My dreams are littered with swimming in the sea, getting up in time, the coldness of the water, the draw of it but the worry that my nervous heart will stop pumping. I wake up at 7.30am and cannot hear the sea, I open up the blind and she is way out, lifting her skirts to reveal mounds of sea weed, piles of rocks that are not visible when her tides are in.
Breakfast is still to come (including a stonecake? stonebread) which I eat, high tide at around 12, time for breakfast to settle, a swim before we leave to do the show.
11.50am I’m in my swimming costume, hoodie, flip flops, with a slightly reluctant, slightly disbelieving Merv in tow.
I tell him to film me. Before asking him if he knows CPR, I’m just saying that my heart could stop. It is the North Sea. He looks slightly anxious.
A man stands behind him on the beach on a phone, as I start taking my clothes off, he cackles down the phone, delightedly exclaiming in a language I luckily don’t understand as he watches me.
5. 4. 3 and I’m in fast underwater, straight in, always. A fresh coldness rushes over me, washing away any residue of last nights alcohol induced anxiety. Slight stiffening in my joints as my body adjusts, and I’m well away, face down powering through. I haven’t been swimming since I did an out door race in Poole 2 weeks before, like the idea that chlorine hasn’t touched me and only salt.
Its a pleasure that I can’t quite measure when I’m in the sea, a feeling of weightlessness, of gracefulness than doesn’t transmit to land. I’m out of shape, out of breath, but not wanting to get out. Its clear and deep as I spin in circles, ducking and diving underwater, some reluctant actual swimming across the bay.
The man who had been laughing at me on his phone stops to watch me, but I’m not getting out anytime soon. 25 minutes I’m staying in, counting my strokes. A few people stop to glance. I hope they think I’m a seal. As I squint towards the shore, I try shouting something but it turns out Merv has put his ipod in, and lit a cigarette. I dive under, whisking away, holding my breath, enjoying the drowning out of all my senses by the cold water.
As I start to feel warm, I check my watch, know that I have to get out soon, a certain numbness chills my bones, creaks my fingers and I reluctantly make my way to dry land. He holds out the towel for me, a frown and paleness to his face.
‘Allright?’ I am buoyant upon exiting the sea, can’t stop smiling.
‘The swimming is fine, but you can’t go underwater, you can’t do that’
I dismiss him in distraction , tut away in my knowing the sea.
‘You were under for 8 seconds, I was just wondering what to do. You just disappear.’
‘That’s how I swim-I’m going to keep doing it. I usually can go for longer underwater but I’m out of practice’
He looks at me in pale distraction.
‘Sorry. Sorry. I wasn’t trying to scare you. Honest.’
‘I was about to get in. And I hate swimming’.
Although I’m not entirely sure there wasn’t a bit of showing off from me going on as I dived beneath the waves. A man walks past and says something like ‘Was it nice in there?’ I say ‘Ooo lovely-that’ll wake you up-you should give it go’
‘No’ shaking his head as he walks away.
I’m definitely colder than I’ve felt before, as I can shower for long enough to try and warm the layers of my body. Clothes on and I’m all fine. Can’t stop me talking in the car, bouncing off the ceiling when I get to the venue.
‘Can you stop being so happy?’
‘See this is what happens when I get in the sea’
‘I think that you’re that chipper most of the time’.
I’m not sure it’s a compliment.
A beautiful old hall, 1930’s, round windows, an echoing wooden floor. Surrounding it are tall fir trees, green like they should rising up in banks around this hall. Apparently it’s just been used in a film as a post apocalyptic shelter. We are left with baskets of homemade mini cheese scones, flapjacks, proper coffee (much to Merv’s delight it’s been something like 72 hours since he had a decent coffee), tea. We find a door with a sign that says ‘Swing both ways’ much too both of our delight and take a picture. (I later find out that those signs were supposed to be on both sides of the door but someone had nicked them).
We head to try and find food which is quite difficult between 3-5 and much to my amusement Merv ends up with sandwich number four with some soup, his visions of hearty, scottish food scuppered by our timings. Although he hastens to point out he never expects too much as then he can never be disappointed.
Tables are set and laden with cake, so much cake. I’m quite delighted. People talk to me as they come in, the show starting almost too suddenly. Afterwards there is more cake eating a slight awkward pause before people start talking to me. A woman that I had a lengthy discussion with before hand tells me ‘It was certainly different’.
A blooming pregnant woman asks me about my inability to cry when my granny died (it’s a line in the show) which disseminates into conversations about the cost of cremating pets and how bigger box they come in. Apparently it costs £19 to get a hamster put down, and the blooming lovely pregnant lady suggests that they feed the hamster to their pet ferret-it would certainly be cheaper. I am still cackling with these women when another lady begins to talk to me about her family.
Her mother was originally from Australia, her father an Antarctic explorer, her grandfather, part of the rescue relief for Scot. Her mother, having met this man at a party, met him once agawhen he proposed to her and moved to England on her own. They were together 50 years before he sadly died. I feel privileged to be hearing these people’s stories, seeing these places I didn’t even know existed.
I tell Merv it’s two pints and home. Four pints later, he’s talking me out of a local nightclub and watching me take my boots off to paddle in the sea.