Dordogne 2006

It’s not often that I really feel that I’ve managed to get away from things, and by that I mean forgetting about work, debt, Ashley Cole and all those other tedious inconveniences that blight my life on a daily basis. In the past decade for example, I can count on my hand the occasions when my mind has been completely free from all the turmoil that accompanies the insanity that is modern living.

Last weeks trip to the Dordogne provided for one of those occasions of respite from my oily psychosis, it also gives Mandy an opportunity not to spend too much time with me on my own, which can only be a bonus for her.

Before I start on the Dordogne I’m going to pre-empt Fatty’s text message about it all being a little bit middle class and me having ideas above my station. Okay so it’s overwhelmingly farmers market, crusty bread and Radio 4. But not everything in life is that black and white, and there can be room for manoeuvre. For instance, skiing is a prime example of how poor people can plunge even further into debt whilst trying to keep up with Rupert and the chums.

I’ve just read that back. What a load of bollocks.

What strikes me about this area of France is the sheer abundance of wildlife on display. There’s a multitude of fish, insect and bird life to be seen at close quarters almost everywhere. It’s probably no different to similar areas anywhere in the world, but because of the intimacy afforded by a canoe it all seem so much more intense.

There was fairly sizable Barbell to be seen below the surface in the faster flowing sections, whilst in the deeper parts I saw Perch, my favourite river predator, chasing smaller fish to an agonizing death.

Most banks had a pair of Kingfishers flying at breakneck speed through the undergrowth, not really visible but for a blue flash, and only on one occasion did I see one static long enough to see the red plumage on the front. Although they did appear smaller than the ones I’ve seen in the West Country over here.

For me though, the most memorable wildlife was the insects and in particular, Dragonflies. They seemed to sum up the whole feeling of lazy afternoons drifting along with the sun beaming through the trees and into the water like a halo around the head. If I where an insect then I reckon I’d be a Dragonfly, Mand would be a Grasshopper, Becky would be Praying Mantis and Roger would be a Dung Beetle. Whilst Ben and Chris would probably be Blue Bottles, the kind that swarm around a sun baked dog turd.

Talking of which, the two of them tried unsuccessfully on a couple of occasions to kill themselves. Nobody is more surprised than them at their escape from serious injury as a result of drink and testosterone fuelled bravado. Oh how they didn’t need a second waterproof barrel, oh how they didn’t need to respect the potential dangers of a fast flowing river and oh, how the women should be careful.

The result could have turned quite nasty, very quickly. On one occasion I turn round and have Michael Burke in my ear narrating proceedings on one of those 999 Life Savers programs.

“An then, in a an astonishing turn of events, one of the party, by now heavily intoxicated, actually stands up and attempts to urinate into the river from a fast moving canoe. Inevitably they are both thrown into the deep river and are dragged under by the current whilst their canoe careers into rocks sending their possessions floating downstream”.

Oh how we didn’t need lifejackets.

Happy days.

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