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
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.
…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.
Another commission I was asked for – this is a digital drawing, like most of my swimming pictures. The commissions didn’t originally appear on this site, but I have made a page for them where you can see a selection: https://waterdrawn.com/portfolio/commissions/.
On Wednesday the marine lake had dropped to 9.5 degrees. This is not an unpleasant temperature at which to swim for a while, but it still seems important to give the water a hard contemplative stare before getting in, just in case. Winter is coming…
Suddenly we have reached that time of year when chance onlookers may express not mere surprise, but disbelief, as if this is done by some inexplicable sleight of hand, a sort of smoke-and-mirrors trick. We know better: it is done with careful practice; one does not simply get this mental overnight.
(for the record: Clevedon Marine lake and on Tuesday 17th my thermometer registered 11.9, on this day – Sunday 22nd, it registered 6.9 degrees. Yep, it’s cold now.)
Freyja (a.k.a. The Nose-Beast, for reasons which should be abundantly clear), has gone hunting and has caught and slain a whole Dragon(fly). Very pleased with it she was, too, until she managed to poke it in underneath my behemoth of a plan chest, where, I suspect, it has joined a lot of biros. The plan chest is almost impossible to move, so there it will stay until the floor needs replacing.
I was a little sad for the Dragon(fly).
On another matter, Somerset Art Weeks have begun (the preparations for it have been the reason for the break in drawings), and my gallery space is full of my swimming drawings. There are cat-drawings too, as greetings cards. If you are in the area for the next fortnight, come and visit. Go to this page for the details.
I’ve walked to the top of Helvellyn an uncounted number of times over the last 30… 35… years, but I’ve never swum in Red Tarn, although I’ve often wanted to. I am usually with people who tell me this would be ridiculous, or it is freezing, or I do not fancy walking home in soaking wet pants, or I have taken other ways up to the peak which have afforded a bird’s-eye-view, but do not take me actually past this tarn, one of the highest in England, Google tells me.
This time I came prepared, not only with costume but shoes to swim in (so as to avoid this sort of scene). But it is one thing to want to leap into the clear, cold, deep and gloomy-blue waters of the tarn; and quite another thing to actually be there, staring into her inky depths.
I did one loop of the edge and it was a glorious cool kilometre or so, but I wouldn’t cross the middle, not on my own. I never did discover why she is called Red…
I may have mentioned that I draw all of the Cat-of-the-Day drawings on my Samsung phone… and I may have mentioned that I loved the phone so much I recently bought a Samsung tablet that has the same pointy little stylus that I draw with but a much bigger screen (people ask me what software I use – it’s not the software, it’s the hardware that’s important).
However, just now I am drawing with the phone, because this is the bag in which the tablet lives. It is a valuable tool, and it is being closely guarded.
Now we know that it is summer: last week Jim took off his wetsuit, and got back in the lake! It was a sort of milestone, we have never seen this transformation before. Jim has been shedding some of his rubber skin for months now: the gloves, the boots, the balaclava, the thermal layer, and now like a butterfly he finally emerged, fully formed. For a few minutes…
(For the sake of fairness I would like to add that Jim did in fact swim with us all through the winter, when all the warm-water creatures had fled the lake.)