07 September 2007

My Summer Season

You may have guessed by now from the multitude of posts made in the last couple of days that I've made it back to Englandshire where I have a free, reliable Internet connection. This has allowed me to post everything I've written whilst I've been away at Tamaris. I know it's not true blogging as it hasn't been posted as it happens, but it's the best I can provide.

Anyway the creation of this post is one way I can put a definite end to my 2007 summer season in France at PGL's Tamaris centre. I stopped blogging whilst I was out there on the 20th August and then that post came about after a long break in posts. Why is this? Basically there wasn't a lot to write about. This doesn't mean nothing happened - something interesting would occur everyday - but I just didn't feel the need to write about it and post it on the blog. Reading back over some of the posts I've published since I've been back I get a very negative feel from what I've written. I am unsure why this is as ever since I've been back in England I've been longing to be back out their working away on the SOKs. Maybe it is because the majority of my posts were written in the first couple of weeks where I've got to be honest I wasn't enjoying it as much as I did in the last month-and-a-bit where the blog posts started to get a lot less frequent. Ever since I've been back I keep telling people I speak to that it was probably two of the best months of my life; it definitely was.

Whilst out in the Mediterranean I met some of the most amazing people I have ever known and because of the environment we were in - living together twenty-four hours a day, working together, socialising with each other - you got to know every single individual really well; better than some people I've known for seven years back in England. It was an amazing lifestyle to lead for ten weeks and I am really missing it. However, in a couple of days I should be back living the way I have done for the past ten weeks. Why? I've got another contract for PGL. It starts on 15th September up in Scotland at PGL's Dalguise site, but before that I've got five days training at Boreatton Park in Shropshire. This new contract will last for two months so I'll be up in Perthshire as the main Scottish boating season kicks off. Therefore I am hoping that I can get back into the swing of things when it comes to white water paddling and get on some classic Scottish grade 4/5's in Roger and then fire up a 5 Star Assessment before everything goes all UKCC.

At the moment I have no firm plans for what I'm doing once this contract has finished. I may head somewhere else for work. Actually I will probably head else where as for this year my aim is to spend as little time at home, have as much fun as possible and make some money to take with me to university in September 2008. Now I'll leave with some of the photo's from France.

My tent with the homemade decking outside. You had to really work on the positioning of the chair to ensure a leg didn't fall between the planks.

Laid in my tent with two volley balls. I don't why, it just seems a good idea and it was quite comfy.

Some of the Instructors posing during morning rig up.

There were no kids on site for a whole day so all the staff headed to the water for a Sailing Regatta. There was no wind so it turned into one big cheat.

Posing with my oversized flip-flops. Note the buoyancy aid - safety always came first.

The oversized flip-flops came into their own during beach parties when the lantern needed to be off the floor. Thanks Cool Shoe Corporation for an amazing invention.

The staff on my last day at the Beach Happy Hour.

Me and my tent mate posing just before I head back for England.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

06 September 2007

Heading for Home

Leaving site with some of the staff waving us off.

20th August 2:56pm
Life on centre has got better over the last few weeks and now everyone is winding down and getting ready to head back to England. I'm heading for home in eleven days, but won't be seeing Preston until the 4th September as I'm dropping into help my brother move into his new house in Camberly. Once home I won't actually be staying that long as the following Monday I'm starting training at Boreatton Park so I am suitably qualified to start my new contract up in Scotland at PGL's Dalguise site.

I'll be at Dalguise for just under two months and will be earning a considerable amount when compared to my current salary. Whilst at Dalguise I'll hopefully get back in a Jackson Kayak and hit up the Scottish rivers just as they start to come into season. That is one thing I cannot wait any longer for; white water paddling I've missed it to bits and I just hope all my skills are still there waiting to be unleashed once again.

Once I've finished at Dalguise I'll hopefully make my way to New Zealand to help feed my white water addiction. My stay might not be as long as I planned it to be but just one month would be nice. Any longer would be a bonus. Either way I can see my Gap Year being one of the best years of my life as long as I'm around good people, having fun and doing what I love: paddling. The first ten weeks have ticked all them boxes lets just hope the remaining months do.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...


Racing out to 600m in the SOKs.

9th August 11:59pm
I've not blogged for a while, mainly because not much has happened. I've got up for work; worked, had some PGL food, worked a bit more and then gone out with the staff. Well today was one of those rare occasions when the day runs slightly different. Today we raced the CRS. The CRS are the French lifeguards who patrol the beaches of the Languedoc coast. The lifeguards are exceptionally well built, fit individuals who's muscles constantly bulge out of their tight rash vests.

