Its not often that I come across a kayaking or canoeing book that I haven’t already got so it was with some excitement that I found this little treasure in Canterbury, just before Christmas, a couple of years ago. What attracted my attention was the author, Gabriel Seal, I had read one of his other books “Canoe Touring Abroad”.
A quick perusal of the sleeve notes showed that, “Adventuring Through France”, was actually about canoeing in France, so that was good enough for me to make a purchase, so in the bag it went. It wasn’t until the other night that I had time to sit down and start to read the little volume.
What the book described was not just France of 50 years ago, but what is possibly a nations perception of what teenage boys should be doing in their spare time. This is rip roaring yarn of two 15 year old boys convincing their woodwork teacher to help them build a two man canoe (kayak) and their parents allowing them to head off to France in search of adventure. No sitting at home staring at computer screens for them or heading off on a family trip for the sanitised adventure of a theme park.
This is a description of the school Easter holidays spent hitching a lift on a barge, being able to paddle through Paris, some underage drinking, breaking into an ancient chateau, discovering prehistoric cave paintings, hunting rabbits etc
It is a description of an earlier age, whether it is a true description on not is virtually irrelevant. It is a work of fiction, although the description of the paddling is fairly accurate as the author had canoed extensively in France. It was written for a teenage audience in the early 1960’s, when expectations were different. It was still the Watch with Mother generation as opposed to the Sesame Street one. Things took longer to develop, instant gratification wasn’t necessarily the order of the day.
I cannot think of any teenagers I know today who would enjoy this book even though it was written for their age range. What I do know is, that as a young person from the 60’s and an active paddler today, I thoroughly enjoyed the couple of hours I spent reading the book. So if you come across a copy and are a male over 50 who goes kayaking, then don’t hesitate, buy it, everybody else would probably better off saving their hard earned cash.