After the swim was over

December 27th, 2010

By 11 AM on Christmas Day the sun was shining brightly for the annual Charmouth Fancy Dress swim, but the terrace thermometer was still just below zero. There was an air of excitement and camaradie amongst the people streaming down to the beach whom I joined.

It gave me just the same kind of feeling I first experienced, aged 8, when I first began going to the match at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ football ground, Molineux. This year in Charmouth the excitement and anticipation was heightened by the fact that our house was furnishing five of the players, who were preparing to dash into the waves to provide the entertainment for the crowd, when the clock struck eleven.

My elder daughter, Holly, wearing my best multi-coloured night shirt, bought from Liberty in Regents Street many years ago. Her bloke, Lee, sporting a vast lamp shade from a 1930s lamp standard. Their son, Joe, 8, in a mouse outfit. Plus cousins Pagan and Mela,  who have come from New Zealand for this Christmas in the snow.

And ice, which became

more and more treacherous as we neared the beach. Mindful of my aged brittle bones I lagged further and further behind.

I reached the beach in time to hear the screams and cheers as the event happened. But could see nothing through the wall of watchers lined up in front of me.

It only lasts five minutes. I was trying to push through the crowd to take some pics of any swimmers still in the water, but the crowd was now moving in the

opposite direction, as the swimmers rushed out to grab their towels, and drink the coffee laced with brandy provided by their helpers.

My role in this event was to take the pics and provide the eye-witness report.

And I had failed.

And failure never loses its bitter taste, however many times you have experienced it.

Had I had a different kind of journalistic training, I could have faked it.

I remember, years ago, Colin Jones, who like me had been invited to the launch of an oil tanker. As the bottle of bubbly broke against the hull of the ship, a taxi drove into the shipyard. Colin’s train had given up the ghost at Goole, but, undaunted,  he had jumped into the nearest cab and rushed on to the launch.

It was a noble failure. And it was a not very important event. But since The Economist, then, and now, was a decent, if paternalistic, employer, he had no difficulty in getting his expenses paid.

As for me, in 2010, I offer you a pic of the scene down on the beach just after the swim.

And another of our house here as we found it when we returned last Tuesday. (This picture was taken by my neighbour, Neil.)

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