Falling Down the Thames Blog 19, 23rd July 2014
The London Marathon – To Run or Not To Run
Crossing the finish line after running 42.2 km and immediately hopping back in our canoe to resume our 350km paddle down the Thames, is what Glen and I had envisioned. If we are out to experience everything the River Thames has to offer, then it seems only natural that we would set out to run the 2015 London Marathon as part of our Falling Down the Thames adventure. Off I went to secure our entries…
The London Marathon is one of the world’s three largest marathons, with 46,000 finishers annually. It is a flat and scenic course that follows the north and south banks of the River Thames through central London. The year 2015 will be its 35th running and will occur in early to mid April. This all seemed perfectly suited to our FDtT goals.
Then came the reality of registration. There are a few ways to enter the London Marathon, and registering online is not one of them. The legitimate options include by lottery, through an official tour operator, or through an official charity. As the London Marathon Committee strictly limits the number of spots available to runners from overseas, our chances appeared very slim. One third of all the entry spots are occupied by charities; however the amount of money needed to be raised by each runner is often (and understandably) in the multitude of thousands.
Hoping to stumble across some tips, I started reading running group forums with threads about entering the London Marathon. Many respondents indicated that they have applied year after year and have not been selected through the ballot. Others have reported that they were unable to find an available charity spot as those too fill up very quickly. Tour operators too sell out quickly and many give priority to a select subset of members.
Feeling discouraged, Glen and I regrouped. “Why again are we trying to run London?” “Oh yeah, because we are both runners and the race courses along the Thames and how fun would that be!” We suddenly and simultaneously concluded that London couldn’t possibly be our only option. There must be other foot races in April that follow a course along the River Thames.
A quick Google search revealed two: the Fuller’s Thames Towpath 10-miler and the Ranelagh Harriers Richmond Half-marathon. The former is organized by the West 4 Harriers and involves a scenic, flat and fast 16km run along the Thames Towpath, past Kew Garden, Syon House, Old Deer Park, and back to Chiswick. The latter is a flat fast figure-of-eight 21.1km race in early May on the roads and towpaths of Richmond, Twickenham and Kingston.
Fabulous! Both of these races would be a terrific interlude to our multiday paddling trip, and would allow us to see some of the Thames by foot while profiling a small local foot race. We are naturally gravitating toward the Thames Towpath 10 because of the word “Thames” in its title. But we will approach both organizers and see what comes of it. We will now need to add “long distance running” to our preparation for Falling Down the Thames.
Photo credits: The route of the 2013 London Marathon – prafulla.net; “Save the Rhinos” charity runners, huffpost.com; runners waiting for the starting gun at the 2013 London Marathon – ibtimes.co.uk
Falling Down the Thames Blog 18, 16th July 2014
There Are Always Alternatives
To me there is something funny about the thought of running a marathon, and then stuffing my rapidly-aging carcass into the cockpit of a kayak the following morning. So if I was going to paddle hundreds of kilometres down the River Thames from Kemble to Richborough, why not punctuate the adventure with a forty-two kilometre Sunday morning gambol?
But perhaps I have been getting a bit cocky about foot races. After more than four decades of racing, I had grown accustomed to registering for an event, paying the entry fee, and then running. Sometimes I would do well, and sometimes I would do poorly. The routine was almost childishly simple.
So when I said that I wanted to run the 2015 London Marathon as part of the source-to-sea River Thames paddling adventure known as Falling Down the Thames, I suppose I was being a bit naive. It seems that the London Marathon has become a victim of its own success. It has grown so popular that registration has become a challenge.
Hopeful runners have several options when it comes to trying to enter the race. First, I might qualify as a Good-for-Age entry. This option is only available to residents of the United Kingdom, and in my age group I would have to show that I had run a marathon in the previous two years in less than three hours and twenty minutes. There was a time when I could dash that off as a training run, but not anymore.
Secondly, I could apply to register with one of a limited number of British charities, and commit myself to talking my friends out of a huge pile of cash. That is all very well, but I like to have some choice about the charities I support.
