St Bride's: News - Making a splash for the angels

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St Bride's: News

Making a splash for the angels

The Rector asked a very direct question as I left the Evensong service at which he preached a sermon launching the Inspire! Appeal's talents scheme: "What can you do?"

He pressed £20 into my hand as Valerie Hill-Archer logged my pledge, but it was not until two weeks ago that I knew how I was going to multiply this sum into a respectable donation.

Writing the Financial Times' world diary I read about The Great London Swim, an open water event in Docklands and I decided to stretch my twice weekly fitness swim to the required one mile distance with as series of  mile, half-mile and 960m training swims at Balham Leisure Centre and the Nuffield Health gym in the City.

The only previous experience of open water swimming was being taught to build up distances and stamina by a PE teacher at the age of eight, when frogs and green algae were to be found in the school's outdoor pool, and a few lazy afternoons at Tooting Bec Lido.

Asking for sponsors from family and colleagues, I was variously described as "brave", "mad" and "fearless", while one warned of the danger from rats and immersion in cold water.

Once a wetsuit was secured and an appeal was made on Facebook there was no turning back. On the day I arrived at the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre in Millwall Dock, a last-minute change of venue due to pollution risk at the Royal Victoria Dock, to lovely late summer sunshine and 19 degrees air temperature.

Any doubts about completing the distance were dispelled when I remembered the sage advice from colleague Ralph Atkins: "Get quickly into an efficient rhythm and let your mind wander." The cruising swans and motivational banter from fellow swimmers carried me round the perimeter of the dock to the finish line.

I had not been overtaken by cold, as I had feared, but got into a long slow almost rowing stroke to cover the water. It was a remarkably head clearing experience, I found myself thinking about hearty cod fishermen, the ancient gods of the sea Neptune and Poseidon and I even had time to think about the dinner I would be cooking later.

My first open water swim netted £960 for the church's appeal. Thank you David for the challenge; it led to an unforgettable day and may yet lead to a new sporting pursuit.

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