If you got to the end of my last post, you may still have been wondering: But where’s all this going?
To be fair, I wasn’t 100% sure myself at first, but I realised this isn’t a side of my life I’ve talked about before. And it has eventually led me in a particular direction, including informing some of my writing. In Carrion there are three key scenes that take place in and on water. In Birth Rights a climactic scene involves a boat chase.
The funny thing is, it’s only become apparent in the last few years how important water is to me. In my late teens I was convinced I wasn’t a good sailor, largely because I had a couple of experiences on ferries in choppy seas that left me nauseous (it can’t be a coincidence that the word “nausea” includes the word “sea”).
When my sister moved to the Isle of Wight, I visited regularly and even felt queasy crossing the Solent. So it’s perhaps understandable that I had no plans to take up sailing at that time.
Swimming continued to be fun. Pools, water parks, playing in the sea at any opportunity, all were experiences to be enjoyed and, as my children came along and learnt to swim, my own version of my dad’s games came into play. The crocodile was replaced with a shark, but they rode on my back as I submarined.
Something else my dad used to do was get us to stand on the floor of a pool while he attempted to swim between our legs. In practice, of course, there was only room for his head, so we’d find ourselves rising out of the water on his shoulders, usually laughing hysterically. Inevitably, I shared this joy with my son and daughter.
These days, of course, some of these things would be difficult to do in a public swimming pool. Not only would there be Health and Safety issues, you’d probably feel self-conscious about playing in such an intimate way with a child – even if it was your own.
As you’ve read this (and hopefully the previous post) you may have picked up on a recurring theme. But just in case you haven’t, I’ll spell it out for you. When I say I like being in water, I mean completely in it. Being totally immersed gives you a terrific weightless sensation that must be the closest you can get to being in a zero gravity environment without becoming an astronaut.
Aside from swimming, there were other clues I should have picked up on. When I was about 12, I went camping in the Lake District with the scouts (which will have come as a surprise to anyone who knows me at all: camping and the scouts are not things you’d naturally associate with me). Anyway, during this trip we learnt how to canoe and my favourite part was the capsize drill. The canoe was tipped over, leaving me suspended upside down in the lake. You’re supposed to pull yourself free and head for the surface, and I did – I just took an extra few seconds to savour the moment.
Many years later, I helped arrange a couple of white water rafting trips (sadly only on a man-made course). In both cases, I managed to fall in, the second time backwards off the raft and into a whirlpool. As I spun upright, I felt the water pulling me down. There was no sudden tug, or any sensation of restraint, but the water seemed to enfold me and ease me down to what turned out to be quite a deep bottom. What struck me most about this experience was that, at no point did I feel frightened or panicky. I was quite happy to let the water do its stuff. And as I touched bottom, I bounced gently, then rose slowly and steadily to the surface. It was a very peaceful experience, broken only as I surfaced to find myself caught in the flow of water and thrust towards the bank.
I think it was around this time that I decided that you haven’t really been on the water unless you’ve got wet. It’s a philosophy I firmly believe. And when the decision was made to start sailing a few years ago, I took it with me – much to the dismay of my partner.