Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Catching Up.

Last Sunday was the day before my final Final. It was rainy, it was miserable, and I had one of the best trips to the Granta I have ever had. Bela and I went down at about half past ten, walking from New Hall in the rain, talking about all the things you're not supposed to talk about during Exam Term: family, politics, love, ecology, the Great Outdoors... Bela is a new friend, and we had a lot to cover. When we reached the swimming hole, I was laughing maniacally; couldn't quite understand why we were doing this, but incomprehensibly glad that we were. I got in first, avoiding the Carlsberg cans on the riverbed.


Why do be people drop beer cans into the river? Does the river LOOK like freakin' recyling bin? PLEASE, if you're in a punt this summer, make yourself the person in charge of the rubbish bag and save our river.


The water wasn't warm, exactly, but I'd pitch it at at least 16* - we could take it. We swam down to the Newnham Riverbank Club and, finding it deserted, climbed out. I have made a resolution to be able to turn a cartwheel by the end of the summer, and we both practised on the beautiful sheltered gardens of this semi-nudist organisation. We got back in the water - I dived, Bela would, I think, rather die. Which is odd as she, the caver, is very much the braver ofthe two of us. We swam on downstream, and scrambled on trees growin out low over the water. I hung upside down koala-style and dropped into the river onto my back. It felt like time had been stopped, like no-one else had ever seen ther iver. Everything was so green, so still apart from the birds and the rain. As we looked at the thick shrubbery on either side of the water, bela described it as "vitamins for the eyes", and she wasn't far wrong. We swam on one further bend, to another overhanging tree, before heading back upstream.

There is a bench - marked private - on the bank of the river, and as Bela grew tired and i grew increasingly nervous about revision (I was reciting Dorothy Richardson quotations at her by this point) we climbed out, having decided it would be quicker to walk back to our gear. We clambered through ankle-deep ivy, eventually meeting barbed wire, and being forced back into the water. I have so very little time for private landowners. The river is ours. The riverbank should be, too. Anyway the rest of the swim was great fun, and intensely, blissfully relaxing, after we decided that we didn't need to rush. We drank hot grapefruit juice from a thermos as we changed, and cooked pasta together at my place afterwards.

Not just one of my best Cambridge swims - one of my best Cambridge days.

Have been to Dublin since then, but my brother wants the computer now...



Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Swimming for Sanity.

Like Digging for Victory, only... well wetter. And less productive/nationalistic/dated.

Yesterday was Jesus Green opening day! Lins and I went down at lunch-time, just like we did in our first year - what goes around comes around, I suppose.

Crazy Tracy with her TINY bikini, hoop earrings and full face of make-up.
Excitable man with camera talking about the comparable temperature of pool (15*) and river (15* last week, dropping).
Octogenarian, F., with improbably fantastic legs.
Octogenarian, M., doing a fantastic little warm-up dance.

Dived in. Probably shouldn't have, there followed a strange feeling like a piece of cheese-wire being drawn around the crown of my head, or being scalped in slow-motion. Swam ten lengths in all, half crawl, half breast-stroke; crawl is very, very hard in that beautifully clear water. Or, it is if you're me. Others were ploughing up and down without batting an eyelid, hats off to their strength. Is it only the cold that makes the difference? Or does the absense of either salt or chemicals make the water less buoyant? I don't remember struggling like that at Sea Point last year, for example.

If anyone knows, do reply...

I love the colour your skin turns in the water at Jesus Green. Kind of reddish-brown from sheer cold. And I love how Lindsay's incredible pre-raphelite hair looks when completely and utterly soaked.

I don't love the showers, which were much much too hot - and some blokes came in to fix them, which made it worse - they had us running in and out under scalding jets of water for some time:

'Is that better?'
'How about that?'

But then we had sausage rolls from the bakers, so everything was okay in the end.

On the subject of Sea Point, I may be heading back there in a week or so to swim with Holly and Jenny. And have a break.

Gotta get my finals out of the way first - expect more posts, Cambridge, Brighton, Ireland - after next Monday.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Open Season?

Today we've had the kind of early spring weather that might beguile the brave and the foolish to test the waters of the Granta; today, I spent trawling charity shops for a fancy dress costume - the theme is Wes Anderson, and I shall attend as a Tenenbaum.

Let me tell you about yesterday - when it rained, when the weather was grey, and when Ema and I decided to go running. The plan was to cycle out to Granchester meadows, run to Granchester and cycle back - I can't at this point in time remember WHY we were going running, so don't ask. Just before we pulled out of New Hall, however, I noticed that my back tyre was very flat. Again I forget precisely why, but we decided that, having not run in about a year, we should just go all the way to Granchester, on foot, from there. We did admirably well - by the time we reached the second meadow, Ema's left ankle, my right, her left knee, my right, were complaining rather loudlym or at least inducing us to do so. And then Ema, bright spark, piped up:

"We should have just gone swimming, you know."

Pause. A beat. Me:

"Do you want to?"

We headed back to the swimming hole, running to keep as warm as possible before we got there. Speed seemed important: the longer we took, the more time we had to talk ourselves out of it. We stripped to our underwear, eliciting cheery waves and side-long glances from dog-walkers, cyclists etc. I jumped in, landing up to my knees in slime and up to my neck in the coldest water I have felt since the Alaska Strait. Ema jumped in. I was laughing maniacally - so cold, so far from able to feel my skin, so very, very happy. We swam - Ema breast-stroking as I beat out a spidery crawl in an attempt to get some kind of circulation going - about half way round the first bend up-stream (I wasn't going to risk cramping and getting dragged into the deeper water toward the Newnham Riverbank Club) before we had to emerge.

There is nothing like the feeling of the wind on your body after a swim. It is so warm and, in a strange way, soft. Rain water broke more or less unnoticed on our strange pink all-over raincoats. We walked back along the grass and it wasn't until we stood still to change that my foot, cut very slightly climbing out, actually warmed up enough to bleed. We walked back to Newnham in running gear and wet hair (mine hanging down, hairband bandaging foot)to beg a can of coke from Alison and stay the risk of Weils disease - of which I continue, in Deakin's memory, to be terrified.

Back up to my house for curry and cake.

I don't think I'll return for a week or two - it couldn't have been more than fourteen degrees - but it all felt very wild, and very beautiful. Spring is here, and I have high hopes for the season.