Having learnt how to swim some forty years ago, I’m finally getting round to the art of gracefully descending out of the splendour of the lovely lido.
I don’t think that I’m alone in falling out of the waters of Lake Brockwell after a bruising 6.7 degrees swim. One leg straddles the art deco surrounds; a hand is thrust forward to break the fall and then…
On my backside, numb from the temperature, but giggling insanely at how a cold-water swim can lead to such clumsiness.
I thought this outdoor swimming nonsense was supposed to be all about the beauty and aesthetics of embracing a natural approach to the daily dip?
Similar experiences were shared during the Sunday morning swim. I stand firm by my belief that the gents changing room at Brockwell is where all wisdom and free thought is conceived. Lambeth Council should hold Cabinet meetings in there. We’re all equal without our clothes on, Comrades.
It seems that the very personal routine tailored by the winter swimmer is not so personal after all. It starts with a high, and ends with a falling over as you try and leave the water.
A familiar pattern was shared with fellow lido swimmers:
The night before is spent in anguish as you realise the folly of what awaits when you wake up. The hardest challenge is to accept the following morning that YOU WILL swim. Once you have left the flat then half the battle is won.
You arrive at Lake Brockwell with all the enthusiasm first experienced some forty years ago when you ditched the rubber arm bands.
I WILL SWIM!
Even the dry diving is not really an issue. Why arse around for half an hour poking your big toe in the water, just to confirm that 6.7 degrees is a little on the silly side?
The first length is a complete head rush. Your heart is struggling to keep up with the extra flow needed to keep your body temperature at a reasonable level.
And then somehow as you make the first turnaround at the other end of the pool, it all becomes a breeze – and not the Brrrrr type of breeze, either.
Professional sports folk would call it ‘zoning out’, or some other twaddle. It’s nothing of the sort; you finally feel at ease with the whole anguish / resistance / achievement thing.
You are swimming.
It really is quite beautiful.
But then just as your mind gives you a timely reminder to your ‘zoned-out’ body that you really should call it quits, the physical side of the equation collapses.
And so do you at the other end of the lido, not quite sure as to how such a feeling of physical strength in the water can so rapidly be reduced to the most ungracious act. You are the swimming Samson, reliant upon the strength derived from a manhood that hasn’t become shrunk in the wash.
It’s like falling UP a flight of stairs whilst wearing a fancy dress costume. Never underestimate the comedy value of a middle-aged man wrapped in black rubber and wearing a pink swimming hat.
So yeah – I’m finally getting round to the art of gracefully descending out of the splendour of the lovely lido.
Or maybe I should never leave?