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.
If they had swum there. Hypothetically.
I’m an artist: I’m not obliged to be politically correct, or even accurate, but there is a difference between girls and boys when it comes to cold water swimming. There is one thing that girls are so much better at. Faffing.
People ask me why there aren’t many pictures of men in my paintings, there aren’t actually many of the male persuasion in our group, it is true, but another of the reasons for it is they simply aren’t there. We’ve no sooner arrived at our lake, said hello, caught up on the week, the weather, measured the temperature of the water, discussed the possibility of wearing gloves or not wearing gloves, admired a new bobble hat or two, a bikini, somebody’s homemade cake, repeated the water temperature to newcomers, compared the readings on a couple of auxiliary thermometers, discussed the water temperature with those leaving the vicinity and shared a couple of hilarious stories about pants…. and we look up and find that the boys have just got in and started swimming! There they are, half way to the other side of the lake. And we have so far succeeded in removing our bobble hats and locating our cossies. If we are organized.
So now you know. One thing boys aren’t very good at.
This is Chris on the steps and Andy, already swimming. Andy was last year’s oldest person to swim the English Channel, solo, and he probably didn’t stop to swap stories about pants even then.
In truth the Silly Season has been going on since about December if you are a cold water swimmer. If you are not, you may well have considered it to be silly to swim outside since September, if not earlier. The actual swimming, however, is not the silly part. Welcome to the season of Winter Events, where wetsuits are often banned, but chicken costumes considered perfectly appropriate attire.
This is the Polar Bear Plunge! 2019, at Bude Sea Pool
(note: this is all one pic – since they updated the software and I updated the hardware I seem to have a load more pixels to play with, so I thought you might like to see some close-ups since I spent ages putting all this in….)
“oops… drops off suddenly here!”
…repeat until everyone is merrily splashing about in the river. In January. As you do.
And, before someone points it out: the trick of course is not in the getting in but in the making sure you have done so at a point where you can also get out again, because it would be a shame to miss the cake…
On Sunday the South West Seals swam with the Wiltshire Wild Swimmers at Tellisford Weir. I have somehow omitted the weir so there may be another drawing if I can find the time. Thank you Wiltshire Swimmers, it was a fabulous away day for the SW Seals and you are very welcome for a re-match on our home ground. Speaking personally: a gentle 10 minutes of swimming was followed by about 6 pieces of cake. We may need to get into some serious training for the re-match!
(I should add that they also cooked hot dogs on a fire, I’m just more a cake person and there’s only so much a girl can eat: one of everything was not physically possible…)
Row Clarke is centre stage here: her fabulous Deakin & Blue cossie teamed with an equally fabulous retro flowery swimming cap.
Friday. The morning, following so many beautiful dawns this week, dawned wet and windy. However, driving up the M5 to Clevedon I was still surprised to be informed by Radio 3 that there were white horses in the Bristol Channel*. This oldly specific announcement, out of character for a for a national radio station whose main qualities are its eighteenth century selections and lack of current affairs, was disconcerting. This wasn’t even a news bulletin, merely a comment about the state of the Bristol Channel. They explained, as if this explained anything, that they were watching the web cam at Watchet. Then they played Beethoven.
So it was in a slightly surreal and thoughtful mood that I stood taking photographs on the sea front. There were indeed (modest) white horses, there was also a spring tide and much splooshing of water up onto the walkway below the sea wall. And I was the only one there. I even wondered, if I continued to be the only one there, would I go in anyway?
This is Clevedon. There has to be more than little white horses to deter everybody. I pattered along to the big cave and found two of the regulars eyeing the sea speculatively. In the end we were four, and of course we swam. And as the sun rose above Clevedon Hill – in the instant that my camera battery died – and despite the dire warnings of Radio 3, it turned out lovely!
*White horses: I had to explain this to a friend, so in case anyone else is confused – the white caps on the top of waves. Other than actually breaking on the shore I think this begins to happen (sailing friends will correct me) at about a force 5 wind.
If you like my drawings you might like to know that I now have calendars for 2019 for sale in my etsy shop: www.waterdrawnart.etsy.com.