Wednesday, 5 June 2019

In the swim...

I enjoyed my first sea swim of the season over half-term. (That makes it sound as though it's something I do regularly which - although true once - is not quite accurate now.) But we were in Weymouth on Bank Holiday Monday and the sea looked loverly...

During  my first year at university my parents moved to a small seaside town on the Yorkshire coast. That summer I spent most of my time in the garden reading my course books and sunbathing. Then, at about three o’clock, I’d wander down to the sea for a swim. It became a thing. Without really intending to I went swimming every day that summer, whatever the weather—including one memorable afternoon during a thunderstorm. It was like a longer version of the summer holidays we used to spend in Scarborough, swimming either in the sea or in the old sea-water South Bay Lido, now sadly no more.

Then October came and term began and I was once more reduced to the calm, chlorinated sterility of the indoor pool near the university. I started out with the intention of going daily, but it soon became every other day and then trickled to weekly before fizzling out completely. The swimming wasn’t the problem. It was the pool. There was nothing to match the salt-spray and the waves and the open air. True, the sea was cold, even in the middle of summer. But the cold seemed good. Invigorating. Inspiring. I’d return to my books with an increased resolve and get far more done in a couple of late-afternoon hours than I’d probably achieved all day until then. I really should have gone swimming every morning.

My love of outdoor swimming never left me but burned lower as the years went on. Taking the children swimming usually involves the local indoor pool (it's warmer) though there's a really excellent Lido not too far from here, at Woodhall Spa. And it's featured in this excellent (just-published, lavishly illustrated) 'practical guide to the outdoor pools of UK':

Two books have really inspired my newly-restored determination to swim outdoors. And this - The Lido Guide - is one of them. It's full of all the kinds of practical information you need to plan your swim (postcodes, parking, payment information and so on) but also written in a way (and accompanied by photographs) that makes you want to just strip off and dive in. It's wonderful. Inspiring. And  highly recommended.

And the second book? That's a secret as it isn't written yet. It's one I'm working on, one about the chronic pain I suffer from and one in which I investigate the alternatives to analgesics. And yes, you've guessed it, one of them is cold water swimming.

Watch this space!

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