In 1975 Jaws was released...and unsurprisingly that was when my sister and I developed our fear of sea swimming. Crazy looking back now but we weren't the only ones. We were eight and fifteen years old and came out of the cinema traumatised.
Then in the super hot summer of 1977 Karen nearly drowned at Mother Ivy's Bay in Cornwall whilst on holiday. I remember seeing her being dragged up the beach and pumped out. Not long after, the basking sharks came into the shallow waters, not doubt innocently hanging about the place but for me they were an omen.
In the intervening years there were very few occasions when I felt comfortable sea swimming. Only off warm golden beaches with very clear water and shark nets. The Indian Ocean, the Caribbean.. who doesn't love those seas but still, I always lurk in the shallows practically sitting on the beach.
This is the farthest we have gone out.
There was an ill advised moment when I was seduced into going water-skiing up the Tamar from down by the Royal Albert Bridge Inn. One minute I was on the skis and doing very well, the next minute I was off and floating very near one of those buoys in the middle of the River. The water was black and cold and when I orientated myself I saw the chain plunging down into the deep and I went into a panic. After struggling for a few minutes, that seemed like eternity, I eventually floated on the surface and used all my self control to keep perfectly still, eyes closed waiting for rescue. This is the stuff of my nightmares.
It's not like we don't have any familiar connection to the sea. Au contraire our family where fishermen in Topsham and there were many a seafarer in our family tree. But like many Plymothians we didn't grow up accessing The Sound. If we went swimming it would be The Lido or a beach out of town.
Closer to home I can't remember a single time Karen and I have swam off the Hoe or Devil's Point. I've seen people baptised there and do synchronised swimming but we haven't got our towels out.
This is not entirely our fault ...there was a time when popular belief had it ..that it was unsafe to swim in the Sound. That the water was contaminated. That you would come out glowing. On top of that there used to be (until very recently) signage at Devil's Point that would put anyone off taking to the water.
So during lock-down we had our epithany with nature like everyone else, we gifted each other wetsuits and various bits of wild swimming paraphernalia. We booked the swimming lessons and went in twice, three times and then nothing. Even the benefits of cold water on our auto-immune ailments was not enough to create change. We have been in up to our necks and freaked out and shouted, panicked and headed back to the shore. Wild swimming flops.
We have watched in wonder while my daughter Nubia completed the Drake's Island swim. David Squires from the Chestnut Appeal is a director here at the Conscious sisters CIC. But we seem to be completely incapable of swimming out beyond standing, you might as well be asking us to speak in Hebrew or paint a Mona Lisa.
So we have a plan...we will wait until the sea is warmer and start our lessons with Jason. Give it another go in 2023. So if you wondered why The Conscious Sisters CIC is focusing on connecting locals with The Sound via The Gathering now you have your answer, we know that disconnect and live with it up close and personal every day.