By now, you will recognize this black-robed sect. The winter swimmers, indifferent to weather and season – whilst at the same time curiously obsessed with reading thermometers – they will swim in any water that is warm enough to still be mostly liquid (ice-breaking has been known).
Methods of entering cold water differ, and some may cause amusement, but it is almost universally accepted that upon exiting the water the thing to do is to fling on as many clothes as possible in a short time – drying is optional, as is underwear, and dignity – and top it off with the ubiquitous black Dryrobe before shivering commences. At which point, even though freezing, one can still bask in the smugness of having once more survived Type 2 fun*.
Hilary does it differently.
Hilary has a little waterproof cloth bowl – the sort I imagine is intended as a water bowl for dogs who go camping – in which she carefully stands, in a necessarily elegant feet-together pose in the manner of Botticelli’s Venus standing in her scallop shell. And then over herself she pours a cleansing libation of warm water out of a hot water bottle. The warmth ends up at her feet, in the little cloth bowl.
The entire procedure is as ingenious and unorthodox as the ‘dryrobe’ which she will eventually put on: a garment which she made and is constantly evolving. A few weeks ago it had zippered sleeve holes, where there had been none before, for quite a long time it has had magnetic clasps instead of fiddly dryrobe zips, though they are not always in the same place. Sometimes there are still dressmakers pins in it. When it finally finishes its cycles of evolution, I hope she will make a few to order, because it is a thing as fascinating and unorthodox as a love of winter swimming.
*Type 1 fun, is fun at the time; Type 2 fun… is fun afterwards.
(with apologies to Lucy for not mentioning her oilskin and wool handmade skirt: a garment as unique and spirited as Hilary’s dryrobe)