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23/10/2016 by Carl Reynolds

For the past few weeks I’ve been here and there for work. A few years ago, in the throes of initiate idiocy, I’d have scoured the net for places to swim within a short walk of my hotel and immersed myself in some boiling, chlorine pit for a hour; or considerably less time, if I let my Zen like self be distracted by one of the following – lack of lane etiquette; others swimming ability; personal swimming ability; displeasure in sharing a small space; municipal filth; or general personal angst. These days I don’t bother. But I do like a good swimming location. In Fife a few Saturdays ago I hooked up briefly with the Fife Wild Swimmers to swim at Pettycur Beach in the Firth of Forth. I say briefly because, after a beach side chat, they stayed in considerably longer than I either wanted or could have stayed in for. A few hundred miles North and East makes for a much colder sea. I could sense my legs going numb as I walked in and a few hundred metres later the sight of a large purple Lion’s Mane did nothing for my continued desire to stay wet. Especially when my hosts had promised me a fry up with potato bread and haggis. Get outta the water. But a lovely place to swim; and as always the locals were dead friendly.

And then Dublin. The Forty Foot is an ancient swimming place on the outskirts of Dublin. Once a male only reserve, it now embraces all sexes in its convoluted and many laddered concreteness, in the midst of multi-million quid houses for the wealthy of the capital. But to Anna and Catherine, my hosts, a chance to immerse in the briny. To see the sun come up. To share delighted grins with all the other swimmers bobbing around or stroking out. To shiver and shake as an easterly wind strips the heat off you. And to find the smallest thing ridiculously funny.

And back to Brixham. My swimming paradise on the edge of an increasingly edgy England. A place detaching itself from its neighbours and friends in pique and ignorance. But still with some mighty fine swimming spots. Mrs Ape and I decamp to Churston; bump into kayakers various in for a swim; chat to ramblers and pick another sack of crap off the beach.

To be blessed with such social and environmental riches is a privilege; to understand why many of my species don’t get it, is a lifetime’s work. The struggle continues.


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