoped for. The ability to transfer my body boarding skill to surfing I suppose. Clearly the two are not related. Well not for me.

All three of my kids took to it, typically, like ducks to water. And all of them were reliably standing up all day. Even my husband managed it a few times. Well done him.

Anyway I enjoyed the day. Not the part were we had to haul all the kit and boards back up to the van. But the rest of it. And I am glad I tried. The kids appreciated that I tried even though I am so ‘old’. And they remain convinced they saw me standing up. I think they must have me confused with another lady in the same surf school outfit. There were a lot of us out there….

Last night I nearly fell asleep in my pizza and was in bed by 8.30. Today I cannot move. All of me aches. From my neck downwards. I am bruised and battered. My left foot hurts from something.

So tomorrow, after a day spent flopping by the pool, we are off in search of a body board and a suitable beach. And I am going back to what I know. And love.

For it is a truth that 46 is too old to be a surfer chick. There is hope for Youngest though. Who did cut a dash in her wet suit standing up gracefully all the way to the shore. Blonde hair streaming. All rash vest and board shorts and brown, supple limbs.

You go girl.

 

 

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