Third, I could pay a tour operator a lot of money to arrange flights and accommodation that I wouldn’t need in order to use one of the marathon slots that they have secured. That comes after a costly membership application.
Finally, I could send off an application to run the marathon and take my chances along with an endless parade of other hopefuls. The internet is awash with stories of runners who have tried unsuccessfully to get into the London Marathon as many as seven times before giving up in despair.
Guess what? I’m not going to be running the London Marathon in 2015.
But as I tell my students, there are always alternatives, and there are certainly racing alternatives in southern England in late April and early May. There is, for instance, the Peckham 10k, the Maidenhead Easter 10 mile, and the Richmond Park 10k. They all sound like fun.
But how can you beat this… The West 4 Harriers 25th Annual Fuller’s Thames Towpath 10 Miler? According to the West 4 Harriers website, they are the friendliest running club in West London, and promise encouragement by their many enthusiastic club marshals. And could the route be any better? It includes the “picturesque Thames Towpath between Chiswick Bridge and Twickenham Bridge,” passing Kew Gardens, Syon House and Old Deer Park. The entry fee is just sixteen pounds, and each finisher receives an engraved pint beer glass.
I think that the West 4 Harriers are about to hear from me.
Photo credits: runners at the start of the London Marathon – www.ctm.uk.com; London Marathon 2015 logo - www.newlifecharity.co.uk; Marathon News - fudgeyrun.blogspot.com.au; West 4 Harriers Towpath 10 logo - www.sportsystems.co.uk
Falling Down the Thames Blog 17, 9th July 2014
Born to Run
I suppose that I should blame the late Pierre Trudeau. In the early 1970s, the Canadian prime minister nationalized a private non-profit company called Participaction in an attempt to convince Canadians to adopt a healthier lifestyle. At the time it was said that the average thirty-year-old Canadian was in the same state of fitness as a sixty-year-old hedgehog. Or it may have been a sixty-year-old Swede. I have forgotten; it was a long time ago.
If it wasn’t for Trudeau, I probably would have grown up slobby, fat and happy. And I probably would have been dead by now. Happy and dead. But I was a gullible youth in the early 1970s, and with the federal government screaming at me to stop watching television and “Do it, do it, do it!” I became fit instead. It turned out that I had a modest talent for running.
As part of our grand UK paddling adventure, known affectionately as Falling Down the Thames, Krista and I have decided to run the London Marathon in 2015. What follows is a greatly abbreviated version of my London Marathon training log.
Friday 15 September 1967: Was told by my elementary school physical education teacher that I should skip my YMCA swimming lessons to run a cross-country race. Went to the swimming lessons anyway.
Friday June 2 1972: First had my name in the newspaper for doing well in a track race. Found that I kind of liked the notoriety.
Sunday 5 August 1973: Ran 30:09 to win the “Midget” category in the Íslendingadagurin five-mile race in Gimli, Manitoba.
Sunday 17 June 1979. Ran my first marathon, finishing in 433d place in a time of 3:51 in Winnipeg.
Sunday 4 October 1981: Won the Saskatchewan Marathon in a time of 2:42 in Saskatoon.
Sunday 1 May 1983: Set a personal record of 2:35 in the Vancouver Marathon.
Sunday 12 April 1987. Won the Sunshine Coast half-marathon for the third consecutive year. Organizers let me keep the trophy.
Friday 29 June 1990. Won the All Out Ostrich Uproar 5 kilometre race in Los Angeles. Was given an ostrich egg as a trophy.
Late September – early October 2000: Ran 300 km from Edmonton to Calgary in six days to raise money for the fight against breast cancer.
Sunday 6 October 2002: Ran 105 kilometres in 24 hours to raise money for the same cause.
Sunday 19 July 2009: Ran the Óshlíð Half Marathon in Ísafjörður, Iceland. Got mobbed by nesting seabirds.
