So, this is not quite how I envisaged restarting this blog when I semi-retired at the end of last year. I imagined that with my work hours reduced to fourteen a week, I’d be writing about travel, swimming, films, walking, meeting friends and family, and not even slightly about THE C-WORD.
But we are where we are, and when you’re stuck at home with nothing to do (well, actually, to be fair, loads to do, and very lucky in that respect), it’s actually quite nice to have writing to fall back on. So one of my promises to myself in this weird time is to go back to blogging every day. (Hopefully not about THE C-WORD, although I guess time will tell in that respect.) One of the things I’m already noticing as I write this is how rusty my writing muscles have got (mixed metaphors ahoy, but you know what I mean). I clearly need to get back to writing on a regular basis to buff them up a bit.
From what happens when I swim I know not to panic too much at the lack of response in the creative part of my brain when I put pen to paper (or to be more accurate, fingers to keyboard) for the first time in a while. Most years despite best intentions I go into a swimming slump from about October to February and swim much less than I normally do, and then in spring I get back into the water and start upping the distance in preparation for the warmer months. This year was no different; in February I went for a swim with a friend and gingerly cranked out half a kilometer. Before TCW closed all the pools, damnit, I was up to a comfortable 2.5 k and starting to plan my training for a one-way Windermere later this year.
That, like so many other plans, looks as though it may have to be postponed until more auspicious times (hopefully my plans for keeping fit at home will mean I get to said times without going too far down the slippery “sofa Olympics” training route…..). However, last week, as all this was kicking off, I thought that this experience is in itself going to be pretty much like a long swim.
For a start, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’re going to be doing this for quite a while, so there’s no point rushing at it and, to quote my lovely New Zealand coach Dan, “blowing yer fufu valve”. We need – I need – to set a steady pace that I know I can keep up for months, not weeks, if I need to. And I need to accept, a hard one for me, that I can’t map out this route. It’s like a Channel swim, which depends entirely on wind, wave and tide, and so here we need the immortal Freda Streeter and her exhortation to “Just keep swimming until your tits scrape the sand”. We, of course, need boat support, and here I’m fortunate that I have a whole huge team in my boat of friends, family, neighbours and colleagues, all right there to help and support me and keep me swimming. And of course I’m in their boat too. None of us have an actual boat, so we have to be boat support for each other. We need to think about feeding too. Actual feeding, of course, but also other types of feeding: human contact, creativity, relaxation, exercise, fun. As with a long swim, we need it on a regular basis, not too far apart, and we need to set our minds not to swim to the end, but to swim to the next feed, whether it’s a warm bath, a call with a loved one, a nice meal, watching your favourite tv programme, an afternoon in the garden, or simply sitting and stroking the cat. And we need to accept that it won’t be easy, there’ll be times when we feel awful, but they will pass, and conversely times when we feel wonderful, and they will pass too. We need to accept that those times will come and go, but the main thing is to keep swimming. Just keep swimming, until our tits scrape the sand.
More, god willing, tomorrow.