Sunday, 30 January 2011

No Swim Week/ No Goggles Swim

After nearly two weeks of no blog (well I have been in a sense but it's been in a notebook and pen in my bag, which for obvious reasons isn't publicly accessible) this is a big one, so I have decided to break it up into chapter type headings for easy reading. 

1.  Tuesday:-No Swim Week 
The beggining of the week has started with a concern as to when I would be able to swim next.  A slightly lost weekend had left me feeling empty and slightly removed from what I'm doing.  Because I am busy rehearsing Promising To Swim The Channel at Pilot Nights, Warwick Arts Centre tonight, (  I know , with some sense of irony, that I wouldn't be able to actually swim until Friday morning.  (The performance sees me demonstrate my best stroke with the aid of a few stools, some Vaseline, some salt, a stopwatch and a bowl of water-not really counting as swimming in my training regime but as good as it gets on dry land)

This frustration indicates a shift in how I feel about swimming- it has become less a compulsion to swim and more of need. I also feel a bit of a charlatan performing promising to Swim The Channel when I haven't had a swim for a week. On a day that I swim, I sleep and wake without remembering falling asleep, I'm easily up and enjoy the ache in my arm muscles (it lets me know I've been using them-a pleasant surprise for someone who in the past has avoided physical excersice). The nights that follow the days that I haven't swum, I'm not even sure that I sleep. The thoughts that I usually thrash out in swimming become half dreams and turning in the night. I try and cook up plans for swimming in Warwick (where the show is-I could swim in the university campus?) in Watford (where my mum lives and I am staying on the Wednesday evening?), but none of them work logistically.

I do like the idea of always having my swim suit with me ready to take to the pool (like superman but without saving anyone, or fighting crime, or anything useful, apart from being able to swim. Also constantly wearing a costume under my clothes is probably going to cause some sort of yeast infection eventually-but what's an infection in the name of art? Super Swimmer-I will swim, anytime, anywhere). There is something to this, though, like always having a mint, or a clean pair of pants, or a toothbrush, or a pen in my handbag. Always have a swimming costume or a towel, always ready to swim...

But I know that I cannot swim until Friday, and I feel a frustration ongoing murmuring in my head, a tendency to snap (usually at inanimate objects or unsuspecting, but rude, train attendants) , and surprising physical urge to move, to run, to walk. 

I spend the day mainly on my own, sticking my head in a bucket of water in a glass windowed conference room at Warwick arts centre- there is something deliciously risqué about taking my clothes off and rehearsing in a space that's not really for rehearsal, while have naked (there were curtains, I did close them). And there is this similarity ,for me,  in swimming and rehearsing. The solitary feeling when I have only me and my head for company, pushing myself to do something because I have to, because I should, when I'm really looking at the lovely big sofa's and wondering if I shouldn't just take a nap (that lost weekend creeping up on me).    

It's a good audience, as it always is at Pilot, big, responsive, communicative and mixed. I get asked afterwards if I am really going to swim the channel or if it's just a path to performance. 'Oh yeah' I say with the same determination I usually answer this question with, when, for the first time, I doubt myself and 2012 doesn't really seem that far away. And I remember hearing that people were booking up to swim in 2014. And I haven't booked anything. Or really begun to understand what it entails.  And it's all beginning to feel like a fallacy, my own myth creation. The person that asks likes the idea that perhaps I'm not really going to do it and that's the whole point. I think I'm more afraid of not doing it.  

I have also just promised to pay around 130 people £1 each if I don't attempt to swim the channel in September 2012 (it's part of the performance, a contract). If I carry on, it's going to be cheaper for me just to swim the channel. 

2. Friday:-No Goggles Swim

Left Bicep: 31.2 cm 
Right Bicep: 32 cm
Back: 106.5 cm  (a worrying slight decrease, it would seem) 
Song in head*: 'New England' by Billy Bragg / 'Dreams' by Gabrielle 

* An addition to the statistics is the song that happens to be going around my head at the time of swimming-I meant to start this last week after spending the majority of my swim with 'The Going Get's Tough' (Billy Ocean version, not, I hasten to add the Boyzone cover) so it seems to be once again about the Billy's as as New England went around my head-though really only two lines from it. Over and over again. It took me until about the 54th length to even consciously realise that Billy Brag was the theme tune to my swim. Which sporadically would morph into 'Dreams' by Gabrielle-try it, it's an easy switch 'I don't wanna change the world, I'm not making plans for tomorrow, just stay for tonight, put your arms around me...etc etc.. 

