Wednesday, 30 May 2012

With the onset of unexpected hot weather comes the over riding disappointment that I am not anywhere, not even close, not anywhere near the sea.

In London I didn't feel so landlocked safe in the knowledge that breaking out of the city confines was easy and quick. Finding the coast was but an hour away. I'll be lucky if it's three from here. And although I hated summer in London, in that city, with all its hot antagonism gathering sweaty patches at the back of my knees, you could, almost smell the sea from certain places.

And here I am now trying to organise travel to a wedding in Poole, and back to my main priority- a swim in the sea. And to watch some friends get married. I try to work out if I can leave Birmingham at 6am, get to Poole for 10 am, swim in the sea, not drown and make it to the wedding turned out and coiffured for 2pm. It is unlikely. Something to do with peninsula's,  bank holiday sunshine and bottle neck to the beach.

I walk to water, as I do, from my flat where I've been cooped up working. Narrowing my eyes at the bright rays and thinking of a litany of excuses for not going in the sunshine. The main ones being, I don't like the heat, not if I'm not in the water, I don't like the sun, if I can't see the sea.

And I hold in frustration the cold winter weather whose clinging currents stopped me from swimming properly in the sea just a few weeks ago; High winds, high(ish) waters and a sinking sense of disappointment in myself that I am not as fearless as I once was.

This with age, with my age alongside, a crashing sense of helplessness as your body starts to visibly demonstrate the signs of ageing (not so bad, I know I'm still young, but the elasticity of my skin has greatly diminished and I can see the effects of a late night written across my face-my body not reacting as quickly as it used to, to three days of vegetable consumption and an increase in exercise. The knowledge that this is just the beginning, warning signs, while I'm still young enough to realise). And along with all of that comes a fear, a loss of the blind belief in immortality, that happened to me in youth. A very real sense that things (tides, waves, currents) are more powerful that me. That danger, death, drowning is imminent.

It's a wave away, a paddle too deep, a lone swimmer too far.

I never used to believe this, my own prophecy, but now I've started to believe my own dramatic whispers that I'd make as a teenager.

'I've always known I'd die drowning'

Two or so weeks ago I howled at the sea on Brighton Beach, in the cold and wet, not knowing which wet was sea water and what was rain. I justified my weakness for not really swimming into old words humour and creating a character from the sea. Foiled by the sea.

 But I was scared.

I didn't test my depths. I didn't test her depths. Didn't hold that faith that I feel in my stomach that...she wouldn't take me than.

I swam for a moment until I became scared by the crashing waves that seem so monstrous and tall when you are in their swell. The kind of waves I long for, the kind of waves I dream about.  But on a cold wet day in on Brighton Beach, not ones that I trust.

And I don't know when I will swim in salty water again. If I'd just been a little braver, a little more wild, a little bit more in love with the sea, like I say, like I write, like I tell people I am; then I would have swam.

Or it was common sense that comes from the wrong side of 30 (right side of 30?). Or my companion in this escapade telling me only I knew if the conditions were ok. And I didn't. I didn't know. I'm not experienced enough, I haven't spent enough time. I live in the midlands.

So I sit and write about raging seas while looking at the placed mud coloured canal. (I used to believe that when taking the train past Bournville that the canal was made of chocolate, as part of Cadbury's world, I believed that until quite an inappropriately late age).

And still, if that's the water that there is, all that is available, all I want to do is cover myself in it. Can feel summer sweat closely around me. An impulse, an unthought through want to jump in before...the reality of four foot bottom of mud and bones and duck poo.

But for a second, feel water covering my head, my mouth, cooling my bones.

I've been taking a lot more baths than I used to. Deeper than I used to. Here in Birmingham.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

An excerpt from something. At some point.

For the first time in my life I'm as far away from the sea as I have ever been. 174 miles east to the see, 110 miles west to the coast, 300 miles north to the wild sea's of Scotland, 192 miles south to edge of the channel. But I am the closest I have ever been to water. Stagnant, still, free from flowing water but 100 or so metres from me.  A canal, dark, green, black with promises of canine bodies, shopping trollies, faces below the surface. It lies still. I could give it all up live a life rolled in salt and sand, surely if I really loved her, I would. Surely if I really wanted to I would. Surely there would be no guilt, no excuse about swimming. The sun brings out a longing for salt on the wind, and calls from gulls, wind whipping sand, the dirty cold.

