Solstice(ish) Swim

Solstice(ish) Swim

I think this is the 3rd year in a row that I’ve dragged friends out to swim in the middle of winter. A celebration of the winter solstice. And end to the darkening. The beginnings of the lightening. Optimism. Encouragement. It’d be nice if the weather started to get better immediately, but at least the days are getting longer.

This year’s swim was a day or two late.

Close enough. Right?

There will be some more photos coming, but I’ve not developed the second roll from the beach visit yet.

It was a stunning day. Hardly any wind at all. The sun had enough bite that I could feel it on my skin. The water was crystal clear and cold. The swell was reasonable, but the waves were smooth and gentle. Lots of time between waves. Couldn’t have asked for a better day for it, really.

The cold water is magic. Makes my mind and body zing. Nick Cave explains it better than I ever will.

Black and white image of two nude men walking on the beach away from the camera towards the ocean.

Photonerd stuff:
Kentmere 400 at box-speed
EF 70-200 f/2.8L
HC-110 1+31 for about 4.5 minutes

Mindful Thoughts.

Mindful Thoughts.

It’s 22:41.

Emma Ruth Rundle’s Engine or Hell Live at Roadburn playing quietly is mixing with the steady whistle of my tinnitus. I can also hear my keyboard as I type away and the quiet whirr of my computer under my desk. The rest of the house is completely quiet.

I can feel my neck muscles. I suspect my posture has been off today. I can feel my chair. I can feel my feet on the ground.

I can smell the flowers on my desk. Brought by Mandi earlier in the week. Grown in her garden. Jonquils. Lavender. Others that I can’t identify.

I can’t see anything outside of my window. It’s too dark. The solstice is a week or so away. I worry about how mild the autumn and winter has been so far.

It’s 22:48.

Nick Cave on Swimming

Nick Cave on Swimming

Turns out that you can send Nick Cave a short message and if you’re lucky, he’ll reply to your question in public. It will get logged in the Red Hand Files archive and it will go out in an email. Very cool.

It also turns out that Nick Cave and I have something in common: we both like swimming at every opportunity, as I found out in the most recent Red Hand Files email.

Have a read of the whole thing. It’s good.

Then get in touch with me, and let’s go swimming in the cold water. Hopefully our walk back from the water to the warmth of wherever we are going resembles Nick’s:

As my friends and I make our way back through the woods, borne on the wings of God’s laughing angels, in the grip of some massive dopamine surge, we understand we are better now. This sense of delight, this shivering joy, will remain with us as we go about our day.

The Quarry

The Quarry

If you pop through a hole in the right fence in the right suburb in the right city and walk up the hill for the right amount of time, you will reach The Quarry. It’s filled with water since it’s not actively quarried any more.

Everyone assures me the water is fine. It’s beautifully blue and clear. Maybe a little bit too blue and clear.

“It’s so blue because of all the sulphates.”
“It’s a lime quarry – just have a shower when you get home.”
“It’s so clear because of the sulphates – it’s the same algaecide you use in a pool – it’s fine.”

Everyone assures me that it’s fine to trespass there. Everyone does it, apparently. The company that owns the place doesn’t care, apparently.

And, to be honest, I’ve not had any problems the dozen or so times I’ve been. Not from weird water or trespassing issues. So I, too, tell people that the water is fine, and that the company doesn’t care if you trespass. I call it Diet Trespass. Trespassing Lite.

If you want to come for a swim here, let me know. I’ll meet you at the hole in the right fence. We’ll walk up the hill for the right amount of time.



I don’t own a lot of cookbooks compared to some. Some dozens, I guess. They’re tucked away, in a little Ikea cupboard and they rarely see the light of day. If I want a recipe these days, I tend to reach for my phone rather than casting my eyes over my cookbooks because it’s convenient and easy. And there are reviews. We love reviews, right? Confidence inspiring 5 star recipes only, please!

One of my neighbours, on a whim, bought me a copy of the First Nations Food Companion. It’s a really wonderful resource, full of inspiring and interesting looking recipes, and detailed information on how to source these rarer ingredients – be it by foraging, growing, or ordering online.

Tonight I had an idea, and that was to share the book with a friend. I grabbed the book off the shelf, hopped in the car, and headed over. I knew that flicking through the cookbook together would be lovely.

And it was really lovely. But something unexpected happened.

I didn’t expect all of the conversation triggers.

I’ve always said that if you want to talk to someone well, go for a walk with them. You don’t need to make eye contact, silences are natural because you’re walking and sometimes you just want to look where you’re going and focus on that, and there are things out there in the wide world that keep your mind ticking over and conversation flowing.

I need to add “or sit down with a recipe book” to my saying.

The conversation flowed and meandered effortlessly from food to childhood memories to fears, travel, loves, relationships, and more.

So, go on. Grab a cookbook, put on some music, and sit down with a friend and flick through the pages and see where you end up, what you end up learning, and what you end up sharing.

A most unexpected swim

A most unexpected swim

When someone says “English beach” you don’t really picture anything that great. Grey skies. Grey sand (at best). Grey water. A lot of people not really dressed for the beach at all. I’d been told that the Jurassic Coast was beautiful, and, along with my preconceived ideas I (internally) pffff’d and mostly dismissed the idea of swimming in the UK.

But then I remembered that I would need a July swim to complete my swim-every-month-in-2022 challenge. So, caution to the wind and those sorts of things, I decided to head to Durdle Door as early as possible to avoid the crowds. £5 to park for 4 hours – they sure know how to make it difficult for poor people to do things in the UK.

Anyway. I followed the path down, and down, and down, past the views of white chalk cliffs, down the rocky path, then down the worn wooden steps and onto the san….pebbles. They were oval, smooth pebbles. Apparently walking barefoot on pebbles is a good way of improving health (it’s called tap shek) – so consider my health improved!

There is a very striking arch in the water at Durdle Door Beach – the arch is the namesake for the beach. Durdle Door.

The water was clear and a beautiful blue. There was a slight swell, but nothing significant. No wind. The sun was out.

I dove in to the instantly deep water (the coarser the sand on the beach, the steeper the beach) and started swimming for the arch. The water was refreshing, especially after suffering through the 40℃ heatwave in London. A shower doesn’t have the same refreshing power as a swim in the ocean after a hot day.

I reached the arch, swimming through it on my back, looking up the whole time, watching the perspective change. It felt special. Magical. Like I’d gone through a portal to another land. Swimming back through the portal, I was worried I’d go back through to the place I’d come from, but I stayed in the magical place where I’d been through Durdle Door.

If you ever get to the Jurassic Coast, and the weather is Just So, I heartily recommend swimming through the portal to another land.

Durdle Door
Preconceived Ideas washed away.