Once again our Alexi Duggins is at your mercy. Decide what London experience you’d like him to have, and by george he’ll have it. This week you decided to send him white-water rafting…in November. You lovely people, you.
Ah, November: finest month of the year to go white-water rafting. Because what better time to do an adrenaline-boosting sport, than when it’s so chilly that your internal organs are on the verge of crawling up your windpipe and heading for the nearest café?
There isn’t one. So my going white-water rafting now is in no way the result of me poorly thinking through one of your suggestions. Oh, and I am most definitely not bricking myself about how cold it’ll be. Oh no.
‘First, jump into the water to acclimatise yourself,’ suggests James, our instructor, as five of us begin our session at Lee Valley White Water Centre. ‘Erm, is it going to be very cold?’ I ask. ‘Nah, you’ll hardly feel it.’ ‘Probably no point in acclimatising myself then, eh?’
‘Just get in the river.’
I bend my knees, brace myself, jump and… am actually not freezing. ‘Good job you’re wearing that wetsuit.’ Clearly, James has not let his eyes stray below waist level. I also now see why no under-14s are allowed. No one needs little people at waist height squealing, ‘Look mummy: a tiny bag of marbles!’
Ritual soaking complete, we hop into the craft. We run quickly through some basic instructions that James expects us to follow: ‘Paddle forward’; ‘paddle backward’; ‘lean left’; ‘lean right’; and – the one that really sticks in the mind – ‘GET DOWN!’ Then we’re off. And it’s really, really fun. We fly, whooping, off the edge of mini waterfalls. We frantically paddle our way through spumy explosions. We ricochet giddily off rocks. And best of all, we don’t actually get that wet.
Although that soon changes. ‘Surfing time!’ yells James, and spins our craft directly into a waterfall and the front becomes a frigid jacuzzi. Suddenly our boat rotates 90 degrees and the incoming water forces one side of the raft under. ‘LEAN HARD RIGHT!’ shouts James. We throw ourselves sideways, as the craft lists dangerously. ‘KEEP LEANING!’ he roars. The right-hand side of the boat is now tilted so far upwards it’s almost vertical. ‘Erm, I think we’re stuck,’ offers James apologetically.
And then we’re tossed a rope and dragged to safety. By now, I’m so wet that I am definitely feeling the chill. My hands are shaking as though I’m going cold turkey. Sensation in my feet is but a distant memory. And my teeth are chattering so hard, I sound like a crappy Yamaha keyboard that’s set to ‘machine gun’. Worst effect of the cold, though: I now really am in possession of a very tiny bag of marbles.