The race was in a relay format which involved a 600m paddle for each member then a run of increasing lengths. For my team I was the first to go and to put it easily I absolutely annihilated the bulging biceps of the lifeguards with sound technique meaning I set off on my run a good 100m in front of everyone else. It was just a shame I couldn't hold that position during the run.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

Once again... A small world

The bar maids of our local.

30th July 7:49pm
I was out in Vias Plage two nights ago with some staff from Tamaris and our group got mixed up with one of the holiday camps. I got chatting to an English lad who as it happened came from Blackburn, which isn't far from me. Small world. What's even stranger is that as the night went on and we chatted even more we stumbled on to what we did at home. He had just finished college - like me - and it was Runshaw College. The college I went to. From there it was one coincidence after another.

What's been going on on centre? The Dragon Boats leaked so I got them out of the water and spent yesterday repairing them. Today I was on a fay off and over the next couple of days I've got to train up some new members of staff so they run the kayaking sessions like they are now, which has proved successful.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

05 September 2007

Going to the Chapel and we're going to get married

The Conga through Vias Plage.

27th July 8:55pm
One thing PGL does amazingly well, apart from kids activity holidays, is themed nights for staff. At the moment there is one themed night after another as we build ever closer to a PGL wedding. This is all fictitious, but provides great fun as all the staff have a role to play in the wedding. I am the Grooms Famous 80's Rocker Cousin. Last night was the Stag night so the lads hit the town in style with a giant conga through Vias Plage, which totally bewildered passers by. It was an amazing night.

I have also moved tends so I am sharing with yet another person. They aren't an Instructor like my previous tent mate, but a Bogger. A Bogger is a PGL site worker so they work different house to us Instructors. This means we won't be crashing into each other in the tent much.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

Today is another Day

The Dragon Boat heads before repairs began.

25th July 9:49pm
The other day I lied when I said I had 24 days left. Well I wasn't at the time, but after today that count has been extended because I have extended my contract till the end of the season. This happened today during my meeting with the Recruitment Team where I have also sorted work out for when I return home before going to New Zealand. I could either be working at Boreatton Park, Shropshire; Dalguise, Perthshire or Barton Hall, Devon until November. Once sorted I can be off to New Zealand and after four months return to France for work at Embrum, Segries or even Tamaris. I know this means I will only be in New Zealand for four months, but licking at it realistically I would have been struggling to fund 6 months of travel with limited income.

Something about today: I had a quality day on the water and I started repairing the Dragon Boat heads and tails. This is part of my job description as Head of Paddles.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

France: 31 days gone; 24 days left

The Cobra resurfacing after being hit by a wave.

23rd July 8:11pm
I haven't blogged much recently. This isn't because nothings happened. I'm working for PGL; every other day there is some earth shattering event, which affects the whole of Tamaris, but I've just not had time or the motivation to scrawl a post out. Anyway I now have some time and a bit of motivation.

Last night was the first night of the season where we had no children on site. Why was this? Travel Ban day in France messes with our arrivals and departures giving the staff a free night for once. This meant a big party was in order; bigger than normal as there were no restrictions on noise. So with the theme of a Smarty Party by the end of the night we had many male members of staff dressed as women and vice-versa. It was hilarious and made even better by the fact that I had a day off the next day.

I say a day off but I did about an hour-and-a-half 'work' as one of the power boats slipped its anchor in the big surf which had made the water a no go area in the eyes of the French authorities. This meant that once the anchor had been slipped it was a waiting game for the boat to come to shore. Once beached it was a case of man power to get it emptied, put on a trailer and put safely in the boat part. Hence why I had to do a bit of 'work'.

Today I also had a seminar about training opportunities. Basically I could do my Level 3 Training once I've got an 8 hour First Aid certificate at the end of season and do the assessment at the beginning of the next. Alternatively I could do my Level 3 Training at the start of next season and then do my assessment at the end. either way I can get my Level 3 for free once I've got an 8 hour First Aid certificate and be guaranteed a job next season. I think I'll talk to Recruitment on Wednesday before making my mind up.

Finally, this is quite a long post, I've just got back from a surf in the old school Dag play boat, which is actually a Scandal by Dag. It's not a great boat but I just can't get enough of it. It lets me have so much fun, which is weird as it only happens on a day when Tamaris is a b bit down in the dumbs, so it seems wrong to be having fun. Anyway I had three accidentals rolls and some quality surfs on waves which must have been over 8 foot at times.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

Paddling... but not the normal paddling

The Dragon Boats moored up on the canal.

