“Dance Ti’ Thy Daddy Come here, maw little Jacky, Now aw’ve smok’d mi backy, Let’s hev a bit o’ cracky, Till the boat comes in.
Dance ti’ thy daddy, sing ti’ thy mammy,
Dance ti’ thy daddy, ti’ thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a fishy when the boat comes in. Here’s thy mother humming, Like a canny woman; Yonder comes thy father, Drunk—he cannot stand…” (sung by Alex Glasgow)
Isn’t that trumpet beautiful!!
We watched When the Boat Comes in when I was a little kid, though I don’t remember it at all, but I swear my parents sung the theme song on a loop everytime we went anywhere near the sea. It’s pretty damn catchy with the fishy dishy lyric.
Got up ready for some stressbusting and my second splash of the month, November 24. The morning post had brought no good news. Doctor had left cryptic message on my voicemail night before (turned out to be not so serious after all, but still when doctors phone, the imagination can go on a serious bender). My stress antennae these days detect the smallest signal and they like to go full out wing ding crazy. Plus, will my Mancub (new nickname for Monkey 2) always cry when I bring him to crèche in the mornings?
It was 12 degrees out, grey with a biting wind. Seadog was free and so he drove me to Sandycove, parked in what is designated as the icecream van’s casual trading spot, and waited in the car, reading his book. It’s my dad all over again: Have book, will travel.
There were loads of people changing etc and I couldn’t help but spot an unabashed big set of reddened Irish-sea boobs. Glad to see someone else’s nonchalance in the changing process. First off I went around the corner to see Forty Foot as I like to do. Water crashed up against the boulders, all the way up the stairs. There was a fit guy, dark haired, glowing face, very enthusiastic, drying himself up and finishing getting his gear together.
He said he’d just been in on the other side, the safe side and it was really really WARM for this time of year! Lovely water. He looked so refreshed. Hair still gleaming with wet. He had that born again look, like he’d just been baptized. Told me how last year it was the coldest in 20 years. In and out of the water real quick. But today it was warm. I’d never heard anyone use that adjective (in relation to the sea) in all the 8 years I’ve been in Ireland.
Around the corner it was a seniors’ social scene. Robust, full head of white-haired older folks. It felt like I’d gotten off at the 7½ floor in the Being John Malkovich movie and landed in an alternate universe of non-aging seniors. Three men and one woman smiled at me super welcomingly. A grinning Baba with a baboushka wrapped around her head and a thick Slavic accent said encouragingly: “Vind Cold! Vater Varm!!”
This was the first time I was shivering before even getting in the water. It was the damn wind. (I had by the way made sure my stuff wouldn’t blow in the water this time by putting my boots and thermos on top of my bag.)
I shivered my way down the steps. An oldtimer in the water, frowning a bit, cheered me on: Warmer in than out, he said gruffly.
Meanwhile I could see there were a few dogs having a swim too. So I got in and swam like heck to get warm. Felt like my heart was working harder and I was gasping more because it was colder. I wondered if the water temperature had gone down since my last swim or was I just getting wimpy? It was true though like Baba said, that out of the wind, in the water it was cozier. I swam over to near where Seadog was in the car studying his book. He came out and took a crappy video on his phone. I miss my camera and its zoom.
I couldn’t believe how many older people were in the water without even bathing hats. These were freaky people who had maybe found the secret to eternal vitality/life? I have to say I enjoyed my swim but was the balance between thrill and pleasure now tipping towards thrilling? I was cold!
Speaking of thrilling I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Was that swimmerman smoking? One of the oldies, the one who had told me it was warmer in than out, recently out of the water, wearing just his red trunks, seemed to have a long white thing sticking out of his mouth, could it actually be a smoke? I’m not sure why this delighted me so profoundly. I guess it was incongruous to this scene and a bit bad boy at the core and my rebellious soul/arrested-adolescent spirit was thrilled to the bone.
I swam hard and couldn’t resist doing three head dunks. Last once froze my forehead.
