Lying in my bed, trying to decide which loch to head for, The weather report had been harsh, and judging by the wind conditions when I went to bed, a chlorinated pool might be the wisest option. There was no noise outside from howling gales, the BBC had indicated that the wind would drop off in the early hours, from averaging 50 miles per hour to a more sedate 18 miles per hour. I love looking out the window in the morning. It’s one of the reasons I could never relocate to somewhere hot. Do I need a my favorite jacket? Is it blue skies? has a frost caused a thick impenetrable fog? Flip flops and shorts?
The most important question on rolling up the window blind these days is. Are the branches on the trees moving?
Rain does not worry me -yer skin is waterproof. It’s got to rain, green grass, lochs to swim in, how rotten would beer taste if made with sea water? Clouds have to dump their contents on us, its simple.
The last few weeks have reminded, how much rain makes a difference to my simple life, I am being incredibly insular and selfish here, ignoring global drought and flood situations. September and the the start of October were pretty dry, this is unusual for Scotland. Without the normal rains to assist the constant change of water in lochs a few of my local swimming areas developed green algae
The lack of water from the clouds I assume was the cause of the autumnal colours being subdued, even a wee bit dull. It was only after the heavens opened, the leaves became vibrant. The October rains caused forests to burst into life resembling flames, a fire of colour, reds, yellows and oranges. Walks became photo opportunities.
Every season is my favorite. Winter is greatly anticipated, cold frosty walks wrapped up with hats and scarfs, snowball fights and sledging with my family. Driving up to Glenshee for snowboarding, shocked white hares dashing in front of the van, or being surprised when heard of massive antlered deer, down from the snow covered glens, stare in the van’s passing window. Since starting wild swimming last year I have realised the cold weather gives shorter swims, however with ice and snow surrounding the lochs, time in the water feels like an adventure.
Spring arrives like a switch, monochrome to High Definition, the trees exploded into colour as heat returns, gloves and boots are not required. Longer days allow more swims in the evening.
The calender might show June or August. That doesn’t mean summer will arrive, it’s always a guessing game, it could be a dreich grey affair with lots of rain and canceled bbq’s.
Hopefully we get a few dry days for walks, camping, and sessions sliding down the natural water features at the paradise pools up in Sherrifmuir.
I had the pleasure of swimming with a group of regular swimmers during the summer. As the nights started drawing in, the need to continue wild swimming still burned. Which lead to my first night swim with them. The Company, lights in tow floats and runway landing lights left on the beach to keep bearings and knowing where a safe refuge and warm clothes were located, all lead to the experience being a lot more relaxing than I expected and continued on more few occasions when a free pass was handed out. On one swim I forgot my goggles, I swam with my eyes shut. Head in the water on a very dark night, I wouldn’t have seen anything anyway. I just paddled on regardless. Below is a photograph provided by one of the swimmers. It’s of me and one other. Many thanks
As the sun lowers on the horizon, the water temperature drops below 10 degrees centigrade. Swims are not against the clock and available time, it’s my body’s ability to handle the cold that dictates the length of a swim.
On the aforemention morning when the blind was rolled up, revealing stationary tree branches. The game plan changed. Stepping into the back garden, reassuring myself of favorable conditions I decided on lake of Menteith and Inchcolm island. The ten minutes getting into my wetsuit the sky and light on the hills changed constantly.
During the swim across to the island, hailstones started, I stopped swimming. Floating, rotating round to take it in, I had swam in rain on many occasions and always felt lucky, this was my first hailstone swim, it was incredible, my head just above the surface, earlier the lack wind had made the lake a mirror, now the hailstones produced a frenzied, bubbling surface, at same time there was a colourful really vibrant rainbow, it appeared to come out of the water close to the fishing office. I had to start swimming, just to get my face back in the water, stopping the frozen ice bouncing off my cheeks and lips. I never made it out, all the way to the island. I turned round 50 yards from the Abbey. Swimming solo and lacking in no particular order, confidence, technique and experience, I try to notice small indications that my body has had enough. When my pinky decides to go off on a solo adventure I turn round. When wee my finger kicks off at a weird angle, there must be a medical explanation, my core restricting warm blood traveling out to my extremities, but I am sure my pinky heads off in a search for warmer climes, separating from the rest of the closed palm. The last few swims though I have been returning with my whole hand spread out, each finger sending it’s neighbour to coventry, ignoring all impulses to regroup. My unconscious hand shaking as I get out helps bring my fingers back to the dance floor but with my fingers spread out does nothing for swim speeds or getting socks, buttons and belts on afterwards.
Last year, I wanted to know, how long I could spend submerged as the temperatures dropped. My memory is as good at remembering things, as a wetsuit with a hole in it, is for keeping the cold water out.
A mental photograph was never enough. I started taking pictures of a submerged thermometer before getting in the water. A photo the lochside to show where the thermometer was also helped the recollection process. Before long, this turned into a recording of the seasonal change of the water side. It seems to have developed along with my passion for getting cold and wet. I just have to remember, at this time of the year, to take all the photographs before swimming, with uncontrollable shacking and joke shop hands, after a swim there’s not many good photos.