Monday, 23 August 2010

Waterlogged

I've just started reading Roger Deakin's Waterlog. So far I've fairly gobbled it up. I was struck by a passage in the first few pages, in which he explains why he set of on a journey swimming around British waterways. I was struck by how he explained, better than I could, two things I've touched on here, recently: firstly the joy of wild swimming (my experience of this has been slight, but intense), and secondly the subversive role of outdoor pursuits in the otherwise humdrum lives of most of us:


So swimming is a rite of passage, a crossing of boundaries; the line of the shore, the bank of the river, the edge of the pool, the surface itself. ... You are in nature, part and parcel of it, in a far more complete and intense way than on dry land and your sense of the present is overwhelming... In wild water you are on equal terms with the animal world around you: in every sense, on the same level. As a swimmer, I can go right up to a frog in the water and it will show more curiosity than fear. The damselflies and dragonflies that crowd the surface of the moat ignore me, just taking off for a moment to allow me to go by, then landing again in my wake...

Most of us live in a world where more and more places and things are signposted, labelled and officially 'interpreted'. There is something in all this that is turning the reality of things into virtual reality. It is the reason why walking, cycling and swimming will always be subversive activities. They allow us to regain a sense of what is old and wild in these islands by getting off the beaten track and breaking free of the official versions of things. A swimming journey would give me access to that part of our world which, like darkness, mist, woods or high mountains, still retains most mystery.

7 comments:

Dave King said...

Amen. N ot a word there I could disagree with!

AquaMarina said...

after 2 weeks swimming in warmer climes I'm a bit ruined for uk outside temps- not good news with GNS in 2 weeks time...
You are intrepid getting in the Swale, I salute you! I must say river currents scare me, lakes have their challenges, but at least being swept off is unlikely!

George said...

Thanks for these wonderful quotes, Dominic. I must get the book!

Poet in Residence said...

Although it's about swimming I like it that he includes cycling and walking. I'd love to bring my mountain bike over and get on that rutted muddy ridleway that runs up from Barbondale. There's a stone on the fellside above Dent with a poem on it. I wrote it down when I was there on holiday but unfortunately now I can't find the piee of paper.

Rachel Fox said...

We swam in the Loire on holiday last year and our daughter (who has not been a fan of swimming pools) just loved it and swam better than she ever has before. Of course it was warmer than a British river...
x

tony said...

The Irony Is ,We Are So Used To Signposts We Dont Even See Them Anymore!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad you are enjoying Waterlogged - he was one of nature's real eccentrics - rebuilt his house from reclaimed materials and made his moat watertight so that he could swim in it every day.