As I enter my last week in England for this extended trip, we finally found a convergence of people, time, weather and willingness to go punting on the River Cam. There was an element of relief – how could I spend a summer in Cambridge and not go punting? And an element of anxiety – this was something I’d not done before. It was a nice reminder that any new experience creates some level of anticipation and fear.
Our experience of punting ranged from some to none, our skills unknown. We might end up in the river instead of calmly gliding along on top of the river. There were obstacles – other boats, trees, bridges, stinging nettles, ducks and dogs. We got up close and personal with all of them.
And we laughed so much my sides hurt (or maybe that was from lifting the pole).
We made lots of mistakes – what Simo calls ‘happy mistakes’. That’s Simo there trying to avoid the stinging nettles. We each figured out what worked best for us, we crashed into the bank, weaved across the river, stopped and watched in awe those who were effortlessly steering their punt down the middle of the river. We disentangled the pole from overhanging trees and pulled it out of the mud just in time. All the time laughing and having fun. And learning how to punt.
As our competence grew, there was not so much laughter. More tranquility. Enjoying the glorious weather. Satisfaction in achieving what we set out to do.
If you’re going to try something new, pick your colleagues wisely – people like Johnnie Moore, Simo Routarinne and Barbara Tint. People who will laugh with you, who will let go of mistakes you, and they, make, who will have fun, and be there to catch you if you fall.