On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond

p1050922June 2016

I’m not really a TV fan. I don’t watch the soaps and I don’t have a favourite show. I sickened myself with endless repeats of Grand Designs prior to our house renovation and depressed myself with Wanted Down Under during my ‘let’s emigrate’ phase. I do make a conscious effort to tune in every four years for the Olympics and World Cup but apart from that, I’d rather read a book.

But I do have a family to entertain on a weekend and admit to being sucked in to the odd drama, documentary or X-factor final. There’s also something quite nostalgic about the kids addiction to Saturday Night Takeaway. Who could’ve guessed that the boys entertaining me in Byker Grove would have my kids enamoured all these years later? Ant and Dec, I bow to your entertainment prowess.

Aside from this most of our screen-time is carefully curated by Netflix and Now TV (and largely dictated by the kids). On demand film: what a feat of viewing innovation. Who could have imagined (back in the day) having the whole video rental shop at your disposal, at any time of the day, without having to leave the house? I wished my life away waiting for the day I could get my very own video shop hire card.

Anyway, I digress. One Saturday night, once the kids were bedded, I found myself watching the STV Children’s Appeal. Cue tears, comfort chocolate, more tears, more chocolate and culminating a few charity auction bids placed for items that I certainly didn’t need. Public appeals tug on the heart strings, they’re carefully crafted to make you take stock of your surroundings and compare that to the story of ‘Kevin’, waking up in a cold, unfurnished basement, going to school hungry and wearing his sister’s tights to keep warm. Parental guilt at its strongest. I don’t support any big charities; I have an issue with huge CEO salaries and administrative costs (the exception here being Mary’s Meals, I love the great work they do and the transparency of the charity framework). I’d rather support someone or something at a local level. However, that Saturday night I successfully bid for a weekend paddle boarding on Loch Lomond.

I’ve been paddle-boarding a couple of times, off the beach in Hopeman and loved it. And seeing as it was our wedding anniversary in June, I thought that would be the perfect present to us (well, to me anyway, husband is not particularly keen. This highlights a common trend of present purchasing in our house, 100% on my part: ‘here’s my gift for you, it’s just what I’ve always wanted’). So I presented the ‘gift’ of paddle boarding (and a two-night stay in a static caravan…who said romance is dead) inside his anniversary card and tentatively mentioned that the trip was for four…and I’d invited another couple along.

We arrived at Inverbeg Holiday Park on the banks of Loch Lomond after an elongated journey (probably my fault, not the best navigator) and met up with our friends. The caravan was beautiful, not at all what I was expecting but it was more akin to a boutique hotel than my caravan imagination. Lots of space, really clean and had a fantastic decking area that, had there not been a downfall of torrential rain, I’m sure we would have made use of. As it happened, the rain evolved into a cold mist when we met up with our paddle board instructor on the ‘bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond’ the next morning. And bonny it was. Just blowing a gale. And bloody freezing too. We got kitted out in our wetsuits and were soon out on the water, honing our technique and waiting for one of us to fall in. It didn’t take long. The thing with wetsuits is that once you’ve had a dook, you actually feel warmer anyway. We spend the morning working twice as hard to combat the wind and by the time we came back ashore for lunch, we were tempted to forgo the afternoon on the water in favour of a steak, large glass of red and the roaring open fire of a nearby restaurant.

Noticing our reticence, the instructor mentioned the bar across the other side of the Loch and that it is possible to paddle over for a drink before paddling home. Not one to avoid a challenge, I was keen. Soon we were back on the water, the sun emerged and were joined by a family of ducks as we made our way across. The pub welcomed us in, wetsuits and all. We sat content in the beer garden, overlooking the Loch. For about one minute. Then the midgees descended (ahhh, that lovely Scottish favourite). We downed our drinks and quickly fled to our boards. I’ve never been so glad of the thick full-body coverage a 5mm suit provides! We ended the day with the aforementioned (and well deserved) steak, large glass of red and the roaring open fire of a nearby restaurant. Bliss.


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