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Updated: Feb 17, 2021

’It was twenty years ago today…’ so went the song, nostalgia from the first line, like the conversation I had with Jeremy about the swim-trip to Lake Bled and the 2020 Winter Swimming World Championships which took place last year February. We could not have anticipated how the year would unfold, so full of optimism was this event. Many events in 2020 got cancelled or postponed; the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will now take place in 2021, so I guess we were lucky that the 2020 Lake Bled event actually happened in 2020. Helped by the full-to-the-brim enthusiasm of the thousand-plus participants, their friends and family, there was seriousness, friendliness and fun in equal measure. The milling of winter swimmers at the opening ceremony, in strange and wonderful costumes, head-wear and dry-robes, was reminiscent of the cover of the Beatles album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. The music-loop, my theme for the event was exactly that - ‘It’s wonderful to be here, it’s certainly a thrill…’

Jeremy and I flew out together – remember flying? Remember airports? I can imagine them now, hermetic spaces of promise, of discovery, of new lands, of the future – just like Brian Eno’s ‘Music for Airports’. Icy clean clear notes like water thawing, dropping single notes like droplets reverberating in the hollow acoustic of an empty Heathrow Terminal Five, waiting for its post COVID-19 future. We flew to Ljubljana, not knowing this would be the last trip for a while. We drove (Jeremy drove) to Bled, we stayed in accommodation well-chosen by Jaana, a friend at Serpentine Swimming Club. We shared the companionship of Serpies much of the time - Jaana, Nicola, Anne, Eliza, George, Matthew, the Luckhurst family, Nick and James. Lake Bled offered a magical backdrop to the event, with a small fairy-tale island and church close in view of the swimming venue, the Olympic Rowing Centre. In the distance, a castle with a tower fit for Rapunzel and her long flowing hair – I looked hard and swore I could see a golden ladder of princess-hair in the winter sun. Built in 1004 and elaborated in medieval times, the castle sat a-top a rock in the far distance, with the Julian Alps pink in the evening, offering it majestic light. The day-by-day routine of swimming, watching swimming, eating, walking, talking, just hanging out with winter swim-people in the sun was perfect for a February. The swimming in the foreground of the lake-island-church-castle-mountains was in turn committed, joyful, entertaining. The swimmers were, if not fairy-tale magical, then certainly colourful, like flocks of migratory birds that had landed on Lake Bled this late winter. The flock from Finland, the largest, was distinctive in pale blue and white, and big pale blue pom-poms, on hats and on dry-robes. The Danes flocked in red and white, the Swiss in red with white crosses, the Germans like ravens, mostly in black. The Brits showed multiple swim identities – the double blue, double pom-pom hats of the Cliveden Marine Lake Walruses making them easy to find. A lone parrot-lady from Chile sparkled in sequins. It was a great parade of dry-robes, and a great parade of winter swimming – ‘We hope you will enjoy the show…’

That was last year, just before COVID-19 Lockdown One. Now we can travel but in our memories - it was wonderful to have been there. It was certainly a thrill. We hope you will enjoy the podcast…

Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band -

Brian Eno's ‘Music for Airports’ performed by the Alaska Orchestra, live-streamed from the Sydney Opera House in 2020 -

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