My eyes dull, my skin aches at the end to end tiles of the pool. Gulls cries around hear and carried on winds of false promise that you are not as far inland as you'd thought. If I zoom out of myself, a google map of imagination, I can see, physically see, how far away I am. I lick my lips, in a hope for salt.

I listen to a book of the week on Radio 4, A Coastal Memoir by Tim Winton. An Australian who really knows his seas. Blue seas, white beaches, stuff of fantasy and snap shot memories to me. I am entranced by his words, by his writing of the sea, by  his passion in trying to retain, some part of how the sea should be. Our waters, here in the British Isles dull in comparison. No threat of a fin, no dart of rainbow fish and strange creature.

And the tap in my bath is dripping constantly. A reminder that I need to contact the landlord, a reminder of the wasting of water, a pool of water building up in the bottom of my bath.

My finger itch to write, and my arms itch to swim, and my head longs to calm, and my body wants to move. I could cry with disappointment that this won't be in open water. I imagine myself on holiday, somewhere hot, somewhere foreign, somewhere unspoilt, I see myself swimming every day in the morning as the sun rises, shaking off the night before. The only one there. I worry about my lungs filling with salty water, about not caring if I'm up or down. Of my body floating. And swelling. Gulls pecking out my glassed out eyes. Seaweed in my hair.

Mosley Baths

'There are good ships and bad ships and the difference between them has nothing to do with being seaworthy. If I was fanciful I might say some had souls. There are ships built to withstand the worst the almighty can throw at them yet they go down with hardly a murmur, and there are other frailer craft, who having battled the winds and lost masts , yards and canvas, still born safe home to harbour. With experience a man can tell the one from the other the moment he steps aboard, neither from look nor feel, from some fathoms deep within himself.'

'The Birthday Boys' Beryl Bainbridge p 46, Petty Officer Evans.

My first trip to Mosley Baths, a mythical place, the subject of campaign and demonstration- one of the oldest baths in the country. Closed for months since I moved to this land locked city half on it's promise.

It's a walk, a bus ride away, excitement more than the travel to Solihull.

Turrets of excitement, separate entrances, for men, for women, for classes etched in stone above arched wooden doors. Beautiful edwardian splendour in the middle of a city known for industrialism.

I've passed that wooden door solid its impenetrability, sign keeping out the enquiries, almost everyday on the way to the city centre. Ear to the ground for internet rumours waiting for it to open.

Then with no fanfare, no announcement, one day the sign was gone and the door was open. A chance to swim in historical depths.

Into old beauty, cracked tiles and history, confused signs and cordoned off areas. I pay for my swim through a window slot to a friendly women. None of the shiny glass, gum chewing teenagers, bored look in their eye that I've come to expect from Solihull.

I make a few wrong turns, locked doors, promise behind them, the splash of anticipation, the echo of the pool and then...

Profound disappointment. She's a small one.

