I have recent drawings that I can’t show you yet, so here is a commission I did a few months back – this is Rachel Ray’s Dart 10K swim. The Finish! A nice change for once to be able to say I’ve done that swim, I don’t have to imagine what it’s like, I was there (though in fact not the same year, and I think we may not have had quite such a muddy finish…).
It was not winter, but a cold reluctant spring and feisty April weather (I have been slow to draw this one). We splooshed about in a 6 degree Crummock Water whipped up to resemble the sea, all questions of ‘do we actually want to get in there’ vanishing with the chilly water’s embrace.
Later, changing in the drizzle from cozzies into only marginally drier clothes, a dog-walker arrived at the gravely beach. As the small dog leapt about in the water yipping with delight and silliness, it’s owner sighed and told us “she goes in, even in the winter”, as if there was no explaining the antics of some creatures.
“So do we”, we declared happily.
Swimming with Jackie in Crummock Water, Cumbria, April 2018
You can try pausing to admire the beautiful morning, the misty view as the lake snakes its glimmering way up to Pooley Bridge at the other end, the tranquillity of the scene, the lovely unspoilt Cumbrian fells… sooner or later you are going to have to get all the way in. And this is Ullswater, where it is always colder.
Drawing inspired by a swim when I was up there the week before last, at Glencoyne Bay with Francine, Rosie and Margaret. There may have been a little bit of squealing, but if there was, there was nobody else around to hear it.
All things are relative. While the prospect of an Autumnal temperature plummet to seven degrees may cause us to shudder at the very thought, reaching in vain after warm memories of summery 18 degrees and above; here at the back end of Winter and in the wake of winds from Siberia, 7 degrees is greeted with excitement and delight!
“It’s lovely now it’s warmed up” is not mere winter swimmer’s bravado, it is heartfelt. 10 days ago the shallow salt water dipped below zero. True, we still have that glazed look of the mildly hypothermic as we hug our hot drinks. True it is drizzling, and an icy wind is promised for the weekend. But all things are relative, and these things are mere blips in the unstoppable onrush of spring.
On Friday it was Mary’s Birthday. There being an icy blast coming straight from Siberia, and the water 3.5 degrees and dropping, she dressed appropriately for the occasion of a birthday swim. A bikini with tassels, of course!
The Birthday Suit
To those unfamiliar with the place, this is of course Clevedon Marine Lake. The water isn’t often this green, it’s generally muddier, but on this occasion it was even clear enough for underwater photos.
Some enter the water while raising arms in an attempt to remain as dry as possible. This works, for a very very, very short time. An alternative technique is to splash your face – or all of you – with water, which is rater the opposite: get wet before you have to get wet. It’s not for me, but I’ve seen people do this happily! Then there are those who like to inch into the water bit by bit, drawing out the appalling process for several minutes. It often helps to swear a lot. I used to be an arm-raiser, but I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that if it is very cold the best thing is to get the whole dreadful experience over as fast as possible, wade in and then plunge and swim as fast as possible until it stops being awful. For the sake of caution I should add this last method is not a beginners choice: do make sure you can breathe before you can swim!
…But we think it’s much warmer. My thermometer claims it’s nearly 10.5. Winter swimmers will understand the difference.
Once it gets colder I like to know the temperature, partly I feel it’s safer, having an idea of the actual temperature, because my skin finds it hard to distinguish between the sensation of ‘cold and wet’ and ‘really really cold …and wet’. For some reason the duck shaped thermometers always seem to read low, but as long as you are used to adjusting for duck pessimism it doesn’t matter what thermometer you have if it’s the same one each time.