So in the end, the 65 swims at 65 years of age started with breakfast and finished with lunch, with burrata in both cases. This postscript was written at what was to have been the last swim – at Thames Lido, in Reading. And before that, the last swim was to have been from Kew Bridge to Hammersmith, with many more people than COVID-19 would permit. This was shifted to a time in summer when pods of six were deemed legal for most activities. This swim ‘n dine at Thames Lido today is more an indulgence, a quiet ceIebration with Pauline. Lunch was a starter of roast pumpkin and burrata, the thought of which brought me back to the first swim, the first morning in July 2019. Burrata and pumpkin, white ball of poached-egg-like skin and delicate creamy core oozing over the golden roast squash once the delicate skin was cut open. Swim #1, involved a birthday breakfast of burrata (rough torn, thick balsamic vinegar flowing into the creamy white flesh), salad and bread, sitting in the sun after swimming Hardwick Lake.
Here at Thames Lido I can muse and gaze with idlement today. In a pretty building, recently renovated, the work doing justice to the early twentieth century ironwork and woodwork. Glass, wood, natural materials and tasteful colours all in sympathy with the building. As with Chipping Norton Lido, the lido by the Thames at Reading lives on after some anxious years when it awaited demolition, like so many lidos across the UK. Today Pauline and I have a simple plan - some leisurely laps in gentle cultured water bound by right-angled edges and lengths of some 25 meters. Open sky; the clouds opened while we swam, splashing on the pool water, taking us a little closer to nature. And a large hot-tub after – the last time I sat in a communal hot-tub was at Parliament Hill Lido, London, at PHISH - this January landmark in the winter swimming calendar. The hot-tub was a little different today – no-one shivering, no-one laughing the post-winter-swim laugh which roars up from the depth of the soul, when mind and body are trying to find some equilibrium after a swim. Rather, two women in fine bathing costumes were lying back, eyes closed, taking in the warmth. We can manage that, Pauline and I nodded, in agreement. Yes we can.
Postscript to the year in swimming (plus the lock-down months) - I have swum from breakfast to lunch, 65 swims, with a lot of cake in between. 65 swims, punctuated by food and eating, now finished, friendships strengthened, made and remade. I have swum in much more than the usual places. Oxford, London and Copenhagen are all places I feel to be 'usual' for swimming. Less usual, but often enough for swimming, are Sweden, Switzerland, Australia and Italy. This year I added places within the UK I had not yet considered properly – the south coast – or felt nostalgia for – the Suffolk coast. As well as swim events – in London and Slovenia. And new clubs I became acquainted with, in Cambridge and Farleigh. Friends invited me to swim in their favourite places and I accepted. I met people of all walks of life for whom swimming was their way of living. Outdoor swimming and winter swimming especially, makes the world a better place for me - this last year has made that clearer than ever. I have nothing but joy to speak of about turning 65 years of age, and I thank everyone who shared some part of this wonderful swim-journey, big or small, centre stage or walk-on part.
So much good food was eaten across the 65@65, in good company, on the waterside, in cafes, in pubs, in people’s homes. Much cake, much tea, much excellent conversation, with friends old and new in outdoor swimming everywhere. “Make new friends but keep the old… One is silver the other is gold” – this was a canon that the Serpentine Zoom Choir learned to sing during lock-down, conducted by Katherine – she, and the song, are both right. I have heard many stories, learned much history and local swimming knowledge. So as this project has come to a rightful end, so another starts. I will shortly launch an outdoor swimming podcast series - called Swimmingpod. Outdoor swimming is growing fast, and there are so many amazing people swimming outdoors – I invite you to put your headphones on and listen to them on Swimmingpod.