This is my first ‘blog’ post and I want it to be about something that I like – swimming.
I was introduced to swimming, at a young age. My father used to take me and my siblings, to a local pool, every weekend. I was also a member of a swim club, at a young age. Now I am part of a swim club – a very local swim club, borne out of our need to be close and share experiences, whilst remaining at a social distance.
‘Lockdown’, as it was known, meant that we were all locked-down where we were, when ‘the music stopped’. Gyms were closed, pubs and clubs closed, however community and camaraderie, never died.
On the 25th of April, I received a message, from a friend, trying to goad me into sea swimming. Something that I love, but, normally, do not do until two months later. By 7th May, I was in the water.
Cold water shock is something that has been recommended, by mental health experts, as a tool that can be used to get yourself through the experience of enforced home-staying, during lockdown. However, with gyms, swimming pools and other sources of exercise, out of the question, so many of us, who had access to open water, simply found ourselves compelled to ‘dive-in’.
This was practiced at a social distance, however we needed others around to keep an eye on us and, though we were not close to each other, physically, the ritual of going into the water at the same time as other people, before gathering-up our clothes and scuttling back to our, respective, houses, created an unbeatable camaraderie.
At a time when it was difficult to know what day of the week it was, a WhatsApp group reminded us what time High Tide was, as well as what coloured bin went out each week.
In time a sub-group emerged, those that swam in their wetsuits. I took to swimming with them, as well as swimming alone, sometimes, as living next to the sea and owning a wetsuit, along with the right tide, can create spontaneity! The pure joy of being in the water, alone, on a sunny day, can be unbeatable. However, I remained loyal to the original cold-water swimmers, who went in with just their swimming costumes, each day.
This camaraderie, the sense of being separate, yet equal, along with the camaraderie built through my regular yoga classes, that I had switched to Zoom, upon lockdown – scrambling to get to grips with the technology and get the word out to regular Elie Yoga yogis – gave my lockdown meaning and structure. My structure became linked to the tides and celestial cycles, like phases of the moon and the sun’s daily and seasonal cycles.
Speaking to Elie Yoga practitioners, on Zoom, helped me build an understanding of their own particular experience of and attitudes towards, the crisis and the responses of the government, but swimming, as often as I could and the weather allowed, kept me in the moment, in the place and a sense of camaraderie.
I know that there were, very many, other swim clubs formed and, very many, other individuals who helped maintain their own sanity by open-water swimming, during The UK lockdown, I would love to hear from others and perhaps build a network, however, I will have to thank my friend for sending that first WhatsApp message and goading us all to carry-on swimming, through all this. We even, all, did a, very, early, morning dip, on Midsummer’s morning. I did another dip, later the same day. I am, now, on my 8th week, of open-water swimming, this year and it has, undoubtedly, been one of the best and – I hope, the most enduring things to come out of lockdown, for me personally.
If you come to Elie, this, or any other, summer, I would like you to experience it too.
Peace, love and open-water swimming.