A family afloat
6am- The dreadful and loud buzzing sound of the cruel alarm clock echoes. ‘I am not sure my body can handle much more of this getting out of bed nonsense’ she mutters under her breath and resets the alarm. Let’s face it, waking up before 7am should be illegal.
Why did they cancel driving down South the night before? Because the World Athletics Championships is on and they simply couldn’t afford to miss Mo Farah (lives priorities, ha?) Fortunately, Mo gives them something to remember with possibly one of his best 10,000 metres race to date. Athina cheers and shouts relentlessly for 26mins (practically half the time of what it takes Addi to run the same distance!) ‘You see Mummy? I cheered for him, that’s why he won!’ Bless her, she thinks she’s got magical powers-
‘Listen my love’ begins Addi in her best Mumsy-voice, ‘they’ll be some families at BBC Countryfile Live this weekend who would love to hear from us about our adventures so they too can go out and play.’ ‘But why can’t they do that anyway?’ asks Athina puzzled. ‘Because sometimes my scrumptious lobster, people need a little encouragement. If we share with them our favourite moments they could feel inspired.’ ‘OK Mummy. But will I talk?’ she asks. ‘Not unless you want to. There will be a nice lady there asking us both some questions. You can speak about whatever makes you happy.’
After a four-hour drive they arrive at the BBC Countryfile Live (Blenheim Palace). It’s their first public talk and they are surprisingly relaxed. Of course anyone who’s met Addi knows she loves narrating a fun story and isn’t the shy type! As her grandma used to say: “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
Mother and daughter have a couple of interviews scheduled with Faye Hatcher (BBC) as part of the Explore Britain Stage that weekend. They make their way to the stage and get mic’d up. Meeting Faye is like reuniting with a long-lost friend. She gives them a big bear hug and a kiss; they instantly feel welcome.
Faye invites Addi to share with the audience a little more about her upbringing. ‘Born in Athens' Addi begins, 'I learned from an early age the Greek ideal, that sport is preparation for life. My rural upbringing in Greece, Thailand and Spain ensured my appreciation for the outdoors and that I have a realistic outlook on life. An affinity I try to pass on to my 9yr old daughter, Athina.’
During the interviews the mother and daughter duo share their passion for seeking out challenges combining their love of adventure, sport, nature and togetherness. They speak about their cold lake swimming, night time orienteering and Athina says her favourite adventure has been canoeing the Leeds-Liverpool canal with Boaty McBoatface.
'The way you talk, your big smiles and your enthusiasm show how passionate you are about your family adventures!’ notes Faye. It's true what they say, love can't be hidden where it truly exists-
When asked what comes after tackling 130miles in an inflatable boat, they comment: ‘We are natural born adventurers and constantly dreaming about fantastic challenges. In autumn we take on the Go Canoeing - 3 lakes challenge. We will paddle UKs 3 largest lakes; a weekend for each lake and ‘The Pirates of the Canal’ return on the 21st August! This time we navigate the length of Lancaster canal (67k in 6 days) with a new eye-catching vessel. Composed of recycled materials procured entirely from water pipes and old recycled furniture, I'm not quite sure the world is prepared for what's coming (!) but our eco-friendly raft promises to inspire other families to give canoeing and rafting a go.’
Faye appears amused and asks: 'I'm sure you get asked this a lot, but where do you find the time to do all this? ‘A valuable lesson I grew up with is to make time for what truly matters.' says Addi. 'Our daily commitments and the British weather are never an excuse to postpone an outdoor session until the weekend. We have the same 24 hours as everyone else. It’s a question of priorities. Sadly the ‘cleaning fairy’ has been slacking lately and I’m a woman standing in front of my laundry simply asking it to fold itself but it doesn’t'. They burst out laughing!
Throughout the weekend the audience is extremely kind, with plenty of nods and smiles. Some brave souls approach them to say ‘hello’ and ask questions, mainly about their vessels and the logistics of traveling on a canal. Mother and daughter feel humbled by the public’s interest.
With something for the whole family at the BBC Countryfile Live, TeamAA agree to visit the dog show first. It's Athina's 'happy place'. The pair spend countless hours watching dogs perform agility tricks and by the end of it Athina pops the question: 'Mummy when can we get a dog?' They've been talking about this for a while and it seems the time for slobbery kisses and dog snuggles with a 4-legged hairy pirate is near. ‘Soon, my little lobster, very soon’ she replies.
Addi is happy to spend her time at the waterfront area; she's got salt water running through her veins. They admire the boats made by the Boat Building Academy. One of the canoes captures her, proof that when love and skills work together one can expect a masterpiece. Her mind drifts, wondering if she owned this vessel would it ever see mysterious adventures or hang from her bedroom ceiling so its glorious craftsmanship can be admired?
The pair are huge Paralympic fans. They arrive at the British Canoeing tent and meet Paralympic Champions Emma Wiggs and Jeanette Chippington, it's a truly special moment. ‘Athina, would you like to try on my Olympic medal?’ asks Emma. She has a lovely manner about her; very natural around children. Athina's eyes widen up, the medal has a braille code and makes a rattling sound. Emma explains that depending on the place the medal makes a different sound, this way the blind athletes can identify them. Such interesting facts; learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts and Athina wears the medal with pride. But she eyes-up the rowing equipment outside the tent and asks 'Can I go on it Mummy? Pleaseee?' Craig is ‘the man’. He shows her how to use it correctly, she’s on fire!
‘Have a go at coracling’ reads a sign, 'Sure, why not?' wonders Addi. She meets a group of Welsh lads who introduce her to the wonderful world of coracles. They are building a Teifi coracle the traditional way and explain their fishing traditions; one hand paddles whilst the other handles the nets. Eager to give this unique piece of Welsh heritage a try, Addi makes a splash, quite literally (a pretty memorable moment!) They teach her the art of paddling in a figure-of-eight. One Welshman seems particularly impressed, 'You look like a strong woman, you'd make a fine fishermans wife!' he jokes. Addi laughs 'Who knows? My future husband might be Welsh!' she teases him back 'Oh, I wouldn’t mind marrying you!' he says with a smile. A marriage proposal inside a coracle? What an amusing day this has been ;)
As with all Welsh she’s met they’re ‘good sport’!
That night they camp near Blenheim Palace. Designated a UNESCO world heritage site, the palace is the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill. 'If this place was good enough for Winston, its fine for us too' says Mum while they set up the stove in the open air and get their dinner ready. 'Mummy, he didn’t sleep inside a festival tent you know?' replies the sensible human and giggles at her own joke!
A beautiful summers evening and with their bellies full it’s time to feed their minds. They travel to the magical world of Narnia. “... One of the drawbacks about adventures is that when you come to the most beautiful places you are often too anxious and hurried to appreciate them...” reads Mum from The Horse and His Boy but that's not them little pirates, not tonight.
They sleep beneath the wild sky, taking their time to return to nature. x