Second week of my project to swim for ten minutes in water ten degrees or colder and to donate ten pounds to Cancercare every time I manage it during the winter. Ideally I should have been somewhere else other than my usual spot on/in Windermere, but today with time on my hands and snow on the hills it was too good to miss. There’s something comforting about being in water you know well, where you can relax in to the environment and just enjoy the view. It also has excellent changing facilities.
When we originally moved to Morecambe Bay, Cancercare was the charity we decided to support. It’s local to North Lancashire and South Cumbria and you don’t have to live here long before meeting people with stories about the difference Cancercare has made to the lives of themselves or their family. Of course we didn’t envisage requiring this support ourselves, and we also felt guilty when we unexpectedly won a prize in their ‘lottery’ after a couple of years of subscribing. It was a Christmas draw and made a huge difference in the middle of a winter, when I was still a student and Gwyn was working all hours as a newly qualified teacher.
Two years ago that relationship with Cancercare changed when Gwyn was diagnosed with breast cancer, a week after my fiftieth birthday, and on a grey Valentines Day, just to make it especially memorable. Contrasting that day with this, or any other day now is to take pleasure in the very simplest of opportunities. We are out in the cold, Gwyn’s wrapped up in a Bergans down jacket she salvaged – aka ‘won’ from EBay – for a ridiculously cheap price, and she’s joyfully taking the temperature in a way that suggests she wants it to be colder than last time.
As I’m taking her photo I see the mulched leaves, now shading towards soil, conspire to slip beneath her nails as she awaits the outcome of pushing the thermometer deeper in to the water, no doubt aiming to have it as cold as possible.
I have no idea if this is accurate, but it suggests the lake is now cooling fairly quickly. I throw my bath duck in which also has a thermometer and that comes back at eight degrees, so there’s a discrepancy. However, I imagine most new parents avoid bathing their kids at that temperature, and given this is Ducky’s primary use I’m prepared to trust Gwyn’s more carefully constructed reading.
Later I chatted with another swimmer, Rachel, who no doubt thought Gwyn and I were slightly bonkers with our ducks and waterproof camera. She was another ‘skins’ swimmer but didn’t need the fifteen layers I have taken to wearing once out of the water, just the warmth of the sun, so was changed considerably faster. We concurred that it was cold, but also recognised once the water’s cold, it’s just that. Determining how we experience that cold, how it feels day to day, if the sun’s shining or if there’s snow, wind or frost, is hardly an exact science. Perhaps 10 degrees is much colder on an empty stomach, or if the wind is blowing hard, or the water’s grey. Today each of the ten minutes felt like a chime, humming with the movement of water and returning in the slippery mixing of cooler and warmer blood during the inevitable ‘after-drop’ of core body temperature, as it evoked the same crystalline note – sharp, clean and resonant. Today was joyous and thoroughly enjoyable.
Despite an unregulated schedule of doing stuff as it appeals, I am trying to put together some dates, so other people who have expressed an interest can come along. In the meantime we’ll keep taking the opportunities as they and the weather presents them to us, and hope the dates we pick are as beautiful as today was.
In the meantime, should you have the means to support Cancercare with a donation the link is here: