A Tragic Incident

This weekend the open water swimming community was shocked to hear of the death of Nick Thomas, who died in Calais after being taken out of the water only a few miles short of completing his channel swim.

I didn’t know Nick personally, although I know a number of people that did. You can read the notice from the Channel Swimming and Pilot Federation here: http://cspf.co.uk/article/111/nick-thomas

Personally this weekend I was with another community of swimmers at the BLDSA’s Windermere swim, not swimming this year, but helping out with the management of the swim. However late on Sunday evening I got an email asking if I would be interviewed on BBC radio about Nick’s death. I’m not sure how they found me – probably through the BLDSA’s Twitter page (which I run), but I wasn’t sure that I was qualified enough to speak about it. I tried to find someone I felt was more qualified – but with it being the Sunday evening of a bank holiday weekend people weren’t available.

So last night I was on the Stephen Nolan show on Radio 5 Live. I told them I hadn’t known Nick, nor had I swum the channel, so instead I talked about open water swimming in general. You can listen here (it starts at about 45 minutes in) – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07q1wfs

It wasn’t a particularly a good interview, like many non swimmers the interviewer just didn’t seem to understand the concept of open water swimming and so asked very basic questions. I hope I did ok and represented our community well enough.

I also want to offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Nick Thomas.

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I Has Swimmed

It might not sound like much given that this is a blog (in theory) all about swimming. However I’ve had a bad back for the last four months, so I’ve hardly swim at all. 

At first I tried to swim through it, but that was no good. So then I tried to use swimming as therapy, but it wasn’t. 

So for the last three months or so I haven’t swum at all. 

Over the last few days my back has started to feel a little bit better. I don’t want to tempt fate, but just maybe… 

Anyway, I decided to risk a swim today and managed a whole 500m, I was delighted. Of course I had a rest at the end of every length, but 20 whole lengths!

It was also nice that a few people at the pool said hello and asked if I’d been away. I suspect that they just enjoyed a more relaxing swim over the last few months – well, that might be about to change!

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Dear Speedo…

I posted this tweet as a little joke last night:

Screenshot 2016-08-23 09.34.24

Obviously it was intended as a dig at Ryan Lochte and his ‘antics’ in Rio and the aftermath for him with regards to sponsors backing away from him. A couple of my friends (Rach & Hazel) saw it and we swapped a few tweets about how nice it would be, then I posted this one:

Screenshot 2016-08-23 09.34.41

But then I got to thinking about it more seriously…

I’ve read recent reports that Speedo was due to pay Lochte $50,000 which it is now donating to charity. I’m not sure if that all of the annual fee he receives, or just the Olympics related portion of it, but just think what some non-Olympic athletes could do with that sort of money – and actually how it could change the profile of a sponsor to get involved at that level.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I LOVED watching the Olympics, but I can’t say I was particularly inspired.

I’m sporty. Apart from the horse stuff and the wrestling I’ve probably had a go, in one form or another, at nearly every Olympic sport. But to watch it on TV, well they might as well have been completely different sports. I will never ever swim as quickly as Phelps (or Lochte) or run as fast as Mo. Even watching the badminton made it look like a completely different sport to the one I’ve played a few times. For that reason, those people are not my sporting inspirations.

I’m a fat, middle aged, single parent who also tries to stay fit and swim a bit. The people that inspire me, the people that I really want to be like are the slightly less fat people that finish the swims 10 or 15 minutes ahead of me (even those that finish 2 hours ahead of me are already considered to be on a different planet). Those are the people I look up to, the people who’s kit I surreptitiously check out, or who’s training programmes I try and copy. So why aren’t they sponsored?

Dear Speedo, please sponsor some more ‘normal’ athletes.

This also links to the reports about the cost of the GB team’s medals – apparently it is just £1.09 per British person per Olympic medal won in Rio. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to pay for that success and well done to all the medalists. But maybe, just maybe, we could just pay 99p each to all the athletes on the medal track and 10p towards greater participation in sport – in building basketball courts in inner cities, in increasing disability access to sport, in hiring more school sports teachers, in preserving playing fields and football pitches etc etc.

The medal success is great and I loved watching the golds, silvers and bronzes rack up over the last couple of weeks, but I’ll have forgotten much of it within 10-15 years (if not sooner). Yet as a nation think how much better off we would be in 10-15 years time if more people were more active. If you believe that sport is a good thing in itself, then surely we want as many people as possible to have the chance to take part, but aside from that – we would increase the pool of potential Olympians if more kids were active and massively reduce the burden on the NHS if people generally led a more active life.

As a major player in one of the major Olympic sports Speedo, you could do something about that right now.

Don’t find another Lochte, instead 5 or 10 ambassadors for your sport and your company and sponsor them.

And if you’re looking for suitable people and want a fat, middle-aged bloke, then yes I am available. But also look at Rach and Hazel too please – completed Ironman event, channel swims between them, they are the real inspiration for everyday folk.