Sunday 21 July 2013: Krista and I ran the Pattaya (Thailand) Half-marathon. Agreed that it was the worst race since Phidippides in 490 BCE. Phidippides died.
Sunday 8 September 2013: While on a short training run, developed a stabbing pain in my right knee. This was later revealed by an MRI to be a torn meniscus.
Monday 9 September 2013: Started getting fat.
Thursday 30 January 2014: Had arthroscopic knee surgery for torn MRI.
Thursday 6 February 2014: Surgeon gave the green light to resume cycling. Started getting thinner.
Thursday 27 February 2014. Was told that I could begin “walking for exercise.” Didn’t admit that I had started walking for exercise ten days earlier.
Thursday 27 March 2014. Resumed running.
Friday 28 March 2014. Kept running.
Bring on the 2015 London Marathon!
Photo Credits: Participaction Logo - www.canadiandesignresource.ca; Glen winning the Saskatchewan Marathon – www.saskmarathon.ca; Glen receiving the trophy for winning the Gibson-Sechelt April Fools Run for the second time in a row – www.foolsrun.ca; “Do it! Do it! Do it!” courtesy of Alaskan Dude (www.flickr.com/people/72213316@N00)
Falling Down the Thames Blog 16, 2nd July 2014
Krista and I recently returned from England, where we were consolidating plans for Falling Down the Thames. We visited the headwaters of the River Thames at Kemble, saw our planned stopping point at Richborough, and glimpsed the mighty river at many points in between. It was our opportunity to meet with outfitters that could supply our canoe and our kayak, and with a videographer who might record our adventure for posterity.
We had earlier decided to share our River Thames adventure on a more personal level with some of England’s younger residents. Krista and I contacted a small number of elementary schools situated along our route, offering to make presentations about our 2015 adventure as we passed by their communities. Curiously, we never heard back from a couple of these. The head teachers at both Thameside Primary School in Reading and Rose Hill Primary School in Oxford, both a stone’s throw from the river, remained mute to our offer.
But the staff at one school in particular was overflowing in their response to our offer.
Forgive yourself if you have never heard of Reculver; you may never hear of it ever again. Found on the north shore of Kent, the village is home to just over one hundred residents, a quarter of whom live in caravans. During the Roman occupation of England, Reculver was at a site critical for coastal defences, and was home to an important fort. It is currently home to the King Ethelbert pub, which, when I last visited, served a magnificent ploughman’s lunch. Krista and I will have a chance to see whether the lunch is still magnificent when we paddle by Reculver near the end of our adventure.
Reculver C of E Primary School is situated at the east end of the community of Herne Bay, several kilometres west of Reculver. I suppose the school got its name by being situated at the junction of Reculver Road and Reculver Lane, and not from its proximity to Reculver itself. To me, the most important thing about Reculver C of E Primary School is that it was the school of my mother, Kathleen, and her brothers, Desmond and Gerry, seventy-five years ago.
My mother’s report card from the Summer term of 1942, handwritten by Head Mistress Mrs. Pettman, survives to show what sort of student she was. Earning twenty out of twenty in Scripture (“Remembers well”), Reading (“Expression correct + voice good”), Poetry (Elocution very good!”) and Physical Education (“A good pose + jumps well!”), my mother fell a bit short in History, earning an unsatisfactory grade, and the comment “Not so well remembered.” Overall her attendance for the semester was 128/140. That seems pretty good considering that bombs were dropping on England at the time.
Jon Fox is the current Head Teacher at Reculver C of E Primary School, and when I contacted Jon about a presentation to his students, his support was immediate and incandescent. If Jon had been my principal when I was an elementary school child, I probably would have enjoyed school much more. As he showed Krista and me around the school and grounds, including the rooms in which my mother and uncles had been students, pupils launched themselves at him. “Mr. Fox! My family was in London over the weekend.” “Mr. Fox! I haven’t said hello in a while!”
The students at Reculver Primary are going to receive a particularly enthusiastic presentation from us in 2015.
Photo credits: White Horse stained glass image – aclerkinoxford.blogspot.com; Reculver C of E Primary School crest – www.kent-teach.com
Falling Down the Thames Blog 15, 24th June 2014
Keeping the Home Fires Burning
Guest blog by Dr Lisa Chilton
This April, Glen and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Twenty-five magnificent years of adventure and love; that’s an accomplishment we’re both proud of. It got me thinking… how does one keep a marriage alive and well for a quarter of a century? In particular, when married to a field biologist and professional traveler?
I’ve been keeping the home fires burning while Glen chased adventure ever since we first fell in love. We were graduate students. Glen was spending each summer in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains in Canada studying White-crowned Sparrow song dialects for his PhD, and I was diligently working back at the University of Calgary on my Masters degree. Each summer saw us apart, and indeed, the year we were married, Glen headed out into the field very shortly after we returned from our honeymoon.
Glen is like Indiana Jones; rugged, adventurous and more than capable of heading out into the wilds and taking what mother nature has to throw at him. I, on the other hand, am a lab biologist. I prefer to conduct my research in the safe haven of the lab, where grizzly bears and freak summer snow storms won’t affect me. Don’t get me wrong – I grew up in the country and love being outside. I just prefer being able to come indoors when the going gets rough.
I have been lucky enough to accompany Glen, in the past when he was studying birds in the mountains and more recently, on many of the travels for his books. I love our ‘goal directed’ travel! Where-ever we go, I know we will spend hours out walking, feeling the beating heart of the city around us. I also love the way Glen can spirit me away from the tourist haunts and behind the scenes in the museums and universities we visit. As he has pointed out, put “Dr” in front of your name, and doors will open.
But I also love that Glen can travel with other companions. I feel it would be boring for him (and for the readers of his books) if he always took me along. Other companions bring other perspectives and strengths I don’t have, and I’m ok with that. Krista, for example, is very athletic and an accomplished outdoor enthusiast. She loves camping, biking and canoeing, and can be relied on to throw herself into adverse conditions without complaint. She is up to the challenge of paddling with Glen from the head-water of the Thames all the way out into the ocean next year, where the suggestion merely makes me think of sore muscles and blisters.
When Glen paddles the length of the Thames next year, I will send him off with many hugs and kisses, and best wishes for he and Krista to have a marvelous adventure. Glen knows that I will keep the home fires burning bright to welcome him home.
Photo credits: White-crowned Sparrow – ibc.lyneds.com; grizzly bears – media.salon.com; “Keeping the Home Fires Burning” original art by Natasha Cinnamon – natasha.cinnamon.deviantart.com
Falling Down the Thames Blog 14, 18th June 2014
More Thames Pubs
In an earlier blog, I explained that Krista and I would take time out from our Falling Down the Thames adventure to samples the goods on offer at a number of pubs along the River Thames and south bank of the Thames Estuary. Although I invited suggestions about pubs we might want to investigate, I shouldn’t leave you with the impression that I have not yet imbibed at any pubs along the great river. I have. They include:
The Trout Inn, Wolvercote: Occupation of the site can be traced to 1138, but the current building was constructed in the 17th century. The Trout Inn that I visited is rather more suited the crème brûlée crowd than the Walkers crisps crowd. It shouldn’t be confused with The Trout Inn, twenty-seven kilometres away in Farringdon, The Trout Inn, thirty-seven kilometres away in Lechlade, The Trout Inn, ninety-six kilometres away in Itchen Abbas. or even The Trout Inn, 227 kilometres away in Tiverton.
The Head of the River: A Fuller’s pub, adjacent to the Folly Bridge in Oxford, The Head of the River is nowhere near the head of the river. That is seventy kilometres away near Kemble. Or Seven Springs. Or wherever the Thames actually begins. The stone building, once a warehouse and then a boatyard, touches the Thames. Or the Isis. Or whatever you choose to call the river as it flows through Oxford. If you like sitting at picnic tables drinking beer as people paddle by, then this is the place for you.
