Calum reports from his bathtub on Day One #stayhome: “in tough times there’s nothing like going for an outdoor swim – and this is nothing like swimming outdoors”
“Last summer I bought my boys a put-up circular swimming pool, and then left it up to assist my plans to become a better stoic. The idea was that I could take regular winter dips just outside the kitchen window with very little interruption to work and the school run: get up, put the kettle on, freeze my subcutaneous layers, straight on to coffee. The moat-come-Hoff immersion tank has been the source of much derision ever since – it’s ridiculousness, and my feeble attempts to establish a regular practice in it.
“It likes to be properly cold. Right now it’s 4 degrees. There is no school any more, not for a while, so I am up for work when the pool is at it’s best: the grass icy around it, the sun coming up, the dawn chorus breaking our new levels of quiet. Last week two deer lay in the field over our garden hedge, not moving till the sun stirred them. Yesterday there were two Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the ash tree above my shed. It’s Friday and we have elsewhere to create for you this morning, which provided the perfect excuse not to get in first thing – it’s hard enough to type down here before the fire has got going without icing my fingertips before I arrive.
“We’re a virtual team, the volunteers who underpin the OSS, so while I won’t be seeing anyone in the flesh for a long time (our household is “shielded” which means 12 weeks of isolation at home) I still have that normality – the joy of people like Calum creating things that make me smile so hard my eyes water, Adrian (@swimstaman) having the best ideas for new #, Karen (Swim Champ coordinator) pinging me with a cheap online gong bath course (private dreams), Dave (new recruit) coming up with new ideas on what we’re going to do on Instagram, Simon (club secretary) offering help, even as he appears to be working his way through Covid 19. I draw comfort from that solidarity, and from knowing that right now, at 6.30am, I am working alongside others who have also got up early to get elsewhere together – Beth, the features editor, is at her desk in Glasgow, Morgan, the production editor, over in Wales, and me, here in Somerset, all of us pulling in the same direction to create something we can send out to OSS members, to make somebody’s day.
“So I’m staying home, I’m home for the long haul, and counting blessings: this community, human generosity, sunrise, and my lovely cold kids pool. Turbo trainers were sold out countrywide earlier this week: so it’s my top tip for the home-locked.
“For now, stay home, stay well – and go swimming later.”
“I, like most of us now, won’t be doing any travelling for swims and I think that staying at home is something we should all do.
“As much as we could maybe travel and swim without seeing or touching anyone, I think at the moment it’s just selfish to put any potential more risk on the NHS and the amazing people working there. What if my car breaks down, or I sprain an ankle, or cut my leg? Keep it simple: stay home. The water isn’t going anywhere, it’ll still be there.
“Let us live vicariously through our memories and photos. We can have cold showers and baths if we need, watch films and more.
“Please do not travel to Scotland or, in particular, the Highlands, Islands or rural places anywhere in the UK that you don’t live in. Health services, shops, etc, are stretched as it is, and it’s stupid to put more pressure on them. These places rely on tourism hugely to survive so they know how badly this is affecting their livelihoods more than anyone – but it’s the local communities themselves urging you to stay away.
“However, please feel free to start compiling lists of dream swim locations in Scotland in preparation for some point in future when we can once again travel and swim. It’s a bit cold anyway right now. I’m going to be restricted to my bathtub, and maybe a pool in a stream about three minutes walk from my house. I think it’s waist deep and about 3 feet wide..!”
Has there ever been a time when we better time for virtual escapism? If you haven’t already please sign up for elsewhere, our new monthly journal. It’s free and virtual, and designed to leave you the same feeling of peace and joy as an outdoor swim. In every issue there is content not on the website – a Swimmers Almanac, and ‘What’s Inspiring Us This Month’ (which can be anything – a book, a music video, illustration, an exhibition).
The Outdoor Swimming Society has always been self-funded, underpinned by an event programme rather than membership donations, with 10 % of every ticket sale going to the society. These funds pay for services such as the website and email. However with two events postponed till 2021 and the other two uncertain, The OSS is facing a tough few years and will need to innovate. If you are still on a payroll and feel able to donate to The OSS at this time it would be extremely welcome.