Not all men, but all women

I’m compelled to write this following the recent Harvey Weinstein allegations.

Admittedly we haven’t heard this much on this occasion (or at least I haven’t), but a phrase that is often repeated when a sexual predator is found out is “not all men.” The not so subtle subtext to that is that hey, come on, we’re not all like that, most men are ‘good guys’, so women you’ll just have to learn which ones to ignore.

But I’m going to call that out as bullshit.

It’s bullshit because it puts the onus on women to learn / cope with / avoid the ‘bad guys’ and it doesn’t challenge or try to stop the men’s behaviour.

It’s bullshit because even without blatant sexual assaults there is a lot of behaviour by many men that women find threatening, uncomfortable, invasive and just downright icky. The ‘not all men’ mantra stops men from challenging or questioning their own behaviour.

But it’s mainly bullshit because while it is true that not all men are sexual predators it is true that all (or nearly all) women have a story that is about, at best, inappropriate sexual behaviour by a man towards them, but very often is about downright sexual abuse.

If you don’t believe this, then check out the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter (and I think you’ll posts with it on Facebook) too.

And men, you don’t have to have a wife / daughter / mother to be appalled at this – be appalled because it is wrong.

– – –

Just over 12 months ago I wrote a similar post to this after Trump’s admission about “grabbing”. It’s amazing that it needs writing again.

Last year’s post (which you can read here: Men – it’s time to get angry) was inspired by a Twitter conversation asking women for their first sexual assault – not the only one, because the female author of the tweet knew that most women had suffered multiple assaults. You can still see the thread here: https://twitter.com/kellyoxford/status/784541062119456769.

In last year’s post I talked about four things that men (actually anyone, but I was directing it at men) can do:

  1. Stop
  2. Step up
  3. Step in
  4. Support

Unfortunately it’s still appropriate and I suspect that there will be many more of these stories to come out in the future.

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Sleep and happiness

The two best diet aides are sleep and happiness. 

Sleep is an obvious one. When I’m tired I crave extra energy, extra food and often extra sugar. Extreme tiredness morphs into extreme hunger before I even know what I’m doing. Chocolate equals energy. 

When I swim I need food to fight the cold, to keep me warm. When I don’t swim then I need food to keep my soul warm. Happiness needs to be nourished. 

I can cope better with sadness if I’m well fed – or badly fed, just as long as I’m not hungry and sad at the same time. That’s a tough combination that multiplies both feelings. 

And of course the two are often linked. Sadness can lead to an inability to sleep or at least to sleep well. While adding weight (or not losing it) leads to a feeling of worthlessness, which is rarely followed by happiness. 

So it looks like I can’t wait until I’m skinny to be satisfied and happy with myself…

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Lac Leman

Lac Leman (or lake Geneva as we know it in English) is a real bucket list swim for marathon swimmers. At 70km long it is a similar distance to a two-way English Channel swim and has been swum by only a very select group of swimmers.

That’s why, this summer, I was delighted…


… to be invited to visit some friends who live near the lake.

I didn’t bloody swim it, of course I didn’t – I’m nowhere near a good enough swimmer to do that. I did have a nice dip this morning though.


As for the weekend, I had a lovely time. A really relaxing weekend with friends, mountains, a lake, wine and LOTS of cheese.

Maybe one day I’ll be back with more serious swimming intentions…

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Sleeping Rough in Nottingham

Last night I slept rough in Nottingham. I bedded down in my sleeping bag in the cold, dark night and did my best to sleep while exposed to the elements. 

I was lucky though, it was just a one off for me as a way to raise money for charity

The fact is that many people have to do this as a way of life and that’s a disgrace in modern Britain. One of the stats we learnt is that rough sleeping increased by 132% since 2010. While 3 years ago there were 13 officially counted rough sleepers in Nottingham. Over the last 2 weeks that number has been counted as 85!!

My experience of rough sleeping was with about 100 others as part of the CEOsleepout at Notts County’s ground. We all met up at about 8pm and mingled as we were told some of the stats I mentioned above. Then at about 11pm we made our way outside and put our bedding down at the edge of the pitch. 


