Spare a thought today in this howling gale (the tail end of Hurrican Katia I understand) for poor David Williams, the Little Britain star who is, as I write, endeavouring to swim the last stretch of the River Thames - the tidal stretch, downstream to Teddington Lock.
He has had huge support and has so far raised £800,000 for Sport Relief, having swum 116 miles. People have cheered him along all the way, which he says has helped enormously. There has been a fleet of support boats too, which must have made a difference.
At one point he began to turn blue and his physio made him get out of the water and don a wet suit. But the most horrifying thing about the swim is that I understand 500,000 cubic metres of raw sewage has entered the Thames since last Monday. He has already got a gastric upset - hardly surprising.
People have always been attracted to wild swimming. The late Roger Deakin wrote a wonderful book on it called Waterlog. My son borrowed it and has kept it as he has become rather addicted to it himself, much to my horror and that of his wife too.
I read in the Times today about a terrific heatwave in 1911 in September (well, no likeness there then as it is a gale and freezing cold outside) when on September 6th a forty year old Yorkshireman, Thomas Burgess, made his sixteenth attempt to swim the English Channel. He was naked apart from goggles and a bathing cap and was smothered in lard. He was constantly seasick and was stung by jellyfish but the crew of his support boat lifted his spirits by singing La Marseillaise!!!
They fortified him with grapes and hot chocolate and he landed at Cap Gris Nez (the closest point to England) after 22 hours and 25 minutes in the water. See - they always made them tough in Yorkshire - even in those days.