When your child wants to be a marine biologist, it seems good parenting do as much aquatic-y stuff with her as possible. I mean, not every day – I try to keep my parenting to certain days of the week or it might interfere with my own life. And there’s so much to see on Netflix.
Tuesday of half term seemed an excellent day to parent. We were still on one of our regular ventures up North, where I try and make Youngest Offspring appreciate her Northern ethnicity, by showing her all the beauties of North Yorkshire. Yes, all of them. We’ve time. Eldest Offspring considers there to be too much ‘outdoors’ up North; she promises to come when we promise to go to more built up areas, where there’s more people than mud.
This is why I found myself in the public toilets of Preston Park (Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees), wedging myself into a wetsuit, promising, once again, to cut back on custard creams. I was readying myself to go stand up paddle boarding down the River Tees. The Tees!, you cry. No, wait. It’s not like it was, when local industries merrily tipped their toxic waste into the waters, causing salmon to die out and there to be literally no oxygen in certain areas of the river. When we all said, Oh what a shame. But weren’t really that bothered. Now, well, now. The water is glorious to be in. It was bath-warm and soft. Soft? I used to be in a canoe club and always thought rivers have ‘feels’. If they’re clean they feel ‘soft’.
Whilst I am half-straight-jacketed by neoprene, teetering on top of my converse, the cleaner gets all enthusiastic and sweeps excess water out the doorway causing a wake into my cubicle, that unnervingly laps my toes. I can hear Youngest Offspring next door gently slither into her wetsuit and chirp happily, ‘it’s easier getting changed in the toilet than I thought it would be’. My wetsuit is making suction noises. I ponder if I should have brought talc with me, but then know I’d have just been like Ross in that Friends episode. My phone pings its ping to indicate it’s Eldest Offspring, and as I’ve decided I’m parenting today, I know I should at least look. ‘What does the tracking say?’ I sigh, as I tippy-toe to avoid another wake. I’d forgotten to let her know what time her several-weeks-late-ordered birthday present would arrive and thus not to leave the building. With my only free arm, I’m scrolling through Amazon whilst the Tees awaits.
Mild piece of parenting accomplished, we joined our small group around the SUP Adventures van, that looks decidedly A-Team, with its shininess and snazzy equipment. We were given some basic but essential instructions e.g. try to look like a walrus when you clamber back on your board (we all nod, reassured) and then made our way down to the river.
I was saddened to see the park strewn with rubbish and wished it wasn’t like that. Then instantly, round a misty corner, two litter pickers arrived. I tried wishing for other things like, a packet of custard creams, but nothing happened.
SUP Adventures run courses from various places in the North York Moors National Park: Saltburn, Scaling Dam, the River Esk and Sandsend, but I soon became glad we’d chosen the River Tees. Tranquil. Calm. A haven. You could feel your heart slow a few beats. It was easy to get on the water, going down a ramp off a small jetty. We started off on our knees, getting used to the correct way to paddle. Then, following the principle of Position, Posture and Paddle, we were doing the actual standing up bit. Your legs wobble Bambi-like at first, then you relax in to it. And that’s how it feels: relaxing.
And fun. Every time Youngest Child and I try something new in North Yorkshire, we are met with interesting people, people with a passion and enthusiasm for what they are doing. Simon, our instructor and co-owner of SUP Adventures, was no exception. It was interesting to hear that he’d just returned from Patagonia and had also just been talking on local BBC radio about marine pollution, and that he’d written a book about his first love – surfing. (Follow the link.) Like most people who set up a business that they believe in, he made sure we all enjoyed ourselves; that we all went at our own pace – suggested races for those keen, new techniques for those ready, and moral support for those who spent a bit more time in the water than on the board…
It was a perfect way to spend a morning. Youngest Offspring came away wanting to add a paddle board to her list of things she ‘needs’ (along with a helicopter pilot’s license). I came away, to my surprise, and joy, with very soft, silky hair. All day, after my shower, my hair was the softest it’s ever been. Thoroughly recommend the River Tees.
And so to Yorkshire Puffin Festival. The first Yorkshire Puffin Festival, where thousands of gorgeous puffins flock to Flamborough Cliffs, to raise their young. The reason we have come up on these dates. Like a well-crafted piece of parenting. Wait. No. We can’t go cos Youngest Offspring has left her phone somewhere and we now have to wait in Stokesley until we can get it back. Grrr. I have a teeny, tiny rant and then realise I too have forgotten something. ‘Right, ok. Let’s say no more about it then.’ But every cloud and all that. We get to stay in my home town, Stokesley, a bit longer and try out Tru:vai, the sumptuous new cafe/bar that opened the previous week, with interiors that look like they’ve slipped sophisticatedly off the cover of Livingetc magazine.
A perfect place for me to sit, with my super soft hair. Tru:vai is a bijou, family owned cafe/bar that offers rich, deep cakes, locally sourced gins and locally brewed beers. We only had half an hour, so I had a Fentiman’s Victorian lemonade, that quenched even my yen for lemons.
I was tempted by the cocktails, but as it was 2.30pm and I was trying to make the whole day a parenting thing, I thought best not. But let me show you the menu. Exquisite ingredients. Mmm, Woodford Reserve whisky. I like a good full tasting whisky. 2 cubes of ice please. But you’ll also find quirky ingredients such as, lavender and parma violets. And popcorn syrup. I nearly had a cup of Earl Grey, as it was listed as ‘Early Grey with cornflour’. Very intrigued. Definitely next time.
The barman was the smileyest person, so already we loved it there.
He then moved the two peacock blue Chesterfield style chairs next to each other for us. And if people move furniture for you then they’re nice people.
We declined the offer to light the fire for us, a woodburner that was given to them by the previous owners (it had been a fireplace shop); it would be very cosy on cold days. We sat awhile, watching the world go by through the big picture window. Two dapper, gentlemen-about-town arrived and had something interesting to drink, but I couldn’t quite nosey enough to see what it was. In the evenings there’s live music. So I’m going again for that. But definitely for the cocktails. And definitely at a time when parenting is not required.