A few weeks back I had the opportunity to try out both the wonders and the frustrations of internet searching myself. It came about thusly. Nearly ten years ago now I went on a trip whitewater rafting down the Grand Canyon with a bunch of American ladies. It was awesome, one of the best holidays of my life, and during it I made a number of friends, including a lovely American woman called Lesley. Lesley lived in San Francisco; she is a triathlete and swims in San Francisco Bay. She and I stayed in touch and when I started cold water swimming, she sent me a little turtle pendant which a friend had given her, for luck. 

I loved that turtle. It appeared to be made of some hard dark wood. It was brown, about an inch across and beautifully carved, the patterns on the shell and the scales on its flippers and head delicately marked out. It had a little head with two tiny bright eyes which looked almost real.  A hole was bored in one flipper through which a braided cord was threaded and woven to keep it in place; the cord ran through a bone stopper so you could easily adjust the length and the ends were finished off with two tiny bone beads. It was the perfect swimming charm, and I fell in love with it at once.

I wore my turtle all the time to swim. I wore it at the Lido and it gave me the strength to swim through my first winter. I wore it on longer swims and on swimming trips, to the first winter championships I ever went to in Poland, to Rovaniemi in March where I wore it to swim in a frozen lake by starlight, and on long summer Sundays at the Lido. The only times I didn’t wear it was when I wore a wetsuit or when I was swimming indoors.

I wore it more or less constantly for four years until this autumn, when I went on a swimming break in Devon with my sister. We finished on a Sunday morning with a glorious swim off Mansands and then my sister and I hightailed it off to my great-niece’s first birthday party. We dropped in at my sister’s en route to change, and as I was rushing out of the door I noticed I’d left my little turtle on the side, so I picked it up and shoved it into the side pocket of my rucksack.

When I got home that night I fished it out and….disaster! At some point during the journey the rucksack must have been slung down on something hard, for my little turtle’s head was snapped off. It was broken beyond repair. I can’t begin to tell you how heartbroken I was.

More tomorrow.