To all of you desperate to fully grasp the offside rule before Wednesday’s quarterfinals, panic not. We shall return to that model of clarity and disambiguity tomorrow. But in the meantime, the best sport in the world! Yes, I refer to swimming. Not racey, pacey, indoor Masters swimming, although that’s pretty cool too, and much more fun to watch than football, but open water swimming, my new favourite thing

You probably guessed from yesterday’s post that I spent the day swimming, and indeed, I spent much of today swimming too, in the same place, the glorious Dart river. Today’s swim took a different route up the Harbourne River, a tributary of the Dart, and equally beautiful. The Harbourne however is faster-flowing so we had to dig in and push up between its banks, watching as trees and fields and hedges each crept slowly backwards as we steadily forced our way up against the current to the Maltsters Arms at Tuckenhay. There we had a brief stop for water and jelly babies before cruising back on the current, pausing to collect our lovely kayaker Stuart who crossed us over the entrance to the Dart to keep us safe from boats, and finishing by chugging back round and into the creek up to Stoke Gabriel.

It may sound less lyrical in its description than yesterday’s swim, but it was equally lovely. I discovered that I love swimming against the current, digging deep and using all the strength in my arms to push myself upstream. I love long swims through open water when I can find a rhythm and relax into it and enjoy watching the countryside going past on either side. I love the pauses to chat and check out the scenery and wave to passing boats and wait for other swimmers to catch up. I love sighting, practising supporting myself on my forward arm and just raising my head enough to see whatever I’m aiming at. Today I loved waiting while Stuart escorted another swimmer up to the Dart entrance, floating starfished on my back watching the clouds and the blue sky, my feet just resting against the Bow Creek buoy. (It says ‘No mooring’, but I figured my feet didn’t really count.) And I loved, loved, loved the swimming, the feel of being in my body, right now, here, in the world, doing something I have found that I can do and that I love. It feels like such a blessing, this sport, not just the pleasure of doing it in itself, but all the friendships I have made and the wonderful community that I have suddenly found myself a part of. To have come to this in my fifties feels like having lived in a house for half a century and one day opening a door and finding a wing I didn’t know was there, suite after suite of beautiful rooms looking out on hitherto undiscovered gardens and vistas. A true blessing indeed.

If you would like to swim the Dart, or, indeed, other places in Devon and Cornwall, contact the lovely Olivia and Stuart Palmer, the Devonshire Dippers and they will sort you out.

So, the Footballing Fact Of The Day. Oh, yeah! Football is an ancient sport, going back to ancient Greece, where they played an early version of the game called Episkyros. A lekythos, an oil jar from Athens,shows a picture of a man playing keepy-uppy in front of a young boy. This image is reproduced on the European Cup trophy and proves that the practice of fathers nicking their sons’ footballs in order to show off to them is at least two and a half millennia old.
That was The Footballing Fact Of The Day. I thank you.