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Walmer Cottage Update

Some of you will have read posts that described Walmer Cottage – a place I rented in Deal, near Dover. You will have noticed that I didn’t like it. You might also have noticed that the posts are no longer on the site. So what happened?

The owner got in touch with me to say that she has been very ill. While I absolutely stand by my posts I don’t want to add to her stress and discomfort, so I have pulled the posts for now.

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Come and swim Coniston

I’m organising a swim in Coniston Water in the Lake District and I’d like to invite you to come along and swim it.

It’s through the BLDSA, so you need to be a member of the organisation – you can enter easily online here: http://bldsa.org.uk/portfolio/bldsa-annual-dinner-agm/. However, membership not only allows you to swim in any other BLDSA event this year, it also supports a voluntary organisation that is dedicated to providing safe and fun events for open water swimmers.

The swim itself is a 5.25mile skins swim that starts at the southern end of the lake and ends when the lake ends at the northern end of the lake. And it’s beautiful. Coniston is one of the nicest lakes to swim in and I promise you’ll love it.

As we are so focussed on you being safe and enjoying your swim we insist on a 1-2-1 kayak to swimmer ratio, so you’ll need to have a kayaker to support you. However, if you’re stuck with that we might be able to find you someone who can help, or if you a body but no boat kayaks can be hired at the lake – just let me know.

So, sign up here – http://www.entrycentral.com/event/100339 – and be quick as entries close tomorrow.

The view back down the lake from the finish.

The view back down the lake from the finish.

The beach at the Bluebird Cafe

The beach at the Bluebird Cafe

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Well, We F**ked That Up

I’ve already written several angry and sweary social media posts this morning, so I will try my best for this to be neither – no promises though.

I’m obviously writing this in the aftermath of the Leave vote in the British referendum – a result that has genuinely devastated me and so this post is an attempt to clear my own thoughts on the subject.

The first thing I want to state quite clearly is: Not in my name. I didn’t vote for this and I don’t agree with it. I think it is not only the wrong decision to have made, but the wrong message to send to the rest of the world, but also, more importantly, our children.

We have said to the world that we want to leave and be on our own. We don’t want to work together, but we want to ‘take back’ our country. Take it back to where, to do what with it exactly?

In my social media posts I squarely put the blame on the shoulders of anyone that voted Leave – I still do. But I also had some replies that told me it was democracy in action and that we shouldn’t blame ‘the people’. On top of that I listened to the radio this morning and the voices of some of ‘the people’ who voted Leave.

Listening to the voice on the radio it seems that for lots of people this vote was a protest vote, a sense of ‘things can’t get any worse, so let’s change the one thing we can change’.

So the austerity cuts that have hit this country hard, and pockets of this country even harder have caused many people to feel so negative that they have voted to leave an organisation that pumps millions of pounds back into regeneration projects for those generations. The Tory leadership that wanted us to stay in Europe was also the Tory leadership that was so determined to inflict austerity on us.

I still blame those that voted Leave, but I blame the Tories too.

And while we had the Tories screaming about austerity, then trying to weakly defend Europe where was Labour? In fighting and weak leadership caused them to hand the general election to the Conservatives (and hasten austerity), even weaker leadership and ineffectual campaigning meant that they could rouse, or persuade, or explain to their core followers what this vote was really about.

I still blame those that voted Leave, but I blame Labour too.

One of the other elements of this vote that has been widely reported in the media is the age split of the vote. In simplistic terms, the older you are the more likely you were to vote Leave. More and more we are turning into a country that doesn’t understand the demographic fortune (or misfortune) that different generations are born into. We seem to be a country where those that were born into demographic misfortune are just told to work harder and suffer through it by those that were born into demographic fortune. We seemed to willingly believe the lie that those that were born into demographic fortune have got there by their own hard work and skill alone. And if you don’t believe that this is the case just look at house prices and the way they have risen in relation to average wages. The baby boomer generation all bought houses with relative ease; their kids struggled to do so, but have houses, even if some of them have negative equity or crippling mortgages; while the grandkids of the baby boomers are likely to be a generation of renters.

I still blame those that voted Leave, but I blame the older generation too that have forgotten the demographic fortune they were born into.

And as for the taking back our country bit. It seems that we believed the lie that an unelected elite from Europe rules us. Instead we have returned power to the British government that is predominantly made up of white, upper middle class, privately educated men – if that’s not an ‘elite’ then what is? On top of that, but with David Cameron’s resignation we will shortly have a new Prime Minister that certainly hasn’t been voted in by the electorate.

As far as I am concerned this is a sad day for this country.

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Swimming Season Over

At least it is for me.

I’ve been injured for the last eight weeks or so and although it’s slowly getting better it’s a long way from fixed. Tonight I finally bit the bullet and cancelled my entries to the BLDSA’s Bala swim. I also withdrew from my place in a Channel Relay team.

The Bala swims were to be one of my training weekends for Windermere – the plan was to use events as long distance training opportunities. Without Bala I’m not going to be able to train enough for Windermere, so that’s out for this year.