A tin tub, a bath, almost the size of a children's pool where I cut my swimming teeth learning my crawl. It's no 25 metre, it's not even my old favourite Maze Hill in Greenwich it's statue at 22 metres. She's a 17 stroke, 18 stroke length, finish before I've even started type pool. 
There's just communal showers, cubicles on the side, one ladies toilet in the corner. I don't want to return to Solihull swimming, to mis-placed lane rage and swim confusion. 
I start panicking into plan B before I dip my toe in; Coventry or worse begin to wonder just how long that pool is at LA Fitness on the high street. 
I'll give it a go, I'm here now paid my entry. Chipped tiles, arched windows, a floor that 1000 vurruca's have touched. For over 100 years. 
The life guard sullen teenagers here. How long is the pool I ask politely-unlike me I'm not prone to talking to clothed strangers while in my cossie. Usually. With a smile, he answers 21 metres, that's just minus one from Maze Hill, the only place I've swam 3 miles in one go. 
'Approximately' He says with another wide smile. 
'I won't hold you too it'. 
Two people in the fast lane. (And it's named a redeeming feature which already blows Solihull out of the water, despite it's lacking of length). 
I get in and it is, pleasant. The people in the fast lane let me past, now problems, smiles in fact. Friendly, polite. Not too busy, something. Something lovely about swimming there, trying to take in the ageing scenery. 
I do two miles (or there abouts my on the spot, on swim maths isn't a strong point-around 73 lengths, I think in waterlogged addition) and it's easy, glide through water, almost (almost not, really almost) like the pleasure that I feel in the sea, smiling underwater. Wash away my thoughts. And while it's true that I reach the end before I know it, something about it, about this pool, seems right. Its all wrong, it's too short, but there's a pleasure in it I haven't felt for a while. I end nearly with a lane to myself lapping a man with easy effort. Worried that I don't want to seem rude. Not ignoring the unknown etiquette of how the lanes are run. 

There are just showers on the side, open to all, and as I walk across, everyone says 'Morning' like we're not really not wearing anything. A man talks to me while we shower tells me a story. 

'Everyday for 18 months I've walked past that shut door. I used to swim here everyday, every morning five days a week. Would walk here in my shorts, and flip flops, come rain or shine, but that door it was never open. And then! That door was open, and I'm back here again, so happy, so happy. You know you get to know the faces here, it's all friendly, same faces in the morning. So I shower here get ready and straight to work. And people, at work they ask me...what are you on? Swimming, I say..' He smiles at me through the water pouring down in our communal shower. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Solihull Swim

I could of course witter on about not having swam/written the blog/eaten too much/ smoked too much but I think that theme is getting a little tired. I could give excuses that both lie to myself and whoever I think I'm writing this blog for; perhaps myself two years ago when I was slightly more serious about swimming the channel.

To recap: I now live In Birmingham, the most landlocked city in the country, a move that is not obviously conducive to sea swimming. I miss the pools I swam in London and out of some sense of respect, a want not to taint their memory, fear of the unknown (I also had a runny nose, pieces of paper to move, face book to check etc etc) hadn't actually managed a swim in Birmingham.

There is a pool near me. Walking Distance but every time I think about it, I get a rising fury, a frustration that I can barley contain. It's a leisure pool. Some sort of S shaped, island bent, with water the temperature of a tepid bath. To try and do a 25 metre length you have to swim in a curve past neatly coiffured ladies where no hair on their head will get wet. It's warmth makes me think I'm swimming in other people's urine. I like my water cold, so I have to move to keep warm. I cannot count the amount of time I've wasted wondering why you wouldn't build a normal swimming pool. Just an oblong, 25 metres long, about 16 metres wide. So this aside, but still playing a a tune of fury in the back of my head I set my alarm for 6.20am to travel 20 minutes on a bus to Solihull Pool.

A little note- I've been feeling a tiredness that I haven't felt for a while, it's a slowness in my body. A reluctance to achieve anything other than sitting, or lieing, a low ebb that hits me for a nap in the afternoon at 3pm, 4pm, 5pm then stops me sleeping during the night, so that my vision seems slightly blurred, fogged over, fluff rattling between my ears. Too many late nights, and not keeping my feet on the ground. Pull my head from the clouds.  I know that if I leave swimming one more week (It's been three weeks, last time was in Deptford a fond farewell to pool I loved, in between being one foot in London, one hand in Birmingham), I'll tip over edge where I won't go back, and each thought of exercise, each tiny step will be met with an excuse of other stuff happening. I have to swim or I might not catch myself again.

I'm worried, anxious about the size of the pool, the changing facilitates, the quality of the swimmers, the price of the pool. In London between the two pools that I frequented,  I knew my times, the ebb and flow of the tides of people, learnt to read the rhythms of the swimmers, when it was busy, when the professionals came, who to avoid, what lane was mine. Judging my timings so I would get at least one  moment of still when it's only you and perhaps one other in the pool. Now I'm treading water to see what lies in my new local(ish) pool.

