Back on dry land


Oh dear God that was DISGUSTING. Eurgh, eurgh, hose me down, dunk me in chlorine and pump me full of antibiotics. EURGH!

OK, the open-air swimming hasn’t been entirely holed below the water line, but it’s certainly lost some of its sheen – tarnished in the murk of the Serpentine.

Perhaps I’m being unfair: expectations were extremely high; the weather has been very hot and dry for a couple of weeks; and who’s to say that other bathing holes aren’t just as grim at the moment? Oh, but dear, dear God. It was jocularity alone that me wonder aloud to a swim chum whether the dry spell would turn the water a bit Ancient Mariner, ‘and slimy things did crawl with legs upon the slimy sea’. Unsettlingly near the mark, was that sally.

So off we went from the office, three larky colleagues and a couple of swimming enthusiast friends, all newbies, in a black cab to the lakeside. The stuff that wasn’t the bank – calling it water is a stretch – was like soup. Thick, slimy, warm, full of weed, algae and what was almost worse, feathers. Even the locals were squirming: ‘I’ve been coming here three years and I’ve never seen it this bad,’ said one wetsuited man to his equally cling-filmed friend. Yeah? I thought sourly, mouth shut tight. Try it raw-skinned.

Well, we duly swam up and down for a bit and then sprinkled ourselves at the barely adequate (see above) bankside shower in front of the sun-flattened masses before repairing to the changing rooms. Oh my lord, wait until you see what your cozzie has sieved out of the water. It was like one of those harbour dredgers. We were coated in green gunge, and with only one shower between us and another 25 or so gloop-strugglers we just had to scrape off the worst with lavvy roll and head back to the office.

Did you know that the 2012 Olympic swimmers who competed in the Serpentine were made to drink Coke? Prophylaxis, apparently, against the various ailments they could have picked up from the water. I heard that story twice within an hour on Tuesday. So having got back to the office, drunk a can of Coke and rinsed three sinkfuls of what looked like Crème de Menthe out of my swimsuit, I then turned to Googling ‘diseases, water, swimming, UK’ and fingering my glands thoughtfully.

It won’t be a tummy bug now, but I’m comfortably within range of Weil’s disease. Symptoms appear within three to 21 days. Tomorrow lunchtime marks the start of day three. Oh goody.


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