Thursday, 28 June 2007

Down by the ocean, it was so dismal...

Miss Smith, it seems, was not on Hove beach this morning. Yes, the sky was grey. Yes, the wind was up. Yes, the rennovated modernist architecture above the Peace Statue was austere. The sea, however, was a joy. The waves were playful. The tide was high, and I think out-going; it was harder to swim in than out - unless you rode a wave... We ran into the water as soon as we changed. "Dip" was very much the appropriate verb; unaccustomed muscles buffeted and braced by that incredible and incomprehensible power. A power that is timeless. Ocean is older than land, and it doesn't age, and it's never the same twice. You have to be right in one single moment when you swim in the sea - it's like being given a carte blanche; you regain the right to Play.

Recovered with various elaborate (and allegedly vegan) cakes in the Sanctuary.

It's good to be home.



Saturday, 23 June 2007

I never did tell you about the time...

...we had all the trouble with the porters. It happenned some weeks ago now.

Benjamin, Iona and I met Gloria at Emmanuel porters' lodge at 8.45, a.m. As we three "aliens" waited, we were questioned by Angry Porter (the only angry porter I have encountered there, in all fairness): were we members of the college? Did we have permission to be there from a fellow? Were we aware that it was Quiet Period? No, No, Yes. When Gloria arrived, she turned on the charm. I have a lot of respect for Angry Porter, because Gloria's charm is very hard to resisit, but there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY we were going to be allowed to use that swimming pool. No sirree!

So, Gloria whispered to us to go and hide.

Which we duly did - but, foolishly, in the fellows' garden, near the pool; we should have kept a greater distance... Sometimes, the porters just give G the key, and tell her to lock up and bring it back when she's done. I thought that would happen now. I hadn't reckoned on the true Grump of Angry Porter, who ESCORTED HER ALL THE WAY TO THE POOL.

Iona, Benz and I hid behind a bush.

We kept very still.

Angry Porter got closer...

We won, in the end.

It was cold.

Term is over. I am swimming in the Granta once more, very early tomorrow morning, then I shall be back on Brighton beach...

Bring on the sunburnt beach-whales that signal summer in the south east!



Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Jesus Green.

Finally. I was there on the first day of the season last year, but this time didn't make it until the water, blue and beautiful of course, had reached a positively welcoming nineteen degrees. Leaves on the bottom. Diving in and making patterns. Lengths so long you lose count and don't care anyway, because you're just there to think, and feel, and not, for once, to compete. Patrick came too. We read books poolside afterwards. We're going back today.

You look at the water and you think of Hopkins. It's unavoidable.

Glory be to God for dappled things.



Friday, 15 June 2007

A summer day in Suffolk

Saturday was the day of Roger Deakin’s memorial at his house in Suffolk. ‘Memorial’ seems the only appropriate word – it was a day of remembrance, the day itself seeming to stand as a testament to someone who loved the place where we were all gathered. It was one of those days one wishes for, sunny, but not too hot, with cloud interruptions and a breeze. Crossing into Suffolk from Cambridgeshire twice signalled that we were moving into a special, removed space and time. We walked through the long grass, oxslips and buttercups in the fields around the house searching for the elusive wood which Roger planted. Before too many guests arrived, we had a swim in the moat. It was shorter than I had imagined, but wider, with a warm top layer which, when disturbed, gave way to greeny cold. Our temperature gauge was the Granta the day before – the moat was warmer, fractionally.

It’s a strange thing going to such an event in honour of someone you never met. By the end of the hour and a half of songs, poems and recollections, we felt we knew Roger Deakin better, and felt all the sadder at his absence. One could only hope for such a good friend, and friends to remember us.

Terence Blacker ended the event with a rendition of ‘The Swimming Song’ on the banjo – almost eerily appropriate considering my discovery of the song only a few days before, and also because it’s one of Jordan’s favourite songs.

When we had a few moments’ silence, the birds kept on singing and singing all around the big striped circus tent where we sat. When filled with singing, every moment is marked and unique - the music makes each point in time truly exist.

Friday, 8 June 2007

get the skinny...

A sunny afternoon.

Gloria, Ricky and I went out to Granchester Meadows.

We sand White Stripes songs all the way out there.

While swimming, we saw a naked man emerging at the Newnham Riverbank Club.

We took our gear off.

N.B: It's quite difficult to get a swimming costume BACK ON under water.

Nuff said.


This summer I went swimming
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet and I moved my arms around
I moved my arms around

Loudon Wainwright III, 'The Swimming Song'

The Lee Swim

As I conduct some swimming research for Ireland, I note that the famous Lee Swim in Cork takes place on 28th of July, the day Jordan and I land.... in Dublin.
This is a shame, but I think neither of us would be fit enough to do this 2000 metre dash.

Also, I've been to Cork. I've seen the Lee. In the words of The Reverend Ian Paisley, Never, Never, Never!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Through the Looking Glass.

It was a beautiful night last night. After a failed attempt at hiring a punt from Scudamore's (which, it seems, shut earlier than advertised), some college friends, Benjamin, Adam and I had a late-night picnic in the gardens of Sidney Sussex college. Several "good ideas" later on, Ahmed, Ali and the girls went to bed. Benz, Adam and I decided to test the Sidney punt, Lazy Dayz.

From Magdalene bridge to Queens' lock, the journey was serene; Adam whistled itchycoo park, I recited snatches of jabberwocky, Benjamin punted remarkably smoothly on such a rickety contraption. The river was like a looking glass -King's chapel apparently built twice, end-to-end, so clear was its reflection. Adam took us back from Queens' to Jesus lock; he turned the boat, and then I began to learn - staggeringly, and appallingly unsuccessfully - how to punt.

I did, eventually, shunt Lazy Dayz into a mooring. Then the fun began.

The key to the padlock that moored the punt had, it seemed, gone missing. "Pass me the torch", said Benjamin, last man on the boat, "and I'll see if the key's still on board somewhere." I leant down with the feeble flashlight; Benjamin, reaching up, toppled sideways, has hat coming over his eyes and convincing him, as he was submerged, that he was drowning. He climbed out of the water without too much trouble, but the punt and pole had slid away from us.

I saw my chance.

"Don't worry Benjamin. You can't swim in your clothes."

Stripped to underwear. Climbed over railing. Shallow dive, steered the punt back towards its pitch, and chased the pole. They're heavier than they look you know, those things.

The water was the warmest I have known this season. Infinitely softer, being the Cam, than Emmanuel pool and it felt like three times the temperature of our early-season sixteen degrees in the Granta.

Wasn't even shivvering particularly on emerging - rather wish I'd taken the plunge sooner, could have had a good long swim... the punt probably didn't need me to rescue it, but an excuse is an excuse. And Adam took pictures of the whole proceeding, which shall be published for the common enjoyment as soon as they're in my possession.