Swimming hands

The pleasures of a morning swim

Swimming hands
Swimming hands

This morning I visited the swimming baths for the first time in four months. Our local indoor pool was closed over the summer for a major roof reparation – the spring’s storms turned out to be the final indignity that broke the spirit of the old roof. (I do find myself wondering at the fatal attraction flat roofs seem to have for modern architects, even after years of experience has shown how utterly impractical they are everywhere outside of desert regions. It’s not like Gothenburg lies in any kind of rain shadow. Gothenburg is Sweden’s Manchester, Sweden’s Vancouver, Sweden’s Seattle.)

Howsomeever, this was my first swim in four months. There’s something glorious about swimming, especially when you’re not in competition and when you have a blessedly free sauna to relax in afterwards. There were just three or four other swimmers so there was no crowding and even though we were all swimming at different speeds there was no bunching up, or bottlenecking, or feeling forced to accelerate around one another. The swim was stress-free.

At one point I felt I would be able to swim 50 or 60 lengths, but reality kicked in around about length 36 and I realised now would be a really good time to get out. But with four lengths left to the kilometre I swam on and feel quietly proud of myself for achieving – after a four-month break – what was my standard swimming distance for most of last season.

Another of the great things about swimming – if you’re prepared to risk losing count of the lengths you’ve swum – is the opportunity to let your mind roam freely. I find myself thinking of all sorts of things that I might do with my webpages, that I might add to my novel, that I might photograph, that I might put into a poem…

The problem is remembering any of them afterwards. But perhaps it’s not a problem; perhaps it’s just a sign that if one gives oneself permission to relax one will find oneself still full of initiative and creativity. (And for some reason, one will also begin to sound like Prince Charles. One will have to watch that, will one not?)

And after, sitting in the sauna… (I suppose, for my Swedish audience, I thought to call it the bastu.) After, in splendid isolation and silence in the steam and heat of the bastu, I thought how very highly civilised it is to swim and steam and stretch and relax and think and dream and then wash your cares away with the sweat. And it doesn’t hurt to weigh yourself and find that despite all summer’s indulgences you haven’t actually put on any weight. You haven’t lost any weight to be sure, but you haven’t put on any either.

It’s not a bad way to start the day.