Yer not a real open water swimmer until you have caused a man hunt 

Awe yeah.

Front page headlines and awe thing.

Helicopters, fireman in boats raking the steep embankments. Divers were kitted up all searching for a mad suicide attempt in the river Forth. I was at home eating a six egg omelette covered with lashing of home made humus and big chunks of steamed beetroot busily uploading innocent photos of my enjoyable swim run in the river forth.

I had been home for less than 24 hours had three swims one had caused great deal of excitement and cost a small fortune. It had took me four hours from landing at Edinburgh to getting my wetsuit on for my first swim. I had been in the South Pacific for six weeks and was desperate to feel cold. During my time away my wife had a wee episode, I was over 48 hours away and when she quickly started to recover I made the hard decision to stay at work. I knew she had great support making sure everything was handled. Life is mad, one of the people that helped with her recovery was a bloke that had been a casual acquaintance, a guy to nod and say hello, no in depth personal conversations, mainly pass the time of day a few times in twenty odd years. He had recently joined me in loch Venachar few times. He started talking with but more importantly listening to Clare, she went on to sit on the shoreside as he went for swims. I know how much being outside makes a difference to my own wellbeing and could not be more grateful for the time he spent with her during the dark days I was away.

One of the benefits of working away from home is you don’t take things for granted. The Coming home rush is similar to first date rush but every few months so it was really hard trying to contain my excitement trying to stay calm. I tried to be tranquil and not increase Clare stress levels. I convinced Clare the best way to reduce stress levels was to float in loch Venachar, it did not take much persuasion and wasn’t long before she was sitting prepared in the van with her wet suit on. After being separated from Clare for six weeks  I just wanted spend time alone with Clare but decided to invite the bloke that had been supportive, thankfully he joined us in the water. The smiles were large after getting dry, lochs have magical properties

It was must be over ten years ago. My brother had brought his family across from Brisbane Australia and set up camp in one of the wooden lodges on the west shore of Loch Lubnaig. The lodges were close enough from Stirling that the whole family could visit but far enough that they still got a few days peace. The whole family arrived on force one Sunday afternoon, instead of getting wetsuits on for a swim (my obsession with the lochs had still to happen) we chucked and skimmed a few stones in the water then returned to a big jigsaw puzzle at the table in the cabin.  My gran and grandad had five children with nine grand kids and at the time 3 great gran bairns. Most were present vying for space round the jigsaw table or enjoying wine and beer in the kitchen. Family reunions are magic. It was great fun, chaos. One of those occasions in your life you wish you had a time machine to go back and relish, at the time you thought every family meeting would be similar. One of the young cousins was completely Celtic daft, ( the next bit about celtic might be lies but for some reason that’s how I remember it)   he had been fortunate enough to be present at every game for two seasons, considering Celtic had just beaten Barcelona in the champions league this is some feet for a lad his age. Celtic had not lost a game all season and the day previous were down against Hearts. In the excitement and the fear of missing a goal the youngster’s bladder had got the better of him and his trousers went home damper than when they arrived. When this was pointed out at the jigsaw table, his face flushed and looked completely ashamed, from a man that been in worse mess man and had lost count of the times I had woke up from a drunken night in a soaking wet bed, my response never missed a beat and could only be of encouragement.

” dinnea worry wee man. Yet not a real man until you have tarmacked yer pants”

It was one those moments when disbelief and shock stopped the clock, complete silence. Then the place erupted laughing and whooping, my grandad laughed and coughed so hard his teeth flew out is gums and landed in his drink this added to the hilarity. The youngster looked relieved,  his embarrassment had been displaced.

My life has changed dramatically since I started jumping in lochs,  Clare can tell when she arrives home from work if I have been in a loch by the size of my smile. I used think the only way to end the week and get rid of the work’s stresses was with a drink in my hand. Some weekends were about drinking until I didn’t know if I needed a shite or a haircut. To be honest I was a complete liability and most times when I sobered up, I had to hide or apologise. So the last for 2 1/2 dry years my life has considerably less hassle. Well that’s what I thought when I snuck out the door like swimming ninja.  During my last time at home I had started to spend a wee bit time in the River Forth you can read about it here.