Bugger!

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Ugh!

I’m trying really hard to even know what my emotions are right now, yet alone name them.

Despair – what is this world coming to, how can someone behave like this? How can disagreements, different points of view lead to murder? How is this possible, how do we let it be possible, how do we go on in a world where it is possible?

Anger – how dare people do this, how dare someone take a life in this way, how dare someone threaten our community, society and way of life in this way (because that’s what it feels like)?

Fear – how can my son grow up in a world like this? I want him to be open and loving and brave and honest and to strive for fairness and equality and respect for all. But these are not always easy things to be / strive for. They can anger some people. Do I actually want him to be quiet and silent and safe instead?

Sadness – obvious utter heartbreak for the husband and kids left behind, but sadness for us as a society too.

This is all in response to the truly shocking news about Jo Cox – however that seems to be just the rancid cherry on top of the cake of shit that the news has been full of in recent weeks. The shooting in the Pulse night club in Orlando and the horrible, bitter, false campaigning for the EU referendum (from both sides) and the rise of Trump and how his awful rhetoric has become mainstream are three of the other more obvious ingredients of this shit cake. I normally try to be quite positive about the news – even in the face of bad news, as usually even if it is terrible it is an ‘incident’, a one-off, no matter how individually horrific or sad. However, at the moment I just can’t be positive about the news.

Right now it feels as if the world is going to hell in a handcart. How do we stop this? Please let the good people win in the end.

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BLDSA’s Colwick Park Swim – Report

A sunny day, happy and successful swimmers, the support of some great volunteers – this swim secretary job is easy isn’t it?

The first swim of the BLDSA season was blessed with glorious weather, which off-set any concerns about the early season cold water and nearly 50 swimmers set off for the 5km swim, including some wetsuit swimmers for the first time.

2016-05-22 10.10.45The great conditions were matched by great swimming. The ladies event saw the top three swimmers separated by less than three minutes – Georgia Amison coming in first a couple minutes ahead of Louise Fielding and Wendy Figures. Thomas Roberts won the gents event, with a battle for second that saw Paul Smith finish just 13 seconds ahead of Andrew Ward, who was also the first wetsuit swimmer home.

Swimmers continued to stream home for the next hour, with excellent performances from everyone.

Then once all the 5km swimmers had completed their swims (and everyone had had their bacon butties) we started the 1km swim.

12 swimmers set off for the 1km and it was a great mix of 5km swimmers wanting to add an extra 1km to their day’s swimming, swimmers looking for a 1km challenge, BLDSA regulars and some first timers to our swims. We even had a team medley happening.

Thomas Roberts was again the first swimmer home to take the gents 1km event, while Nic Court, swimming her first BLDSA event managed to scoop the ladies event and first breaststroker home.

Once again, thanks to all the volunteers and I look forward to seeing you all again next year.

2016-05-22 07.39.09

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A Relationship?

I wrote this a while ago, thought I’d publish it here.

– – –

I don’t want to care for you – although I accept that may come into things later on – I want to care about you.

I don’t want to look after you, but to look out for you.

I don’t want to stop you doing the things that you love. I’d quite like it if I was one of things you loved and also one of the things you did (in all ways). But only one of those things.

I don’t want to control or dominate, to take over your life or restrict your passions and activities. Instead I want to support and enable, to be a part of your life and share your passions.

I’d like to be intimate and devoted, but not in each other’s pockets.

Traditional relationships [clearly] haven’t worked out for me either. But it’s not the relationship part I want to reject, but the traditional construct of it.

Caring, support, passion, intimacy are all very positive things – but they don’t need to take time or even [much] energy.

I want you to be a better you because we are together and supporting each other. I want to be a better me for the same reason. I don’t want you to be less of yourself or do less of what makes you you.

We both lead busy lives and I don’t want to live yours for you – to be honest I’m not sure I have the time to live all of mine right now.

A relationship shouldn’t be restrictive, it should be enhancing and empowering. It shouldn’t impinge on your life, but help it to grow. One of my favourite pop lyrics is “You make me happy when I was happy to start with.” Relationships shouldn’t be about trying to fix each other. You’re not broken. And even if you are, that’s what makes you you. I don’t want to be fixed, but rather have my flaws acknowledged and loved anyway.

A relationship should be about love. Love for each other [hopefully], but it should never reduce the love for ourselves. Sometimes, in the best situations, it can actually help to uncover, nurture and highlight the things about ourselves that we should be loving and help us to do so.

At no time will I put finding (or maintaining) a relationship ahead of me and ahead of some of the other life commitments that I already have. If a relationship isn’t working out, if it isn’t performing to the checklist above, if it isn’t making me a better me, then it will go.

I can survive without a relationship. I am surviving without a relationship. But I do more than survive when I’m loved – and ultimately that’s all I want from a relationship: to be loved. We can work out the rest of the details as we go along.

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