18th July 8:31pm
This afternoon I was taken off session along with twelve other instructors to attend a Dragon Boat Helm course with a chap who was flown out specially. The reason for such a large number of instructors being trained for a session which is seldom run is because soon it will be run on a regular basis. This is because of events on the 16th where the Long Boats were destroyed which means Dragon Boats will now replace them. The swap in sessions was planned, but not so soon.

Down to the course. It was OK. Not the most inspiring course. A lot of it was spent working on your guns as you paddle the Dragon Boat whilst someone gets instruction on being a Helms Man. My turn at the helm was short lived as it was very like, in fact, it was just one big stern rudder so I got the hand of it fairly quickly with only a few mishaps. Now the problem, once qualified, is how to run a session for kids and how to make it interesting. This is even more of a challenge for me as at 8pm I was made Head of Paddles by the Chief Instructor.

This role involves me creating session plans and carrying out maintenance on all things paddle related. This means SOKs and Dragon Boats when it comes down to paddling at Tamaris. At other centre's it may have meant more responsibility, but being predominantly a sailing centre there isn't that many paddling activities to be responsible for.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

04 September 2007

A Dag Creation

The surf rolling onto the beach.

16th July 9:12pm
Yesterday afternoon at briefing three kayaks, and I mean proper sit-in-kayaks were sat outside the Water Sports Office. They're for instructors to play in. Great. One of these was some sort of old school play boat made by Dag and by no means beats Alistair.

Anyway today after a hard days work, and I mean header than normal - we had two broken Bombards, two sunken Long Boats and two lost Feva masts - I took the Dag creation out for an hour before tea. The sea was quite rough - hence the hard days work - meaning there was a fair bit of surf; maybe four to five foot at times. It was good to get out doing some 'real' paddling. I'm now a bit more motivated again for some SOK sessions. What my brief surf session did make me realise is that I;m not as paddle fit as I use to be.

I've got a busy week ahead of me what with sailing training both Tuesday and Thursday, staff meetings Thursday and Friday, an interview for Head of Paddlers tomorrow, two nights of street walk, one more evening entertainment session, a Dragon Boat course and my normal weeks work I am bound to be tired and have something interesting for the blog.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

Set Sail

Sailing out from Tamaris' beach.

12th July 9:31pm
I went sailing today for the first time in my life. Tamaris has had a change in leadership when it comes down to the instructor side of things. In my opinion it is for the better. The new Chief Instructor can actually be seen to lift a finger where as I was unsure who the old Chief Instructor was. Anyway the new guy has implemented water sports training on a Tuesday and Thursday evening. I jumped at the chance to get some sailing experience, maybe even enough to work as an instructor by the end of my contract.

The sailing session lasted for two hours and I partnered a Bogger (PGL Tamaris slang for site workers) in a Feva. We didn't do much apart from sail back and forth, back and forth. It was good but I didn't get the same feeling about it as when I started paddling nearly four years back. Don't get me wrong I'll carry on training, but paddling will always be number one.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

A Small World

The surf rolling down the canal.

9th July 5:37pm
I was on SOK sessions this morning and this afternoon with a school form Bolton; home of Peter 'Garlic Bread' Kay and Bolton Wanderers FC. Bolton is also just a short jaunt down the M61 from Preston. This school was the closest I've been to home since I arrived on the Mediterranean coast just over two weeks ago.

The strangest thing was that whilst on session talking to the teacher our lives almost seemed connected. When he was at college he went to the college I just finished at. Whilst there he was taught by the same Geography teacher as me. He also sold his house to the same guy. His brother now works at the college I attended only a couple of weeks ago and he also knows the chap that should be teaching me at the University of Cumbria in 2008.

The morning session went well as did the first half of the afternoon session. However we had to cancel the second half due to the strong winds. This meant the kids had to abandon their boats some distance from where they needed to be and walked back to the centre. Meanwhile I towed seven SOKs in one long line, whilst three more got towed by another instructor.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...


Looking over to Le Grau-d'Agde.

4th July 10:02am
I'm not sure what it stands for. It's just another PGL acronym like ENTs, BA, SOKs, MOPs and SSOPs and even PGL. What I do know is that DOFO means you've either got half a day or all of the day off. Today I have just the morning off, allowing me to get some washing done and tomorrow I've got the whole day off. I may go to Le Grau-d'Agde, known as 'Port' to us PGLers, which is just a short walk along the beach front from Tamaris.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

03 September 2007

Leaving site

The fish which we see on a snorkel session.

