Saturday, 30 March 2013

Low Tide06:10 (0.40m)
High Tide12:22 (2.50m)
Low Tide18:22 (0.50m)
Sea temperature: 3.2
Sea conditions: not great, but swimmable
Weather: bitter, snow started as we were getting dressed
Joined by: Sara
Topics of conversation:
Fifty shades of grey - we agreed that we could do a picture book (no, not that kind of picture book) from photos taken over the last few weeks, there have been so many shades of grey that we'd need a sequel and another edition for the fifty shaded of brownish greys.
Today's grey
Throughout the swim there were so many DK and The Pirate play on word jokes and songs that I'm going to have to get them to write a list to share, I do remember The Pirate discussing the options for shopping in Thailand and as our village shop used to be called the Tuck Shop he wondered if our local market stall might be called the Tuk Tuk Shop... I blotted my copy book by saying that something they were singing sounded like the theme tune to The Flinstones, it transpired that it was one of DK's own compositions. They were still singing as we left the car park, something about seven and heaven, as we'd been discussing bad rhyme. Mertz had been to dinner at DK's when I was sick and there had been a discussion about bad rhyme in songs with another musician and two comedy writers, DK couldn't remember which rhyme Mertz had tried to pass off: Adrian Gurvtz - Gonna Write a Classic
Gonna write a classic
Gonna write it in an attic
Babe, I'm an addict now
An addict for your love
I was a stray boy
And you was my best toy
Found it easy to annoy you
But you were different from the rest
And I loved you all the wrong ways
Now listen to my say
If it changed to another way
Would the difference make it
Would it be a classic
I gotta send it right away

Expressing my words
One bridge at a time
Then tearing them up
'Cause they never rhyme
Alone in my room
So far from your love
Whatever I write
That's not good enough
And it's not what I mean
I mean it's not what it seems
I just keep living for dreams

At least he admits it doesn't rhyme in the second verse - classic/attic and love/enough, nice. The Pirate bumped into the comedy writer on the way back, we hadn't met before so I introduced myself and she said "Oh, yes, we met you at DK and Legs's house when you weren't there..."

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Low Tide04:10 (0.40m)
High Tide10:32 (2.40m)
Low Tide16:20 (0.60m)
High Tide22:35 (2.60m)
Sea temperature: not taken
Sea conditions: deceptive
Weather: still blowing a gale, frozen puddles and icicles. Sunny out to sea, black clouds inland
Joined by: no one
Topics of conversation: 
What the hell is this?
The Pirate and I found it on the way down the wooden walkway, we speculated about whether it could have been blown here but then realised that it had clearly been dumped after it had been emptied of it's cash last night as the ice had formed over it. Not the normal kind of occurrence on our sleepy beach. This evening I met 2 policemen who were looking for a missing teenager and told them about it. Within minutes they were 'calling it in" and had picked up the whole thing and out it in their truck as evidence, of what they couldn't quite decide.

The Pirate's secret is out - it was his birthday yesterday and he didn't tell us but as The Pirate's Wife rang to invite us all to his birthday supper his cover was blown and we know he's a year older. When he told us how old he was disappointed that we didn't say "but you only look 28", this could be because he's always saying he's been old for his years since he was 28... so happy birthday boxing day to him.
The moon and the tides and the sea - our usual discussion. It's full today and quite spectacular as the last moon of winter I'm hoping it brings a change in the weather. The March moon is known as the full worm moon, the time when the worms finally start to rise, heralding the return of birds who feed on them. In the north they refer to it as the full crow moon or the full crust moon, when the ice begins to thaw during the day, but still freezes by night. Our trickle drain is doing just that, thawing and refreezing each day, changing it's shape. 
The murmurations have shifted north from our marshes too and hundreds of thousands of starlings are now roosting in the docks at Lowestoft. I drove up to watch them last night, freezing my fingers trying to capture them with my camera. The cold probably won't stop me from going again this evening though, the moon was over the sea and they came drifting in small groups from inland and the big magnet in the sky seemed to be drawing them together more powerfully than ever. This time last year I was nearly lost on the marsh because they lured me further and further from home at dusk.

