So, off we went to the Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond yesterday, parking on Merton Lane and walking up the tree-shaded lane where Keats heard his nightingales to the back entrance to the Ladies enclosure. Even at 10am the sun was fierce, but the chalkboard by the lifesaving station said 16.5C – which, translated, means REALLY F**KING COLD.
We stripped down to our swimsuits in the open air changing room, then Lil’sis very slowly lowered herself down the steep metal ladder off the pontoon first, her arms shaking from MS. I was worried she was about to go splat into the water, (you really want to avoid swallowing the pond water – the River Fleet may run below it, clearing out much of the detritus, but there are ducks, Coots and swans making merry in there along with all sort of aquatic life) but she managed not to go under and struck out for the first lifebuoy.
I followed with a hippo-like splash on entry that severely tested the engineering of my swimsuit and immediately thought, Mr Walliams, you ARE a rock star. How he swam the length of the Thames in cold water is beyond me. Even with the warmth of the sun, I could barely catch my breath and the chill spread to my bones in seconds.
Usually it takes just a few strokes in the summer to warm up in the ponds and the entry chill becomes a distant memory. Yesterday it took a lot longer but, once we were acclimatised, our swim became one of those proper magical moments, as we languidly swam from ring to ring, chatting and splashing and basking in the sun.
I’m so proud of lil’sis – we must have gently swum the length of the pond, no inconsiderable distance, twice, and she managed to get out using the slimy vertical ladder unaided. I had to psych myself up for the cold, but she had to deal with that plus the prospect that her disability might hinder her too. She is the bravest person I know, in that she tackles her somewhat restricted world head-on every day, without fuss or complaint. She is a lesson to all in dealing with life, whatever it may throw at you.
(If you’d like to know more about the Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond, I wrote about it here.)