It was time to get out, I couldn’t keep Seadog waiting forever and I had to investigate if this guy was indeed smoking. I climbed up the stairs onto land and was mildly embarrassed as always by the way the swimsuit insists on clinging to the skin so I tried as I always do to discretely pull some material out from the tummy area which always backfires and creates a goofy vacuum balloon effect.
He was smoking! And it smelled heavenly. I’m ten years off the smokes, but sometimes, sometimes I sure fancy one. I breathed in gulps of the gorgeous tobacco smell as I started the job of getting back into clothes. It almost takes as long to dry up as it does to swim, what with all the awkwardness of leaning on one leg, drying the other, trying to preserve some modesty and stop things from blowing away, all with frozen fingers that don’t work so well and clothes that get stuck trying to rush them up not fully dry legs. Reminds me of when Little Chief (new nickname for Monkey 1) tries to go down the slide with her bare legs and the slide is too dry and she just squeaks her way down in starts and stops instead of the proper swoosh down.
Redtrunks seemed to be in no hurry getting clothes back on. He was going around the place, retrieving his bits and pieces and his plastic bag. And then, still smoking, he started doing his callisthenics.
Callisthenics, in wet red swimming togs with a smoke hanging out of his mouth. I love it!
Seadog says that the Royal Canadian Airforce Exercises were very in vogue in Ireland when he was growing up.
“Lovely tide,” Redtrunks said to me. It was the highest tide I’d swum in here and it’s true it filled up Sandycove like a big bathtub, the big drink.
“You’re better off changing around the corner with this wind,” he advised.
Younger mum-looking women showed up to change for their swims. They asked Redtrunks Smokey if he’s seen their friend Maggie lately. No he hadn’t. She’d been in hospital and they all agreed it’d be hard to get back into the water after that. It really was a scene of regulars here at Sandycove.
“Watch your clothes today ladies,” he told them
“Ah they’re blowing in today are they so…” one woman knowingly replied. I wish I knew about this last week! The wind was mighty and even with my steel water bottle and cocoa thermos my stuff had been blowing around this time. “Expecting gale force winds later today. Got the best of it we did,” Redtrunks said.
My core didn’t cool down like last time, just my feet and hands were cold. I was literally chilled out, not worrying about anything at all and instead reveling in rediscovering the joy of my wool hat, cashmere cardigan and colourful thermos, thank you Stuart, full of hot chocolate. And Seadog chauffeuring.
Sitting in the car warming up we watched Sandycove waking up; what a great neighbourhood. Lots of dog walkers, dogs, moms, dads, grandparents with babies in buggies and in baby carriers. People stopping to chat with each other. New swimmers showing up, others leaving. The sounds of seagulls above and the odd oystercatcher and purple sandpiper about. I sat in the car all cozy and had a great cup of cocoa. Tried next to drink the hot chocolate from the flask directly instead of refilling the little cup and as warned it spilled all out and burned my chin, not terribly. Seadog said if he’d been filming we could have made millions on Youtube. Damn…
I read an article about Carrie Fisher and her depression and how she goes for the odd bout of ECT. Not to trivialize the horribleness of serious depression or anything but it did occur to me I should write to her and tell her about dunking her head in the Irish sea, it could be a similar help. I also read recently that Dickens would feel so utterly scorched by the writing process that he needed to plunge his head in a cold pail of water periodically while writing Bleak House. Ten minutes doing this and I feel like I’ve had a major adventure for the day. It’s like riding a bike, it taps right into the inner kid zone. Sometimes I like to make Little Chief laugh when we walk home together and I skip a little in between normal walking to match her joyful style. Why walk when you can skip?
This whole wild swimming jag takes me back to the best part of being a kid, swimming with my parents in the oceans of the world, going ice skating and having frozen toes, and hot chocolate to warm up. All that was missing now was the smell and promise of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper for supper. I said to Seadog that I don’t really get how some swimmers just get in for a minute or two and he said, in typical Seadog wisdom: some people just want an espresso, whereas you want a big cappuccino.
Went home, had a shower and then got deuced: Two of everything, socks, pants, tops, cardigans and cups of tea and then I was sorted for the day.
Winter has finally properly hit and now it’s hovering above zero. Will be heading for my first December dip soon, and wondering if it will be enjoyable or just goofily cold making…