Monday, 12 September 2011

Wild Swimming.

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.

14 comments:

Pomona said...

I am definitely not tough enough for that sort of thing (softie southerner!). It is so windy here that I can't hang the washing out - but actually quite warm and sunny as well.

Pomona x

Gwilym Williams said...

Amazing what these wild swimmers get up to. A woman recently tried to swim from Cuba to Florida (2nd attempt) but I think she didn't make it. There used to be swimming races from across the dangerous waters of Morecambe Bay from Grange-over-Sands to the Stone Jetty near the Midland Hotel at Morecambe. I remember going to watch such a race as a child. No neporene suits in those days - only goggles, trunks and layers of fat.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

I had enough trouble this morning staying upright on my bike in the wind! I'll stick to dry land, if you don't mind. Don't mind reading about wild swimming in Waterlog though.
The WV for this comment is GRITTI - David Walliams doesn't look it but he certainly is!

Titus said...

Can I just have the grapes and hot chocolate please? Oh, and a bit of singing's always nice.

Have you heard of Annette Kellerman, Weaver? Well worth a look-up on Wikipeadia. I think Radio 4 did a play about her recently too. First lady wild swimmer, and then some!

Mary said...

....and I thought it was a rough late afternoon swim in Lake Almanor, Calif. when I was whipped off my little boogie board and smashed up against the dock when the wind picked up unexpectedly! Grapes and hot choc, no way...........a dry towel and a nice glass of wine at the fire pit worked well though! Will this qualify as Wild Swimming?

Good luck to this man - is he an actor?

Heather said...

I have my own layers of fat, but will read Roger Deakin's book in favour of the real thing! I do hope David Walliams completes his swim and that he doesn't harm his own health in the process. It's a good thing there is a doctor on hand to keep an eye on him.
Get a move on Katya and leave us alone to hopefully enjoy a golden autumn.

John Gray said...

I wish him well but I am not a fan of his overblown personality!
oh I sound like a crabby old git!

Gerry Snape said...

I love the story about the naked swimmer! I'm so glad that David Walliams has done it...hope that he's alright. what a great comment from Gwilym...I've just come back from Morecambe and the Bay was wild this weekend...the stone jetty is still there!

angryparsnip said...

It is raining in Tucson with some wind... no pool for me today as there is lighting too.
I wish him well and hope he finishes.
Why oh why is there raw sewage entering the Thames ?

Hope all is tied down and your all safe inside.

cheers, parsnip

Bovey Belle said...

My husband's grandfather swan the R. Derwent from York to Malton and won a prize (early years of the 1900s it would have been). I'm a softy Southerner . . .

Cloudia said...

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Dave King said...

I gather the sum is now something over £1,000! What an achievement, both physically and in cash terms!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes, his money has gone well over the million now - quite an achievement although, like John, he is not a character I particularly like in his TV show. Of course his real persona may be totally different. Thank you for your comments.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Pat! Thanks for the explanation! Have a nice day!