Adventures in the world of slow

After yesterday’s fun in the snow, today was always going to be a little slower. And in a triumph of wordplay, I decided to head off to the River Tawe to start using slow shutter speed techniques with my 10 stop ND filter on the waterfalls.

As if to confirm the slow nature of today, a selection of Sunday drivers littered the roads. It’s not just their inappropriate use of speed I dislike, it’s the generally poor standard of driving that comes with the Sunday driver; braking hard at the speed sign rather than slowing to meet it, failing to indicate and wandering all over the road to name three. All three of these were in evidence today.

At the river, we wandered and strolled, occasionally stopping for me to take long exposure photos. Slightly more occasionally, we stopped for Rufus to catch little stones, chase them into the water and for him to bark at me if I got anything wrong with either activity. Things that count as being wrong are:

  • Not throwing a stone
  • Throwing a stone in the wrong place
  • Taking too long between stone throwing
  • Taking too long to operate the camera
  • Not handing out enough treats

He’s a good teacher though, and is never slow to correct me if I make mistakes.

Before we knew it, we’d been out for over an hour. The clouds were beginning to peep over the hills and the temperature was starting to drop again as the sun became obscured by the first signs of the approaching rains. So we set off back to the car. I was surprised at how far we’d come along the river, which is well below the level of the road, and it took a little longer to reach the car than I had expected.

Our journey back included encounters with a driver who seemed to indicate at every roundabout junction, but never acted on the indication. I actually got quite good at anticipating where he was going by the position of the car on the road. Despite his attempts to run me off the road, we arrived home and settled down to a day of slow.

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Speed (Bonnie) Boat

We headed off to Cardiff this afternoon to take a 1 hour speedboat ride in Cardiff Bay. Thankfully the weather was gorgeous – the semblance of summer had returned just for us as if it was part of the booking for the ride. The water was blue and didn’t look too choppy. I was looking forward to the experience with nervous excitement.

The two people on shore organising and giving us the safety talk couldn’t agree on the number of people actually taking part. Was it 12 or 13. It was 13 and they laughed it off, saying ‘we’ve never lost anyone yet’. Of course, they may well have done so and just got the count wrong. We donned the lifebelts (‘they’ll inflate automatically. But if they don’t…’) and were told about the life raft (‘it’s a 12 man life raft… er… but they can take more than that’). Then we were led along the floating pontoon to the boat.

It was a large inflatable/rigid boat (‘even if the inflatable part punctures, it will float’) with 12 seats (two people had dropped out and one had been added since the count – spookily we were now 12 as predicted by one of the counters). It was impossible to guess where to sit to guarantee staying dry, and I chose the seat that would take mots of the spray. I didn’t know that at the time, though.There were no seat belts and the advice we’d been given (‘hold on to the bar and push yourself into the seat’) seemed inadequate.

Then we were off, slowly, gently leaving the berth and heading out past people relaxing in waterside cafes and restaurants. Seagulls and ducks reluctantly floated out of our way. The water was smooth, the blue sky had a few white clouds. Everything was…

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrgghhhhhhh!

Getting Wet

Getting Wet

The acceleration was tremendous and without warning. Suddenly we were blasting out across the water of the bay, bouncing over the tiniest of waves, banking into turns and watching the spray pass close by. We jigged and jinked around the water for a few minutes and abruptly slowed to a crawl again as we approached the lock gates. This short burst of speed had only been a warm up. The open sea beckoned. We shared the lock with a couple of sailing boats and waited a few minutes for the water levels to equalise before sirens heralded the gates opening.

Then we were off, slowly at first as we negotiated the buoys out into the Bristol Channel. Then the engines kicked us forward again and we were off. The water was much more choppy now and the boats slammed down after each wave. It felt like someone was hitting the bottom of the boat with a sledge hammer. We shot forward, heading away from Cardiff and towards Steep Holm and Flat Holm. The skipper was skilfully manoeuvring the boat around to give us the best experience of speed and excitement. As Steep Holm neared, we crossed currents and bounced around on them.

Steep Holm

Steep Holm

We turned sharply, heeling the boat over until I thought I was going to fall in to the sea and test the lifebelt’s automatic inflating mechanism. We headed back the way we came and each wave of spray landed on me. We turned again and circled the island before seeking out the roughest parts of the channel.

Racing a Jet Skier

Racing a Jet Skier

Then we were heading back towards Cardiff Bay. The combination of speed and sun had dried me out and the skipper, spotting this, made sure I got another couple of drenchings. The we were racing a couple of Jet Skis and despite our full load of passengers, we were outrunning them as they were struggling with the waves. We did a number of figure of eights around a buoy close to the beach and then we headed back to the lock gates. We waited there for 10 minutes or so as the lock filled up with sailing boats. A brief blast across the bay signalled the end of the trip and we drew to a gently halt at the pontoon again.

Returing to harbour

Returning to Cardiff Bay

It was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to go again. The photos here don’t do it justice.

In the lock

Sharing the Lock

Megaspeedforcedoominator

I went with friends to a theme park yesterday. Great place, friendly staff, lots to do. So many things, in fact, that I’ll merge them all into one. This could be the greatest ride in the world. Hold on tight.

Rollercoaster

This is fun?

You get on after buying the entrance ticket. The ride starts off slowly at first, allowing you to see the full extent of what awaits you. It gives you the opportunity to top up with sugars, caffeine, saturated fat and salt and takes you on a short circuit of the park. Then, without warning, it starts to rise steeply and the carriage slows, anticipation building as you wait for the inevitable drop. At the top, you teeter for a moment on the edge of indecision – which thing shall I see first? – and then the rush starts.

In a blur you race down at breakneck speed, caffeine and sugar surging through your veins. Look, an amusement arcade flashes past giving you barely enough time to fire some coins into the slot before you’re off again, spinning around and battering your way through the crowds of screaming school kids. Quick, there’s a ‘shoot em up’ arcade game; look, air disc hockey; a train, animals, lights, water. The ride lurches around and you’re upside down. Below you, in the vomit zone, there are meerkats, an adventure playground with swings and slides and ladders, boats, bikes. Diiinooosaaaurrrrs! Woosh, down it screams, like you do, in an impossible dive and you feel you’re not going to pull out quickly enough to avoid the hyper hot dog barf burger outlet.

But you need the energy and the ride needs more fuel, too. The fast food is so fast it’s in your hands before you know it and in your stomach even quicker. The ride starts to clank back up again, going higher this time, way above the water and the noise and the movement and you look around trying to figure out what’s coming. Then you see it. Your stomach churns, you realise all that liquid sugar and chemicals have gone straight to your bladder. You question whether it’s acceptable to cry and you wonder how you can get off and still maintain your dignity. The inevitability of being strapped into a carriage locked onto the rails that lead to only one place hits you almost as hard as the concrete lintel would if it were 6” lower.

At the top, for a moment there is calm as the ride slows down to tease you. It’s going to be alright. Everything will be fine and you sigh your relief, ensuring no one sees you. But the ride lied. You plummet with ever increasing speed down, down, past vertical until you are heading at terminal velocity towards…

… the souvenir shop. And at the point where you are resigned to an instantaneous death by branding as you collide with a box of 500 Megaspeedforcedoominator key rings, the ride suddenly brakes and it slows, to pass rows of things you never knew you needed but which you cannot live without.

The ride is over. Clutching your Megaspeedforcedoominator key ring, you leave the platform and head towards the photo booth to see what a picture of you snapped at the point at which you realised all was lost and your life was over looks like.

It’s a photo of you at the entrance, buying your ticket.