A real Superstar

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Above I mentioned knowing Dave Prowse, the fictional ‘Darth Vader’, but I met a real superstar through Jane’s membership of the Tyndale Baptist Young People’s Fellowship (YPF). He also crossed my path in my pursuit of canoeing.

Bristol Education Authority decided to take children from all over the city across to Wales and the River Wye to shoot rapids. In those days most of the school canoes were plywood with just a few canvas versions; modern glass fibre versions were only just being mooted.

Shooting rapids (using more recent equipment)

We towed a trailer holding around twenty canoes to the riverside, which unpredictably was lacking deep water. The rocks that formed the rapids were more obvious than usual. We destroyed more than ten canoes, not even bothering to take back the debris as most bits had disappeared down the river. The canoe club didn’t recover for several years.

At one point I careened down the river and, despite my frantic strokes, landed full-square on a big flat rock at a sharp turn; the canoe appeared cartoon-like as it unwrapped around me and disintegrated. The river took me down two further sets of rapids with the remnants of the gunwale still around me. My legs took a merciless battering before I could reach shore.

ASIDE: Many years later I was canoeing off Turkey, on a Gulet holiday, and right beside me a turtle surfaced, it placidly swam alongside me for perhaps twenty metres before diving. It had a startling yet calming effect. I paddled around for some time trying to recreate this ineffable experience.

This guy, who I knew through Jane and the YPF, had arrived with his personal canvas canoe. He was tall and gawky and promptly put his foot through the bottom before he even reached the rapids. He went down every set of rapids caught in this way and of course we all found this amusing. Despite our own experiences, someone else’s misfortune is always funny.

Andrew Ripley, 1947-2010

That individual was Andy Ripley who later evidently learned how to apply his gawkiness! He went on to play between 1972-6 for an England Rugby Union side that beat all three southern-hemisphere sides and he was a member of the unbeaten 1974 Lions team that toured South Africa. He is perhaps more generally famous for his appearances in the Superstars TV show, winning both the British heat and the International version in 1981.

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