Monday, 27 August 2007

The Vital Statistics.

Sorry this has taken longer than I thought - real life takes you over, when you get back to it. Domestic trips to London, Aeschylus and the Importance of the Frontier in American History all take on an unprecedented importance. I do intend to put the photos up now I've got them, as well, but I haven't quite mastered the technology as yet...

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Number of Swims (Total): Twelve.
(Gloria): Ten.
(Jordan): Ten.

Number of Places Swum : Seven.
Those being: Sea Point, Forty Foot, Barnaderg Bay (Letterfrack), Dawros River, Tully Lake, Inish Bofin Beach (South), Inish Bofin Beach (North).

Distance Swum (total) : 4130m.
(Gloria): 590m.
(Jordan): 3540m.

Our Companions, some thanks, and people who made the trip what it was :

JENNY. Green Umbrella Man. Alex. Johanna. Seamus. Boy who chatted Gloria up in a bar. Polish man who gave us a ride. Bernard and the Herring Gull. Leo and Rob, for telling me it wasn't a stupid idea in the first place, and for all their support. James for daring to wet his immaculate coiffeur. Benjamin, Iona, Ben, Patrick, Richard, the middle aged men reading the paper naked on the bank of the Granta. Lindsay. Sue and Angela at Common Ground. And Jenny, again. It's only fair.

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Wild Swimming is everywhere at the moment. Or at least, all over the liberal press - the Independent ran an article last week, and the Guardian had a fantastic supplement this weekend, with a rather beautiful photgraph of Jesus Green pool. I was rather sorry that Deakin wasn't mentioned in either; it is, afterall, a year since his death now, and I don't believe that wild swimming could ever have attained such a high profile without Waterlog. I would like to take this opportunity one last time to thank him for being such a huge inspiration to me - I've never been moved quite so profoundly by the words of somebody I never knew.

Reading about other swimmers' "raisons de nager" always interest me, and they're often completely different from my own. I feel perhaps more kinship with the sight-seeing swimmer, who wants to look at spider-crabs and perhaps a seal than with the tough old octogenarian looking after their heart-rated by plunging into icy water, perhaps, but no two people ever expound precsely the same philosophy.

I have had a number of very different types of swim this summer - poignant and playful in the moat, the odd "symbolic dip" in hideous weather on hove beach, long swims at Jesus Green, icy early morning swims at Emmanuel before lectures, gruelling and satisfying missions across Sea Point, frightening and exhilarating at Forty Foot... not all quite what I would ordinarily think of as "my style". If you asked me, I would tell you I prefer to be in the sea, I like to know which point I'm swimming to and that I'd like it to be a good long distance away; I like, ordinarily, to swim around 2k, something that there was never opportunity for when we were travelling, and didn't quite know our surroundings.

In Ireland, I discovered swimming as a form of tourism, not only because we were travelling. There was one idyllic beach on Inish Bofin, for example, that you could only reach by either climbing quite tricky rocks over rocks, or swimming across - I travelled there one way, and back the other. It lent a sense of rather Famous Five-ish danger and excitement to the place. At Sea Point and Forty Foot, the local swimming culture was the most remarkable thing; at Letterfrack, we discovered that swimming was a good way to make friends. Our trip sounded eccentric enough to Alex, afterall, that he decided to join us and find out what all the fuss was about.

People, I think, need water. perhaps more than they know.



Thursday, 16 August 2007

Penultimate Post?

We are back in Brighton after a last swim at Sea Point. The Sun shone, but the wind was high; there was some form of children's sailing class happenning on the far side of the bay - I wish I could tell you what kind of boats they were. I shall send a description to a sailing friend, and ask her to identify them...

I decided to do the crossing one last time. I would have kicked myself if I hadn't. The water was choppy from the wind, but the tide seemed quite still. It had been a while since my last long swim at Letterfrack, so I didn't push the pace - just tried to keep to a crawl as much as I could, or I thought I'd never get back.

When I know that I have a distance to swim, and it isn't one that I have to keep count of, (no monotonous lengths), I get to let my mind wander. If I hadn't been swimming for about twenty minutes, I would have been worrying about packing, travelling, contacting my friend in the city, moving on. Instead, I thought about Communist China (I'm reading Wild Swans, better late than never). I also realised quite how excited I was about an impending visit from my cousin and her husband who live in upstate New York - I hadn't seen John since their wedding.

It sounds odd, sounds backwards, but for me at least, it was the swimming that kept this trip from being a stressful one.

Tomorrow, we'll let you know how far we swum all in, and do a revue of the whole trip. For now, I'll quote you something I've quoted before :

Who am I to tell you
How to manage
The Swimming?

- Maximus.


Monday, 13 August 2007

...back in the saddle...

"I must go down to the sea again..."

"Go on, then."


Low tide at sea point this evening, after a day spent girding the loins (by doing absolutely nothing).

So we walked, to Forty Foot.

Forty minutes, on foot.

Funny, how these things work out.

People diving, people swimming, young people, old people, skinny people, normal people.

A very pretty polish girl with a fake tan in a thong bikini.

"Oh this is too cold for me".

Fish out of water?

G in first, down the ladder. Then I beat out a few strokes. I feel WEAK, after feeling strong all trip. This was Jenny's first swim at Forty Foot she couldn't quite believe she was doing it - but we'd clocked how tough she was within a second. We have an un-repayable debt to this wonderful woman, but we've given her swim-fever, and we've won a friend.

All our skin felt as if it was burning...

Purple sea on the way home, and purple sunset now.

Tired and hungry, and pleased.




Swimming Culture in Ireland

Jenny and I went back to Seapoint yesterday lunchtime, whilst Jordan de-phlegmed. Sunny Sunday, over 50 people in the little changing shelters, on the rocks and in the water, many of them in their seventies and eighties, as well as a tiny girl in armbands and a pregnant woman who dived as gracefully as the black guillemots which accompanied us out to Inishbofin. Everyone chatting, changing, dipping and comparing, all the time various states of toggage und undress, wetness and basking. It struck me where I had encountered such a leisured water-culture before; the baths in Budapest. True, those were single-sex, but there was the same quiet yet sociable enjoyment of being not only in, but about to be in and having been in, water. I haven't encountered quite the same thing in British lidos, but I rather hope it flourishes in Hampstead Ponds, where I, shamefully, have never swum. People getting in, shivering, saying 'It's lovely, isn't it', and at least half-meaning it. It's the feeling afterwards you're looking for though, and the warmth of pride that comes with the boast to friends that you've done it before and you'll do it again.


Sunday, 12 August 2007

Dublin : The Return.

Sligo. Nightmare. From sleeping under canvas on a rainy Inishbofin, I got a cold. Then in Sligo, IT RAINED. And I felt awful. The beaches were stunning, and we hunted for shells. If I'd been on form, I would have swum and loved it - but cold rainy swims are more my style than Gloria's. She likes to actually enjoy swimming - and prefers not to go in alone, which I understand.

She should be back in Sea Point today with the wonderful Jenny. I'll be grumpy on the sea shore wishing I could get in. And coughing, and reading Aristotle. Oh Yes.

(I'll be better tomorrow, Swimming. And having something interesting to say.)



Saturday, 11 August 2007

Sligo Bus Station. Sligo is wet. We have swum. But not for a while. We are returning to Dub to go Joycean again.


Wednesday, 8 August 2007

On The Road.

Clifden, Co.Galway, Direction : Sligo.

River with the french kids once more before kicking out of Letterfrack, also 800m across the bay for me.

Inishbofin - isle of the white cows - is an island.

Shell beach and rock pooling in the rain, followed by christening my wetsuit, about 13 degrees a mad woman swam a long way and gloria got a little scared and clambered on the rocks.

A caribbean looking beach with a cross-current and a rip-tide but a beautiful little pool behind rocks to climb on and another 400 m me, Gloria made friends with a canadian named colin and we built a fort and played long-jump in the sand. (we can jump about two metres I reckon).

Seriously low on disposable internet funds so by way of a goodbye:

Gloria is afraid of swimming in the sea.
Jordan is afraid of sheep.

Gloria wins.

(and I have come to understand much about Kerouac's prose-style...)



Wednesday, 1 August 2007

connemara - chonamara : Letterfrack.

this post will be needfully short, as I spent most of my internet money on trying to make the "@" key work so I could sign in... sticky shift...

so we're in letterfrack (leiterfraic), Connemara, County galway! Five hour bus journey to get here but worth every moment, as we're now officially in the middle of nowhere, which is where we like to be. Camping in the garden of a big hippy hostel - low security but the best breakfast (scones, porage, buttermilk bread...) you ever did dream of. it's something of a shame that my sleeping bag, and gloria's phone, were stolen yesterday, but we have moved on unscathed, I think!

sorry if this blog becomes preoccupied with food, by the way. i'm swimming and being outdoors a lot, I'm beginning to dream about dinner...

on the last bus up the windy hill on monday, past many lakes, puddles, inlets and the like, we met an excitable french chap, name of Alex, who is working in a local b&b. he's an engineer from toulouse, and he decided he wanted to swim with us! so, after attempting to differentiate between the various european hippies staying here, and the various european hippies working here, we got the tent up and headed down the hill to the sea loch to meet him. the water wasn't as saltily buoyant as Dublin Bay, but without such strong tides it was much easier to make headway. we played and splashed and tied bits of kelp around each other. language barriers - and automatic barriers between new acquaintances - soon disappear in the water.

yesterday was the day of the Great Bedding Heist, so after climbing Diamond hill, our first tame little peak of the trip, the afternoon was concerned with dealing with the garda, leaving little time for swimming - you'll be pleased to know, however, that we made time for a stout before bed, and that's the really important thing...

which brings me, at the end of this badly-punctuated ramble, to today. This morning, after a broken night (rain noisy in tent) we headed out on a little ramble. we left the footpath and scrambled through bog and over rocks for a mile or so - stop shaking your heads! we know we shouldn't, but there are big paved trails and boardwalks and PEOPLE everywhere, we had to escape... and we came upon a river. Quite shallow, but very strong. yellow from the peat (pete?) in the hills, but clean enough for salmon and freshwater mussels - again G wouldn't let me cook them - so clean enough for us. now, we had, very cleverly, left our towels and swimming gear behind - we thought we were just off for a walk, afterall - so we had to find a secluded spot... we're getting used to this lark! we bathed where it was about waist-deep, getting clean as we could 9hostel showers : cold drip). and swimming against the current - I understood, suddenly, how it feels to be a hamster!

This evening i went for a long swim out across a part of the sea-loch (lough?), with Gloria as my spotter. About 800 metres, warm and smooth to begin with, getting colder and harder as the wind got up...

Right. We're off to the pub. Stay tuned!