Legs and Alex have arrived in the US after delays, getting stuck in immigration for 2 hours and news of Odd (Legs's pa) being taken to hospital, not a good start to the trip. I hope they have better news soon and can spend time with Annie as planned. I'm not sure if they will be able to read this whilst they are there, but we are all sending love regardless.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Low Tide03:30 (0.50m)
High Tide09:59 (2.30m)
Low Tide15:40 (0.70m)
High Tide21:56 (2.50m)
Sea Temperature: not taken
Sea conditions: ROUGH, very strong undertoad
Weather: very strong wind
Joined by: no-one
Topics of conversation:
Desperate DK - we haven't been able to go in for a few days because the sea has been so rough (and I've been away) so DK was totally determined to get in regardless today. His family has just left for the US, which left him even more in need, and we agreed to meet later than usual so that he could see them off to the airport. I went down at normal time to see whether I could brave it, opened up the beach hut and put the kettle on - not for a drink but to provide hand warming facilities in case it was doable. I sat on the dune and contemplated, both the possibility of getting in and life in general, whilst the kettle boiled. Watching the waves almost lulled me into feeling invincible but as I saw The Pirate coming over the horizon, leaning into the wind, shaking his stick at the North Wind the illusion was shattered. And yet... DK, yup, he did.  Mabel had the wind up her tail and so was back on the lead so he handed her over whilst he dashed down to the mashing waves. Mabel chases sea foam which travels at speed south all the way to Dunwich, it's like a drug for her, she switches off and just follows its delicious darting movement wherever it goes and DK wasn't taking any chances (other than with his life of course). 
The Pirate and I watched him being thrashed by the waves and trying to get into the trough, to no avail, he did take his feet off the ground briefly though. AND he kept his trunks on. We are in awe.
The Pirate corrected me, apparently he called my tendency towards lunacy "tree hugging nitwittery", much better...
Hoping for a swimmable sea soon.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

High Tide05:56 (2.00m)
Low Tide11:40 (1.20m)
High Tide17:44 (2.10m)
Sea temperature: 4.2
Sea conditions: perfect
Weather: perfect
Joined by: Sara and The Poet, The Housesitters, a man and his dog, The Commander (who saluted).
The sun had come out and brought with it some happy walkers, making the most of it, as we were. It's a one off and the forecast is terrible. Sara and I tried to pin down what it is that makes humans and animals respond so deeply and unreservedly to this change in weather as we let the sun warm our bodies and souls, and the dogs ran about, tails up. It's been a long and dark winter and whilst it's not over yet (according to one forecast we have heavy snow coming our way) there was a smile playing on everyone's lips as we stared out to sea. This hasn't been the case for some time and we missed DK, who is under the weather himself today.

Grayson Perry - we didn't get to the end of this conversation as we needed to get in to the water before we froze, so no doubt we will find out more but The Poet told us he'd bought a pornographic tapestry... then he said it was a Grayson Perry. One of my students recently completed her own Grayson Perry tapestry, having bought the canvas and thread from his recent exhibition, as part of a collaborative work, so I'm not sure if that's what he means, somehow I can't quite see The Poet doing cross stitch, but we shall see.
Skylarks - I'd heard them on my way to the beach this morning and the sound always reminds me of childhood summers, when my Father would take me down to our neighbour's grazing fields to check the sheep. He told me that it was one of my first words (along with my interpretation of Landrover - lawawa) and the sound is one of my earliest memories. This didn't really help me to try to replicate it when Sara asked what the sound was like though! They seem to be able to fly to impossible heights and to hover there, whilst singing. The Poet said he felt they kept themselves in the air with their song. We discussed humming bird flight too and The Pirate has never seen them, this brought to mind another memory of my Father and I told them how he would try to photograph them in South America, stalling their beating wings, but never really succeeded. I found this for The Pirate though, I guess it was what he was aiming for.
The Pirate's love of kingfishers reminded us of the one which used to live on the river, and we mourned it's disappearance as it hasn't been seen for a while. Dear Wally, who died last year, had introduced us to it when we moved back to the village and we used to see it regularly by the sluice. When Wally fell ill we saw it less and less and I haven't seen it since he died and I explained that Mertz had a feeling that the two were connected, the bird being his totem or ally. The Pirate was shocked and said something along the lines of "I'd expect that kind of airy fairy tree hugging stuff from you, not from him!" So just for you Pirate I looked up the references and will speak to The Shaman about it when I see her next week. Kingfisher's wisdom includes: 
  • Connection to peaceful seas
  • Clear vision through emotional waters
  • Ability to focus and dive into emotional waters to catch one's dreams 

Geometry - I'm reaching the end of the syllabus with my maths student and today was an opportunity to work with construction on the beach as the weather was fine (I've left the fun stuff till last). We are concentrating on tessellation today and the tide was not low enough to do much - see above - but we had a go.

