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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Friday, 27 December 2013

Walking. An alternative?

 Swimming for me is not head-up breast-stroke but head-submerged crawl. Air snatched in during a brief twist of the head; used air bubbled out into the water. Power generated by windmilling arms and flicking legs. Initially crawl is difficult to co-ordinate (especially the breathing) and exhausting to maintain. Once learned it is graceful, powerful and efficient. One is never tempted to resume breast-stroke.

To enjoy crawl’s benefits it makes sense to create targets. Before I had to give up pool swimming I did a mile twice a week. During holidays on Karpathos I swam a mile from Diafani to the beach at Vananda. I’d sit for fifteen minutes then swim back. The best exercise for an ageing body like mine.

I cheated a bit. There was more to see in the water and I used a snorkel, mask and flippers. But this was more than just snorkelling. Walking the (admittedly twisty) coast road to Vananda took about half an hour. I could swim it in forty-five minutes.

Sea swimming, as I say, has its own entertainments. Long distance pool swimming can be mindless but there are diversions. Mental arithmetic calculations about what’s done and what remains often emerge automatically.

I’m rotten at sun-bathing.  

WIP Second Hand (52,851 words)
They’d just emerged from The Vanishing… (which) had disturbed them both. Just look at me, Francine begged silently, let me catch your eye, let me throw out a signal, a gesture. Let us decide – sideways if you like -  what needs to be said, pick words we’ll agree on and that will comfort us.

But in the end he did better… slipping his arm round her waist and drawing her to him. “It’s not the movie, it’s the idea we can’t get on with.”


Lucy said...

Swim swam swum.

I can't say I was ever an athletic swimmer, but you remind me that I was for a while in my teens quite a compulsive 'wild' swimmer. My mum learned to swim in the sea in Brighton and always reminded me that no kind of pool swimming compared to the outdoors; when I first learned to swim, quite late by today's standards, at about ten, I spent as much of my summer holiday in the sea in Cornwall. At about the same time I learned really to appreciate tea, you could buy a good tray of it with a pot and all at the café at the top of the beach, and I can remember glugging it back after hours in the water and nothing tasted so good.

Then a bit later I became rather taken with fresh water swimming: I swam under Aysgarth Falls when you still could, and in sundry other locations in the Yorkshire Dales, where, astonishingly, my parents allowed me to wander off and explore entirely alone at about thirteen with my swimming things; pretty pools in the foothills of Dartmoor - this with my sister and her kids, and in my underwear as I had no swimming things (I was young and didn't give a stuff about stripping off wet underwear and pulling my clothes on and going home without it, TMI maybe...); and at least once I swam round the entire meander at Cuckmere Haven, as immortalised by Eric Ravilious. The last was more brackish than fresh, and I wasn't too happy about what I might be walking on on the river bed, but it had to be done.

I have to say much as I enjoyed the blueness of the sea in Greece, the jellyfish always bothered me somewhat.

I've swum in the sea more here in the last year than ever before, and perhaps one of my new year things (I hesitate to use the r-word) will be to try to do so more during the next one. I've still got admission tickets to the local swimming pool from yonks ago which I might try to use up too.

Joe Hyam said...

Swimming is for me a sensual pleasure. Speed and endurance are immaterial. I love the texture and smell of the sea, the softness of a lake where I once swam, the process of gliding through the water.

Walking? Likewise. Above all there is the pleasure of stopping and looking. That's quite apart from the the rhythm of movement as you get under way up a track in the Lake District for example. But I know that as a climber you would be yearning (as you do as a proper swimmer for the uninterrupted crawl) for the rock face.

mike M said...

Side stroke has always been my favorite. Big pull, huge scissor kick, long glide. My first swimming lesson was at about age 7. The instructor forced my head under water, and I immediately ran from the pool. I paddled inefficiently for a while, then somewhere picked up side-stroke. I didn't really learn to relax in the water until I took a swimming course to insure passage of a swim test requisite for college graduation. The first lesson there was floating....that one's face will remain above the surface if it is only allowed to. Brilliant.

Rouchswalwe said...

When it comes to water, I must admit I'm a fan of Japanese hot springs.

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy: I applaud your spirit of exploration. If one must become the marine equivalent of a Wandervogel (A Wanderfisch I suppose) then risk must be courted in other ways. Aysgarth Falls, forsooth. And to do "a meander" (worrying nevertheless about the squishiness beneath), clearly you've gone your own way and left trails of individuality. To hell with the Cote d'Azur - sand is a very dull sort of terrain to over-swim. Brittany's rocks, on the other hand are an aesthetic delight providing also a hint of danger. I take it you no longer do all this in your nicks; persuade Tom to buy you a Speedo; the body-clinging fabric promotes good hydrodynamics and enhances the moment when you return to land and step up among the wavelets - a veritable naiad (A line from Out of Arizona, as I'm sure your remember).

Joes: I fear we belong to different camps. Yours is the Ruskin school since R deplored men using mountains "as greasy poles"; mine is the AF Mummery school who did just that and put up several first ascents among the Chamonix aiguilles including the eponymous Mummery Crack on the Aiguille du Grepon. It's just that the medium has changed. Having learned crawl properly I find myself equipped with with a weapon rather than a means of locomotion. I must batter it against something and the stopwatch seems the best choice.

MikeM: I swam my first mile (72 lengths) in the pool at my much hated school. On that occasion I did every stroke possible, including (as a way of recovering from exhaustion) floating. Dog-paddle predominated and I'm not knocking it, it's a non-fatiguing way of getting along. But the first time I managed a mile that was all crawl, I experienced a curious fizzing sensation, seemingly in my bloodstream. I asked VR about this and she said "It's the endorphins." Drugs withour wasting away the body. Bear it in mind, blog-brother.

RW (zS): I am burying my face, sharpening the long sword. You can't imagine for a moment that the Rhinemaidens took such a pusillanimous outlook. Be a mensch, my dear, your roots are in Rhine country. You were born to glide.

mike M said...

I've pedaled to hormonal Nirvana many times....afraid to get that enraptured in such a lethal medium, but all you goers have me contemplating my aquatic heritage.

Blonde Two said...

One Blonde loves swimming but hates river crossings. Another Blonde is happy leaping rivers but doesn't like driving through large puddles.

Both managed a wild swim on Dartmoor this year - Crazy Well Pool. Deep but very welcome on a hot July day.

Roderick Robinson said...

MikeM: Pedalling was a youthful enthusiasm I've tended to ignore in Tone Deaf. Stints of 100 miles between youth hostels - time I resurrected some of that.

B2: A wild swim! Once I waded out into Goats Water on a hot day. Only ankle deep but the sensation was that of having had both feet amputated under deep anaesthetic.

During one of the physical excesses imposed on me by the Outward Bound Mountain School I was denied use of a bridge and forced to wade - belly high - through a river. A useful lesson. When it's raining in the Lake District 100% wetness is quickly achieved; beyond that one cannot be wetter. No need, therefore, to look for a bridge. I sympathise with the Blondes' self-expression re. water; it is not our natural habitat and it can, as MikeM mentions, be lethal. Caution is forgivable, even with puddles. Think aquaplaning.