I had been home for over a month, I had decided to refrained from swimming in lochs, in fact any cold water, trying to adjust to my new work environment meant knocking swimming on the head. It might be considered a wee bit extreme but in the grand scheme of things worth it (there is a unpublished blog about my decision, there’s a good chance it will stay that way). The nearest to uncontrollable hands I got, was running through snow and sitting in a mountain stream just before plunging into a hot tub during a snowboarding trip in the french Alps.
My wife repeatedly asked me if I missed swimming. I replied – I ran 10km up the hills of Sheriffmuir this morning, that’s enough.
I walked about with extra jumpers on, I wore my long John’s at every opportunity. Trying to stay acclimatised to tropical conditions when it’s snowing is hard work. Jumping into a cold loch in February isn’t staying acclimitised so swimming was firmly off the menu. It wasn’t until I spent the weekend on a coach tour of The Highlands and Skye that I realised how much I missed swimming in lochs.
It was my second time on the tour and first time for my youngest son. The term bonding was mentioned, along with, it will be good for the two of you to spend time together, I wish I was going, was another saying my wife repeated a few times. It was going to be a weekend away from tablets and smartphones.
The coach tour was nothing like TV program but when Patrick was sick for a second time I am sure we would have definitely got voted off. The group consisted of 13 students mostly American girls about twenty years old, hoping for glimpses of Harry Potter land or filming spots from Outlander( better known as fifty Shades of tartan).
We stopped for photo opportunities looking over Glen Orchy and Glencoe before stopping for a walk into Steal meadows.
We started the walk together but when Patrick discovered the Americans knew more of Marvel and the Avengers than I did, he spent more time bonding with the girls over the weekend than me, we sat together on the bus, the only time I saw him during the walks when I was handing out haribos. We did share a bedroom and we laughed as much as the time we shared a double bed for a week a few years back, during that week each morning the two of us would wake up facing each other smiling and laughing. Our Stromefrerry, no ferry, hostel bedroom for the weekend did have pillow fights and songs and many giggles.
We got to the hostel after sunset, so it was only in the morning, standing on the jetty looking across loch Carron when the feeling of remoteness was greatest.
It was not the tempertures or the fast currents that kept my swimmers dry, our first stop was the Faerie pools on Skye.
My friend and coach tour owner, dislikes the Faerie pools with a passion. He firmly believes that Skye offers more than a couple of small water falls. It was only a few years ago that the pools were fairly unknown, then images were posted of a dreamy, solitary swim, dipping under arch in the turquoise clear waters against the black cullin ampitherearter. The magical feeling is slightly stunted, there was no chance of seeing any faeries as bus loads of camera loaded tourists arrive everyday. But the water had a thin layer of ice on the top, I jumped from the ledge 4m high, landing in the middle of the pool, I caught my breadth then dipped under the arch. Box ticked.
My friend mentioned it was interesting watching me do a full-on mental risk assessment of the area, he had many of his clients jump in, I don’t know if he was blowing smoke up my arse, but he went on to say most people just jump in He watched me figure out my exact entry point, I knew where I was catching my breadth before ducking under the arch. I have had a few near misses but hopefully I take learning experiences from every swim My first near drowning swim, a year and half ago, really sent the simple message home, I might not get a second chance, a big gulp of cold water could end it in a matter of seconds, don’t take any chances. Yes, it’s the rush of weightlessness waiting to hit the water. The endorphin rush as the freezing water burns the skin. But I take a breadth scope out the water, make sure I can jump again.
More water falls, oyster bars, volcanic landslides and lots of Faerie stories. Skye is full wonders and magic
Back to Stromefrerry and Sunday morning we were on a local fisherman’s boat pulling up scallops for breakfast. Sea urchins taste amazing, definitely one of my favourite tasty sea snacks. If I was only allowed one mouthful from the sea ever again it would be sea urchin. I could not a eat a bucket full of sea urchin, that’s what oysters, lobster, crab, squid, cuttle fish, prawns, mussels …… are for.
Back on the bus, heading across the Heilands towards Loch Ness. The first time I had sat on the tour, Scotland had been hit with torrential rain, not a Scottish first, but the rain was vast, the road over the the river at the top of Loch Orchy before climbing up hill towards Glen Coe was dangerously close to being flooded, small water falls were impressive and large waterfalls were awesome not some cool word but you stood in awe of nature’s power. This second trip, the weather was completely different, blue skies and lunch out side two days in a row during June is a lucky in February it’s was magnificent. 6 of us jumped into Loch Ness on the Sunday including the tour leader’s 6 year son, well he went for a paddle, starting young.
We arrived home exhausted but full of energy relaying our unforgettable experiences of our weekend to my wife and older son.
The next evening at the dinner table we were we were laughing and joking. When my oldest mentioned that I was in a good mood.
-Eh! I am always in a good mood.
All three looked at me a shook their heads. My wife words made me feel bad
-You have been a nightmare this last few weeks.
-do you think it was the weekend away
Clare replied – it was more like jumping in the water.
The start of the year had been different and lead to some new experiences increasing stress.
-Sorry guys I didn’t realise
-maybe you should start swimming again.
-I can’t, I have got to keep my body’s temperature up.
The conversation never really progressed. I felt bad for the rest of the night.
Tuesday morning started with a run similar to the last three week’s had, but this time I had extra merino wool and a towel in a back pack. I didn’t run up and past the Wallace monument I took the short cut past the university and up the hill. When it levels off, there are three choices, head for a pint at Sheriffmuir Inn (err no) or head up the top of the Dumyat ( my mountain bike option) or head for the reservoir, it was not swimming and unlike every opportunity over the last year when I waited until I felt that my body was getting shiveringly cold. It was a jump in stand up to my shoulders in the water for three minutes then get out.
It was cold and my body got a shock getting changed standing on snow in bare feet didn’t help. But no shaking, no uncontrollable hands, no bent over trying to run with frozen solid kidneys, no endorphin enduced sprint home. I was slightly dissapointed. Getting older wanting an easy life is realising your limitations and comprising, everything in moderation
I ran up to the reservoir another two times that week and went swimming in Loch Lomond with some minor celebrity the week after.
I hope I was in a better mood at the end of the time at home than when I arrived.