Serpentine

Nothing happened today so i am flying back a month to write about my charity swim in the Serpentine, to raise money for The Alzheimer’s Society. You can read all about why I did it, which I explain in typically graceless fashion, here.

The distance I had chosen to swim, two miles, isn’t very far. Two loops of this strange artificial lake in the middle of London, which I knew was within my abilities provided I didn’t try to show off and go too fast. The only likely enemy was the weather, but it was unseasonably sunny.

So myself and Chloe pushed our introverted minds and bodies through all the trestle tables, gazebos and queuing of an organised charity event, attached our day-release electronic tags, and waited dutifully to get into the water with the crowded others of our time slot to a relentlessly cheerful tannoy of infuriatingly upbeat encouragement. Of our contingent, I was only one of only a handful not wearing a wetsuit, and so I had to suffer the further indignity of dragging a small float behind me, lest I drown.

I don’t think I will, thank you.

We lingered towards the back of our intake, and plunged into the water, which wasn’t very cold. To begin with, the main irritation was the other swimmers. But these soon spread out, and myself and my friend could chat shit and maintain a decent rhythm.

“Stop making me laugh, it hurts,” was a warning to joke slightly less. As we approached the quarter way mark, we fell into pace with a swan. With my goggles, I couldn’t see much at all.

This became a problem at the halfway point, when I belatedly realised I had accidentally ended up in the lane for a previous group, who were being tannoy-shouted to the finish. I had to do a very undignified U-turn, and flop underneath a dividing rope, which took a couple of attempts due to the aforementioned anti-death float that was attached to me.

Graceful U-Turn.

In the maelstrom, I had lost Chloe. But I found another swan. The second lap passed quicker than the first, but I couldn’t see her to catch her, and so this was the end of our watery companionship.

In fact, during the second lap, I can say that my mind was almost entirely empty. Is this zen or just nothingness? The most I was aware of was of time passing, until, near the end, I passed a man in a wetsuit clinging desperately to the prow of a rescue kayak.

When I emerged, I was accosted by a man with a microphone, so I could be interviewed for the public address system. I said something about swans. I was then processed by more people, one of whom handed me my prisoner number with which to take my official mug shot; the others photos later were matched with me by facial recognition software which I don’t remember acquiescing to.

But that was for the future. For now, I could take off my electronic tag, which had cut into my ankle and let to quite a significant gash. And then, finally, I was free.

Modern corporate charity events are horrific, but I knew this before I signed up. And it was all this – the crowds, the tagging, and the processing, and the shouting, and the fake cheeriness – that people had been paying me to endure. And if you’re one of the people who did that, I thank you very much indeed. As promised: I didn’t enjoy any of it.

There is still time to sponsor me if you wish. Thank you to everyone who donated money to an excellent cause that I wish didn’t have to exist.

Published by jamesofwalsh

My past blogs haunt the internet like ghost ships on a digital sea.

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