Taking On A New Challenge

One of the activities that was on my list of things to try when I retired, was stand up paddle boarding. Unfortunately, due to the travel restrictions, not mixing in groups and all the other strange things that have happened over the last eighteen months, it was something that I never got round to doing.

However, last weekend I finally managed to go and give it a whirl, along with my husband and two friends. We had booked a beginners lesson with Lake District Paddle Boarding. The lesson was three hours long and we booked a private lesson for just the four of us as we did not want to be holding anyone back or being embarrassed by not being able to actually get on the boards.

I have to say that we had an excellent afternoon. When we first arrived on the edge of Ullswater, it was very murky, overcast, with a chilly breeze. Whilst we sat and ate our picnic, we were all shivering – I think from the cold rather than the sheer terror of what was to come. We were all convinced that we would be in the water within five minutes and frozen to the core.

We went to introduce ourselves to our instructor Joe, who was excellent. He reassured us that we would be able to get on the boards and was confident that we would be paddling across the lake by the end of the afternoon. We were slightly more doubtful! He also convinced us that the water wasn’t actually that cold and we would not be chilly if we fell in.

The first hurdle was to get into a wetsuit. This is no mean feat when you’re younger, but when you are over fifty, overweight and not particularly fit, it becomes a bit of a workout in itself. By the time I managed to shoe horn myself into the suit, I was definitely not chilly anymore. I was relieved that I had fitted into one, as I had nightmares about being stuck half in/half out of a wetsuit, witnessed by hoards of Lake District tourists.

Joe explained the basics at the side of the lake, whilst we watched and asked questions. He was really encouraging and patient with us. He made it sound very straight forward. He then got us all to get onto the boards, kneeling up and we set off into the water. They were much more stable than we had anticipated. After about ten minutes, the boys were already trying to stand up and doing a pretty good job of it. Us girls were a little less confident, but with lots of help and encouragement we were all actually standing on the boards and paddling, much to our amazement. It was quite hard work, requiring a considerable amount of concentration. The advice to look ahead to where you are going and to relax, really helped, but what you actually want to do is look down at the boars and cling on by clenching your toes.

After we had paddled up and down near the shore for a while, Joe then suggested that we paddle across to the island in the middle of the lake. Despite our initial reluctance, we were now all up for this and made our way across with a combination of standing and kneeling, depending on the choppiness of the water. I was mostly kneeling, as I still did not feel particularly confident. Once we had had a short rest on the island, we then crossed the lake into some of the more sheltered bay areas, where it was a little easier to stand up. I still needed a bit of help getting from kneeling to standing, but I managed to paddle standing up for a short while.

Joe showed us some further skills on the boards and also some tricks, which the more confident paddlers tried, some with more success than others. The boys both ended up in the water, mostly from showing off and being over confident. But we laughed so much! Once we had gone in and out of a few more of the little bays, it was time to make our way back across the lake to where we started. I don’t think any of us could believe how quickly three hours had passed by.

As we set back off, the steamer was approaching and Joe warned us that it would cause a few waves. The choice was to kneel down and be more stable in the waves, or stand up and try and balance. Needless to say the boys tried standing and riding the waves and ended up tipping off into the water.

We all managed to make it back safely and a little quicker than going out, as the wind was blowing us in the right direction. We had had a great time and were really impressed with the whole afternoon. We all had slightly achey legs and had definitely used muscles that we hadn’t used for a while.

I would definitely recommend this as an activity and would suggest booking a lesson to try it out with some instruction. I can also heartily recommend Lake District Paddle Boarding and particularly Joe, who was encouraging, amusing and very knowledgeable, nit only about paddle boarding but about Ullswater too. One of the other really nice things was that he took lots of photographs throughout the session, which he then sent us free of charge. The photos make us look much more confident and proficient than we were!

Stand Up Paddle board lessons in the English Lake District. (lakedistrictpaddleboarding.co.uk)

Sarah, My Friend

Yesterday I sadly said goodbye to my lovely friend Sarah, who lost her fight with breast cancer. Throughout her illness Sarah remained positive, determined to live her life to the full, provide for her family and to have no regrets. She was a shining example to all those who knew her and will be missed by so many people. So this is my tribute to Sarah, an amazingly beautiful and brave friend.

When colleagues become friends

Sarah and I had been colleagues for some time, working within the same department, never working on the same team, but passing the time of day, chatting whilst we worked and occasionally working on an enquiry together.