I tell myself that people probably swim in Birmingham less, in Solihull less, there's probably not as much of a culture for exercise. I still obviously have that one foot in London and the superiority complex that comes from living in the Capital's glass walls.

I'm in for the Sunriser Session. £4.10 for a swim, glass wall over looks the pool. It's busy, five, six, seven people to every lane. I'm not even sure it's actually 25 metres long. I take a deep breath and...

Mixed changing rooms, maze like in their lay out but individual showers. It's a locker type affair no towel by the poolside here. Strap on the wrist, which I think slows me down. I'm aiming to do two miles- 130 lengths, think that I'll falter at 100. Seems like months, not weeks. I'll probably start with the medium lane, don't think I can aim that fast, that high.

7.15am Poolside I go. Scan the lanes, take an aim, look for the signs. Look for the signs. There's no slow lane. There's no medium lane, there's no fast lane. There's no system. There's no system.

There's people swimming full pelt front crawl in between no head wet swimmers. Heart sinks, I'll sink.  I get in what seems to be ,on judgement, the faster lane, although in between tiny tight wearing short men, there's a flailing back stroker who's swimming like he's drowning. It's like rush hour, I gage the etiquette and decide to go straight in for over taking. It's a baptism of speed. I'm in between being insensed by slow swimmers and speeded up by the snapping of water dogs at my heels.

And I can't even get the furies, full of tutts at the leisurely crawlers because there is no system. It's not their fault there is no minimum speed.

I'm not at my best and I'm struggling at no system no sense, acknowledging that I like my rules. There's a couple of the familiers; the speeding men in tight trunks, speeding their way and stopping every few lengths. The dogged distancers (a category I'm usually part of) never stopping, just pacing, going the distance. But there is not the fine tuned Iron men that I've come to recognise from Deptford, the hard core, fin lined, hard lined swimmers who are all blur of cap and goggles. It's a little more like dogems at the fair. A man under takes me. He undertakes me and then swims directly towards me as he's just done a U turn. I'm not a driver, but I'm pretty sure this kind of manoeuvre is frowned upon, nigh on dangerous in a car. Now I'm all for letting people over take, I quite like a bit of encouragement of speed but this shows complete disregard for lane etiquette. Or politeness. Or safety. Or anyone else. I consider punching him in the balls.

I enjoy my rage, have a couple of pauses one at the 30 length mark (100 more to do) another at the 60 mark (nearly 1 mile, nearly half way there) and then people start to filter out of the pool...for a while it's me and couple of other's in the lane, no more stopping and starting or panic swimming. I keep lapping an older man who is swimming gracefully and slowly on. Drifting like he was born in the water. A basking shark, but with socks on. I assume their swim socks. Veroca deterrents.

My googles steam over, my pace evens out and I drift into my thoughts. Enjoying the ache in my arms. All the thoughts that keep me up, all the thoughts that make shadows in my bed, wash behind me, stroke by stroke. This is optimum time, around 8am. I'm waiting for the schools to come for the lanes to get smaller, for the next surge to come. But for twenty or so minutes it's the perfect swim conditions.

Then a rise and swell of a large pair of shorts, billowing like sea weed announce the arrival of the amateur swimmers. Dog paddling. Hand throwing. There's legs all around me, glimpses of white and pink. The last ten lengths powered by thoughts of breakfast...Reach my hand out for the side that one last time, head up goggles off and the pool is full again. This time it's like being in the film Cocoon. The lane is full with breast stroke and gental. And I leave the pool. Catch a bus, caught myself, 20 minutes back home.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Swim Saving Grace

Guilt weighs down on the duvet over my head. It's 9.27am. I was supposed to get up at 8.30, do some work, two mile lunchtime swim, back & a couple more hours work. Actually, I was supposed to get up at 7am but a red wine night cap, capped that idea- An ongoing theme to this blog, I mean aside from swimming. The excuses.