3rd July 7:03pm
I left site for the first time today. This means that I have been in Tamaris for 10 days without seeing any other part of the Languedoc coast, which i suppose is bad as a 'Gapper' is suppose to see the world. However I have a job to do and it was with work that I headed to Le Cap D'Agde. Whilst here I spent my time on the beach with a group of kids from Edinburgh, Scotland. They were on a snorkeling session and I was getting my competency in snorkeling. I wasn't keen on the idea but PGL prefer it if you can work on numerous sessions as they are then getting valuer for money, so I obliged.

The actual session was good fun. The morning was spent on training the kids and me. Then after a smaller than normal dinner we snorkeled around one of the fish-tail groynes. Here we saw a multitude of aquatic wildlife hiding and swimming among the rocks. I'm still not sure about snorkeling however and it won't be a session I'll rush to do in the future. What I will rush to do is my PB2, which was talked about yesterday. This will allow me to drive certain power boats for PGL and RIBs for other companies depending on their insurance. That will be fun as I enjoy speeding around as a passenger on a power boat so I should enjoy being a driver even more.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...


My tent floor.

1st July 10:03pm

Sand is a nightmare
It gets everywhere. To live
on a beach is hard.
A Haiku by Iain Robinson about sand.
Today was a good day for me. I don't know why really, but I just felt really at home down on the beach helping out with the sailing boats as there were no SOK sessions until the afternoon. Maybe because all the guys and gals of the water sports department have come to accept me as one of them and not just a newbie. This could be because yesterday I joined them in their protests against management.

I've now been at Tamaris a week, have got to know some people really well and some just by name. It is only time until I know these just as well. The last two nights at half seven I've been on ENTs, which is the evening entertainment sessions. I expected these to be hell, but they haven;t been that bad. This may be because of the great kids in the village I was working with who are from Walsall, not Birmingham. They put me straight on that quite quickly.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...


A member of staff getting in a SOK.

30th June 6:30pm
Spent a whole day working on the SOKs today. I wasn't meant to be, but another instructor had a bad back so I swapped with him. The morning SOK session went well, and it was cut short as the second group, who were heading for home at 2pm did no want to do it. Fair enough - half a morning could be spent sunning myself. The afternoon sessions went just as well, but both sessions went ahead. This was the first activity for this school so they were a bit more energetic compared to those which were leaving.

However, this post isn't for babbling about the days sessions. It's to slag-off and big-up Sit-on-Kayaks. Firstly they are absolutely smashing for introducing people to kayaking. Kids, and adults, can get into any boat, grab a paddle and be off in a relatively straight line with hardly any interaction from me or any other instructor. Secondly a capsize isn't a big deal. The people can flip the boats over climb in and be off in minutes, again with little interaction from the instructor. In fact SOKs make people like me redundant; we just have to point which direction to head or make up a game to pass the time.

SOKs aren't all great mind. They weight an absolute tonne to carry making it difficult for them to be moved quickly and easily by a single person. The SOKs at PGL leak like sieves and need constant draining for them to remain floating which is a pain. When being paddled you are sat in a pool of water, which is annoying as i prefer to stay relatively dry whilst paddling. Why else do I have a dry suit? I miss my Stikine and Roger and Allistair.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

Home Comforts

Looking out over the beach to Le Grau-d'Agde.

28th June 7:59pm
Even though I have only been away from home for 6 days, 8 hours and 28 minutes I have come to appreciate many things about living at home back up in the north and working for PGL on the Mediterranean coast. I miss warm showers. The showers at Tamaris are just crap. We have to share them with guests and by the time I get around to them, sometime before 6pm, they just pump out cold water. It ain't that bad as it washes all the sand off, but it would be better if they were warm. A good Internet connexion would be nice as well. It costs a Euro for ten minutes on centre and when at home I would spend two hours, maybe more a day on the old Internet. I am missing the Guidebook, MySpace, the numerous blog feeds I've subscribed to and the fact I could post to my blog with no hassle what so ever.

However, I really like PGL food. Firstly you can have as much as you like and secondly it's random. Basically they serve you a main item; today it was chicken kebabs and rice. Then you have random selections of salad, carrots, peas, beans, eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, pate, cheese, pork pie and with everything at PGL France: french bread. This for me is wonderful as I'll eat almost anything without caring if it 'goes'. I'm never hungry here. I also like the sea breeze that keeps me cool in this blistering sun and whips through my tent, which backs onto the beach. The sound of the breaking waves is also rather calming.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

Need for Speed

27th June 7:09pm
There was no blog post yesterday as my day consisted of four Sit-on-Top kayak (SOKs for short) sessions all lasting an hour-and-a-half. The last two sessions I lead instead of sitting on the water shadowing the instructors so that I could be signed off as competent. This in itself is a bit weird as I am one of the most experienced paddlers on site. Most of them only hold their Three Star and haven’t seen a bank full, spate run in Cumbria, Yorkshire or in the Lune Valley. It’s a shame really as I would like to see one this minute and I hear some rivers are going off right now in Englandshire.

