Days 1-3: Uddevalla archipelago (Gothenburg)
We were offshore from Uddevalla when the cucumbers began to take hold.
Cold, watery, and contained in cheap plastic to protect them from the elements, they were nearly the perfect allegory for our current predicament.
Us, stuck into our plastic kayaks with a tasteful skirt that was hard to get into; the cucumbers, stuck onto crisp breads by a bacon-cheese squirt that was also hard to get into.
The crisp breads themselves were hard to crack. And that’s were the analogy with our party ends, for we by comparison sat around whingeing about the shitty weather and headwind, which had seen us advance 1 kilometre in 75 minutes.
If that was a slow advance; it was in direct contrast to the one Don had made towards his 40th year. In 12 months he had left Paris, worked in San Francisco, quit San Francisco, returned to Australia, travelled through Queensland, visited South-east Asia, come back to Europe, and settled in London, while also working here and there around Belgium and making plenty of necessary visits to Paris. It was a year of so much change that Don was in need of a new coin purse just to hold it all.
We were 8 friends in 8 kayaks, who found themselves brought together after answering the same 8 thousand emails for the most he-donistic of weekends. And we had nothing to lose, except ourselves, our dignity, and Attilio, which we did with free abandon, despite 2 nautical maps and one of us working for TomTom.
For 3 days and 2 nights, of which 7 hours were actually spent in a boat, we poodled piddled paddled the inlets, channeling our energies, and breaking the waters.
At the end of each day’s hard ka-yakka, we would find a beautiful island and get camper than 8 tents.
And then the feasts would commence. If Don had feared his salad days were over, then it was only to be his potato salad days. Meanwhile, his red pepper and meatball days were well and truly nigh, as that was essentially all we found upon opening the 8 bags of dicks bags of Willy’s supermarket produce.
There was also wine, beers, wining about beers, and some Teacher’s whisky, which as its name suggests, came on strong once it was dark around the site and the responsible ones had retired to bed.
And when the alcohol ran dry, the promise of wetness came not from capsizing, but the equally impossible task of finding the local “café-bar-restaurant” in the archipelago. This was marked with a green dot on the map, which had it been to scale, would have been the size of a small sea-side industrial zone, of which there were plenty.
Alas, in the event, the only bar we found was of the Allah-Akbar variety; boat-crashing a summer camp where young ISIS recruits were having a truckload of fun, jumping from the pier to perfect their bombs. They smiled and waved; there was no doubt they were having a real Nice time.
Of course, unlike one of Richard’s anecdotes, the nice times couldn’t go on forever; and so it was on Monday, a little earlier than expected, a little closer than planned, we clambered into a troop carrier and returned to the relative comforts of flushing toilets, and female humans.
Don was reassured: he had passed his milestone without incident (passing 2 milestones would have been much to ask given the headwind).
And neither had we buried his youth: instead, it lay safely stored, behind a rock on an isolated island, and covered it with some twigs, waiting to be discovered anew.