British eccentricity at its best

August is a very unsettling month, in my experience.  For a start, the swifts return to Africa and the summer skies seem empty without them.  It’s the first sign that the year is about to turn.  People we regularly see are away on holiday.  This is the time of year when we start to think about  new beginnings, and changes.  Yesterday morning when I went to feed the chickens there was a definite chill in the air. This summer has been so awful weather wise.  I’m hoping for pale golden days in September, with swimming in clear water.  I’m planning to keep swimming through the whole year again this year.  Last winter I chose some still, sunny days for quick swims and it was glorious!

Paul is preparing his registers for the Autumn Term.  We have a very loyal band of students and we look forward to welcoming old and new students  to classes at the end of September.    We must remember to stock up on Mcvitie’s Chocolate Biscuits – all included in the fee!

We do have a mini adventure planned for Sunday:  the World Bellyboard Championships in Chapel Porth.  This day celebrates British eccentricity at its best.  The event is organised by the National Trust and has taken place every year for the last 10 years or so.  Paul & I entered for the first time last year and had a great day of vintage swimwear, tea and cake and surfing on the old 60′s ply bellyboards.  We’ve both been selected to take part in the Expression Session and we have costumes sorted out. Paul has painted Smeaton’s Tower on my board and has done something about his unruly hair. Should be a jolly good day out.

Been there, done that, got the tee shirt.

We met at the B Bar for registration.  David from the Chestnut Appeal drew a big black 5 on my right hand and gave me an orange cap and a tee shirt. The atmosphere was the same as just before O-Levels.  Oh No!  I haven’t revised Metamorphosis/done enough training!  Aargh!  I decided to escape to the van to get changed into my wetsuit.  At 1 o’clock 100 swimmers, including a group of us from Devon Wild Swimming, plus Paul and Pat and two kayaks boarded the boat and motored out to the Sound.  The weather – perfect.  Flat sea, no wind, a bit of sun but not too much. We stopped by the Breakwater and two by two we all jumped off the bow in our orange caps and started swimming to shore.

I swam slowly at first, getting used to the sensation of being in the water so far away from the shore.  Most of the other 99 swimmers sped off in front of me. Paul kayaked close by.  I got into the rhythm of my stroke and headed for Smeaton’s Tower which looked tiny in the distance.  The water was a pale greeny brown and thankfully gave no clue as to the depth underneath me.  It seemed a long way to swim.  I’m not doing this again, I thought to myself. I stopped after a while – I had no concept of time – and realised that Smeaton’s Tower looked a bit bigger – maybe I could do this after all!  Paul told me I had been in the water about half an hour and was about a quarter of the way there.  I started to enjoy myself.  Jennycliff came closer to the right of me – such a different view of a familiar place! Drake’s Island on my left still seemed miles away.  I kept going, concentrating on my stroke, breathing every four arm-pulls on my right side to avoid the glare of the sun  on the left. Strangely, I felt quite warm and safe.  Safety ribs blocked my view of the lighthouse every now and again and I got quite cross.  Gradually I got closer and closer.

I could see a green buoy and headed for it, but it refused to get any bigger.  I think the tide was against me here but at last I got there.  Paul told me I should head right, but that seemed wrong so I carried on for Smeaton’s Tower.   I could see people on the beach at Tinside and – joy of joys – a Yellow Swimming Buoy!  Home territory! There were a few swimmers close to me and we more or less kept together. I knew I could do it now, and swam more strongly for shore.

 I made it to the beach and  staggered to my feet – feeling unsteady after 1 and a half hours in the water.  There was a crowd of people to greet us – what a welcome!  Photos were taken as we all met up and discussed times.  Breakwater?  Been there, done that, got the tee shirt.  And the cap.

Sorry about the weeds

O crumbs and gosh! I am swimming from the Breakwater to the Hoe tomorrow!  In a moment of madness I registered way back in the winter and now it’s tomorrow!  I’m hopeful, rather than confident as I don’t know how the tides will affect me.    There are 100 swimmers taking part, and I’m hoping it will be a memorable event.  The weather is mild, compared with the recent high winds, so I am going to enjoy it.  Below is an image of Paul’s painting of the Breakwater – we’ll be setting off from this end of the Breakwater and will swim in to Tinside Beach East. Today I’m doing a bit of gardening, eating well and having cups of tea. Paul and Chris are off sailing to the Eddystone and back in the Eddystone Charity Sailing Pursuit.

Speaking of gardening, I have given up the allotment.  It was inducing unwelcome feelings of  guilt and inadequacy as I couldn’t seem to get there to do the necessary digging and planning.  I feel a little sad about it, but I was unexpectectedly asked to become involved with a community gardening project in Plymstock.  This is quite exciting and has come at the right time, so I don’t feel too bad.  Goodbye Plot 24A! It was good to know you.  Sorry about the weeds.

Here are some links with more information:

We hoisted the Jolly Roger

Well that was the most hilarious evening I’ve had for a few weeks!  A glorious evening to swim off Jennycliff beach towards the floating Nowhereisland – moored half a mile offshore in the bay.The sea was silky smooth and flat and we all swam off into the sun.  Paul supported the dozen of us in a kayak.  I won’t go into how we all managed to climb aboard the island – it wasn’t exactly dignified.  We populated the island with a rubber duck and a  plastic squirrel, hoisted the Jolly Roger then jumped or dived off to swim back to shore.  The sun setting was a magnifient sight – we haven’t seen sunsets like this very often this summer!  Paul took loads of photos, so I hope he’ll turn them into beautiful paintings sometime.

Our invasion even made it onto Radio Devon, and into the Herald and Western Morning News!

I’m going to swim to a floating island

We were in the Midlands last weekend.  It’s only when you’re away from the sea that you realise how many fine places there are  very close by in Plymouth.  Half an hour to spare? Go for coffee on the Barbican, or at the Terrace on the Hoe.  Quick swim needed?  Pop up to the Hoe or Bovisand.  A couple of hours in the sunshine?  Wembury looks great!  You can even catch a bus to all of these places!  As well as these gloriously open spaces there are gems like Heybrook Bay and Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo, not to mention over the river to Mount Edgcumbe and beyond.

Whilst we were away we found a peaceful marina full of  painted narrowboats complete with coots, moorhens and nesting swan – we even had a boat-trip!  We also wandered along the River Trent – lots of breweries here as the water is perfect for beer making – and saw scores of turquoise damsel flies.  Maybe it’s the sight of water that makes for a perfect place – river, sea or lake.  We are an island race I guess!

Speaking of which, I’m going to swim to a floating island on Thursday!  It will be arriving off Jennycliff, and will hopefully be within invasion distance.  You don’t get many floating islands – the only other one I know of was in Doctor Dolittle.  The weather is set fair, so I’m looking forward to the adventure!

Paul has a week off from teaching next week so we are looking forward to a break.  If you are missing all things artisitic  and would like to see a display of Paul’s work  head to Les Jardins de Bagatelle, the French cafe in Old Town Street, Plymouth, or the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club on the Hoe. There are a pair of Barbican Boats in Monty’s and a couple of gems in the Kaya Gallery – both on Southside Street on the Barbican.
Below is a picture of Paul’s latest print, 
‘Burgh Island Blues’ from an original watercolour, by kind permission of the owner, available to order from now on! 

We’re going to have fun, gather round a barbecue, go swimming, watch the fireworks – maybe all at the same time!