It is a freezing cold day here in London. For the first time this winter, we have to scrape ice off the car although we are told by Liza, one of our car companions, that this has happened on a previous day although we were obviously too snugly ensconced at home when the general population was going about its day. First of all, I decide not to go paddling as I don’t feel well. It’s been a busy week and I think I have just overdone it. These days, enjoyment and work equally come at a price. Mr Mason looks so sad when I tell him I am going to stay in bed for a while longer that I relent and get myself ready at the speed of light (or an equivalent land speed). Today, Dog is in the car with us and he has no idea where he is going or what he is going to do but just being with us makes him happy. We also enlarge the pack with Liza and Chesca which makes him even happier. He controls himself all the way to the London Regatta Centre and does not make any unpleasant early morning smells to remember him by. We let him out of the car for a quick run and then back in to dream away while we go paddling.
Today we are hosting our friends, Pink Champagne, who have come all the way from Bournemouth to go out with us today. As we are in the process of organising our trip to Venice, we stand about in clumps, discussing hotels, flights and funding. One of our team tells us how she thought she would book a b&b and that she had found a good one until the host, Massimo, proudly told her about his Murano glass dildo at which point she thought she might choose somewhere else.
I am not feeling great so I am allowed to sit at the back of our very full boat and paddle as and when I feel up to it. With such a full boat, we are reminded constantly to brace the boat when we stop. If we put our paddles flat out to the side, it makes us much more stable and less likely to capsize which, I think, it a jolly good thing! At half time, when most members change sides in the boat, I am let off to go and walk Dog. Not everyone likes to or can change sides. Those who have had mastectomies sometimes find it hard to paddle on their surgery side, especially if they have had lymph nodes removed, although there is a fair bit of research that shows dragon boating helps with lymphoedema as well as general fitness and a sense of well-being. Walking Dog allows me to watch our team, Wave Walkers, from the land and it’s great to see how they get a burst of speed on. The key is paddling in time with each other which is not as easy as you might think. Technique helps drive the boat along but paddling in time is so important.
After paddling, we go to the Chinese restaurant on top of the London Regatta Centre for dim sum. A huge treat after a morning out on the water. From the outside, the restaurant looks deserted but once we climb the stairs, we see it is, in fact, bursting with diners. Many of them are Chinese which is always a good sign. The waiter who is serving us seems incredibly grumpy and tells us off for trying to move the tables or re-arranging the place settings. We think he may have trained at Wong Kei’s, a legendary Chinese restaurant in Soho where the waiters are always brusque to the point of rudeness. Ciara, our coach, offers to order for us all and a couple of us look through the menu to say which dishes we would particularly like. One of our party is vegetarian and cannot tolerate wheat which poses a slight problem but dishes are found which fit the bill, especially a fish congee which looks delicious. I spy tripe on the menu. I have to confess here and now, I am very fond of tripe. I haven’t tried it with vinegar which is a very Northern way of eating it but I do like it with a parsley sauce and what I call ‘institution potatoes’. These are potatoes, preferably floury, which are just peeled and boiled as in those eaten in institutions like hospitals or basic cafes. With tripe and parsley sauce, they are a must. However, we are in a Chinese restaurant so the tripe comes with a ginger sauce. Ciara tells me her partner, Eddy, really likes tripe so she orders 2 portions. As he sits down, he confirms he really dislikes tripe and for the rest of the meal, all the other people in our party except Mr Mason and I disrespect the tripe in a most heinous way. It is a little chewy but the sauce is delicious. A few people are tempted to try it but I can tell from their faces that this is not the most delicious thing they have ever eaten. Ah well, more for Mr Mason and I. Somehow, we manage to plough our way through the amazing amount of dishes on our tables without exploding or collapsing insensible on the floor. It is a fabulous meal. The few left-overs are packed up in takeaway boxes and given to our guests for their trip home. Sadly, they do not want to take the left over tripe and we cannot take it for Dog as he would not fare well on the ginger sauce.
The following day, I send Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, an email asking if he will provide us with some funds to help us get to Venice next year. As we are the only cancer survivors dragon boat team representing London in Vogalonga, we feel it would be fitting for London to help with at least some of the cost given the amount of positive publicity we could generate. The photo opportunities would be brilliant once we fit the head and tail and have matching kit. A diagnosis of cancer often goes hand in hand with very restricted income so getting to Venice next year will really stretch some of us financially but we are determined to take on this challenge. So come on Boris! With support from the London Mayor we could really shine at Vogalonga and provide a wonderful example of how London supports its citizens.