By Flora Blissett
It’s 3.24pm and the feeling has finally returned to my toes. Ella’s nose has stopped running. Meike’s body temperature still has not returned. I wonder if she will make it through the winter [insert sickly-Victorian-child cough]. Whatever happens as a result, I think we’re all glad we went in.
Cold water swimming is taken to a whole new depth on the Isle of Rum. Wind and rain compete to make “dry land” somehow more uncomfortable than the wet world of Loch Scresort in November. Add in the 5pm pitch-black darkness of a stormy night, and you’ve got yourself between a rock and a hard place – or rather, between two incredibly wet, cold, and tumultuous places.
“Why are we doing this?”, “When did I agree to this?”, “Am I mad?!” – we each ask ourselves as we gallop in bounces and sprints down the road. We’re screeching with laughter mingled with panic, half dreading and half excited for the piercing cold of the water, trying to imagine it, to mentally prepare ourselves for whatever we were about to voluntarily do to ourselves. We’re jogging partly to get there quicker (and get it over and done with, quicker), partly to keep warm. Besides, splashing through puddles en route is a decent preparation for the plunge.
This is the usual build up to a wild swim. Half-this, half-that. But once in, everything because clear-cut. No more half-scared, half-hyped. No more anticipatory dread. Just pure, overwhelming joy.
It’s impossible not to smile with that first stroke through the waves (even with a mouthful of salt water, timing a dive poorly into a crest). Smiling: at the shock, at the cold, at the pride of doing this, at the ridiculousness of the whole thing, at the closeness to nature. And, privately, we smile at the insane knowledge that we want to do this again, and again, and again. The morning after that night-storm swim with the girls, I snuck off early before feeding the horses and tested myself again in the glassy water. As a group, we’re already planning and fearing our next dip…