A Weekend

Of Kayaks, Curry and Freedom


The tweet said: “So, today was ‘National Happiness Day’ What made you happy today?” And I typed “Kayaking on the Danube, in sunshine.” The question was posed by a stranger in the UK who replied “Wow, amazing!” And I felt a curious combination of both guilt and great good fortune. This has been a terrible year and times are still tough but there are good things and it’s important to make the most of what we have and to appreciate what we can. 

And not feel guilty.  

We went with a small group and a guide departing from just below the Giurgiu-Ruse iron bridge. A weak sun had burned off the morning haze leaving a blue sky, the trees had a faint green, various birdlife came and went and we drifted leisurely down the magnificent Danube carried by an unstoppable force. We started in a channel but joined the main river after an hour. It was at least a kilometre across and, apparently, 10metres deep, brown and cutting along at quite a clip after an unusually wet few weeks. We went ashore for a rest and a picnic lunch and all along the banks were jackal paw prints though the creatures themselves proved elusive. We carried on, the sun grew weaker and the wind stronger, a lazy wind that preferred to go through rather than round but still. We were drifting down the Danube, huge, elemental forces carrying us downstream and it was wonderful. I later learned that there’s a Romanian phrase for winter sun:  “Soare cu dinti”, sun with teeth! 

See these guys for more trips like this https://danubeescapes.com/ 


The day before I’d boiled some green lentils slowly for a few hours. Chopped some onions, garlic and chillies and fried them adding some peeled and diced carrot and peeled and chopped up potatoes. Cooked them for a while, added the cooked lentils with a packet of curry powder (everything bought from Mega), a few chopped tomatoes and a carton of coconut milk. Added cup of water, seasoned and cooked out some more, added some petit pois. Ate with some rice. I’ve eaten proper Indian dhal, this wasn’t far off. It was good to return to after a day’s paddling. 


In my home country of Scotland things are getting exciting as we head towards the elections on May 6th. The court case against Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister and leader of the SNP, has collapsed. Independence for Scotland is within reach with 30 consecutive polls pointing towards an SNP majority. And yet… the case brought against Sturgeon demonstrates the depths that the unionist establishment is prepared to plumb in order to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom. In so doing, they would prevent us from rejoining the EU as two thirds of Scots wish. They do not want to let us go and they will fight hard and dirty and quite possibly ignore the Scots’ democratic will.

I’ve been watching Patria which centres around the Basque sepratist movement ETA in northern Spain and the hurt and damage it caused spanning decades. It’s the story of two intertwined families on either side of the political divide. Nuggets of information are skillfully revealed along with passions, motivations and connections. It’s a superb series with a great deal of humanity. 

Fortunately the Basque country has been peaceful now for a decade. The only parallels between the Basque situation and the Scottish situation currently are in that both the Spanish and the UK establishments are formidable. It’s not hard, however, to imagine forces within a Scotland denied it’s democratically chosen independence exploring other, less peaceful methods of expressing their desire to be free from Westminster. Similar to the way people once did in the Basque country. I hope not, I hope democracy prevails.

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