A Book of Untruths
A memoir by Miranda Doyle

"Expeditions" - an extra lie

"Expeditions" is extra content (an additional lie) from A Book of Untruths, by Miranda Doyle.



- An extra lie, not included in A Book of Untruths -

Expeditions line drawing

Someone will come rescue me

Violet and I are sitting in a two-man kayak on a breezy loch, wearing only our swimming costumes and a life jacket. Though it is early July, it feels like March. In another canoe is Sir, shouting us through a capsize drill.

Like witches we have to prove we are alive by being drowned.

Two girls have already capsized their fibreglass coffin. We watch its wet underside wobble for the longest time, before two heads break the surface of the water, crashing the wrinkling loch to white. Simultaneously they both tear in a breath, the cold shuddering through their teeth.

‘You’re supposed to roll it you morons. Come on. A full 360 degrees.’

‘Sir, Louise didn’t …’

‘Not interested.’ He points a long finger at the shoreline. ‘Do it again.’

The two girls wade towards the shallow beach, their life jackets jutting up against their chins, and in an angry silence feed themselves back into their canoe.

Now Sir turns to us and begins bawling.

When I tell this story, and I have told it countless times, it is me shivering in the back of the kayak and Violet in the front. It is me, who when we are ordered to roll, watches which way Violet is leaning, and throws myself in the opposite direction so that we don’t.

But every evidence points to the fact that I am the one who follows orders, and Violet the one who doesn’t.

So in order to honour my promise of honesty I have gone back to the written account of that week, which is in an A5 yellow exercise book, entitled Loch Insh Expedition. Every day is accounted for in frankly tedious terms. I include coloured pencil pictures, most of which depict food, or the café. Food is about all I write of too. The Alpen, the beans, the mushroom soup, the repeating scrambled eggs. I also write of every Canadian canoe trip, every windsurfer avoidance, every turn in the Topper, the Wayfarer. I write of the time someone rigs the Jib upside down, and the time I slip into the water trying to retrieve a buoy. Everything is there, excepting how many times I use the lavatory, and this horrible capsize drill.

Perhaps I omit the drill because the expedition log would later be marked by Sir, and I didn’t want him to be reminded of the irritation of it.

But if the strength of memory derives from stress, it is not about the threat of getting wet, because the Loch Insh diary tells me I got ‘drenched’ almost every one of those days. The stress must be about something else.

‘Doyle we will sit here all day until you get that Kayak rolled.’

Imprisoned in our two man canoe, Violet and I rocking against the choppy surface of Loch Insh, I was working past hope.

Finally Violet and I were pushed over by our adult minder.  The water rushing in my ears, I struggled to remove the spray skirt from the fibreglass rim, my fingers so icy it took an age to wrench it free. Disorientated and lungs shrunk from cold and panic, I felt a strong motion as Violet emptied out of the cockpit in front of me. Finally ripped loose I broke out from the beneath the water, gulping at the air, the wind tearing against my face.

‘What did I say about rolling it?’ Sir shouted over, ‘Girls, use your damn hips.’

I contemplated the shore, and the mean encampment of tents. It would become a familiar moment. The moment of being frozen and soaked, with no warm place to go to. This grimness needed to be accommodated, and always I struggled to imagine how.