Shall we go the Oi Way? Or the Adventure Way? This Proustian question always has to be asked when Eddie and I set off for a paddle in the canoe. The Adventure Way goes out of town and is wilder; the Oi Way takes us under two bridges, so you can, of course, shout oiiiii! Eddie, my 13-year-old son with Down’s syndrome, went for the Oi Way. He usually does.
I prefer the Adventure Way, obviously, but Eddie’s choice is better for shouting, so off we went and shouted. And as we made our way back along the gentle River Waveney that runs between Norfolk and Suffolk, I saw something fabulous. “Eddie! Look!”
But I was manically determined that he should see it. I turned the canoe on a sixpence – and it’s a heftyish thing, a decent-sized Canadian, none of your kayak nonsense – and rammed it towards the bank with all the desperate strength of a mother lifting a vehicle off her fallen child. “There! There!”
“Got ‘im!” And I knew from the triumph in his voice that he wasn’t humouring me, he really had seen it: and we both watched as the grass snake completed its crossing of the river and then, with easy confidence, looped itself out of the water and into the roots of a tree: a slinkingly elegant dark shape picked out with a shining yellow collar. In high good humour we paddled back. Even if you’re not seeking adventures –even if you’re planning to head in the exact opposite direction – there are wonders to be seen. Sometimes you just can’t avoid them.