Another week without the computer has brought me to a bit of a stand still or a swim still.(obviously I don't actually need a computer to swim) I swam once last week, nearly a week ago, tuesday morning, no goggles. I tried to talk myself out of it, just 100 lengths, you've forgotten your goggles, your really tired, you've got stuff to do. I did the two miles, begrudgingly, my eyes stinging like I would cry blood. I left the pool with them swollen, fine red veins spreading through my whites. That day everything was blurred like I was still underwater. The skin around my eyes stung for two days. No more swimming without googles.
Aside from this- I've been reading stories about channel swimmers-reading about the fat burning off, the fat moving around to cover your kidneys for protection. This is mainly gleaned from an article about a man that used to be in Neighbours- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2160968.stm. Another reality check, another reason to realise that all this is, is me just saying I will do it. There's no proof.
Distractions from other projects kept me busy last week but every time I went into the studio at Camden People's Theatre, to make some work about swimming the channel- I didn't know what I was doing-felt like I was stealing other people's stories and thunder and seriousness about it.
This is an extreme sport. You have to bit fit enough. This is no walk in the park.
Floating in front of me as I think about it. I've got a number for a man who swam the channel last year, signed up to the channel swimmers group online. But here I am standing in a windowless room with a lot of salt and paddling pool with a hole in it. (more about that at starting blocks blog).
Are you really going to do it?-In the group meeting at Camden People's Theatre on Friday-someone asked how important it was that I actually tried to do it. Determination clicked in. Very. I have to do it-even though it's churning my stomach. And seems so far away. It isn't.
So I started trying to imagine what it would really be like, what, instead of indulging myself in the glamour and reaction of saying to people-my party, does it really mean to be standing on the shore of Dover.
I also started scaring myself with lists of people that have died swimming The Channel. I'm just telling myself ghost stories. Stolen bits from other people's accounts.
Sometime in September 2012, around 4 or 5 in the morning
So this is where I am now. I'm standing on the beach with my toes in wet sand looking out to sea. It's dark, early in the morning, there's no sun on the horizon. I'm shivering underneath layers of vaseline, and I've not even started to make my way ungracefully across the pebbles to the water's edge. To dip my toe in. Behind me people wrapped up warm against a september wind, whoop and shout encouraging things, glad to be part of it, but not be me. Up in front the boat anchored out to water. Bobbing on a wave. The swim cap feels too tight on my head. My goggles feel too small. And I know I'm going to let myself drown. Down. There's a whisper from the side, gaggle of proper swimmers. Knowing. Prepared. Muscalar. Easy to succseed. I'm not the only one that is going in tonight. I'm swimming in footsteps.
And I'm stepping in to water, wasted money, false promises, false bravado. I wish I was doing it alone. I wish it really was like that Victoria Wood sketch, where she runs into the sea, alone, never to be seen again, with just a bag of sandwiches. And it's funny, and it's sad because her parents don't really notice, they say that she's like that, always going off on her own. And I'd find this easier, if people weren't watching me. If it was just me and her. Me and the sea. I wish it was less staged, more off the cuff, on the spur, a call from her to me. Like Reggie Perring (the leonard rossiter one, not the Martin Clunes one). That I could just let her envelope me. Like Ted May. The first man to die swimming the channel. Through a point to prove. A score settled.
And yet there is something terribly romantic about being lost at sea. We lost her to a wave. A wave crashed over her. She was taken by the sea. You are lost at sea, never quite dead, never quite alive, part of the myths, part of ghosts and monsters and legends and legless women. Taken by the sea. Sleeping with the fishes. Your soul is hers, forever swimming, aching for air, somewhere in euphoria. But your body is scratched in salt and thrown up some where on the coast for a dog walker to find, or a child to see. Swollon and battered, bloated and bleached. A lot the channel swimmers literature writes in challenges, in fights between the swimmer and the sea. I've seen the pictures, the films, I know about the girl a year younger than me that was lost beneath the waves. A women is no match for the sea. When I was younger I used to whisper to my then boyfriend with all the dramatic solemnity of teenager with no thoughts of the future.
'I've always known I'll die drowning...'
For the first time in my life I'm scared of her. I've always been cautious, knew when to test the water, and when to push her too far. But now she feels like competion not a compatriot. A sea stand off. I can feel her jeering at me, go further, go colder, be braver. Test your depths.
And I try to imagine how I'd feel out in depth. That's what I want, just horizons.
Back to the pool it is then.