Swimming a reflection

I was thinking today how often do we  take off our clothes and enter a bath with another person? Perhaps in the first flush of a relationship. possible as an experiment

The problem is that with a standard bath, facing one another, someone always has to have the tap end and the taps poking in one’s back is neither comfortable nor romantic.  Alternatively one can sit behind the other, in which case legs get squashed against the sides of the bath and one is forced to communicate with the back of the head of the person in front.

No, I have concluded that sharing a bath is best left to the writers of romantic and erotic fiction, envisioned but not actually practised in reality.

If sharing a bath with a beloved seems strange, how much stranger is it to share a bath with anyone less familiar. The first time I tried a hot tub was at a friend’s house. In my swimming costume I clambered in somewhat ungainly and settled into a dip in the seating at one end of the appliance. Then what does one talk about staring at three other adults lying in what is in effect a large warm bath with bubbles. Drinking the wine was nice as was watching the stars emerge and the bats come out from their diurnal sleep.  However, it had a decided awkward feel to it. The chilly descent from the warmth of the enveloping water was another disadvantage.

Despite this, for three or four times a week, I remove all my clothes and squeeze myself into unforgiving lycra before climbing into a huge bath with complete strangers all similarly clad. Many of them, would not even recognise me with my clothes on.

Once there I make rhythmical movements for forty five minutes to an hour, before clambering out and walking very stiffly to get a shower. I have carried out this activity for over four years.

Stripped of our clothes, our visible signs of status, jewellry, cars, etc. we are forced to interact on a more intimate level. The level of prejudgement is reduced because there is much less artifice, we are almost literally naked. Strange, that taking away our clothes, should make us more homogenous rather than distinct. After all one human body is pretty similar to another one.

Abandoning our  major materialistic compasses, we clutch at tiny details, the designer swimwear, the mirrored goggles, the blue-tooth device, the fitness monitor, the water bottle to make our assessments of wealth, power, lifestyle and status.

In this unreal state, the most visceral differences are apparent to all, we are male and female, fat or thin, fit or unfit, black, white, asian, old and young. Our physical disabilities, our scars, our tattoos are clearly visible, and, despite the obvious efforts of some swimmers, their lack of muscle tone is obvious.

Why do I indulge in such an embarrassing display?

The play of light on water constantly changing and reflecting bouncing from the windows and creating moving images on the bottom of the pool is both immensely soothing and beautiful. The feel of water, the splash the spray, the wave is always the same, yet forever new. The sound as I slice through the surface and the echoing  quality of the sound in the high space has its own charm. The feeling of being free, untrammelled by gravity, able to move in any direction with fluidity is enthralling.

Finally, while I swim, my mind roams as free as my body.

People often ask me how many lengths I do. I used to count them, but then I would compete against myself. Too much of my life is taken up with targets. I want my mind to drift in and out of all subjects, just as my body drifts. There are no limits to my thoughts and my imagination, as I plough up and down the lengths of the pool.

If I miss a week I get  grumpy, crotchety and irritable unable to settle to things. It exercises my body and soothes my mind at the same time  It provides a space between the world of work and the world of home.  A kind of cleansing from the grime of interaction with people and ideas alien to my world-view.

I am glad I took the time to reflect and analyse, on why I love this activity so much and how strange and unreal it is. I hope you find it a little insightful

As my friends have started to call me since I sent them pieces of poetry.

The intellectual stalker


Late summer Happy Birthday

I was struck today at how subtle this time of year is. Spring arrives with huge changes, plants spring back into growth and flowers emerge. Insects start to emerge from hibernation and the sun finally warms the back of one’s neck. This time of year the signs are less obvious and only noticed by those who observe.

A couple of days ago I saw four swifts circling and screaming in the evening sunshine the first ones I had seen for two weeks. When we crossed the channel at the beginning of the month groups of swallows were also crossing alongside the ferry. Untroubled by the political turmoil surrounding immigration.  This is the one of the first markers of impending autumn. The swallows are massing, chattering on the wires. Terns and non breeding migrants start to return south in dribs and drabs. In woodlands the songs of territory and breeding are gone replaced by contact calls and mixed flocks of warblers and finches. In the garden late emerging butterflies gather on the buddleia. Whilst bees frantically search for nectar and pollen.

The mornings are cooler now as dusk falls before eight pm. Showers and fluffy clouds chase each other across the sky. As I walk, the fields are stubble, sometimes a cloud of dust and chaff indicates a combine harvester clearing a late field of wheat. Most of the summer flowers are over and most wild plants are seeding.  The brambles are laden with blackberries and here and there small groups of people gather them a late summer ritual.  I walked long the Nutbrook trail yesterday and filled an ice cream container.

In my greenhouse, spiders weave thousands of webs across anywhere they can access.

In the evening clouds of gnats fly mournfully as cool breezes stir the willows by the river whilst terns call overhead.

And you one of my dearest friends- In this liminal time of subtle change and metamorphoses you were born.

How apt that you came into the world with the gentlest time of change, when everything was bearing fruit and ripening. The descriptors of the season so completely match your personality.

After a certain age one does not need more stuff, one’s house being stuffed with possessions. Nor does one relish sweet things as much, conscious of the inches on the waist, but this note marking your anniversary I thought you would enjoy.

Happy Birthday