First belly button pebble of the season…


I’d not really been thinking about swimming or returning to Dover on the drive there, I was simply enjoying the sun and listening to music when the first sighting of the sea as I came atop the hill on my approach to the coast brought such a sudden involuntary sob to my throat that it caught me unawares. Looking across the stretch of water that is the English Channel which had previously been the biggest question in my life for the first time since I answered it stirred emotions and gave me a sharp stab of happy, proud, achievement. I will confess to a salty tear or two.

The reason for my visit; the cs&pf annual dinner. Dinner, drinks and chat with the channel swimming community – proud past swimmers, hopeful future swimmers. An amazing night with awesome people, the evening sated even the self confessed swimaholic that is me – I had my fill of swimming chat, swimming tales, swimming friends – old and new, swimming hopes and dreams, swimming plans, oh and some sea swimming for breakfast the following day too.

I awoke (with a slight overhang and a bashed knee from the the night before…), threw open the hotel curtains to reveal a beautiful sea water twinkling in the Dover sunshine. After springing into my cossi I dashed to the beach with Dave Dawson, a load of the other channel swimmers were also taking a dip – the general public looking on with slightly rolled eyes that *I think* mean ‘ah – the crazies are back in town’.

Right, best get in then…I’ve taken a few open water ‘dunks’ but nothing of real note since exiting the sea in France back in September. It was, erm…fresh but the usual swift entry/catching of breath/straight into swimming to warm up/head in that I’ve learned worked as always. Fingers and toes throbbing with the cold, then suddenly the realisation that it’s fine; the cold sensation has pretty much gone and you’re actually loving it. I didn’t realise I missed it (and I never thought I’d say it after loosing the surface of my tongue to it!) but the taste of the salt water in my mouth was weirdly delicious.

I wish I could capture the amazing feeling; the freedom; the sun on your back; the twinkles on the water; the ‘let’s try swim to the bucket and back’; trying to touch the bottom but knowing you’ve got so much water beneath you there’s not a chance; the bobbing and chatting back into shore – fondly taking in the view you spent so many hours looking at every sixth breath last season; the funny un-glamorous exiting of the water – feet too cold to work properly but cold enough to make sure you feel every last pointy stone on your way back up the shore; the  drying off in the sun; affectionately recalling how impossible yet comedic getting changed under a towel in full view is; coffees and chats with other swimaholic friends; the childlike joy that the feeling of salty unrinsed skin gives for the rest of the day; the surprise as you taste it on your mouth hours later; and – to top it off – a bath upon returning home revealing a tiny stowaway pebble, lodged in my bellybutton after my first sea swim of the year marking Sunday 16th March as the ‘proper’ start of the OW season for me this year.

I realise I sound poetical and whimsy but the open water gives me something nothing else ever has. I miss it so much when we are apart. To be together again; bliss.


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