Wednesday, 30 May 2012

With the onset of unexpected hot weather comes the over riding disappointment that I am not anywhere, not even close, not anywhere near the sea.

In London I didn't feel so landlocked safe in the knowledge that breaking out of the city confines was easy and quick. Finding the coast was but an hour away. I'll be lucky if it's three from here. And although I hated summer in London, in that city, with all its hot antagonism gathering sweaty patches at the back of my knees, you could, almost smell the sea from certain places.

And here I am now trying to organise travel to a wedding in Poole, and back to my main priority- a swim in the sea. And to watch some friends get married. I try to work out if I can leave Birmingham at 6am, get to Poole for 10 am, swim in the sea, not drown and make it to the wedding turned out and coiffured for 2pm. It is unlikely. Something to do with peninsula's,  bank holiday sunshine and bottle neck to the beach.

I walk to water, as I do, from my flat where I've been cooped up working. Narrowing my eyes at the bright rays and thinking of a litany of excuses for not going in the sunshine. The main ones being, I don't like the heat, not if I'm not in the water, I don't like the sun, if I can't see the sea.

And I hold in frustration the cold winter weather whose clinging currents stopped me from swimming properly in the sea just a few weeks ago; High winds, high(ish) waters and a sinking sense of disappointment in myself that I am not as fearless as I once was.

This with age, with my age alongside, a crashing sense of helplessness as your body starts to visibly demonstrate the signs of ageing (not so bad, I know I'm still young, but the elasticity of my skin has greatly diminished and I can see the effects of a late night written across my face-my body not reacting as quickly as it used to, to three days of vegetable consumption and an increase in exercise. The knowledge that this is just the beginning, warning signs, while I'm still young enough to realise). And along with all of that comes a fear, a loss of the blind belief in immortality, that happened to me in youth. A very real sense that things (tides, waves, currents) are more powerful that me. That danger, death, drowning is imminent.

It's a wave away, a paddle too deep, a lone swimmer too far.

I never used to believe this, my own prophecy, but now I've started to believe my own dramatic whispers that I'd make as a teenager.

'I've always known I'd die drowning'

Two or so weeks ago I howled at the sea on Brighton Beach, in the cold and wet, not knowing which wet was sea water and what was rain. I justified my weakness for not really swimming into old words humour and creating a character from the sea. Foiled by the sea.

 But I was scared.

I didn't test my depths. I didn't test her depths. Didn't hold that faith that I feel in my stomach that...she wouldn't take me than.

I swam for a moment until I became scared by the crashing waves that seem so monstrous and tall when you are in their swell. The kind of waves I long for, the kind of waves I dream about.  But on a cold wet day in on Brighton Beach, not ones that I trust.

And I don't know when I will swim in salty water again. If I'd just been a little braver, a little more wild, a little bit more in love with the sea, like I say, like I write, like I tell people I am; then I would have swam.

Or it was common sense that comes from the wrong side of 30 (right side of 30?). Or my companion in this escapade telling me only I knew if the conditions were ok. And I didn't. I didn't know. I'm not experienced enough, I haven't spent enough time. I live in the midlands.

So I sit and write about raging seas while looking at the placed mud coloured canal. (I used to believe that when taking the train past Bournville that the canal was made of chocolate, as part of Cadbury's world, I believed that until quite an inappropriately late age).

And still, if that's the water that there is, all that is available, all I want to do is cover myself in it. Can feel summer sweat closely around me. An impulse, an unthought through want to jump in before...the reality of four foot bottom of mud and bones and duck poo.

But for a second, feel water covering my head, my mouth, cooling my bones.

I've been taking a lot more baths than I used to. Deeper than I used to. Here in Birmingham.

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