Updated: Jan 27
PHISH time – the now almost-annual event of the winter swimming brother-and-sister-hood of the cold water. We arrived in London in good time for registration, singing Abba’s “Super Trooper” with Helen. Or a ‘dum-de-dum’ version of it on my part – I still don’t know the words, even though it burrows up like a worm in the lawn in Springtime when I am mindlessly, wordlessly happy. Happy morning. Helen says we need a Dodo Song. I’m not sure if Super Trooper will cut it, but we stumble-trip-try to find dodo swim words to it. The song came to me this morning, after days of sitting silent in the back of my head, or rather the broom cupboard of my mind. The Police – ‘do do do, da da da’ does it for me. I was thinking of Zurich, and the art movement Dada, which was started in Zurich at the height of the First World War. I looked to the bookshelf and fixed on the catalogue of the only Hannah Hoch exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery London in 2014. Hoch was the only major woman Dada-ist artist. There it was – Dada had its Dada-soph (as in Dada philosopher) and its Ober-Dada (or Head Dada-ist). Dodo has its Head Dodo, Jeremy. In Zurich he would be Ober-Dodo. It is just a quick slip in the shower singing ‘do do do, da da da’ for it to morph into ‘Dodo Dodo Dada Dada’, and a quicker slip of the towel while drying off for it to become ‘Dodo Dodo Dodo Dodo…’ Is all I want to say to you… Seems right somehow, at least for now. Maybe Ella Fitzgerald’s “Lets Call the Whole Thing Off..” might work – “You say Dada and I say Dodo…” – but this can wait for another day, as we are at the head of the queue.
Once, registered, still in search of a song, we met with all the Dodos, Oxford and Stuffed, decided on cap colours – pink for Stuffed Dodos, Black for Oxford Dodos - found old friends from Thames swimming – Raf, and the Serpentine - James, then made our way up to Hampstead Ponds. What followed was fabulous in most ways, except for breakfast, which didn’t strictly happen. But we ate, and I got to eat cake for ‘breakfast’, and all was good, all were fuelled up. Back at Parliament Hill Lido, the individual events had mostly taken place, we saw Craig, an individualist Dodo did most events, and mostly won. Later in the day after our relay and in the hot tub we met the lady who beat him (was it the first time ever?) – very strong and modest – as is Craig himself. I have a view that women are much more resilient than men, and her was another example. Craig did brilliantly as ever, winning event after event after event, and we all unreservedly congratulated him. Our event was after a new innovation, the complicated-seeming Double Dipper, which involved swimming two lengths, sitting in the hot tub for ‘at least six minutes’ then swimming another two lengths. Hearing the routine involved in this event, I thought that this might turn out to be like natural selection in action. Those that have the fastest times in the first two laps get the longest in the hot tub, longest time to recover, and therefore most likely to get the fastest times in the second set of two laps. I am sure that was the point, but we discussed whether it was really wise to do what the organisers suggest. But then how often is winter swimming aligned with wisdom? It seemed to work, and people seemed to find it an acceptable event – I asked Ben, from the Serpentine Swimming Club how he found it – not bad at all. Maybe they will have it again next year. When the double dip mayhem quelled, it was time for the relays -we were on at 13.10 (ish) – black caps (Oxford Dodos - Emma, me, Helen, Neil), pink caps (Stuffed Dodos – Nikki, Federica, Jeremy, Alice), in adjacent lanes, and in the next lane, Three Lovely Ladies and the Fabulous Raf. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Other teams with great names included The Floaters, the Publically Hated Ice Swimming Homosapiens, the Shiver Club Penguins, Hot Pants, Team Pants, the Wet Kippers, the Furry Blue Boobies, the Arctic Chimps, Pesce Phace, and I Got Chills. No Northern Fishwives this year, no East German Ladies Swimming Team. But life, and the race goes on. We vow to be slow, but vows disappear when in the water and all are thrashing around you. Did we win? Not by a country mile. Craig was the very modest star from Oxford, Nick from the Serpentine did the endurance event as did Hywel, Raf and Craig. Not all had prizes, but Craig added to his collection of gold caps, and everyone had a great day out. The PHISH organisers threaten every year that this will be the last, as they threaten again this year. I hope, we all hope, this is an empty threat, and they manage to pull it off again – it has a lynchpin event for Winter swimming in this country.