Adventuring out of doors

So my friend Lynne went out on a boat
trip today with friends, and I decided to stay indoors with my close
companions, Messrs Air-Conditioning, Television and Computer.  I’m not a shut-in or anything – I’ve dabbled
with the outdoors a number of times – but whereas a large percentage of the
population looks forward to the weekend so they can get out and enjoy the
beach, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably more of an indoorsy kinda
gal.

When our family first moved to Grand
Cayman in 1975, you couldn’t drag us away from the sand and the sea.  There are so many pictures of us curly-haired
children making sandcastles, swimming and generally spending every day we could
out under the sun from dawn ‘til dusk. 
It was such a change from the cold water and pebbly shores of Dunmore
East, Ireland – we couldn’t get enough of it. The first camping experience I
remember (such as it was) was when we were allowed to “camp out” in the back
garden.  We borrowed two of the high-backed
dining chairs from the house and a white bedsheet, and with the seats of the
chairs facing out, draped the sheet over the backs of them to create a
tent.  We kids started off with such
enthusiasm – sitting underneath with our flashlights and cups of drink, playing
cards and awkwardly reading books.  It
was all so thrillingly adventurous.  Of
course then the mosquitoes came out in force, and the frogs began to
croak.  One of us put a foot wrong on the
sheet which brought the chair crashing into the midst of the huddled group in
spectacular fashion.  Everything was put
back in place, but I think the whole experience was getting old at that
stage.  The batteries in the flashlights
were fading, and for some unfathomable reason, our parents wouldn’t let us have
an open flame in there.  I can’t honestly
remember if we managed to make it through the entire night, but I have a
feeling that we gave up the ghost at what probably seemed like 2:00 a.m. at
that age, but was no doubt closer to 10:00 p.m.

I took the incredible survival skills
I learned from back then and proved myself to be a female Crocodile Dundee
whilst travelling Australia with my then Aussie boyfriend.  Yessir, you should have seen me trying to set
a campfire with every modern tool and fuel at my disposal.  I don’t know how anyone can start a forest
fire by mistake because I couldn’t get that thing to take with a stack-full of
kindling and liquid more flammable than petrol. 
It’s amazing the sounds of nature when there are no manmade machines
around to distract from them.  There we
were, situated in the middle of (what seemed to me to be) the wilds.  Thankfully Robert had taken over the fire
before we froze and starved to death, which left me to wonder at all the
creatures closing in on us.  I leapt from
my collapsible camping chair at the sound of crashing branches heading in our
direction.  I grabbed the closest weapon
– a wooden spoon – ready to do battle with the killer kangaroo, were-wombat or
bunyip that would reveal itself at any minute. 
You can imagine the mockery I endured as two absolutely standard,
run-of-the mill dairy cows entered the clearing, casually chewing on some grass
and wondering what all the hubbub was about.

Now I’m not saying that I don’t get
outdoors at all, although I DO like to keep my skin pretty white (I was the
only one wearing full-length black clothes at the Tiki Beach Bar a couple of
Sundays back.)  I am certified to Scuba
dive, even though I haven’t been in a while, and I managed to get up on some
water skis a few times with the elegance of a newborn elephant.  I’ve always found skiing difficult – trying
to get out of the water with those honking great things attached to your
feet.  Assuming the position takes up so
much energy and you haven’t even started! 
I used to be known for my style of coming up and going instantly forward
into the water again.  Vicki
“180-degrees” Wheaton.  Kneeboarding was
easier, but again, you have to scooch up the board whilst being pulled by the
boat.  I think the problem is that I have
the upper arm strength of a baby bird, confirmed by a guy at the gym who
upped-and-downed me recently and said without a trace of a smile “You need to
start werkin’ out wid dee weights.”  I
managed to make it up on the board, and even went across the wake a few
times.  I was pretty impressed with my
method until I saw the video – I looked like The Lady of the Lake with a slight
paunch suffering a very bad hair day. 
Gorgeous.

These days I try to be so much more
savvy about my use of sunblock.  It isn’t
just due to a heightened awareness of skin cancer – it’s having a healthy
memory of what sunburn feels like.  I
don’t know what possessed me, but on a boat day trip about fifteen years ago, I
actually thought I’d be fine with Factor 4 on my pale epidermis.  By the time I got home I knew I had officially
fried myself.  The next day, pulling on
clothes wasn’t even an option – my legs and arms felt like they were on fire. I
was Mr. Krabs.  I slathered on the cold
cream, cranked the air-conditioning, turned on the ceiling fan and lay there
wallowing in my regrets.

Funnily enough, one of the things I
most appreciate about the outdoors in Cayman is the temperatures at night.  If you’ve gone out in the winter in London,
Toronto or any place where December = cold, cold, cold, you’ll know what I’m
talking about.  You have to watch your
step lest you slip on the icy pavement. 
Mini-skirts are out unless you have a death wish or are part
vampire.  Trying to hail a taxi at 3:00
a.m. in Trafalgar Square is an every-man-for-himself fight, and you have to
check layers of coats and scarves at cloakrooms the city over.  There’s an awful lot to be said for not
bothering with any of the above.  Maybe I
am an outdoorsy gal after all – just after the sun’s gone down.