Monday, 11 August 2014

A mixed bag of great fun and total disaster at Druridge Bay

I was well impressed with Mr Hink's

During the week my friend Ade called down after I got in from work. He asked "how do you feel about going over to Ullswater" in the Lakes so that he could get a few shots of me practising my swimming and really just have a nice day out. My immediate reaction was "Err no". I went on to explain that as I didn't know Ullswater all that well, having only been there once before with Ade and his boys for a spot of canoeing, and  that I didn't feel comfortable heading over there and swimming without anyone else. I mean my swimming is ok, however I preferred to air on caution, so suggested we go to Druridge Bay instead. Although I have only been there once too, with my boss and friend Dan I knew I would feel a lot more relaxed there. So both Ade and I agreed on this and chose Saturday as the day to go. 

 On Thursday I got to hang with another couple of my friends Lee and Al and we all headed out for a very relaxed and enjoyable bike ride. Al had come over to our neck of the woods from Bedlington, so Lee and I showed Al a few of our local trails, just doing a smallish 21 mile loop. As we rode around I asked both of the lads, "hey you fancy a look over to Druridge Bay for a look out on Saturday. I'm going to be practising my swimming in the lake". Both Lee and Al said they would see what they were doing, so I agreed to send them a message when I had the time we were setting off and where we would be once we got there.
Saturday rolls up. I must have set my alarm totally wrong as I was up at something like 6am. "Ah well I'm up now, may as well get stuff sorted". As I messed around grabbing my gear the time soon rolled by. Ade and his family arrived just before 10am and we were all set to head off together. My other friend John had arrived just after 9am. I hadn't seen John all week as he was on some Job Centre initiative, which is supposed to be helping him get a job, however in reality all it does is depress him even more. The Job Centre farming people out to all these worthless agencies who get paid thousands of pounds of tax payer’s money and essentially do not create any more opportunities for people who are desperate to get back into work.

My son Kyle has decided to come along too and he jumps in Simon (Ade's son) car and we are off. The weather looking a little dull, though the temperature readout on the dash of the car saying 19degrees. The ride on our way to Druridge Bay is pretty uneventful. I can tell John is on a bit of a downer this morning so I'm trying to cheer him up with my usual sharp wit and silly banter. Ooh we pass the petrol station just before we get onto the A1 near Scotswood, “by that's cheap" I say to my dad, as the petrol sign reads £1:24, "Bloody hell" he replies I could have saved 4 pence a litre this morning. I have a chuckle. My dad is a right nightmare for keeping track of mileage figures and how much petrol we put in our car. He actually has kept track of how much fuel and how much it has cost us from the first day we got our car and that was about 7 years ago. He also does the same with our gas meter, going out every morning and taking readings. I don't get it personally but hey it's his routine and keeps him happy. He isn't so good at keeping track of cakes and jars of Nutella, which I think are far more essential...I mean I may die without them.

As our banter continues and we are driving along I get the same old thought that hounds me any time we go anywhere, No it's not that one that says "I told you, you should have gone to the toilet before we set off". Nope it’s the dreaded OCD check list...What have I forgotten? My mind goes into overdrive, mentally checking everything. It goes’ something like this. Wetsuit, check, water shoe, check, goggles, check, towels, check, swimming hat, check and so on and son on I go through the complete list. Then I say to Ern and John as I turn in John's direction "I'm sure I have forgotten something I mean I always do". It's then after a small pause Ern says "Have you put your leg in". You see I had also strapped my Fat bike onto the car on our bike rack as I wanted Ade to get some photos for a friend of mines on-line magazine of me riding some local areas. "Aww crap, how could I forget my leg?". I had to phone Ade and tell him "you go on ahead we are going to have to go home I've forgot something". As we approached the roundabout and slowed down Ade shouts out of his car window "what you forgot like". "Me leg" was my reply to which I got in return "you plonker". Ah well more miles for Ern to record. I think we had travelled something like 13 or so miles towards Druridge, so not too far.

I'll be honest I'm not the brightest person early on a morning and can often get up like a bear with a sore head, though today I just felt I wasn't going to let anything spoil the day... I don't think Ern is in quite so good a mood. You can always tell as his driving goes from Driving Miss Daisy to Lewis Hamilton. This makes me very edgy and I proceed to inform my dad that "Err you do know we are in a 30mph zone" As we head along from Sunnyside we get stuck behind a car driver who is quite obviously just out enjoying the day, taking in the scenery and not really in a hurry to get anywhere special, kind of reminds me of my driving actually. That's when I know Ern is in full on road rage mode, "Dear me is this bloke practising for a funeral", obviously I've edited his vocabulary as his was a lot more, err shall we say creative. "Calm down" I tell him, there's no hurry we have all day. I don't think this helps. Anyhoo eventually this little car turns off and Ern can go tearing along the Causey and up Shield row bank, with me reminding him at certain points “you do know that it's 30 up here" or my favourite "you do know there is generally a police car sitting there".