Nervous laughter, chatting and a lot of time spent on smartphones was the way nearly everyone spent the first hour, but gradually people settled down and started to sleep. 

In the end I coped fine with the experience. I struggled to sleep at first, but clearly slept well as when I woke up at 6am I was the only person left pitchside bar one other person in the corner of the pitch. I’d slept through everyone else waking up, getting up and clearing away all their sleeping kit before making their way inside. So I quickly joined them for a well deserved cup of tea. 

However I was able to sleep so well because I knew it was only for one night. It was dry, I was safe and I knew that I was going home afterwards. I was able to dry my sleeping kit off as soon as I got home and start my day no worse for my little ‘adventure’. 

Yet there are many people that don’t have those luxuries. They have to bed down in kit still damp from the before, often in places that put them at risk from the elements and possibly worse. And they have to do that night after night. It was to draw attention to those people and to raise money for the charities that support them that we did it – so if you can please spare some pennies by going to my JustGiving page: http://www.justgiving.com/Patrick-Smith-sleepout

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51kms in Windermere

I started this blog as a way to motivate me to swim one length of Windermere – which I did in 2012.

On Sunday I swam my third length of the lake, so a total of 51kms swum in that lake alone.

Sunday’s swim was cold and it took longer than I had hoped / intended. But it was also completed, so there is that I suppose. It didn’t have the “Oh my god I can’t believe I’m doing this” excitement of the first swim. Nor did it have the “Oh my god I can’t believe I’m doing this” despair of the second time I swam it. This time I just swam it (albeit slower and colder then I would have liked).

I suppose that is a level of success in itself. I can swim a length of Windermere in water temperature that may have reached the dizzy heights of 14.5 degrees and at the end I can shrug my shoulders and be a bit disappointed with my time (7hours 45minutes). It doesn’t really feel like success, but if I was forced to look on the bright side…

Anyway, it’s done and the season is done for this year. Let’s see what next year brings…

– – –

The Windermere swim was the second of my swims raising money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. If you’re able to spare a few pennies I’d be really grateful if you could donate on Just Giving. I’ll leave the page open for a couple more weeks, but then close it down by Sunday 8th October.

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Windermere v3

This Sunday I’m hoping to swim Windermere.

I say hoping because there’s a lot that can happen between now and then (not least that we haven’t finalised the logistics) and a lot that can happen during the swim. But I’m committed to making it happen, so all things being well, by Sunday evening I will have swum Windermere.

If I do it, it will be my third length of England’s longest lake (at 10.5 miles) and that fact alone surprises me. I still don’t really consider myself a swimmer, but I seem to be doing a good job of fooling everyone, so I’ll keep going until the charade is spotted.

From a swimming perspective this year started badly with a mental and physical hangover from last year’s bad back. I couldn’t quite find the motivation at the start of the season and so the goals I set at the start of the year will be mainly unfulfilled (that’s for another post). However, over the last few weeks I’ve really started to enjoy my swimming again and have enjoyed both the physical challenge and meditative quality of swimming longer distances. Ever since the Ullswater swim I’ve had my swimming mojo back.

So after the channel relay I decided I wanted to do more. I did have a 2-person relay planned, but unfortunately that fell through, so Windermere was the next logical choice.

I’ve done it before. The first time I just loved being there, the second time I tried too hard to ‘achieve’ something and had a very bad day at the office. Hopefully for the third I can do something between those two. I have a goal, but I also want to enjoy it and have a good day. Fingers crossed.

– – –

One last thing – I have been raising money for charity over the last few weeks with the channel relay and this Windermere swim. This is the last time I’ll mention it, but if you can spare a few pennies for the MNDA then I’d really appreciate it.

Please donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-swim

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Pals, Puke and Pebbles

On Friday at just before 6:03am Jayne jumped off the back of the boat Suva and set off swimming to Samphire Hoe beach. It was only a c. 200m swim and once there she climbed up the beach so that she was completely clear of the water. She waved her arms, the boat’s horn sounded and Jayne got back into the water and started swimming towards France.

After an hour Jayne got out and Rach got in. She swam for an hour and was followed in by Cathy who also did an hour and then I got in. We repeated this four times until after 15 hours and 23 minutes I had the honour and privilege of hitting land in France. I climbed up so that I was completely clear of the water and the boat’s horn sounded again – me and three pals had swum the channel.

