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Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Bada bada bada, Varje dag,

Bada bada bada, Varje dag,

Bada Ja, Bada Ja,

Bada bada bada, Varje dag!

It is less of poetry than of trance chant –

Swimming, swimming, swimming, every day,

Swimming, swimming, swimming, every day,

Swimming Yes, Swimming Yes,

Swimming, swimming, swimming, every day!

I have started to chant it, in the dark, on the way to my morning swim, in my black-cat-in-the-dark-night dry robe, taking winter swimming in these COVID-19 days by stealth – Bada-bada-bada! Bada-ja! Bada-ja! I go with a Danish block-candle in my pocket – blockljus – making it more hygge down by the water. Why? I have been talking with three amazing women in Gothenberg, Sweden, who swim in winter and sometimes light candles on the jetty when in the Swedish early morning it is dark, darker than dark. And do yoga then swim by candle light. This trance chant is from them, and so is the idea of candles by the water.

Why three Gothenberg swimming women? I have been to Gothenberg but once in my life, to a scientific congress. On the same block as the congress centre and Gothia Hotel where I was staying was the Valhallabadet, a major swimming sports centre, which kind of catered to my need to swim that time. If only I had known then the three ladies from Hjuvik, on the coastal outskirts of Gothenberg. They have since invited me to come and swim with them when travel to Sweden becomes possible again, so that makes it a little better. The coast about Gothenberg is beautiful, rugged, rocky – I know. During my congress, we were taken to dine at a wonderful sea-food restaurant on the coast. The outlook was enticing – looking across the ocean I really wanted, needed, to swim, but couldn’t, then, as everything was organised very precisely and there wasn’t the time. To repeat, it is truly beautiful around coastal Gothenberg. That night also I had a solitary ticket for the Gothenberg Opera, which I gave up for the dinner. I loved the dinner, but there were two other things I would have liked to have done at the same time. Ocean, opera, there is therefore unfinished business in Gothenberg, as well as new friends, three Gothenberg swimming women, to swim with.

Night-swimming by candle-light – the Gothenberg Three tell me it is OK to have a Danish candle to accompany my swimming, rather than a Swedish one. But it isn’t hygge for them; the word is lagom - the Swedish idea of finding equilibrium in all aspects of life. These three ladies call themselves and their project 100dagarkallabad – a hundred days of cold bathing. Why this project? It is all about having equilibrium in life, in the Coronavirus Winter of 2020. They started in September as the water was getting colder, and were around halfway through their hundred days of swimming at the time that we recorded a podcast together. Anna Carin Olsson, Lina Tengblad and Marielle Sjoren are their names. They live ten minutes by bicycle from the ocean, from where they live, and their simple-sounding project has attracted media attention in Sweden. Why? They are doing it without a sauna – shock, horror! They love the sting of the cold water, and don’t really like letting the sauna warm them up – the heat comes from within, they say. They are doing ‘a different sport’ to sauna-bathing, they say. More akin to winter swimming in the UK, I venture. I sometimes think of much winter swimming in the UK as a form of primitivism. I don’t see that as a bad thing, just a particular form of winter swimming, one which is very enjoyable. And swimming in the same place every day is not the same swim every day – every day is different, they say. Like life itself.

Why do they not sauna and swim, I ask? I had thought that in Scandinavia, the words ‘swim’ and ‘sauna’ went together in the same way that ‘fish’ and ‘chips’ seem to do so in the UK. Not so it seems. My preconception was shattered like a sheet of thin ice dropped onto slate-grey high-grade Swedish concrete, just this year. Along the coast where Lina, Anna Carin and Marielle swim, there are several groups of people doing something similar to them, but perhaps not every day. There are little bays and coves and harbours around the Gothenberg coastline which have their own winter-swimming, non-sauna thing going. People who are going about their winter swimming without having to organise fire to go with the ice.

Why ice without fire? To repeat – the fire comes from within, according to Marielle, Lina and Anna Carin. Their winter swimming with candles in the dark started with a try-out, on a whim on a dark stormy first morning when the wind snuffed out their candle like a candle in the wind, like the fragility of life itself in this Year of Coronavirus. Now they are better prepared, with candles that don’t blow out so easily. Sometimes, in daylight, they blow bubbles onto the water to get a nice bathing atmosphere. Winter swimming with bubbles – something new to me again. One of them loves winter swimming in stormy weather. Another loves it when it is grey. Really, really grey. And raining gently. The third does yoga on a paddle-board. Sometimes in a Super Mario costume. Why Super Mario? Super Mario is a swimmer too, don’t you know…

The Hjuvik Three all love ice on the water, cracking the ice and lowering themselves in. I would like to say they are crazy, but know they are not so. They are incredibly sane and grounded. To repeat, they are finding equilibrium in everyday life. They are solid as Swedish rocks on the ocean front, but they have fun through winter, everyday - 100dagarkallabad. So light a candle, blow some bubbles, put on your Super Mario costume if you have one, and listen to them in this podcast. And repeat after them - Bada Bada Bada! Varje Dag! Bada Ja! Bada Ja!

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