Ok if you want to take a break and go and make a cuppa, now may be a good time, as it's a good job I was feeling in a good mood, as things got a bit disastrous lol.

As we arrived back home I went to retrieve my Bartlett Tendon, it was in our downstairs toilet, hiding behind a closed door. When I got back to the car I thought I'd wind John up saying "It's your fault I forgot me leg you know". "How’s that like “he says innocently. "Well you were the last one to the toilet and you closed the door so I missed seeing my leg on the way out". Words to the effect of "whatever" come from John and we have a laugh.

So all the gear is now in the car and we are off again, take 2. Lewis, err I mean Ern on a mission to get us to Druridge Bay. The ride always seems to take ages and is a lot further than I originally thought. As we get nearer to the Bay John comments "I can’t believe we rode all the way up and past here when we bivi'd at St Mary's". "Yeah it does seem miles away" I said. It sets my mind away working thinking, at one point in my life I never imagined I would ever be doing any of this, life sure is precious.

Yay we arrive safe and sound in the car park at Druridge Bay and hook up with everyone. Earlier in the morning Michelle had txt me to say that both Lee and herself wouldn't be able to make it as she wasn't feeling to well. Very drained after all the cancer treatment and she had had quite a good yet exhausting day at Alnwick Gardens to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Congrats Lee and Michelle.

Everyone helped with all my gear and we headed of in the direction of the banks of Ladyburn Lake. On approaching the lake i could see that the conditions where slightly different to when Dan and I last swam in it. The water appeared higher and it was pretty choppy out there. At this point although there was a firm breeze, it was quite warm.  I removed my t-shirt and shorts and was soon ready to get into my wetsuit, having popped my tri shorts and vest underneath my clothes. Remarkably after popping on some easy glide stuff I got my wet suit on without much difficulty. I needed a little bit of a hand with the zipper, but overall it wasn't bad. I was really pleased that Dan had loaned me a swimming cap. I always feel a bit daft in one, but realise they are useful in helping you being seen and that was a good thing today as the lake was quite busy with sail borders, who were going at a canny rate of knots, due to the stiff breeze. Last thing I wanted was to get hit by one of those.

One of the hardest bits for me is getting both in and out of the water. It's weird I never really consider myself all that disabled, until I  have to resort to using elbow crutches and have my leg off. In public with my leg on I can handle all the stares, however when in public with my leg off wow it's bizarre. It really effects my confidence and I feel very vulnerable. I want to do this, however have to convince myself that I want to do this. I guess it's all part of who I am. Some would call it determination, though at times I think it can be more akin to shear stubbornness and the fact I will not give in. What goes through my mind when I'm lacking confidence? I suppose I would have to say "who cares what anyone else thinks, its very much about what I want and can do, regardless of how I do it, as long as it's to the best of my ability".

It's a cautious few steps down the ramp into the lake. I then dip my foot in and "wow it's cold", no going back I wade in, chuck my sticks to the bank side and I'm off. I don't get as far as I wanted before having to stop. My dam goggles aren't sealing and keep filing up with water. I found it very difficult trying to float on my back and adjust them, if I'm not using my arms down by my side to support me I rotate onto my front. This is because of only having the one leg, I'm unbalanced. Never mind I keep trying. As I got further and further out and the water became increasingly choppy there was a point I semi-panicked as I went for a breath and instead took in a mouthful of water. I remembered when I was down with Bex and Amy in the pool at Chesham their instructions that if I took in water don't panic, spit it out and just relax in the water. I immediately just rolled on my back and relaxed, allowing myself to float. Once I had calmed down I tuned back over and swam back towards the guys over on the bank I had come from.

Really need to improve my stroke Oh and get my breathing right!

As I reached the shallows, Mr Hink's my awesome English Bull Terrier got his eye on me and in typical bull terrier fashion didn't think and waded into the lake to come rescue me. It soon became apparent in his eyes "err hold on a bit this water is canny deep and Omg my paws aren't touching the bottom I think I better turn around, screw you dad your on your own". It's the first time I've ever seen wor Hink's doggie paddle and he was awesome. I was so proud of him, especially as he hasn't been well at all over the last few weeks.

I clamber out of the lake with the help of Kyle, like I say in and out is the worst bit. As I'm sitting on the grass with the gang Al rocks up. He has rode from his place in Bedlington, good stuff. Al has brought a couple of tins of hotdogs and so I retrieve my little eSbit alcohol stove and we get cracking cooking some hot dogs. While we are on doing this Ade, John and my dad are discussing the possibility of renting a kayak. I know both Ade and John wanted to get out on the lake and get some closer photos of me. Ern walks over to find out about renting a kayak and comes back saying it's £8 for half an hour. Ade and John are up for heading out so they pop over and hire one. It's not long before I see John walking back in a sort of bedraggled fashion.