Then, a supervisor made a decision that would change both our lives forever. The teams were shuffled around and Sarah and I began working together on a day to day basis. We were both a bit put out at first, not because we didn’t like each other, or couldn’t work together, but because we were both quite happy on our own teams, we had our own friends, but we decided to make the best of it and crack on with our work.

I am eternally grateful for that decision. Working with Sarah brought us closer and we soon realised that we had quite a lot of things in common, crafting, reading, musicals travelling, amongst other things, but we also had the same ethics. We both valued family life, knew how important our friends were and were both determined in our work to provide the best service that we possibly could to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

When the teams were re-shuffled, Sarah and I continued to be firm friends both in and out of work. We were able to talk about anything, had some amazing experiences and supported each other through some really difficult times.

A shock diagnosis

Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was called for an early mammogram due to a trial in the local health authority. She had no symptoms at all, but it was discovered that her cancer was already well developed and she was swiftly taken into hospital for a mastectomy, followed by gruelling rounds of chemotherapy. Although Sarah knew that her cancer was incurable, she certainly didn’t take that lying down. She did this without complaining, always smiling and having a firm belief that when one treatment wasn’t working, there would be another one that would.

She was determined to live her life to the full and no matter how ill she was she always had time for her family and friends. She cared for both her girls and her mum, despite being exhausted some days. She told me often that she was not afraid of dying, but was always concerned about the effect that her death would have on other people. She was reluctant to let people know when she was suffering and always had a goal to work towards.

Sometimes there were tears, when she was clearly worried, particularly in relation to her two daughters, but generally when you asked her how she was she would say that she was doing alright.

The hardest time was a few weeks ago, when her treatment was stopped and she knew that there was nothing else that could be done. She was initially rocked by the news, but again set about making plans for her family, dealing with unfinished business and trying to make things as easy as she could for those around her.

Sarah never stopped fighting and was determined to keep active for as long as possible and it was only in the last few days of her life that she was unable to do this. She was able to be cared for at home and spend the time that she had left with her family and close friends. I feel blessed to have been able to spend time with her, not only in the last few weeks, but over the last few years. I am also really grateful to her family for allowing me to be there and to the other friends who have given unending support.

A lesson in living a good life

I have learned a lot from being friends with Sarah. Mostly that you should live a good life, not waste time complaining about the things that life throws at you, but to accept those things and do all the things you want to do anyway.

It is true that none of us know how long we have left with our family and friends. Sarah taught me that it’s important to make each moment count. Take pleasure in the little things. Make goals for your life, no matter how small they are. Don’t let small things grow into big problems and don’t put off things that you really want to do. Try not to bear a grudge and remember that a small  kindness can be a huge thing to someone else.

I am definitely a better person for knowing Sarah and I hope that some of her kindness and selflessness has rubbed off on me.

Long lasting memories

I didn’t want to end this blog on a sad note as Sarah would definitely not approve of that. Everyone that knew her will have their own memories, from nights out, lunches at the Ivy, theatre trips, Christmas do’s and many other celebrations. There are so many memories, some of which I talked about in my previous blogs,  but here are just a couple of my favourites

Sarah wanted to raise money for Breast Cancer Care and talked myself and Sharon into taking part in the moonwalk. This was a 26 mile walk, through London, in the middle of the night, wearing a decorated bra. This was a tough but amazing experience. Sarah encouraged us around the whole 26 miles, never losing her enthusiasm. When we reached the finishing line the following morning, Sarah was the only one out of all three of us that was still able to walk around. It was through this experience on the night and the training before hand that I got to know Sharon and we have been able to support each other and I hope we will continue to do so in the future.

In February this year Sarah and I went on an overnight stay to a spa. We had a lovely relaxing couple of days in some very luxurious surroundings. We were able to spend some quality time together, talked, laughed and cried. As Sarah was feeling quite tired at this stage, we weren’t exactly party animals and ended up tucked up in bed at 9pm, with a bottle of prosecco, watching Love Island.

 

I know that it will be hard over the coming weeks,  months  and years as we will all miss Sarah so much, but I will do my best to remember the good times, to focus on the laughter rather than the tears and to live the best life that I can.

Sleep well Sarah you’ve earned your rest.

I will look for you in the colours of the rainbow, the brightest star and the prettiest snowflakes.