Adrift with the pickles

By Martin Kirby

Yes, that’s me – on the water looking every inch the grizzled frontier man in my blue buoyancy aid and plastic Canadian canoe. Please note that the stretch of water is far too wide to be a creek, and that I am holding a paddle.
Five days on and my shoulders and arms are still aching. We were only on the Siurana reservoir for an hour but that was quite long enough, thank you.
A canoe, and the propulsion thereof, offer siblings the perfect vehicles for disharmony, namely the need to coordinate to make any progress whatsoever and, if that fails, weapons with broad ends with which to belt one another.
Anyway, the burning sun burst through the clouds to make me berate myself for not packing hats, plus it was costing 33 Euros an hour, plus Ella was keen to get back to the pontoon and plunge.
This chronicle comes, imperatively, with a danger warning. Do not swim in reservoirs in Britain, or here for that matter if it is not blatantly safe to do so. The surface water of the Siurana reservoir was remarkably warm because of the fierce, consistent seasonal heat, and several families were there, heeding the signs to stay well clear of the dam.
Joe didn’t swim on account of … there is no gentle way to put this so standby for a sharp intake of breath … removing his big toenail a week earlier by dropping a rock on it. Not a happy moment. Not a pretty sight.
That led to four hours in casualty waiting for an x-ray check on the bone (not broken) with the little man showing conspicuous courage on several counts. Beyond the torture, he also managed to time it to the day his best friend Aiden was flying in for a week of mischief.
When they team up all manner of dramas unfold in the Enid Blyton sense. They are chums, as Aiden’s father Michael and I have been for 40 years, at that pre-teen age when the touch paper of imagination turns a tree house into a fortress, a coppice into an enchanted forest and my workbench into an armoury.
But Joe could barely walk. It was so depressing for the little man and anyone watching. There would be no swimming, no haring about. Essentially it proved more vital than that. Aiden stuck to Joe like glue and looked after him. When Aiden’s brother, my godson Jacob, and Ella were going to the beach for the day Aiden said he would stay. Joe insisted Aiden should go and that he would be fine. Not easy when you are nine.
By the end of the week a forge of horseshoes, hammers and piles of iron had appeared on a plank and trestles beneath the tree house. Bows and arrows waited outside the front door on two pretty chairs I’d retrieved from the tip, and the constant talk was of imaginings.
As for Jacob, 14 like Ella, he showed his art, attending with Ella a batik course run by Conxita, and his mettle, spending one night in a hammock far from the house and close to the spring, slap bang in the middle of the wild boar trail across our land. His aim was to glimpse one or more of the hairy phantoms but they are far too canny to come anywhere near the snoring white mosquito net that had popped up between two pine trees.
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