Waterlog, by Roger Deakin (Vintage). This book was an inspiration for me, and proved a delicious escape for a city-bound country boy. Waterlog is exactly that, a collection of diary entries concerned with swims undertaken by Deakin, from rivers to open-air lidos, to seas and lochs and sea lochs, to his moat.
He writes with such delight at the feel of water that is not chlorinated, of the shrill tremor of elation at plunging into cold water of being alone in the Fairy Pools or riding river rapids with a choice few friends, that acts like a siren’s song, though in this case luring you away from the rocks and in to deeper water.
Sadly last year was not the best for my swimming self, but this year will be very different (I’m hoping that we are now far enough in to the year for that not to sound like a resolution – it is a register of desire and intent, nothing more). What this book does best is this: it takes swimming, which for many is a laborious chore in the pursuit of fitness, with all the stinging eyes and suspicion that you are actually just swimming through piss that that comes with, and instead makes it an adventure. And adventurous things happen to him – heated arguments with fishermen as to what right anyone has to do anything on a river, a wrestle with the dreaded Corryvreckan, a heart-stopping plunge into an icy loch, eel-y sloshings through the weirs and dykes of the Fens.
So, in short; a gentle adventure book through the waters of the British Isles with one of the best nature writers of the last century. Magical and beautiful and life-affirming. There is hope after urbanification.