Makes it sound easy really doesn’t it?

It wasn’t quite that simple.

It started with lots of waiting. Our tide started on the Monday and we knew it was unlikely we’d be off straight away as we were booked as the third swim to go out on the tide, but other than than that we didn’t know when it would be. At one stage it was going to be Tuesday morning, then not, then maybe Thursday evening, then not, then Friday morning and it was. But the waiting is hard work and emotionally very draining.

Jayne setting off

The confirmation finally came just before 7pm on Thursday evening and we needed to meet up with our boat pilot in Dover at 5am. So an evening of not much sleep followed with a 3am alarm clock. Then once we had met up it was time was a nerve racking journey of about 40 minutes on the boat from the harbour to the beach we were to start from. Jayne was clearly nervous, but toughed it out and did a great first swim, getting us out and away.

Rach enjoying her swim, before…

The weather was great, a beautiful sunrise and the water wasn’t too choppy. That said, for those of the team that don’t have strong sea legs it was choppy enough to cause some discomfort and both Jayne and Rach managed to feed the fish! Rach actually managed it while swimming (which is supposed to be easier than standing on deck) as she took the second leg for us. Fortunately for Cathy and I we were able to cope by staring at the horizon and taking a sea sickness tablet.

Cathy’s lovely swim

The water flattened out during our second rotation and for both Jayne and Rach another swim helped, while Cathy had her most favourite swim of the day in the beautiful water. It flattened until I got in that is. Within a few minutes of my swim starting I was thinking how much harder it felt compared to how it looked from on deck – I actually felt a bit of a wimp and vowed that I wouldn’t discuss it with anyone. But as I climbed out the rest of the team asked if I’d heard the thunder as a storm had started back on the coast and had churned the water up a bit. I hadn’t, but it justified my slightly tougher than expected swim.

Fortunately Caroline had some time to appreciate the view

The day drifted by and we continued to swim. France got closer, but still tantalisingly distant. We continued to swim in rotation and at all times we were looked after superbly by our non-swimming teammate Caroline. Towels, tea and unwavering support made the swimming so much easier. We were able to concentrate on ourselves knowing that Caroline was supporting the returning swimmer.

Then as dusk started we hit the tide and the unpredictability started. The swims themselves became tougher as we fought the tide and the serene progress was halted as forward momentum was replaced by lateral movement. The issue now was whether we would manage to hit land before the Cap (Cap Griz Nez and the famous lighthouse) or whether we would miss it and possibly give ourselves an extra 4-6 hours of swimming. The night was descending and the tiredness was setting in and it became a mental as much as physical challenge.

We were close enough to France that a strong swim in a straight line looked as if it would get us there in an hour or so. But the tide had other ideas and Jayne couldn’t break us through, then nor could Rach. By the time Cathy got in it was almost pitch black (apart from the beam from the lighthouse) and we were no longer really sure where we were. Then all of a sudden we realised exactly where we were – far too far away from Cathy as she was swimming. Panic, yelling and tooting of the boat’s horn on board; serene swimming as she thought the boat had stopped and she was swimming into shore in the water. We thought that she was fighting the tide to get back to us; she thought the boat had stopped on purpose to let her hit land. Eventually the boat moved over towards her, but had this ruined our chances of landing near the Cap? Extra worry and discussion on board; but excellent strong swimming in the water.

In the end Cathy wasn’t able to take us to land, but had done enough to see us safe and I had to get in and swim for the final leg. As I got in I wasn’t sure it would be the final leg. I had the lighthouse beam on my left (and I swore at it every time I breathed to that side, telling it it wasn’t going to win) and the boat’s light on my right. I swam like a cat that chases a laser pen, every time I slipped out of the boat’s light I chased it down again. Until one time when the boat suddenly pulled away from me – or had I dropped behind and lost our chance? Would I be able to make up the ground (water?)? Fortunately I did, but it was scary sprint from two or three minutes.

