We hadn't got far when we bumped into a couple and got talking. She showed me watercress growing on the river's edge -I wouldn't have recognised it- and recommended the pub, which we went to later. I said I was looking for somewhere to swim and her eyes lit up: she had grown up locally, she said, and had swum in the river often, but the best places were further downstream where it was deeper.
The way to the weir lay through a field full of cows and heifers. They were docile enough and stood looking at us with the usual mixture of innocence and obstinacy. The river to the left of the field looked particularly inviting: it was wide, slow-flowing and deep enough for a swim. Once we reached the weir, I left the others to snap away, changed behind a bush and lowered myself in. It felt quite warm after a minute or two and I set off upstream, at a slow breaststroke. It was raining gently and, since the water surface was at eye-level, I got a great view of the drops of rain hitting the surface. There were one or two ducks about, the odd duck-feather floating on the surface and the whole place stank of fish (it would, wouldn't it?). Trees lined both banks, although I at last got back to the cow field. Most of the cows were very young and probably hadn't seen a swimmer before: they all looked very startled and came down to the water edge to watch. Their reaction was the sort one would expect of humans had they seen someone flying, unaided, in the sky. I decided it was time to get out and made for the bank. The edge of the river, where the water was inches deep, was lined with a thick ooze. I couldn't stand up, so I tried crawling out towards the jostling semi-circle of heifers, only my arms sank up to the shoulders before they reached a firm surface, my legs to the thighs. I persevered and, as the bank got closer, so the mud got less deep. The cattle made way for me as I staggered out.
It's great to be able to do things related to a book as you're reading it: to travel round Dublin while reading Ulysses or go for long walks in the woods while reading Lord of the Rings, for example. To be able to go for wild swims while reading Deakin's Waterlog is a real treat. As I made my muddy way along the bank I was reminded of this passage:
I scrambled out with the help of the reeds but still managed to daub myself in a woad of black silt, so that I had to face my walk back along the bank in my swimming trunks, looking like some neolithic erstwhile inhabitant.