Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Life in Cold Water

I should have done that swim thirty years ago, of course, when I was twenty-four.

But, of course, when I was that age such organised swims as The Great North Swim didn't exist.

Our family always swam in open water whenever we could, as long as it was safe, or as safe as possible.

Here's one of my favourite swimming places from childhood:

It's on the River Esk, near Boot in Eskdale, Cumbria - a delightful deep pool of cool - well, okay, cold - clear water, in beautiful surroundings. We loved it. I still do.

We swam in rivers nearer to home too, such as at Wetherby, near Leeds. We were always careful and we never had any problem.

We swam at the seaside of course. If there was sea, and it wasn't too rough, we'd be in it. I have always liked a few waves though - ones big enough to jump in and to catch the top of and be swept towards the shore.

My first forays into the sea were in the cold waters of the beach at Walney, Barrow-in-Furness, trying to balance on the pebbles underfoot. I couldn't swim then - I learned to swim at four - but I still remember loving it.

The cold never bothered me. My mother loved swimming - still does - and the temperature of the water never stopped us going in. So Windermere at sixteen degrees Centigrade was absolutely fine to me - I have swum in much colder water, without a wetsuit. (Yes, yes, I know, it's partly to do with - well - not being too thin!)

Some swimming always stands out in my memory. Swimming in the river pool in the photo above, looking for tiny fish. Swimming in the sea at Tenby, in the late-afternoon sunshine, with seagulls calling, year upon year upon year - - and I hope to do it again next week, when we're on holiday there again.

Swimming in the open-air pool at Park Hotel, as a child, with the wonderful swimming instructor with his splendidly apt name: Ivor Fish.

And, far more recently, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico in Florida in winter 2008, with pelicans diving in the sea around me.

Oh yes, I have enjoyed swimming all my life and hope to enjoy it for many more years to come.

But the Great North Swim was particularly special.

In my twenties I had hoped to do more open-air swimming than I actually did. In my late twenties it all seemed to have stopped forever when I lost my first baby, was very ill and had a thrombosis in my leg. I thought that had put a stop to swimming any distance at all.

I certainly felt that it put a stop to my youth, in one fell swoop, at the age of twenty-eight. I'd gone from being a happily pregnant young woman to being in a ward for people with chronic conditions, where the next youngest person to me was seventy-four.

Very, very slowly, over the years, my bad leg has got better, and the swimming has most certainly helped. I never thought, when I was in my thirties, that I'd be able to swim a mile in open water. So it meant such a lot to me.

So. In October 1984, I felt that I very suddenly lost my youth. In June 2011, it was as though, in the space of one hour, five minutes and twenty seconds, I got it back again. Very grateful thanks to those who believed that I could do it.


Anonymous ruth said...

I never doubted you.
Congratulations x

8:30 pm  
Blogger Silverback said...

Unless it's on YouTube, I don't believe it.

8:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's wonderful Daphne, and very eloquently put.


8:54 pm  
Blogger Jennytc said...

That's a lovely post, Daphne. I didn't learn to swim till I was 15 but when I did, it was in the river Garonne in SW France. I am not a good swimmer at all but I love it.

9:17 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Very good post!

12:36 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Thank God the swimming instructor was called Ivor Fish and not Ivor Willy! If the Communist were still alive, I am sure he would have been glowing with pride over his little girl's most recent swimming achievement. As you have got your youth back, I guess you will now be sulking a lot, slamming doors and spending interminable hours saying very little on Facebook!

11:41 am  

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