A French pebble

Then the boat just seemed to stop. My pessimistic brain immediately assumed that we had missed the Cap and swim was being aborted. But instead a beam was shone from the deck and there was the French coast. It was too shallow for the boat to go any further and I had to follow the beam of light until I could climb out on the rocks and make sure I was completely clear of the sea. I did. The horn sounded. I jumped back in, but before I swam back to the boat I picked up a handful of French pebbles as souvenirs.

All that was left was congratulations, updating social media and lots of conversations about “never again” (although not from me…).

Updating everyone back home

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Last Training Swim

On Monday I’m off down to Kent to wait for my channel relay, so this morning’s swim was my last training swim ahead of that.

I did a series of drills (to keep my stroke in good order) and then a gentle 1km to total 2,850m.

However, the best bit about today’s swim was the chat with the other swimmers and letting them know about next week’s channel relay. Having done a relay before (and lots of other open water swimming) next week’s swim, while exciting, doesn’t seem that big a deal. But to the pool swimmers it’s a big challenge and they were excited and very supportive of me. It was lovely to chat to them and to see it through other people’s eyes.

Having said all of that, I am excited and I am looking forward to it. I am aware and respectful of the challenge ahead, but I’m also confident in my training and fitness.

If you’d like to sponsor me for the swim, please go here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-swim

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Ullswater done, Derwentwater done

Yesterday I swam the 7 mile length of Ullswater with the BLDSA.

It was chilly, windy and all in all a bloody tough swim. It split into three very distinct sections for me.

Part 1 – horrible, cold and really not much fun. I knew I wouldn’t finish and would be getting out “soon” (it was never now, but always “soon”). I took my first feed after an hour and then every 45 minutes from then and the second feed seemed to be an age away. I really didn’t enjoy this section of the swim.

Part 2 – it started soon after he second feed and was probably timed with the sun coming out a bit, but I suddenly felt ‘in the zone’ and really enjoyed it. From being desperate for my second feed to happen I pushed the third one back five minutes as I did t want to break my rhythm. For about two hours I actually enjoyed myself and was swimming well.

Part 3 – was when the shoulders began to ache and the cold got into me a little bit. At this point the end couldn’t come soon enough.

But the end arrived. I touched the buoy and turned round to thank my kayaker. Then burst out laughing.

A wave had caught her against a jetty (that she had positioned herself against so I wouldn’t swim into it) and flipped the kayak over. So she joined me for a swim for the last 50m. I rescued the paddle, hence this photo.


So in summary a cold swim (13.8 degrees), a long swim (7 miles), a tough swim, but almost an enjoyable one.

Today was Derwentwater and a little easier. The water was fractionally warmer (14.3 degrees), the weather was calmer and nicer and it was shorter (5.25 miles). But the main thing that made it easier for me was that I was kayaking and not swimming.

That said I was kayaking for an amazing swimmer and a very fast one. She covered the 5.25 mile course in a little over 2 1/4 hours and swam brilliantly throughout.

As a kayaker it was my job to be there as safety support if needed (I wasn’t), but also guide the route and feed when needed. The speed she swam at meant that I was kept pretty busy with both of those.

She was the first swimmer home, so I’m going to take some credit for that (I’m not really, but it was amazing to watch a proper swimmer).


A good weekend so far.

– – –

Update – I also swam 6km in Coniston on Monday – you know, just for fun!

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Please support…

I’m not a great one for using my swims for fundraising. I’m gonna do the swim anyway, so it doesn’t always feel right to ask people to donate to something I enjoy. 

This time is different though. I’m raising money for the MNDA through JustGiving. Here’s what I wrote there:

Someone very, very important to me lost someone very, very important to her to this shi**y disease, so I wanted to do something.

What I’m actually going to do is swim a channel relay (swimming from England to France as part of team) – twice.

The first is a four-person relay which will hopefully take place at the end of August. In it we will swim for an hour each and I expect to get 3 or 4 swims (so four hours of swimming).

The second is a two-person relay at the end of September. For this one we will swim for two hours at a time and again I expect to swim 4 times, however this will mean eight hours of swimming.

If you think that this is something that is worth a few pennies then please donate. Thank you.

– – – 

If you would like to donate, please go to my JustGiving page to do so – http://www.justgiving.com/Patrick-Smith-swim

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