I haven’t been in swimming for a while, since the Christmas Swim in fact. For a couple of years I was swimming at least two or three times a week all year around. I used to swim a lot with the group that have been swimming off Garrarus for years now. Somebody once told me once, without knowing I was part of this group, that there were a bunch of mad women who swam in the sea all winter and they looked exactly the same age now as when they started and that they must be witches. It’s true though, it keeps you young.
This morning I was feeling a bit old and I realised I needed to get back into this particular habit. I grabbed my gear and then looked out the window. It was all wet and grey and cold and the part of me that makes it hard to get out of bed and eats whole packets of biscuits in one go set up a whinge which I manfully ignored.
At Garrarus it was grey and rainy and deserted except for the Oystercatchers. There are often a lot of Choughs, those endangered rook-like birds with red beaks and feet, along the cliffs but the rain must have grounded them. The only time I ever saw an otter was here when I spotted one running up the beach like a cat. Sometimes seals swim in to look at the swimmers but though I kept my eye out for the regular~called Garry by some~I didn’t see him.
I got to the swimming place, half way down. Theres a little cave that you can use as a changing cubicle if you wish. The gravel can be hard on the feet so I wore my Uggs to the edge and took then off and waded in.
It usually takes me a few minutes to get down. When the sea reaches the “fanny line” then the worst pain is over and there’s no point staying upright anymore. I plunge in. The cold hits my chest and takes any speech away though I do end up emitting involuntary noises. Some of the ladies I swim with start singing as a way of utilising their shrieks.
I think I am not going to be able to stay in for a hundred strokes which is a goal when its very cold but in truth the worst is over and once the numbness sets in staying in is no great hardship. Really. And when I get out, slapping water on my face, all I can feel is gratitude that I ignored the whinging stay-at-home voice and came out and did this. As I rediscover every time, a swim can transform a cold grey day unwelcoming day into something extraordinary.
Getting out and walking up the beach is easy now, the air doesn’t feel as cold as before. Sometimes staying in too long makes the cold linger horribly hours but when you get it just right after a swim like this your body just sings and buzzes with energy for the rest of the day.