This morning I headed on my new bike to the ladies pond for two adventures in one. Only to find that it was iced over and that the ‘churning’ machines were not working.
We have a rare invitation to the Men’s pond.
This gets us talking in our bikini clad stately glide in 4 degree water round the spanking diving board.
How does this feel different to the Ladies only pond?
With our eyes – the obvious thing is that it is lighter and much more open.
With our souls the thing is that this occupation for women is described as ‘mad’ whereas for men its thought of as ‘adventurous’ – hence they have a diving board and we don’t. Or maybe they just asked.
What could we have done with our lives if we had been men? And what could they have done if they had been us?
The question is – which men? These quiet, self contained – surprisingly adventurous men in their changing yard adjacent to ours?
They could have had children – more children if they had wanted.
We could have been more self contained, less eager to please. We could have made a better society, been listened to, been more public, made more of a difference, spent less time cleaning up sick. Could we have done that anyway? Well yes – if we had assertively handed the sick cleaning to someone else. If we had money or a willing partner – if we had asked.
Maybe these quiet caring men would have said ‘yes – I’m not myself when I’m striving in the business world. I’m a locked down version of myself stuck on the straight and narrow’.
Caring for dependents can be very limiting. Wage slavery too in another way. How much should we sacrifice ourselves for others? And for how long?
Transitioning from the freedom of the beautiful English Countryside. I’ve fallen in love with that too – out of love with the City.
Complete freedom is where you like, when you like with no witnesses. Unlimited options.
The locals say park up in a summer picnic spot. The formula is to walk along the bank scouting for anglers perches and find one with steps down for seclusion.
It’s surprisingly so much warmer than the London ponds. Sunday’s Ladies pond winter swimming veteran says – forget the numbers. My new friend is in Finland and he says they are swimming in the Baltic today at 0 degrees water with -1 degree air. Stop – no more numbers. Just as well as I made a bad choice with my thermometer. I’m a lazy researcher, impulsive buyer, minimalist.
There’s hardly any current and a view for miles down the river to the setting sun. I feel like I could stay for hours although I know I can’t really. My least favourite science – biology – won’t let me.
Now I’m thinking of history. A century and half ago the idea of bathing all winter in this river would have been perfectly mainstream. We think of ourselves as having more options than previous generations. It’s not true. We’ve narrowed down what is normal to less than 10% of what’s possible.
Driving is my second love. It gives me unlimited options. Cross country home through the Cotswolds harmonising ‘you’ve got to hide your love away’.
Back to the busy Ladies pond refuge to try out a quality assured 5 degrees. No photos here – teeming with adventurers – nobody must know who escapes here on a Friday morning.
For the first time this is seering. Distract with deconstruction. Where are the pain and gain hotspots – now freeze spots? Below the collar bones where it’s tense, the asthmatic bottom ribs and the thighs.
5 degrees 5 minutes.
To survive I must learn the lesson first time fast. It must work. Hot frustration that my hot frustration is not a quick fix.
The lesson the water teaches me today, is patience. It owes me nothing.
I believe in infinity even though I know I can never get there. Where will it end? The point of experiments is – nobody knows the end result.
In the pond in London I can be a good scientist – carrying out my experiment in a controlled environment – just one parameter change at a time – the slow progression of dropping temperatures. With the occasional shocking dive. I know the end result already – by January if there is ice – I’ll be submerged under it.
In the Dart with my accomplice my adventure has more unknowns. The current, the temperature, the entry and exit. Lots of parameters – even if we get there – will it happen?
A lunchtime meeting and a gap in the schedule means that there is an opportunity for a secret adventure.
I haven’t had a dip in 8 days and it’s taking its toll in overheating.
The good news is that it’s a mild November day. And I’m unfettered. No equipment. No expert advice. No permission. No judgement. Freedom. Without company, and in an unfamiliar river I am so much more scared and on risk assessment high alert. There’s no Severn bore at least.
A jog along the muddy riverside path takes me to some anglers jetties. I’m in luck – as I always am now – if I don’t plan and just go with the flow. 15 wooden steps down then tree roots into the water – I’ve learnt that’s the perfect exit strategy.
Strip off slip in. How far into the current can I go? Firing synapses in my skin / water interface spread equally over every pore. My mind takes over to intercept the pain panic signals and replace them with calm. I’m going to use that technique next time I’m trying to leave the house, forgetting my stuff and I’m late.
Now for the measurements. How cold is it and how long can I stay in? Seven degrees. Seven minutes.
I’ve gone deeper and colder than my first Kings Cross pond swim now.