Swimming in the sea is not a common pastime for the Scots (see previous entry - Life's a Beach), even in the summer months. Next stop Iceland or Norway, depending on which coast you’re on, is the framework of understanding when it comes to maritime temperatures. So perhaps it’s not that surprising that my son should be eleven years old and in a foreign country before his first experience of swimming in salt water with waves.
Having grown up in Southern England and South Wales I, on the other hand, get an irresistible urge to paddle, or even leap in whenever I visit a beach. Childhood memories of spending all day on Pendine Sands, diving through waves, attempting to surf on rubber rings, and getting sunburnt to the point of peeling skin, flood back as soon as the water washes over my toes. This is usually followed by a yelp of surprise at just how bloody cold it is.
For one reason or another, whether it has been the tides are at the wrong point in their cycle, we’ve been off visiting other parts of Brittany, or the weather has been a bit dodgy, we’ve not been swimming this holiday despite renting a cottage within ambling distance of the sea. We’ve strolled along the water’s edge picking up interesting looking shells several times, and on one occasion Rogan and I built sandcastles against the incoming tide, but we hadn’t had a proper swim. So Friday morning, the last real day of the holiday, we set aside to catch the incoming tide and go for a swim.
The sun was shining through the window as we woke and it looked like it was going to be idyllic. However, by the time we’d had breakfast, changed into our costumes and reached the sand, the wind had picked up and the sun was obscured by thick strata of grey cloud.
Maggie sat on the beach wearing several layers and a thick jacket; being a Scot, not only was she slightly mystified by the whole leaping-in-the-sea idea, she also had an eye for the more practical approach of dealing with beaches on cool, windy, grey days. Meg had been determined to go swimming but once those toes had been caressed by the cold touch of Poseidon’s domain she rather wisely joined her mother under the beach blanket.
Driven on by testosterone and general male foolhardiness, Rogan and I waded into the sea, stopping every few feet to shout out in distress, especially when the water reached the dangly bits. Determined that I would not back down I strode deeper, allowing the waves to crash over me before finally plunging in. Once my body had acclimatised I was hit with a sudden explosion of endorphins; I was strong, I was powerful, I was the Lord of the Ocean. I started swimming up and down, diving through waves and whooping with joy. Exhilarated? I was ecstatic; for about three minutes anyway. Then it slowly dawned on me that I was losing sensation in my extremities and it was all taking far more out of me than I’d realised. Gently I worked my way back to the shore and up the beach to where a patient Maggie was waiting with a towel at the ready.
Driven on by testosterone and general male foolhardiness
Rogan had a whale of a time, loving the waves, the extra buoyancy offered by salt water and the space to kick and splash about without having to worry about other swimmers, or lifeguards telling you not to pee in the pool.
Back at the cottage the less than adequate shower eventually rinsed the salt, sand and seaweed off our bodies and Maggie made sure we were warmed up by hot drinks. The next time I decide to do more than just paddle in the sea I think I’ll choose somewhere a bit warmer, like the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, or just off the shore of an active volcanic Island.