Soon after I met my (now) husband in the early 1980s, he learnt to windsurf at the National Sailing Centre in Nottingham with his elder brother. He took to the sport like the proverbial duck to water and it soon became clear to the both of us that if our relationship was to prosper, I would have to learn to windsurf too.
So, one bleak October weekend I was initiated into the sport at QEII Lake near Ashington, Northumberland. This lake was formed after the local pit had closed and was no longer drained, with a view over to the old colliery pithead. This area (i.e. lake and old slag heap) was included in the area’s revival plan, and became a country park rising out of the ashes of the local coal seam. An active windsurfing club soon sprang up and my then-boyfriend attended regularly.
Late October is not the best of times to learn to windsurf. Yes, there was plenty of wind for us to sail with, but it was what my dad would call a lazy wind (blows through you, not round you), was bitterly cold and not the steady breeze needed for beginners. Consequently I fell in rather a lot, much more than my thick wetsuit was able to cope with. By lunchtime I was close to hypothermic and sat shivering despite wearing the two Everest expedition standard jackets lent to me by both instructors. I reckon the real lifesaver though was the packet of chocolate digestive biscuits given to me a bit later 🙂
And so it went on. Weekends became devoted to windsurfing and I learnt to keep on top of my board and sail it rather more than flailing underneath. After a 18 months or so of this, we were married and moved to the south-west. Here we took advantage of my husband’s aunt living in Poole and spent many weekends and holidays windsurfing from Sandbanks, Evening Hill or Hamworthy Park. Poole is a mecca for windsurfers owing to its strong, usually constant breezes, double tides and relatively shallow waters of the massive Poole Harbour area.
My husband’s aunt always looked after us well. Breakfast and tea were vast and matched by a massive packed lunch. She’d also come over to wherever we were sailing at around 4pm with flasks of tea and coffee and something calorific to recharge our flagging batteries. Cake was our usual feast, but Easter was different because she’d arrive with a large tin of freshly baked Easter biscuits, a special kind of shortbread with raisins and sprinkled with sugar. Alongside chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and simnel cake, Easter biscuits form part of our traditional holiday fayre. Shop bought ones are impressive in size, but hers were the size of sideplates. A couple of those munched whilst held by salty hands would stoke us up for another couple of hours sailing before returning home for tea.
Sadly we no longer go windsurfing in this country, having become fair weather sailors and preferring the warm waters of the Mediterranean. We still often visit Poole and will be doing so this Easter with my brother-in-law and family. Windsurfing may no longer be on the agenda, but that tin of Easter biscuits will still be produced for us all to share.
The Orange. Michelle Chapman