Let's tessellate
Discussions about reaching the end of the syllabus led to Sara and I discussing 'what next'. Next year is not clear to me yet, but I got an email this morning with my ideal job attached, shame I'm not qualified...

Maybe a collaborative job if we roll it all into one?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

High Tide03:06 (2.10m)
Low Tide08:44 (1.00m)
High Tide15:18 (2.10m)
Low Tide21:17 (0.90m)
Sea temperature: not taken but it felt warmer
Sea conditions: calm and low
Weather: raining, grey
Joined by: The Poet
Topics of conversation:
The Pirate's muscle/rib pain: we'd all been worried about The Pirate yesterday when he had complained of a sleepless night, due to a pain in his side keeping him awake. He'd been OK till he submerged himself in the cold water, then he doubled over in pain and let out a blood curdling noise. Today he came down determined to go in again, DK and I were already in the mood to stop him but he convinced us that he'd be OK. Sara had spoken to him with her Alexander Technique hat on yesterday and we asked what she had advised. He pretended to have forgotten, so I suspect that she'd told him what we did: cold water is not a good thing for muscle pain. I can vouch for that, this time last year I had my enforced break due to a hamstring injury. I've since discussed the thought that it could be a broken rib with Mark, who is also VERY qualified to diagnose and advise. If it is a rib it's going to be made worse by the cold water, not just because it makes the muscles contract but because the shock makes you gasp deeply for air, which is one of the most painful things to have to do with a cracked rib. How to treat rib injuries
I have to admit to being hypocritical at this point; I'd been for a run straight after the swim yesterday as I'd had a morning off. It was a mistake, I hadn't been able to thaw out enough, even though I spent some considerable time in the beach hut rubbing my legs and jumping up and down, and as I started to run I got colder and colder, till I couldn't feel my feet. I don't mind being cold but then I got stumbly and as I'm clumsy at the best of times I think I'll have to run in the evenings. 
Mountain to be climbed 
Thai mountains - the reason for my running again is to get in shape for a trip to Thailand, where we will be living in the middle of nowhere for a couple of weeks (see above), but the guy whose house we are renting has told us about a mountain trek, which we can start from our back door. 

The area is called Khao Sam Roi Yot, which I am led to believe is roughly translated as Mountain of Three Hundred Peaks. It's Mertz's birthday present to himself, he reaches a milestone birthday whilst we are there and he plans to be totally unreachable (apart from the fact that he's taking his phone, iPad and laptop and there is Wifi in the house). 
We discussed the pitfalls of setting off on such adventures without guides (which I won't be doing) and with the right clothing/equipment and The Poet made me aware of an absolutely tragic story of a father and son who have perished on a trail in Chamonix. News article
Can eating insects save the world? I've been interested in this for some time and have enjoyed the odd deep fried cricket and a pretty powerful ants egg curry but I'm not partial to the fat squishy ones that have the high protein content. DK had seen a programme last night about it, which is worth checking out: BBC iPlayer 
Kindle - I bought one. I know it's going to come into it's own but I am finding it a little frustrating so far as I don't think it's very instinctive, plus I'm used to iPad typing and the Kindle lags behind in response time. I find myself thinking I've not pressed the touchscreen hard enough and then the word suddenly appears. I read quickly and I hope I don't have the same problem as The Poet, who had to send his back because the pages wouldn't turn, or Legs, who threw hers across the room.
Best friends - is it still normal to refer to people as BFs at our age? And do we even have them? Legs and I have what can only be described as BGF's (as in Girl not Gay) called Annie and Anita and I refer to Anita as 'my Annie' and vice verse. I read somewhere that at the age of 50 the average person has 5 good friends and I reckon that's enough. I'm often having a similar discussion with my BBF who thinks I have a lot of friends, and whilst this is true, BF's are different. I'm seeing 'my Annie' on Friday and I'm ludicrously excited about our trip to the Bowie Exhibition at the V&A. The Pirate has the opposite response to Bowie and explained that his music reminds him of bad times. I always argue that only music with merit has the power to evoke memories, not like smells that can transport you with one whiff, even if they are foul.
Bad weather and working from home - The Pirate and I both have a heavy work load today and so were grateful for the bad weather, but as he said "We'll always find something to distract us" I wonder what that'll be...