Isis Tavern / Isis Farmhouse: Situated at Iffley Lock, Oxford, the building that now housing the pub started over two hundred years ago as farmhouse, There is no vehicular access to the Isis, and so it must be approached on foot. It appears that this venue has changed ownership and emphasis a couple of times since I lasted visited Oxford eight years ago. Let’s hope that the essence remains.
Kings Arms: Despite the odd lack of a possessive apostrophe in its name, this pub in Sandford-on-Thames has to get credit for being close enough to the Thames as to be almost in the river. It is one of 135 venues in the Chef & Brewer chain. Although I generally avoid chain pubs, The King’s Arms provides a beautiful opportunity to drink beer and watch river traffic pass through a lock.
King Ethelbert Inn: Built around 1809, this pub is situated on the site of a former port at Reculver. Although the channel that made it such an important port has long since silted up, and most of the community lost to erosion by the sea, what little remains of Reculver is deeply embedded in my family’s history. King Ethelbert was King of Kent at the turn of the 7th century. He is generally credited with helping to establish Christianity among Britain’s formerly pagan Anglo-Saxons, and was canonized as a result.
Five pubs. It’s a start.
Photo credits: Kings Arms, Sandford-on-Thames – www.oxfordmail.co.uk; The Trout Inn, Wolvercote – travelswithshep.blogspot.com.au; King Ethelbert Inn, Reculver – weekendrambling.files.wordpress.com
Falling Down the Thames Blog 13, 11th June 2014
For reasons that they won’t explain to me, my publishers make a big deal out of the fact that I like to drink beer. They feel the need to point this out on the dust jackets of my books. Book reviews have described me as “hard-drinking.” I even received a fan letter from a reader who claimed that she feared for my liver.
There is a big difference between a drinker and a drunkard, and let me reassure you that I am the former. I love life. I like beer. I like real ale. I hate cold carbonated cat pee.
I also like good pubs. They are a place to assemble, and to celebrate the glory of the day just passed. My number one, all-time favourite pub is the Three Judges on Dumbarton Road in the West End of Glasgow, Scotland. The Three Judges has all of the features that I look for in a pub. It has a constantly changing assortment of real ales on tap, and at a reasonable price. They don’t play recorded music, and although there is a television mounted on the wall, in the fifteen months that I lived in Glasgow, I never saw it turned on. And, best of all, the Three Judges staff never seemed to mind when I nursed a pint for a couple of hours while editing my writing on my laptop.
And when Krista and I are Falling Down the Thames, I plan to lead her into an assortment of pubs. In terms of beer, Krista is still a beginner, and so I will always order two different beers, let her taste both, and then let her have whichever she likes better. A scholar and a gentleman.
In order to make a significant positive contribution to the lives of people living in southern England, I feel that Krista and I should construct a list of the best pubs along the Thames. Perhaps a top-ten list would work well. Rate the beer, the service and the ambience, and then report.
The good people of Britain’s Ordnance Survey have done such an incredibly thorough job of creating their maps, that small blue icons in the shape of beer glasses indicate the positions of pubs. This creates a problem, because if Krista and I apply our two-kilometre rule to our beer-seeking activities, we would probably find that there are thousands of pubs along the River Thames and the south shore of the Thames Estuary.
As a result, I have decided to narrow the parameters a bit. If patrons can see the Thames River from the grounds of a pub, then Krista and I will consider sampling its wares. If not, the pub will have to find free publicity elsewhere. Curiously, this will probably exclude The Thames Head Inn in Kemble because the head of the Thames is about 500 metres away.
And if you have any thoughts about great pubs that Krista and I may wish to visit, please write to let us know.
Photo credits: The Three Judges, Glasgow - www.scoopergen.co.uk; List of real ales at the Three Judges – 4.bp.blogspot.com
Falling Down the Thames Blog 12, 3rd June 2014
Where To Stop
Source-to-sea adventures can be a bit tricky, even in terms of cartography. If you want to know where to end your journey, you have to know where the river ends.
