No Fool like a Cold Fool

ONLY a fool swims in the sea on a grey and windy morning like this. Yesterday the water was calm and clear; now it’s rough and sullen, surging over rocks in the shallows. Apart from a handful of tourists, snapping pictures before retreating to their bus, I’m the only one on the beach. The only one taking clothes off, hoping they won’t get blown away, instead of finding more clothes to put on – which is what the weather dictates. I’m the fool on the sand.

What kind of fool am I? The kind who glances at the diary in the evening so as to decide if I can squeeze in a swim the next morning. Better to do that than wake up and find reasons not to swim: too lazy; too cold; too little time. I’m lucky: the beach isn’t far away. And the beach, unlike a pool, is different every day. Which is part of the fun.

Alan AttwoodCredit:Eddie Jim

One thing I’ve learnt – useful knowledge on a morning like this – is that the water always feels calmer than it looks when you’re in it. So, having wedged down my rolled-up bundle of clothes with a pair of shoes, I get in. Paying little attention to the waves and the spray and some light rain that has started to fall, meaning there is moisture every which way.

I’m good at finding positives. Because of the chilly breeze it’s actually warmer in the water. And it’s reasonably clear, which means I can see the bottom and try to stay on course out to a post – a boating marker – that has been my target for years. Yet I still couldn’t tell you how far away it is, or how long it takes. All depends on the conditions. Halfway out, a wave breaks over me, knocking goggles askew. I turn this into another positive: I’ll have wave-assistance on my way back in.

I take a brief time-out at the post, flipping over like an otter to enjoy the movement of the sea. A pool never feels so alive. Nor do I. Heading for shore again, hoping not to gulp water instead of air, I can feel a current tugging me sideways. To go straight, I have to swim at a tangent. Perhaps that’s another metaphor. Closer in, I can just make out my little pile of stuff where I’d left it (always a relief) but I keep swimming until my fingertips scrape sand. Then I’m out. Back into the breeze, colder than before, and the rain, now more insistent. I will get wet as I attempt to get dry. Only a fool would do this. And you know what? I’ll do it all again.

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