I've been telling myself 10 more minutes for 50 minutes, unwilling to open my eyes and face the world. I like where I am now, limbo. Not quite awake, not quite asleep, not connected to the rest of the world. Nothing to be done, just blanking out the things I don't want to think about. Until the rush of reality goes to the stomach, then head, eyes flicker. I really have stuff to do, like phone bt. Duvet goes back over the head.

I could just do the pilates DVD, yes that would relieve the guilt hole,compromise the conscience, still give me back some of the time I've wasted doing nothing in bed.

I get up make the jump, make the call. Which ends in a BT breakdown, call centre blues.

This is what I do for a living, and know that they hate talking to me as much as I hate talking to them. This doesn't ease the shame, I'm patronised, and know exactly what will be said about me when the phone goes down. It's like calling myself.

Undone by frustration & humiliation of a job badly executed by myself, all I can think that will put me together again, is to swim.

No pilates in leggings on a old tv for me. I need to swim, taste chlorine, ache my arms, feel my breath. Following instruction from a woman who never changes, won't stop the ridiculous upset about a conversation with a someone I'll never meet in person. Only the swim will do.
Grabbing the first cossie I can find (my lack of rinsing has made all but one of them dangerously nipple skimming) haven't eaten yet, not even a first cup of tea. Can't risk it.

Must swim, long for chlorine and mucky floors, wide lanes. Easy, annonymous lane rage.

Swim fast and furious on a empty stomach. Anger ebbing with every over thrown over arm. At around the 51st length the rational me returns, laugh at myself underwater and a find a plan to the rhythm of my strokes. Then tiny oblivion, not thinking, just swimming as if not quite asleep not quite awake. Trails of thought in an almost reality, a semi conscious state, just like the kind I couldn't leave this morning from under my duvet.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A trip to see the sea sometime in October

My heart is a little bruised, my ego a little torn. When I can't quite remember who I am, there's two things I tend to do more of;
Swim more. 
Drink more. 
It's the forgetting in both these things. The numbing down of conversation in my head. Of things that will never happen. It's drowning out the fantasies. It's flooding. It's finding tiny moments of oblivion. 

So I run to the sea. Like I should. 

To Kent. I didn't want to go to Brighton, my usual haunt for swimming, wanted an adventure, somewhere new. To get out of myself and out of London. Or even the clutches of it. (Brighton is after all, London on Sea). 
I didn't do my research particularly well, landed in a place where I expected buses to run from (because I live in London and that's how buses roll...) just a short jaunt down to the sea. Westonhanger. Or Westernhanger. But the bus stop is down a lane on a blustering road, miles from the sea. And the buses only come once an hour. I have 35 minutes to wait. This isn't London, I mutter to myself, and begin a conversation with myself into my phone. A poor attempt at creating something, words while waiting at a bus stop in Kent. 

No one knows I'm here. I told a few friends I was off to swim, but not specifically where that would be. I get in awe of my own comfort in solitude. I revel in my danger.

Atop a tall bus, I see the sea coming over the top of the hill, briefly. I don't exaggerate that my heart skips a beat. Closer to her. And her expanse. And the she disappears again. 
I can't find the sea when I first get there. Wound through the winding street, lined with charity after charity shop, purposefully twee tea rooms. And betting shops. 

Pop in a shoe shop just in case. A single shop assistant singing 'Search for the hero inside yourself' unashamedly to racks of cut price shoes. 
Go to buy some cigarettes, just to ask directions to the sea. Found myself, talking myself out of swimming. No camel lights, this is Kent. Next best thing. Benson & Hedges. Gold Box. I always want to smoke after I've swum in the sea.
'Er sorry, which way is the sea?'

 'Down the road, right, left'
(I wonder how far Birmingham is from the sea- Yahoo answers, the answers to everything. Barmouth. Barmouth. 3 hours away on a train.) 
Down marine walk. I walk. 
Over a bridge, over a canal. Can see it on the horizon, the lightening of the skyline. That specific kind of lighting in horizon when there's no land anymore, just water. 

