“Plenty of practice!”

knightMy first kayaking adventure here in Szolnok brought back memories of the White Knight in Through the Looking-Glass. On Tuesday I biked down to the kayak club, opened up the shed, brought out a kayak and paddle (one of the staff had already pointed out which ones I should use), set the kayak in the water, stepped in, and promptly tumbled upside down, boat and all. Not only that, but like the Knight, I was laden with contraptions: regular clothes, sneakers, and a canvas pouch. Some young men rushed over and hauled me out of the water; they seemed amused that I would have even used regular clothes. In the U.S. all my kayaking experiences (“I’ve had plenty of practice!”) were with beginners’ kayaks, those hefty boats that don’t tip easily. It was normal to wear regular clothes into them; you might get a splash or two, but that was it.

I told them that I was ok, explained my situation to a larger group looking on, and set about to try again. Once more: upside-down. So the person who had originally helped me with membership came over and gave me a few tips. He also showed me a locker room where I could leave my things when going out on the water.

The truth is that I don’t know how to kayak (except in those larger boats) and probably won’t get good at it, given my other commitments. But it will be possible to go once a week or so, work on balancing, and reach the point where I can enjoy paddling around.  That’s worth it for me. But this is beside the point; besides the double-dunk in the water, and the silliness of my mistakes, I enjoyed remembering the Knight (my favorite character in Through the Looking-Glass):

Whenever the horse stopped (which it did very often), he fell off in front; and whenever it went on again (which it generally did rather suddenly), he fell off behind. Otherwise he kept on pretty well, except that he had a habit of now and then falling off sideways; and as he generally did this on the side on which Alice was walking, she soon found that it was the best plan not to walk quite close to the horse.

`I’m afraid you’ve not had much practice in riding,’ she ventured to say, as she was helping him up from his fifth tumble.

The Knight looked very much surprised, and a little offended at the remark. `What makes you say that?’ he asked, as he scrambled back into the saddle, keeping hold of Alice’s hair with one hand, to save himself from falling over on the other side.

`Because people don’t fall off quite so often, when they’ve had much practice.’

`I’ve had plenty of practice,’ the Knight said very gravely: `plenty of practice!’

 

Image credit: Sir John Tenniel, Falling off his horse. Wood-engraving by Dalziel. lllustration for the eighth chapter of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (1865).

 

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2 Comments

  1. I am sure that once you have the balance thing down it will be enjoyable to be on the water. You are currently in a wonderful area to explore in a kayak. Best wishes for a more stable water experience.

    Reply
    • Yes, I believe you, and thank you! Even the toppling was enjoyable, but I would not want to do it every time.

      Reply

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

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