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Early morning swim by Vanessa Crosse

The mist and the slight drizzle of rain gave the morning an ethereal quality, void of any depth of colour as though an artist had painted everything in shades of bluey grey.

We walked casually to our swimming spot. I ladened down with a bag that I hoped would suffice every eventuality that may occur on our early morning swim. My friend Hayley self-contained minimalist with everything she needed was already on her body. “Morning Sister” Hayley said. It’s the Nun who had just left the Nazareth Care Home who walked her dog every morning. The dog has had his brown curly hair cut.

I imagine as I often did, that if ever I should end my days in a care home, then Nazareth house which is ‘built on a peninsular of granite rock, ahead of you lies Firestone Bay, with commanding views available from many of the rooms of Drakes Island and the English Channel beyond’ should be the place I would spend my twilight years.

We walked to the part of Devil's point that has the beach huts. I pondered how delightful it would be to own a beach hut in such a prime location. Apparently, there is an exceedingly long waiting list to get one of those my friend had been on the waiting list for years, possibly needing to know someone in the council to get one.

Then came the unveiling, exposing our bodies to the elements. I had my swimming costume on under several layers of clothes and hand knitted woolly socks and trainers. I had packed my wetsuit but decided against wearing it. The wrestle to get in and out of it is exhausting and I’m convinced the sleeves are made to fit a ten-year-old child. I also had packed a hot water bottle and had wrapped it in my towelling robe for later. Although infrequent, I had been sea swimming in the winter before.

Unrobed, I walked gingerly down the slope to the steps into the sea. My friend ‘Oh Nessy, just jump it much easier’. I know this but I like to go to my thighs then put a handfuls of cold water onto my chest and neck before submerging my body completely.

The water was, of course, freezing. The feeling was so intense it felt like sharp red-hot needles being jabbed about my body. My nervous system was screaming Get Out! Whilst in this heightened state of electrification, we discussed the benefits of cold-water swimming and that it simulates the vagus nerve. Particularly good at reducing stress. I enquired about the cormorant, but he hangs out at one of the other swim locations. There is a seal. He’s antisocial and swims off when people arrive. He's not like Spearmint, the seal who was incredibly playful.

I started to swim, which is despite moving my arms and legs in a swim-like motion I don’t actually go anywhere. A lone goose flying very low passes by. He is making the indefinable sound like a duck choking on food “erk erk erk” I think to myself of all the places to spend your winter migration? I would give England a swerve and head off to southern Spain. It is always slightly warmer. However, since Brexit he may need to apply for a visa if planning to stay over 90 days.

There are paddle boarders gliding across the water, an old-fashioned wooden schooner sails out to deep sea and in the distances there is battle grey naval ship.

All in all there was much to be enjoyed in the quiet and stillness of the morning. I still had a hot shower and a warming breakfast to enjoy before the hustle and bustle of the day began.

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1 Comment

Well written! Very observant and you paint a colourful picture I can almost see in my mind. That goose should definitely head off to Spain!

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