My friend the Doctor, the one who wore her contact lenses in the wrong eyes for longer than she could reasonably be excused for, is a keen wild swimmer. I watched a film about Hampstead Pond and ever since then I thought I’d like to get into it.

The Doctor offered to take me, not to Hampstead Pond but a lake near Andover in a location I am keeping secret. She even said she could lend me a wetsuit and a swimming hat, but not goggles, so I went online and ordered a pair. They shimmered like mirrors. I took a photo of myself in them and sent the Doctor a selfie entitled, “how to suck your own eyes out.” She replied that they looked fine to her but “between us you have to peel the film off that says, “remove film”.

My swimming suit is prone to filling up with air it’s so old, but no need to buy a new one if the Doctor was lending me a wet suit. On the other hand, better check in to make sure nothing is left to chance. “All good. We get changed in the car park. should be a chilled session” she text. “That better not be code for cold,” I pushed back. “Na, nineteen degrees at least,” she reassured. “By the by, ignore the pike. It’s very small.”
“You never said anything about a pike!”
“It’s a baby and swims away…mostly”.
“I’m worried. I don’t like pike.”
“I predict you won’t see it.”
I predicted she was right as I envisaged myself being stalked and sucked under by the baby pike.

In the car park everyone stood by their open car boots and put on enormous towelling ponchos. I was perplexed. Surely the idea was to undress and get wet before drying. “I just assumed you’d have one,” said the doctor. I somehow lost the stitched-up bath towels, my Granny made me, to change under on the beach. It was the seventies. We just stripped off.

When my companions revealed themselves, they were all wearing competition style swimsuits and hats. Their goggles weren’t mirrored, and they all had waterproof timers. I was in what might be described as a lose fitting ensemble with scope for further movement.
“Did you bring a wet suit?” I asked. She had not. The peril of my situation was now fully revealed.

“Nice and slowly into the water,” our coach said soothingly as the cold water made itself know. “that’s lovely,” he said. Then just as my companions were coming up for air after full emersion, and I was considering a light shoulder splash, he blew a whistle, and we were off.
“Take your time,” he proffered. Little chance of not having my time taken as I started to move backwards in the slipstream of fast starts my fellow swimmers left. “Can you see the buoy at the end there?….Just swim round that then on to the next one and so on.”

In the time it took me to swim a kilometre everyone else managed four. I was faster at getting dressed.

In the pub everyone congratulated me on a sterling effort. I felt small. Then someone piped up to tell the tale of their cross-channel swim. She had a heart attack a mile out from Dover. She was gutted and ended up in Ashford General. I’ve been there. I was gutted for her.

I must say that you can work up quite an appetite cold water swimming. I finished the Doctors chips for her. I’ve ordered a towelling changing robe, new swimming hat and a swimsuit. I like wild swimming, but not against the clock and not with handstands.