When I woke up that morning I did not chuck the wetsuit in the van,  I ran down through the estate with swimming cap and goggles on my head. My intentions were to run into the field,  across the River Allan following an old routine that would have two swims in the Forth and quick visit to Stirling castle. When I left the country in April the air and water temperatures were alot cooler.  Leaves were still to arrive on the trees, the previous day I was blown away with the lush scenery of the Trossachs hills,  there was a multitude of bright vibrant greens, the world seemed alive full of energy. The air temperature was mild when I left the house so my wool top was not needed for warmth so I tied it round my waist.

Sun’s oot taps aff.

awe yeah.

I noticed something in the water as i ran down the lane into the farmers field beside the river. It was the dog shaped head of a seal. I had not swam with seals since my adventures on Shetland over a year previous.

Quickly stuffing my phone and top in my small dry bag I jumped into the river,  I swam down stream for about a kilometre but the wee friendly face of the seal did not appear.  Other wildlife that did accompany me, included having the odd discussion with a couple of dog walkers, a pair of massive swans and the odd fly by from oyster catcher and seagull. I got out at the new college, my not so dry bag had nearly worked, my top was a little damp as I ran up the Castle.

I arrived at the bridges without incident. I had ran the full distance with swim cap and googles on my head. Removing my wet top and stuffing into the bag along with the headphones and phone. The water was higher than the previous times I had crossed. Being high tide there was a few Eddies close to the old bridge. I had just swam a kilometer without a drama a few mintues previous, so did not see any danger. I paid no attention to the commuters on feet as I tried unsuccessfully to gracefully jump into the river. Let’s not forget I had not ran for six weeks and been acclimatised to the brightly coloured warm beaches of the south Pacific. The river pushed me closer to the road bridge arches. Not a worry head down start bashing on, paddling away. I looked up I was not even half way across and feeling tired and cold. Head down and push on again let’s go for it. The photo below is from a few days later when the river was more serene. You can count the arches below a lot quicker than I swam them. I crossed from right to left or from south to north.

My head came up in between the second and last arch. I felt completely drained and my arms were like lead weights. If I was in a loch I would have grabbed my tow float and had a wee moment gaining my breath and taking time to appreciate the vista. But I wasn’t in a loch,  I was getting pushed towards the last arch. Just a few more paddles I tried to stand up. My feet touch the river bed I could stand up in waist depth water

Oooh ya dancer.  I had made it.

Now to get up the steep embankment. Awe feck,  before I knew it I was up to my knees in mud. Crikey. I jumped back into the River to wash off the thick grey clay. I walked up the  river for about twenty yards until there was a suitable bit to climb up.

I reached the short grassy field on the north side feeling pretty done in. The thought of wearing my wet top didn’t fill me with excitement. So in ran home taps aff.

I arrived home kissed my wife. I did not want to add to her stress levels so was blasé about my run not going into to much detail. I showered prepared my breakfast, kissed her on the way out the door to start her journey to work.

Clare was not the only one late for work that day. Some bloke had seen me jump in the water walked to work then decided to phone the police. He might have waited until I got to the other side or maybe he thought I was in trouble.

In the traffic jam caused by a quadzillion police cars,  firemen,  divers, Clare stopped and asked what was going on. That’s when my breakfast was rudely interrupted. The firemen and police were in good spirits when I arrived on top of the auld bridge and pointed and described my mornings exercise. I hope that was not faked and it was  because the search had been called off not long after they started wasting their time. Hopefully they learned from the experience. I certainly did. Swimming can be dangerous,  over confidence and lack of assessing the risk nearly had me in trouble. “Yer not a real open water until you have caused a man hunt ” is a lot of shite. A similar statement was used to hide embarrassment and make light of a situation previously in this blog.  I have laughed a great deal at the trouble I caused, but I am also a wee bit ashamed and embarrassed of the results of my actions. I thank my lucky stars the emergency services were not required elsewhere or this story might have ended alot less funny if they had. My intentions of coming home to reduce Clare’s stress levels, basically make her life tranquil bliss failed miserably. Hope the rest of my time at home will be less stress for everyone involved

Swim safe, most times I try to.

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