Charlton Lido, London. My winter weekend swimming venue

Each day is defined as a day when I have swum — or when I have not swum

I hadn’t seen John for around six years. As we perched on bar stools catching up, he asked: “Do you still swim, then, Sally?” I looked at him quizzically. “You might as well ask me: ‘Do you still breathe, then, Sally?’ ”

Perhaps I can explain it better like this.

Every single day I ask myself: do I have time to fit in a swim before work today? Can I get up early and swim? Do I have too much to do? Am I too tired? Do I have an early meeting? Can I swim at lunchtime? Will there be time? Can I swim after work? Is something else on? Will I be too tired? Can I fit in a swim around my post-work commitments? Will something prevent me from swimming?

Every day starts with the possibility of a swim. And at the end of the day, each day is defined, more than anything else, as a day when I have swum — or as a day when I have not swum.

Even though each new day is started with the best of intentions, sometimes life gets in the way. Alarm clocks are too often ignored; meetings seep into lunch breaks that had held the promise of a chlorinated escape; dates are made; tiredness wins over often enough. Life impinges.

And yet for the past five years perhaps, and possibly more — but shall we say definitely since records began— there hasn’t been a week that I have not swum.

I shoehorn swims in somehow during the working week: a snatched hour here or there. It’s rarely straightforward. Before work in the summer when the sun wakens me early, the unadulturated joy of an early morning swim. At any time of year a hurried lunchtime liaison in the local municipal pool, sharing a hot damp echoing space with aquaaerobic-ers and jacuzzi lovers. And after work in the winter, I hide from the dark of the night, bathed in the bright lights and the cheery warmth of an indoor pool.

And while during the week my swims fit around my life, at the weekend my life fits around my swimming. Mostly I swim outdoors, craving sunlight and fresh air. Each weekend morning there are hours spent in the water, staring at the bottom of a pool, up and down, up and down, happy in my watery silent ethereal world. Everything else waits. At the weekend everything else has to wait.

And so weekday or weekend, rain or shine, winter or summer, lengths and strokes and metres are totalled up, tucked away for an emergency, ready to soothe my soul. Every day is a day with the possibility of a swim.

So, yes John, I still swim. As I breathe, so I swim.

*** I edited this so that I was grammatically correct. I swim, I swam, I have swum. I will swim, let’s not forget that.

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