Kayak To Go – Tess Read
Predictions about technology are always fantastically dreadful. There is the famous quote from the then IBM Chairman in 1958 that: “I think there is a world market for about five computers in the World.” And of all the people who laughed at that, I shouldn’t think any of them expected just 70 years later there would be a computer in almost every back pocket.
Let alone one that would have a phone, a camera, and even a spirit level on it – I have to tell you I was pretty excited when I discovered that my phone could have one of those. Rather slightly totally unnecessary as I already have a physical one that functions just as well. But it’s always downstairs when I, or the shelf I am operating on, is upstairs. Or vice versa. Whereas my phone is always right there in my back pocket. Unless it’s fallen out of my back pocket into the toilet of course, but that’s another story…
Another part of every technology story is that one person’s new technology is another person’s old hat. So the Incas thought they were at the cutting edge of technology with their terraces, their methods for “lassoing” the sun (not necessarily proven) and their astonishingly huge stone arches.
Sure, they hadn’t invented the wheel but it’s not clear that would have been much of a benefit to them if they had, given their location in the high and rather pointy Andes. In many ways, all the wheel could have done for them is to have got the things they needed to be at the top of the mountain to have rolled down to the bottom of the mountain quite a lot faster, and be in a rather more destroyed state than they would probably have wanted.
But it turns out that if you miss out on the evolutionary step of the wheel you also miss out on a bunch of other stuff too – like horses, and guns, and smallpox. There are always pros and cons of having the latest in tech, it seems.
And so it is today with the recent news that children who ride in a car to school are actually exposed to more air pollution than children who walk, cycle or scoot their way there. Of course, we all know of the health benefits of walking, cycling or scooting in general, but we might think these benefits need to be weighed against the costs of being exposed to more air pollution. But no! And so our schools of Exeter have thought of some very imaginative ways of encouraging kids to get to school the high impact, low tech way, with leg power.
This is why we have the great inventions of: Bling your Bike day, Happy Shoes Day, even Leg it to Lapland where the distance that everybody walks to school gets added up to see if it stretches to Father Christmas’ home when that very special time of year, the one that all primary school teachers dread to the core of their soul, draws near.
I am the first to confess that I have a great affection – which is certainly not the same as an addiction, no siree – to my latest tech, my iPhone and other associated products. But there are some products that will always for me be the cutting edge of technology even though more recent technologies are available. The piano for example. Yes, it is possible to buy electric keyboards, indeed I have at least one. But nothing beats the acoustic analogue pleasure of hammers hitting strings encased inside a polished wooden box that is the piano. Indeed, my only piano-related wish, which I believe is destined never to be fulfilled, is not to own a piano of upgraded technology, just upgraded size. They say size isn’t everything, but when it comes to Grand pianos rather than my little upright, it actually is.
Ice cream making is another example. You can buy an electric ice cream maker: mix exotic flavours together to create ice cream at least twice a week, and then never get around to it ever again and leave the thing in the back of a cupboard next to the fondue set. Or you can get the fantastically brilliant ice cream maker in the shape of a large plastic ball. You roll the ball on the floor passing it from a friend or a child to another (the singing of the “Roll and roll an ice cream ball to make the yummy ice cream” song is optional, although not in our house) and the movements cause crystals to form in the cream which turns into delicious ice cream. (You have to add ice and salt into a separate compartment, just in case you try it without this vital step.)
In many ways, we humans are at our best when we cleverly combine low tech with high tech. Our cars are high tech, but kayaks are low tech. They have been around for millennia, require nothing but muscle power and the proverbial paddle, and provide a ton of watery fun on our seas and rivers. But getting them to these waters without locomotion is no fun. And that’s why I drive around with a kayak on the roof of my car. It makes the car super easy to spot in car parks I can tell you. And it’s never an inconvenience to have a kayak on the roof of one’s car. OK, once it was an inconvenience when I wanted to park in the car park of St Thomas and just spotted the low hanging bar, but that’s the only time. OK, that’s not the only time. But there’s nothing like having a kayak on the roof for saying to the world, “sure I have an iPhone and like Netflix, but I’m always ready for adventure and fun the low tech way!” As long as the bar for the car park isn’t too low, that is…
Written by Tess Read
Photos supplied by Tess Read