There was a point back in the autumn when I decided that a type of long sleeved /rash vest piece of clothing would improve my swimming experience. I didn’t want to use a wetsuit (as discussed elsewhere in our blog) but I did want to be able to continue to swim a decent distance without getting too cold. Little did I realise at the time just how cold it was to become or that I could in fact endure much lower sea temperatures. But this is at the end of a warm summer and the dropping thermometer was just beginning to niggle. And so I headed to the Internet and a myriad of shopping options for swimming kit.
The challenge with buying on-line is inevitably that you have to know what it is you want in advance in order to search for it. This therefore means that when you’re not sure of what exactly it is that you want, or more importantly what others call it, you can get a little lost on endless websites looking at many items that seem terribly similar. I did of course look at outdoor swimming blogs and information sites, clubs and societies and similarly went round in circles, including the circle where you find the ideal item only to see that every online store is out of stock or that it isn’t for sale anymore. Eventually, after reading many personal reviews, I settled on a women’s long sleeved thermal Evotherm top from Gul (other brands are available and we are obviously not sponsored!). It arrived promptly and I was really pleased with how it made me feel sporty, younger even. I’ve no idea who I’m kidding here because obviously I was still the middle-aged woman that I am, daily swimming short distances in the Solent whilst laughing a lot. Anyway, it did make me feel good and I wore it with pride the next day. Karen was suitably complimentary and we congratulated ourselves on how we had each progressed in our swimming kit purchasing range and I ventured into the water with it on for the first time.
It was a superb step forward in feeling warmer – although I’m not sure why I’m so surprised as it is after all manufactured to help people to stay warm in the water… Sherlock! We started to swim and I was very aware of how different the sensation was in not being able to feel the water flowing across my bare skin. I was particularly taken aback with how I could feel the water sneaking in slowly around the neckline, tickling as it moved around. In fact the movement was really noticeable and I began to think about how my stroke must affect the way the water moves under the fabric. “What does it feel like?” asked Karen “Is it very different?” To which I responded with my observations on water flow and skin sensation and we swam on as though we both knew what we were talking about.
It wasn’t until we’d hobbled out over the stones (the low tide issue) back to our bags and I peeled off my new top that Karen shrieked. As my new rash vest came off a silvery, slim, streamlined fish fell to the ground at my feet! “Was that in your top?” cried Karen to which I had to answer, slightly dumbfounded, “Ummm..Yes, it must have been”. And then I just stood there looking at the still live, wriggling gilled animal. It was one of those moments when you’re asking yourself if things are real or are you in fact still in bed at home dreaming an absurdity? “Quick” called Karen “It’s still alive!” and carefully cradled it in her hands she hobbled back across the stones to release it into the water (having first taken a photograph to honour it’s starring role in our swimming adventures). For whatever reason I just stood giggling whilst watching my swim buddy’s heroic dash/stumble to the sea to save this poor little fish (actually not so little and more like 10cm long). Evidently the ‘tickling’ that I had felt had not been the flow of seawater at all, more the distressed flapping of a trapped sea creature. I have no idea how the fish had managed to swim into my top nor how it had managed to stay in there alive. I realised that the first time I had noticed the tickles had been near the start of our swim and here we were some 20 / 25 minutes later when the poor thing was finally being released. And no, I didn’t realise that I was swimming with a fish down my top before you ask, and no, it’s not a viable method of sustainable fishing.
Karen strode as best she could with impeded speed back down to the water. The fish, not unsurprisingly, was a little stunned by it’s horrific ordeal and I noted that she released it once, only to pick it up again and throw it a little further out from the water’s edge where it finally began to swim. A sense of ecological nurturing filled the air as Karen turned to stumble back up the stony beach as environmentalist hero and animal doctor. I laughed at how that little fish had gone on such an unexpected adventure under my clothing, cupped in warm hands and had now been returned to it’s home… at which point I watch a large seagull swoop from nowhere and take it out of the water for elevenses! Such is nature.
(It would appear that in the Autumn I was giving off some sort of fish enticing pheromone as, I’m almost too embarrassed to explain, that within days of this first angling adventure I similarly managed to catch a fish in my beach shoe whilst swimming. Thankfully I managed to empty that one into deeper water…!)