To be fair, I was stepping far more gingerly than Susan and Francine: they with shoes, me with bare toes. They fairly strode into the Winter.
But it was the first swim of the season in single figures. The first of many since the temperature has plummeted this week. Take care out there my swimming friends: it should never be forgotten that you are doing this for fun!
(Apologies to Lucy for leaving her out of the drawing and yet stealing her hat! I used her photograph for reference, so she wasn’t in it, and I used her hat for artistic purposes, since mine was dark purple)
“Stepping into Single Figures” – drawing by Nancy Farmer
It was not warm in Derwentwater: not yet ‘Baltic’, but well into ‘quite nippy’. It was past sunset and Emma stood in the inky waters in bare feet on uncomfortable slippy rocks; she also had a dodgy shoulder and she was not in fact – not yet – a cold water swimmer.
She had got this far, she was already half wet and all cold. Getting out at this point was going to look like defeat, but she was going to need some persuasion.
So she gave herself a stern talking to. Strong words were delivered and after some minutes of entertaining expletives, she did as she told herself.
She got in.
…and she loved it. Briefly.
And two days later she did it again, with noticeably less swearing.
Emma’s first swim in Derwentwater – digital drawing by Nancy Farmer
To get to Clevedon I drive North on the M5, Lucy drives South, which can sometimes give one or other of us the uncanny ability to predict the immanent arrival of Weather. Lucy wonders if she should take her dryrobe. I already have mine on, the sudden biblical shower-burst south of Clevedon having only barely stopped short of raining frogs.
Like the pros we are, we naturally proceed to stand there doing nothing but talking, catching up on the last fortnight until it is well and truly coming down in buckets. We spend some time admiring the transformation of our surroundings from distinct regions of concrete and lake to a single uniform surface of hammered water.
And then we decide to change.
Lucy demonstrates the orthodox use of the Dryrobe, while I go for the more freestyle method of holding on with face and elbows. The Dryrobe is a fine thing in so many ways, but I can never be bothered with the actual zip.
It goes without saying it was lovely once we were in; I shall say it anyway.
Digital Drawing by Nancy Farmer: “A Lake That Was Wetter Than Usual”
Inspired by the swims at the Henley Swim Festival 2019
This is a rare drawing for me – a swimming drawing about a swim that I didn’t do. But I was actually there all the same. For three years in a row now, I’ve had an artwork stand at this marvellous festival of swimming, so it seemed about time I recreated it as a piece of art. The landmark is of course the temple on Temple Island, silently witnessing the events of the day, as it has done for close on 250 years.
There were wave after wave of different swimmers throughout the day, and I have arranged them as if time has been collapsed to a few minutes – the blue wave at the front, who went off first thing in the morning, the reds at the back who swam in the last wave, gold hats sprinkled through them. Gold hats swam four times.
I have left out the last 3 waves – there were two club waves, and there was the very last wave: the duck wave. Maybe none of the swimmers noticed this one, it went off as all the exhibitors were packing up. Maybe only I noticed it, because, unannounced and un-cheered, but not unappreciated, a wave of ducks came down the river, the water finally theirs once more.
We got to Ullswater on Saturday morning, in the wind and rain. Rosie and Francine were already swimming, right out across Glencoyne bay, nearly invisible to the naked eye if they hadn’t had tow-floats as well. They were not, however, invisible to the naked ear, swimming as they were at a steady rate of about 100 words a minute. As they came back they passed by the spot where Glencoyne Beck lets into the lake, its cool waters running straight down from the fells, and though it may be June now we could hear quite clearly: it’s still quite cold in Ullswater.
(with apologies to triathlon friends and Richard!)
“I thought that was you”, Richard Smith said to me on Thursday afterwards.
…there was careful cold water acclimatization going on, triathletes emerging from their winter hibernation, technical discussions, comparison of wetsuits and swim trackers… “I saw this person in a bikini barge* through with an attitude of “…just going for a swim…” ”
(he did say barge, but I think he meant it in a good way, I did not actually elbow anyone off the ramp)
I’ve seen triathletes swimming: some of them don’t seem to like the water very much, they like to have a fight with it. And they do like wetsuits or their legs sink, with all that bike riding and running about: too much muscle, not enough fat!
But whatever you have to do that gets you in the water: and they are getting in the water now. They nearly all overtook me, of course, but I don’t care, I’ve got all year, they’ve only got a few months!
And apologies also to Vobster: it’s definitely not all triathlon swimmers, as it sometimes has a reputation for being: there is a dedicated bunch of year-round swimmers, both skins and neoprened, and it’s the best water in Somerset! …come and join us: https://www.facebook.com/groups/988659817829090/
I will not say that this happened, this is merely a hypothesis.
If it had happened, if it had happened that close on a dozen girls had skinny dipped in the lake, in a place remarkably close to the centre of a seaside town… if they had, they might have found that the cover of darkness is quite exceptional, the bright lights being all around, but not actually in that place. If they had, there would only have been the squealing of delight to give them away. They would have been invisible, but not, it is true, inaudible. But the Outside is a big place, and giggling would have carried only so far. The Outside is good for swimming.