I usually swim with Lucy at Clevedon Marine Lake. A fantastic and free facility but the lake is topped up by the muddy brackish waters of the Bristol Channel on the highest of tides, and if you can see as far as your feet through the water it is a remarkable and rare event.
Lucy asked me to paint a painting of her swimming, so we went off to Vobster with my camera, and I took lots of snaps and this painting is the result. We were just about lucky with the weather – the sun deigned to shine between the November clouds for a few minutes, but the water is lovely and clear anyway, so it’s always good for photos.
This is painted in watercolour with fragments of aluminium leaf for the bubbles.
Apologies for the lack of swimming scribbles, I have been devoting time to some swimming paintings instead. Some of these I am hoarding for Bath Art Fair (12th & 13th May, more on that later), a some have been commissions (I know, other people are waiting, for paintings or drawings… I am getting there…).
So, here is one finished commission, this is Ghislaine, in watercolour, with platinum bubbles…
At the bottom you can see the photo I worked from, Ghislaine asked me for more bubbles and sparkly light.
‘Ghislaine’ painting in watercolour with palladium leaf
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!
It helps to know when the school holidays are, if only because the traffic is different and sometimes everyone heads to the coast all at once. However, this was a peril I had previously overlooked. On Monday morning The Great Crab Release occurred. At a still relatively toasty 11.5 degrees in the lake, changing back into warm clothes would otherwise have been safe and simple. It was nippier than expected!
By chance, I wasn’t the hapless swimmer exiting the water: I was the one running around with a camera saying ‘Oh Look! Crabs!’ and taking photos of them. It was an impressive haul, the crabs were conscientiously counted out of the bucket and there were over 30 of them, caught in little more than half an hour. They are back in the marine lake now, but some of you may not wish to know that.
If you haven’t already bought one of my calendars or Swimflake hats (or if you want another) you might like to know that Oudoor Swimmer Magazine (formerly H2Open) are running a competition where you can win them.
Simply tell them in 25 words or fewer what your favourite swimming faff is!
Enter here: outdoorswimmer.com/win
On Saturday I swam in Scales Tarn, overlooked by Blencathra, while a crocodile of people plodded on up the tricky way. The tarn was a beautiful azure blue, though in truth you had to be underwater to admire its colour, since the surface reflected the leaden sky. It was cold and wet, but outside of the tarn it was also wet, and quite slippery, and as the people filed past me on their way up Sharp Edge we eyed each other, both safe in the knowledge that the other party was the more foolish.
The 2018 calendar is available now, from my Etsy shop here
There seemed to be something of a unifying theme to the pictures, one familiar to many outdoor swimmers that I know, so I went with it: ‘An Outdoor Swimmer’s Guide to Faffing’. You can see a glimpse of all the pages on this page …For those overseas friends unfamiliar with the word (though not, I suspect the activity itself), I have even included a definition of the gentle art faffing – see below for an image of the back cover of the calendar.