Splosh

12Jul13

You know the way occasionally you read a book, watch a telly programme or have a really interesting conversation that stays with you? For me, Roger Deakin is that life-changer. His book, Waterlog, read in the chill of this year’s painfully long winter and spring, inspired me to try more wild swimming. We used to do it when I was little, though we just called it swimming in those days. My enthusiasm has carried me through Tooting Lido, to the extent that I even go before work these days, and now I am seeking out the open water: all those lakes and rivers that have shaken off their reputation for healthful abandon and been rebranded as unimaginably dangerous over the last 20 years. Roger’s having none of it, and sought out those often neglected but still loved spots that have been splashed about in for centuries.

After Roger, my first stop was Hampstead Ponds, which I had to myself a few weeks back. I’d been invited to a birthday a picnic and swimming party but arrived so horribly late the weather had time to change from chilly drizzle to one of those golden inter-war Betjeman late afternoons. Everyone else had either already been in or lost faith, so it was left to the moorhens and me.

So smitten was I by that experience that my father was next in the crosshairs, last weekend in Wiltshire. Sensing his enthusiasm – never deeply rooted when it comes to cold water – was barely engaged, I suggested we incorporate a swim with walking the dog. That was when he started saying things like ‘very far downstream’, ‘a lot of livestock’ and ‘no. Just no.’ Once it became clear that I wasn’t six any more and could swim unaided and therefore didn’t expect him to get in as well, he changed his tune to hearty endorsement. It was so glorious I’ve run out of words. We even saw a kingfisher. Sigh. At the time we regretted not bringing a camera, but on balance, posterity is probably better off.

Next week, in this peculiar run of hot weather, I have been invited to go with some colleagues to try the Serpentine at lunchtime. Yes! Yes please! Though my manager may have to clip me onto a tow-rope. I’ve seen the Serpentine, and if the choice on a sunny day is between floating under a blue sky and hurrying back to a computer monitor, she’s going to have to pull me to shore by force.

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