Sometimes the answer is simple. The Churchill River is the ninth longest river in Canada. It stretches 1600 kilometres across the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. But as it discharges into Hudson Bay, you could pretty easily pick a line between two points of land and say: “There. Between Cape Merry and the Prince of Wales Fort. That is where the river becomes the sea.”
But sometimes the answer is a lot more complex. The Río de la Plata in South America receives water from the Río Uruguay and the Río Paraná. After that, about the only things that people can agree on are that the Río de la Plata is tidal, and that it connects to the Atlantic Ocean. Some authorities feel that it isn’t a river at all, but rather a sea of the Atlantic. If it is a river, then it officially stops being a river along a line between Punta del Este in Uruguay and Cabo San Antonio in Argentina. These points are 220 kilometres apart, making the Río de la Plata the widest river in the world, almost as wide as it is long.
The River Thames is toward the complex end of the spectrum. After passing through or past eight English counties, it just keeps getting wider and wider until eventually you have to admit that you are paddling in the North Sea. But where does the river and its estuary end? Where is the mouth of the Thames, and where will Krista and I stop paddling? In the 19th century, cartographers drew a line between Margate in Kent and Harwich in Essex, roughly twenty kilometres apart. More modern sources hum and haw about Southend-on-Sea on the north shore, and Sheerness on the south shore. Surely we wouldn’t end our adventure half-way between those communities, four kilometres from shore.
Much of the history of my family is associated with the coastline of Kent. I have suggested to Krista that we continue along the Thames Estuary’s south shore, past Sheerness, past Whitstable and Herne Bay, past the towers at Reculver, around the corner past Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, stopping just shy of Sandwich at a site known as Richborough.
Admittedly, at 2.8 km from the coast Richborough doesn’t fall within our two kilometre rule. But if we don’t want to carry the kayak all the way to Richborough, we will probably be able to paddle to within a couple of hundred metres of the site by travelling up the River Stour.
And in a later blog I will tell you exactly what is so special about Richborough.
Photo credits: Sheerness - www.1st-art-gallery.com; polar bear near Churchill, Manitoba – www.yagotta.ca
Falling Down the Thames Blog 11, 28th May 2014
The Two Kilometre Rule
Krista is a wiser person than I. She pointed out to me that our Falling Down the Thames adventure has the potential to grow to a size that would be completely unmanageable. After all, the United Kingdom is an amazing place. It is full of wonderful people and opportunities for fun. But how much fun can we handle?
I have been to Glasgow’s Celtic Connections music festival, and it was fabulous. But it has nothing to do with the River Thames, so out it goes. York Minster has the biggest stained glass widow in all of Christendom, but it is nearly 400 kilometres from the Thames. Sorry York Minster. Her Majesty’s prison at Dartmoor is so cool that it has its own museum and visitors’ centre. But the prison is way over in Devon. Wells-Next-The-Sea in Norfolk has… well, it has 2500 residents, all of whom agree that their town has a silly name, and no special River Thames connection.
We came up with a simple rule. If something fun is within two kilometres of the Thames River or the Thames Estuary, then we will investigate it. Any further from water than that and we will ignore it.
And given that the Thames is something like 346 kilometres long… times a strip two kilometres wide… times two banks… That is a lot of landscape to explore. Add to that a two kilometre wide ribbon of land along the south shore of the Thames Estuary, and we should be able to get ourselves up to plenty of mischief.
For instance, the May celebrations organized by the Whitstable Lions Club will be the 40th staging of the event. The Oyster Morris dance group has agreed to allow Krista and I to join in their merry-making. Whitstable overlooks the Thames Estuary.
For instance, part of the route of the London Marathon follows the River Thames. Surely that obliges us to run the footrace.
For instance, the Royal Windsor Racecourse is situated in a bend of the Thames. I think that Krista and I will be passing the venue during racing season, although I am not sure that they would let us through the gate with our canoe in tow.