Into shingles and pebbles. Long dead fish. Out in to depth. 
Blowing a wind. Hardly a soul. A old style ice cream van. And people parked up in cars. Over looking the sea. Melting ices. Into laps. Watching behind window screens. 
A stony beach with a deep drop down into a sea that no one is swimming in. Its choppy. Very choppy. I think I hear fireing down the way. Read something about a fireing range. See a kayak. In the distance. Close to a red flag. Should stay within distance of him. Put the blame on him. 
And I look at the waves. And no one swimming and I am scared. Currents pull at my toes and just a casual swim becomes a rescue. Discarded clothes on a beach. They look through my wallet. All there is, is my cash card, my only ID. My iphone, and no contact in case of emergency. Just a girl who has never been here before, floating away, bloated away by a quick dip, on the day after the sun went in on our strange indian summer. 
The sea is louder than I remember. In stupidity and youth and naivety of the sea, I would never be afraid of her waves. But watching her throw herself against a man made barrier, into  a certain direction, I let my fear get the better of me and cower on down to the next beach across a pile of rocks. In front of the ice cream van. Just for safety. I can see her current from here. 
But I'm not , not going in. I'm not, not having spent £23.40 on a train, waited 35 minutes for a bus in the middle of no where, not to wet my head. It is, by now the afternoon. 
I'm not worried for the cold. I'm worried at being swept away. 
I take my clothes off. Swim stuff underneath. 
Waves hit me at quite a pace. I take a breath, I dive under salt water, eyes can't see white foam, white salt and everything washes over me. Just for that second. That's always what I am looking for. A small obliteration, a slight smell of danger. As a wave hits you at force. She's not cold, just right, warm even, but it's her force that is the problem today, not the calm cold of Dover Harbour. 
I'm not a thrill seeker, really, I wish I was. I wish I was a surfer but can barley stand up on dry land. I want it all to wash over me. 
But there is just that moment, split second, breath intake, when you don't know if you will come out of the other side of that wave. 
And the sea lifts me up, off the ground, jumps me up. But I can't swim in these waves, I'm worried about the current. And I'm worried that I'm worried about the current. 
I spend 40 hour in there, ranting with the sea, my head somewhere else trying to wash away my thoughts. By dunking myself and ducking myself, over and over to exorcise the tap tap tap tap tap. Voices in my head. 
I swim in strokes for no more than 19, 20, strokes, afraid that she will take me off course. Too afraid to swim in her depths. 
A couple sit and watch me for a while on a bench. In front of the ice cream van. (It's popular that, people are driving to it just to get an ice cream on this windy october day). 
I show off a little, flick my mermaid tail, draw breath under water, swim in unseeable depth. They are not really watching me, just gazing as we do, out to the sun line. The horizon. 
They get bored of watching me not drown and leave. Blustering down the promenade. 

I don't want to get out I'm happy bobbing up and down for maybe an hour. I don't want to get out. But I'm getting the chills and I haven't eaten anything since some sort of late breakfast. Fish and Chips is, of course, what I'm planning. 
She lifts me up and crashes my foot down onto a rock on the bottom of the floor. But I can't feel pain when in her grips, too much salt and angry water. 

I remember reading a excerpt from a book (the Guardian weekend magazine I would imagine) An artist who lost his young wife to a wave. And he writes and he calculates about how long that wave was heading for his wife, that wave that broke her neck, began to break her back. How old that wave was and the energy that it carried. I think, like a bullet, I wonder if there is a wave with my name on. And I think that while swimming off the coast of Kent I probably shouldn't think like that. And the sea has become foreign to me, unknowable, unstoppable. Showing me up for my fables and my fallacies. 

I remember tumbling in warm waters in Australia, more than ten years ago now, no fear of giant waves as twice as tall as me, eating sand, being thrown at the floor, bikini bottoms filled weighed down, nearly lost. Never being afraid. Going in for more, only me and the boys, throwing ourselves into dangerous waters. Not knowing which way was up. I'm not that fearless now. I don't have that arrogance of youth, lack of awareness at my own mortality-stuff that happens to other people, that's just stories I'd shrug off. 

