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Today at the Lido we had the traditional Sunday morning handicap race. 9.30 during the winter months, 9.00 in summer, every Sunday without fail. During the winter it’s always two widths until the temperature goes below 4°, when it goes down to one width until “spring” arrives in March and it goes up to two again, even if the temperature is zero. We’re ‘ard in SLSC.

You get your handicap from Sue, our wonderful winter handicapper, and when the count starts you wait until your number is called and then swim like billy-oh. It’s a point of small personal pride that in the three (or is it four?) winters I’ve been swimming at the Lido, my winter handicap has gone up from 24 to 50 seconds. This morning Barry called fifty and I set off across the pool trying to catch Pip, who had sped off on 49. As I swam I looked down through crystal 8° water at the blue bottom littered with autumn leaves. And, halfway across the pool, a frog, a small, amphibian body stretched out on the bottom. I swam on, thinking “Poor little thing”, and then, a couple of strokes later, I thought “I can’t just leave it.”

I swam back, spotted it and dived down to pick it up, fully expecting it to be dead. But no – as my hand closed over it I felt it twitch, and when I stood up and lifted it out it drew itself together in my cupped hands. I walked back to the side and delivered it gently to Jason before turning back to finish the race (seemed like a shame to sacrifice the point). On my second arrival at the side I was greeted with a small cheer and cries of “The frog rescuer!” from two or three kind spectators.

On enquiry, it turned out Froggy had a happy ending. Having been gently revived in lukewarm water by Jason he (or she) became lively and was returned to the undergrowth beside the Lido. Later investigation showed that she (or he) had crawled off, presumably to return to hibernation. I don’t know how long s/he had been in there, but certainly long enough to merit an endurance medal. I can’t help feeling that that was one lucky frog.

A couple of years ago I saw a poster in a charity shop, which explained why the charity had a starfish for its logo. It was a little story about the day after a great storm during which hundreds of thousands of starfish had been chucked onto the beach, where they were dying. A man was walking along the beach next morning and looking sadly at all the dying starfish when he came upon a woman picking up individual starfish and throwing them back into the sea. He watched her for a while, then said “Why are you bothering? There are thousands of them. You can’t possibly make a difference.” “Well”, said the woman, bending down to pick up another starfish and throwing it back into the sea, “I made a difference to that one.”

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Thanks to Nicky Smith for the picture of the great frog rescue.