On a weekend away I force myself out of bed while everyone is sleeping and pad out to the sea, rejoicing in staying close enough to it to hear the seagulls when my eyes open and the covers feel just that bit too comfy. Outside the front door you can smell the salt. I walk under the old railway arch on the cobbles, only dog walkers on the previously packed arcade. The tiny triangle of sand that nestles against two harbour walls was packed yesterday, a Martin Parr photograph with bodies obscuring the sand. But this morning it is empty.
I go down onto the sand, moist and crunchy and rising over the edge of my sandals. My clothes I pile under a rock, in case the breeze sending delicious shivers from shoulder to shoulder picks up and scatters them. And then I go in.
Tide’s out so it’s shallow a long way. Water foaming where it brushes the sand, boats clinking as they rock, glinting with the day’s early sunlight. I go under when it’s just splashing that soft place at the back of the knee, a wake-up morning gasp. It smells of salt and fish and seaweed and tar. Chains blink and floats hit against the sides of boats. I go out to a buoy, to another, look over to the harbour mouth and wish I could swim through it to the wide sandy bay beyond, shake myself and remind myself how much I don’t want to be run over by an unsuspecting fishing boat.
There’s a restaurant at the water’s edge, glass balconies jutting out empty and shining in the light. I am so grateful for this moment of quiet before the bustle, for the soft light just starting to define the edges of things, for the cool thrill of water and the lightness it lends my body. You never regret a swim.Back on the beach, an extended family have arrived to set up camp for the day. I walk past them clutching my clothes, dripping as two girls heft spades of sand, and walk round to the long wide expanse of cream that is Sunny Sands beach. There’s a mermaid statue, black and salty green, looking out to sea.
I can strike out further here and I do, enjoying the stretch in my sides, the muscles lengthening, tightening, lengthening. I swim along, looking back at the concrete arches at the base of the cliff, the man-made dwarfed by old stone. It makes me feel so small and happy, tumbling through the white waves.
I’m raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Please sponsor me at http://www.justgiving.com/swimbonnieswim