It has been a long week and when my alarm goes off at 7am, I'm so tired I want to cry. The open expanse of my 13.5 tog duvet beckons with excuses of 'it's has been a long week' 'you deserve a lie in' 'you can swim harder another day' which I very nearly succumb to sinking back into. But I've my swimming costume on, to the point of no return and like a girdle it holds me in a grip of guilt. I put on a hoodie that feels like a hug and take the 7 minute walk, 8 minute train journey, 4 minute walk to the pool. I really don't want to do this (this does seem to be a running theme of my morning swims, I'm waiting for it to get better.) 

As I push off the water slides around me, and I relish that moment of gliding, when its not your body that's propelling you forward but that moment of impact from the wall behind and it's like flying, and I feel graceful. A rare occurrence outside water. A surprise good beginning on a day when my arms ached with lethargy. 

Usually the first 10 lengths kill me. Actually the first 30. And the voice in my head says, you've got 100 more to do or quadruple what you've done,  to reach those two miles. But in unfathomable turn up, the water today is on my side. (I feel this sometimes, a ridiculous notion that should not really be applied to recycled, chlorinated stretches of water filled with the skin cells of other people, more relevant to those open out door stretches of water if I'm going to get romantic about it.) 

I've forgotten my goggles, and I wonder if that's the reason. Fellow swimmers are smudged shadows, flashes of skin, water colours. They don't really feel solid. And it's a lot nicer than looking up the crotch of some too tight shorts up ahead. I notice the high pitch murmuring in the water, and fantasise about swimming pool mermaids for a moment. 

It's quiet today, I am only sharing the wide lane with two men.  A man in a pink swim cap and a man in a yellow one. Sometimes they take turns to over take me, Mr Pink, is clearly the faster swimmer, but I sometimes get the better of Mr Yellow. What I notice about the male swimmer is that (with the exception of the man machine from a previous post) there tends to be a pull towards swimming the fastest they possibly can, causing a great splash, for maybe two lengths only to sink into the end pose of a Danny Dyer influenced arm stretch legs apart seat at the end of the pool. And they rest...they are not in it for the long haul, but the speed. (Of course this is not true of every man, but there is certainly a pattern in this). Women (outside of women only) tend to be in it for the distance, rarely a stop, rest technique to be seen there. 

I don't do 2 miles, I stop at 100 lengths, as I feel I could go on. And I'm planning on trying a three mile swim on Sunday morning (at the risk of thrill seekers, and non serious weekend swimmers). It was a good swim, an able swim, an enjoyable swim that swept away a slight unsettled feeling that had sat beside me through the week.  And I no longer felt the pull of tiredness. 

On the train on the way home I pick up the metro-
The metro 60 second interview today is Rosamund Pike (Blond, Pretty, intelligent) and they ask her:

I hear you're a fan of skinny dipping. Is that right?
I'm a fan of water in general. I can't go past a lake or a piece of water without getting into it. I'm not a nudist or an exhibitionist but if I haven't got a bikini, I'll go in without a bikini.

Note that the link is even sold on 'love a spot of skinny dipping'-she is a good looking girl. Of course, that's not why it caught my eye she's a 'super swimmer'-can't go past water without getting into it. Like I claim. Like I should be.

While I'm on the subject of news stories Redditch Council are thinking of using a local crematorium to heat the public swimming pool. A response from a friend was 'when you go (as in die) that's where you should go'.  


  1. Don't know if this is a stupid question, but which way does one customarily swim the channel? And do you think A New England works better as a soundtrack when you're swimming away from the old one...

  2. Not a stupid question at all-opens up a whole kettle of fish (!) the first man swam it from Dover to Calais but in the 20's it was more common to swim it from Calais to Dover (as I think it was considered easier because of the tides, and stuff like that) but the French banned channel swimming from their side about 18 years ago because of concerns about safety, so really you can only do it from Dover. However there are talks about banning it completely....(Mainly David Walliams fault)
    But I like the idea of France being a New England to swim too...Just looking for another country....

  3. I'm not sure France would like the idea of being a 'new England'....

    I think you're very right about your gender observations - women tend to be the tortoise while men lean towards being the hare...