For instance, the Church of England’s St. Mary the Virgin Church in the community of Thame is about 150 metres from the Thames, but then so too are the Thame Burger King and the head offices of Travelodge.
For instance… Opps. It seems that Heathrow airport is about five kilometres from the Thames. Too far. So when we land at Heathrow, it won’t count as fun..
And if you, dear reader, have suggestions for special things that Krista and I might do while Falling Down the Thames, please write to us.
Photo credits: The Mayor’s Thames Festival, London – escapelondonblog.wordpress.com; Oyster Morris dancers – mbasic.facebook.com; The Thames Path National Trail – www.thames-path.org.uk
Falling Down the Thames Blog 10, 21st May 2014
In A Word
It would be foolish to deny that Krista has more experience in the wild parts of the world than I. However I think it fair to say that I have spent more of my life with my nose in a dictionary. I love dictionaries, and own several including the unabridged Oxford English dictionary in photo-reduced form that requires a magnifying lens to read.
And so, while I leave Krista to tell you about the workings of canoes and kayaks, let me tell you about the origins and usages of those words.
The Gage Dictionary of Canadian English has followed me around since junior high school. It tells me that, as a noun, a canoe is a light boat moved with paddles. The book also provides small pictures of a Kootenay canoe, an Eskimo kayak, a dugout canoe, and a birch bark canoe. The word “Eskimo” has long since been superseded by “Inuit,” at least in Canada, but the dictionary was printed in 1967. The word “canoe” can also be used as a verb, meaning to paddle a canoe, as in “Let’s go for a canoe, and don’t forget the beer.”
I was really disappointed to find that “canoe” is not a Canadian word. Instead, it is apparently New World Spanish, derived from the Haitian word canoa, which was originally an Arawakan word. And because I couldn’t help myself, I looked up the word Arawakan, which is “a family of South American Indian languages, spoken by groups of tribes now found chiefly in northern South America, formerly found in the West Indies and Florida.”
My Australian Concise Oxford dictionary adds that a canoe is keelless. My non-Australian Concise Oxford dictionary adds that a canoe has pointed ends.
But for real linguistic fun, we have to utilize the unabridged Oxford, which says that the word “canoe” has appeared in print since at least 1555, and was originally applied to a watercraft of West Indian aborigines, which were hollowed out of a single tree trunk. The canoe, presumably; not the aborigines.
According to the OED, a “canoe-shell” is a shell shaped like a canoe, and a “canoe-song” is a song sung by a canoeist. A “canoe burial” is exactly what it sounds like. Writing in 1865, E. B. Taylor wrote: “With this belief the canoe-burial of the North West and of Patagonia hangs together.”
My Canadian English dictionary goes on to say that a kayak is “an Eskimo canoe made of skins stretched over a light frame of wood or bone, completely enclosed except for a space left for one person.” Again, it is an old dictionary.
The unabridged Oxford goes crazy with the word “kayak,” explaining that it is of Inuit origin, used by all dialects from Greenland to Alaska. Its earliest recorded use dates to 1662, and a reference to “the single kayaker, who laces the covering tightly around the body to prevent the entry of water.”
But “kayak” has other meanings. It can refer to the alewife, a herring-like fish of the east coast of North America. Writing in 1849, A. Gesner wrote about kayaks in a volume called The Industrial Resources of Nova Scotia, claiming “Sometimes a hundred men, among whom is a sprinkling of Indians, are engaged in taking the ‘kiacks’ from the stream.”
According to a 1963 article in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry, kayak-angst, also known kayak-dizziness and kayak-phobia, is a well-known disorder in all districts of West Greenland.
I trust that in Falling Down the Thames, Krista and I will not suffer kayak-angst, nor be in need of a canoe burial.
Photo credits: West Coast dugout canoe, “Northern” style – www.historymuseum.ca; Inuit kayak – upload.wikimedia.org; sculpture of an Inuit kayaker – www.americanchateau.com