Coming round to today’s activities it was a different matter. I left the SOKs for the day and joined the Bombard crew, which basically consisted of me and the driver. The Bombard is a four stroke inflatable RIB which tows the Banana boat, which is actually named the Ocean Rider because political correctness has gone mad. Whilst we were on the Bombard I was the spotter. This role was fairly easy; point which way the guests have to lean and tell the driver when the Ocean Rider capsizes. I spent all day on this and it was monotonous, but fun all the same. What beats speeding through the Mediterranean getting airborne whilst kids scream at you to go faster and the engine has all maxed out? Not much really.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

It's Christmas

The canal where the paddling sessions are run from.

25th June 10:41pm
It’s Christmas on site, which is a bit odd and all the other members of staff are really hyped up by it. I don’t know what it is but I can’t; maybe I’m still getting use to life on France or Christmas in June is just wrong.

Today I was out on the water for the first time. I was in my Sit-on-Top kayak observing the instructors carrying out sessions. The sessions are very formulaic, but when I’ve got free reign of the sessions I’ll try and implement some more ‘formal’ coaching, which will hopefully add something to the sessions for both the guests and paddlers. The weather has been amazingly awful considering I was expecting it to be some sweltering heat pad and it may be likened to a rather miserable summers day in Preston. It does nothing for my tan and does even less for water activities. We had two instructors come off the water with mild hypothermia and all sailing boats rescued by the power boats. This meant we were hanging around for while on the beach waiting to de-rig all the boats which limped in.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

PS. Having just read through this I have realised that I never said why it was Christmas on site. Basically it’s because Tamaris closes down from September to May meaning none of the staff see each other when it is really Christmas so they have it six months early, or late, depending on how you look at it.

I'm here

Looking out from my tent at the Staff Village and Boat Park.

24th June 9:19pm
I eventually made it to Camping les Tamaris sometime after 1pm. That has meant I have been travelling for a hell of a long time. There were five hours from Preston, an hour and a bit for the ferry crossing and then a further fourteen or so hours to PGL’s head office known by everyone at PGL as Segs. From here the group of staff which I had been travelling with got split up. Some would be staying at Segs where as two others headed for the Alps and Embrum. As for me I was bundled into a minibus destined for Le Fosca with two girls I had travelled with since Dover. There would be a detour made to Tamaris to drop me off and then they would have a further three hours on the road. Tough.

As for now I’m sat on my bed after emptying my bag and repacking it so it would be easier to live out of for the next seven weeks. I am not sharing with anyone. Well I am but he’s at another centre for a while. I don’t know whether this is a good thing or not as I wasn’t to fond on sharing, but it’s a shore five way of making friends quickly.

In between the time of arriving and writing this I have been shown around the beach based site, had inductions and met a variety of staff whose name all allude me. Tomorrow is Christmas on centre and I’ve uniform, ID badges and Bank details to sort before having an Instructors briefing at 8:15am.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

Bon Voyage

At the Dover ferry terminal.

24th June 00:04am
Anyway we’re driving through France trying to catch some sleep. However I can’t. The day kicked off early as I had to be in Dover at 1:30, two hours before the ferry departed, to catch a coach with a Plymouth boy’s school, get the ferry across the channel and head south to my centre. This meant over twenty-seven hours of travelling. Fun! I did spot a couple of English cars in France laden with boats heading for home. Hope the trip was worth it.

I made it to Dover in good time, but as the clock got a bit nearer to three and there was still no sign of my lift I started to get even more worried. I rang the emergency contact number that PGL gave me, got the number for the coach driver and got a progress report off him: “Here at 4:30.” I sat around a bit longer waiting in this period I heard chatter from across the room that sounded PGLish and it turned out it was some more recruits, which I would be travelling with. They were even more worried than me as it was now 4:15 and the coach had not shown its face. They had not contacted the driver to know he was delayed by an hour. I put them straight after getting one final progress report. There wasn’t much time for introductions now as the coach arrived soon after and that’s where we’ve been ever since.

Oh one of the staff members is from Freckleton, which is a bit weird as it’s only round the corner from Preston.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...