I didn't take too much notice as I was more intent on the hot dogs and chatting to Al to be honest. It wasn't until John got right up to us that I noticed he was soaking wet. Oh yeah they had only hired the kayak and then proceeded to both fall in as they pushed off from shore. Poor John's phone and camera had fallen in the lake. I'm hoping they will dry out and works bless him. Ade had taken my waterproof Lumix so although it had gotten a little damp it was fine. So both John and Ade had to strip off and try and dry out.

As I'm lying on the lakes bank, everyone chatting away Ade comes over and it was one of those special moments, he says "you know what I'm dead proud of you mate". It's times like this that a few small spoken words mean so much. I feel very lucky to have such good friends, yeah like everyone else we have our ups and downs and disagreements, different opinions, but at the end of the day we are always there for each other and this count’s for everything in friendship.

We then discovered the lad who was renting out the kayak’s had a 2 seated canoe as he came over and told us lol. Ahh that would be better, so we kind of badgered Ade's son Jordan and wor Kyle into using up the rest of the time and head out in the canoe. Off the two lads went and soon the were on the lake, paddling with all their might and getting absolutely nowhere. As the water was choppy and they obviously couldn't get the hang of steering the small boat. At this point I was back in the water. I have to say it was freezing going back in after having come out. The intentions were that the boys would paddle nearby to me and wor Kyle would get a few photo's using my new waterproof Panasonic Lumix. Well things didn't go quite according to plan. Firstly I had to swim to them as like I say they couldn't control the canoe, then as Kyle took some photos of me swimming, as he went to put the camera away he accidentally dropped it right into the lake. Disaster had struck again. I tried to get Kyle to show me roughly where the camera had gone in and dove down to the lake bed. This was really hard to do as my wet suit kept bringing me back to the surface, plus I couldn't see a thing once under the water, it was way to cloudy in there. I had a few more attempts at finding the camera but I knew it was pretty much in vain. So it was a case of Kyle even waded in bless him up to around his chest to try and show me the area by pointing it out so he got a good soaking too lol.

The lads managed to eventually get the canoe back to shore and return it and I swam back to the ramp on the bank side and scrambled out, removed my wet suit and got dried off. Al asking me if I fancied a hot dog or two. They were lush, he had even brought along some onions and ketchup and mustard, well done Mr Roberts you can come again lol. After a little time relaxing and reflecting on our bad fortune we packed up our gear and headed to the car park where I retrieved my biking gear and Fat Bike. Ade grabbed what he needs to take a few shots and we all headed for the beach. Last time I was at Druridge Bay I remembered there was a canny set of wooden steps leading down to the beach and I thought these might make for a nice picture. Everything set up and Ade waiting at the bottom of the steps  I came down and was well pleased as I didn't crash and burn in the really soft sand at the bottom, well there were loads of people on the beach and I would have looked like a right Muppet .
We checked out a few more locations trying to capture some good images, however to be fair although the place is beautiful, riding wise there wasn't anything challenging. Al and I did ride amongst a few of the dunes and although we didn't go far I really enjoyed just messing around. I could quite fancy coming back and riding a good length of the beach as I think it extends quite far up the coast.

Time to pack up and say goodbye to Ade and his family.  Ade's wife Amanda hadn't been feeling too well and I really missed having a bit chat with her today as we get along so well. Hope you’re feeling better soon Amanda and thanks for always looking after me with cups of tea and chocolate n crisps on my regular Friday night visits when I come up to see you all. It was great seeing Al again. I can definitely see us all spending more time together as we get on so well, in fact I have put my name down for a biking adventure with Al and his pals up in Kielder come October and so looking forward to it, hope John and Lee can make it. As we left Al was grabbing a cheeky iced lolly from the ice cream truck and we gave him a wave as we headed off.

I know it was a bit of a mixed bag of good n evil, yes very, very evil, but I still really enjoyed the day. I'm also proud of myself in that I didn't scream and shout at wor Kyle for losing my camera, something I'll admit in the past I probably would have done.

It's all about whom you surround and spend time enjoying your life with, creating those special memories which no amount of camera's can do.

Cheers to John and Ade for their images. Yes I did grab a few but they are at the bottom of the lake lol



  1. Great blog mate!!! Good day lots of bad luck.

  2. Yeah it was just one of those days John, however I was feeling really chilled out and have to say I still enjoyed the day. It was great hanging with friends and the weather although breezy was quite warm. No one got hurt or injured, sad about my camera but hey will just have to save up for a new one I guess lol