We’re living through Goldilocks weather. It’s been too hot to sleep. Then it was too wet for my tomatoes to ripen, too cloudy for the runners to flower. The plums at the top of the garden are now looking glistening pink, but even the satisfaction of an endless supply of plumb jam has limits. I’m restless. All of this against a backdrop of staying at home. The daily constitutional is getting to be a chore. What do you do to pep it up a bit?
I take every opportunity that comes my way. I’ve tried the zoom dinner party. I’ve got a film list I’m working my way through. I’ve extended my reading into new territory. All of this is well and good, but what I really crave is something a little more visceral: something that offers a less thought through reaction and just brings a moment of joy.
The God Daughter has been going to the beach. “Are you mad?” I asked. It wasn’t a question but more of a statement of fact. “Why would you want to sit in a traffic jam and compete for space with thousands of other people and their litter?”
“No no no,” she said, wagging her jewel encrusted fingernail at me. “I go when it’s empty. I go before they have even thought of getting out of bed.”
“Sort of. We leave at five…am,” she said. “you can come if you like.”
It was like being in Varna. I woke up. I put my swim suit on. Granted, eighteen degrees is not the same as August on the Black Sea but some things were the same. The God Daughter was in full regalia, nails sparkling as she swung the steering wheel into action. “Have you got your swim suit on?”
“Course not.” She looked horrified at the prospect. I just sit down. The boys like to go in. You go in if you want. Far too cold for me.”
“I once swam in an arctic lake,” I explained, then realised that I was now fully committed.
At the beach, there was no one about, unless you count the volunteer litter picker who had been hard at it since before my alarm clock had gone off. “Nippy,” he commented, pulling down his woolly hat.
“You going in then?”
“In a minute.” I said, bracing myself.
Taking the plunge, the cold water woke up all my senses. Being lifted up by the waves was a thrill. Swimming against the tide was exhilarating. How often do you have a beach to yourself? I could swim for an hour in the knowledge that no one was going to crash into me. I was not going to garrotte a small child over the head in an act of front crawl. It felt more than good.
“I’m terribly sorry,” a small voice next to me said.
“No I’m sorry.” I swam left.
The small voice swam right. We practically collided. Then I went right and she went left. How is it possible that in the expanse of the English Channel I’d managed to crash into the only other swimmer who couldn’t see where she was going?
Here we were, two middle aged women, splashing about in the certain knowledge there was no one to collide with only to collide with each other.
The sun was up and the beach was filling up, so we packed up and left.
“You’ve got loads of room Love,” the God Daughter scoffed at a woman gingerly manoeuvring her way out of a tight spot in the car park. I like to think the other swimmer was the passenger in that car, smiling like me.