I stagger out, up pebbles and rocks, like a drunk with cold feet. Slowly, wrap myself in a towel, look as I should, out to sea. 
For a while. And wonder. If I just swam and swam and swam and swam. Until I couldn't swim anymore. 
And the panic that would rise up in my throat. This is not simply a wrong turning. A wrong street. A place to go back on yourself. It is only water, which ever way you look. Moving water. The same in each direction. And there is no way back on that decision. No sat nav, iphone turn around. Just you and what lies beneath and above and beyond. A fear, a want, a taste, for that to be the case. But with the support of boat and people with dry feet, and knowledge that there is an end in sight. 

And I come to the question:

Does the physical action of swimming calm me as much as the feel of the sea on my skin. Over my head, all around me. 
I'm running to the sea, like I do, like I think I should. When things end and I need a distraction. 
When I want to cover myself in cold and salty water, wash away. Take a breath. 

I'm actively jealous of those of truly love the sea, who are brought up by the coast, childhood in salt incrusted happiness. Who swim everyday. Without thinking. Whose fingers carry constantly ridged tips. Like the crest of waves. Like they come from the ocean.

The next day I went swimming in a pool without having washed the sea water away from me. Feeling the salt sliding from my skin. Out of the wild, the natural into the munciple swimming pool. Changing it into a fraction of the sea. Just for a moment. 

On Guilt

April. Last entry, April. Seven months ago.  A post which was a promise to update on what happened in between when I hadn't posted for ages before.


Guilt, a sinking feeling, a searching for excuses.

In brief: I got scared. I talked to actual channel swimmers. I got scared. I had someone look at my stroke. (I should probably start trying to kick my legs...) I got scared. I should have gone down to the channel swimmer's season over summer. I got scared.

In length:

I will probably have to give everything up.  Just swim for two years. Live, breath in water. On a costal town. With nothing, no one for company ...but this provoked in me the romantic side, alone by the sea, like a sailor, a runaway, a castaway, a poet. Not the reality in boredom and salt cracked bone ache, in a town whose only soul has been thrown to sea (I'm not specifically referencing Dover).

I continued to watch (through being part of the channel swimmmer's email list) people make it across to the other side. I saw the discussion and preparation and support and camaraderie. I got annoyed by David Walliams.

I got distracted, I got distracted by another project that went well (an obsession about a postcard -there's stuff about here) and wasn't about swimming, and I forgot. Well I didn't forget, it was always there sitting there somewhere nagging me. Dragging at me.

I took the show that was nothing to do with swimming to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in preparation I researched and I looked and I found out where the pools were near to me. I imagined getting up, early and walking to the pool, walking back, doing the show, staying slim, early nights, eating fruit , being healthy, not smoking.

I stayed up late, I drank too much, I smoked everyday, I mainly ate cheese sandwiches. Or burgers. And I swam once. In the sea. And only because my mum took me.

And when I was in the sea I tried to count my strokes, still swimming in the lengths of pools. Bite against the cold in a calm sea with mountains eiether side.  Swam to far, a little to far. And saw my mother undress with no humiliation on a windswept beach, while a family all clothed, head to foot pretended not to notice her unapologetic flesh.

But once I was in the sea. I didn't want to get out, it was only the promise of a proper hot meal that made me leave the salty waters.

People ask me how the swimming is going. I make high pitch dismissal sounds when anyone asks. I lie about it if they pushed me. I look at videos from those 7 months ago, when I was swimming, four at least four (oh OK not really more than four miles). I am envious of my slimmer outline and the confidence in my contours.

At this point I have forgiven myself, let myself swim a mile at a time, no more two mile swims, no more jogs, no more pilates DVD's.  Even a little swim is better than nothing.

I had a lot on. I tell myself insistently.

Instead I buy books about Whales and get distracted by mermaids and kelpies, seahorses and sharks. Thinking isn't doing. And now even they sit by the side of my bed or the bottom my bag weighed down with the guilt. Swim guilt. Project guilt. Fallacy guilt.

I had so much to write, so much to say in the time that has happened in between, but for now I'm going to start with recent memories, recent happenings, in the hope that I can begin to pin back together training, and researching and writing the story of the swim.