Some days wake you up with a bang. This week I walked to the pool for my usual early morning swim. It’s a chance to slowly wake up, walking down a long country road in darkness. It’s a melancholy business, especially in autumn, trudging through drifts of dead leaves, registering the hooting of a solitary owl as you pass the fields where old women will later unleash their dogs.
Today though was different. Today I was buffeted by wind, the tail end of Abigail, or Bertie or Clodagh or something. Britain has finally got round to naming its storms—like America. Think it’s cool. I can’t keep abreast of it. All I know I was being tossed this way and that along with trees doing some kind of hip-hop, and waking up much faster than I wanted.
Never mind. I consoled myself with visions of a lukewarm pool, where I could rediscover my Zen.
There is pain in getting up so early. It demands military precision. But it’s all worth it because apart from owls and the odd insomniac the pool is usually empty, crowded when numbers reach four or five. You can swim through half-closed eyes imagining yourself in your own private pool, on good days, swimming in a moon-lit lagoon.
Not today. The British Olympic swimming team were there. I’m exaggerating, but these were serious swimmers, thrashing the water to within an inch of its life. What the hell were they doing there at 6.30 am? Don’t they know this is MY private pool? MY Pacific lagoon?
I slipped in between them, all thoughts of lagoons swept away. This was more like the North Sea in a Force Nine Gale. I was being tossed this way and that. Great waves of chlorinated water slapped against me. Breathing air and not water became crucially strategic, survival hung on the moment. It was like being a poo-stick in a tsunami.
By God, I was awake when it finished. Never was forty lengths such hard work. Even when they’d gone it took some time for the water to settle. I gave them plenty of time in the showers. I needed silence and peace.
There is merit in the unexpected. Some people swear by it. And storms, the fraility of flesh against the elements. Wonderful stuff. Yes, I get that. But it was nice to be home afterwards with a strong cup of tea and no sugar.