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Low Tide05:56 (0.40m)
High Tide12:09 (2.40m)
Low Tide18:01 (0.60m)
Sea temperature: 3.4
Sea conditions: calm 
Weather: glorious
Joined by: The Poet
Topics of conversation:
The famous one of us is in the papers again, somehow they got to hear about both his Comic Relief efforts and his love of Tupperware: I just love the way they've categorised DK as a 'Popstar' in the link. On the way home we got chatting Tupperware in general (we know how to raise the intellectual standards) as DK was returning one of mine which had had curry in it and The Pirate still has one with rice in it. I'd had a life changing experience a few years ago involving plastic storage boxes, yes, really. I came down early one morning to hear crashing and banging in the kitchen, thinking Mertz had already left for work I was a little concerned but I found him in the middle of the kitchen surrounded by lids and bases of plastic boxes everywhere and him in their midst, red in the face. "What's up?" I tentatively asked, "I'm late! I've made a packed lunch and I can't find a ****ing lid that fits a ****ing box!" he seethed. That morning I put all the plastic containers into a cardboard box and took them to work, where I left them outside my classroom with free to a good home on the box and ordered these in different sizes. All the lids fit all the boxes, regardless of their capacity. 

He has high blood pressure and it's the little things... I'd be lying if a said there was never a cross word spoken in the kitchen from that day forward, but it certainly made my life easier. 
Zero Dark Thirty - I'd seen it last night and had been blown away, no pun intended, such and impressive feat of direction. We'd discussed it at length before and now I have the context. 
To Kindle or not to Kindle - I want to travel light when we go away in a few weeks and as we are going to be staying in the middle of a National Park with no distractions I am looking forward to a reading marathon, books and travelling light don't mix and I'm not keen on taking my work iPad as it's full size and not mine. We debated the different options and I had planned on getting myself an iPad mini before the trip but now that I've had the expense of a new computer it's not as easy to justify. The Poet is a huge fan of the Kindle and they are certainly cheaper, but I'm not sure I'd use it at any other time. The fact that I've reached the 'one in, one out' point for books on shelves in the house should push me over eventually though.
Bosco tried to bury The Pirate's stick, I think he's worried that Mabel will steal it now that she loose again, he kept making funny noises at her. She on the other hand is delighted to be able to run about again and she and Willow played, after Mabel had finished chasing sea foam that is.
on purpose
Dblcam is a new App I've been playing with so I was still fiddling about when The Pirate was getting ready and he beat me to it! It's a fun photo thing that makes use of both the camera's on your phone at the same time. It caught me out this evening as I was standing on the bridge trying to photograph the view and it caught me with tears streaming down my face (it was cold and windy).
Please excuse the format, Blogger is having problems and I keep getting error messages.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Low Tide05:20 (0.30m)
High Tide11:33 (2.40m)
Low Tide17:25 (0.60m)
High Tide23:36 (2.70m)

Sea temperature: 3.5
Sea conditions: calm 
Weather: sunny, crisp, snow slowly melting
Joined by: The Viking and Laura
Topics of conversation:
Were The Viking and Laura going to swim? Neither had a reason not to, Laura needs to get her hand in as she's about to go away for further Arctic training, which will involve what they call 'cold water immersion" i.e. swimming in freezing water, but we couldn't persuade her to start a week early and The Viking has swum here at this time of year before but decided that as we are not getting any younger and as the last time he went in the North Sea was a couple of summers ago he wouldn't risk a heart attack. He did sound as though he was having second thoughts as we all appreciated the warmth of the sun, but ultimately just DK and The Pirate joined me in the water.
The Viking and Laura were here as we'd had a reunion evening for our Arctic dog trekking team last night (read all about it: which had involved snow, a sauna, Jaegermeister and pie, pie being the only culinary  difference, but we missed the dogs and absent friends so raised a glass to Steve, Milos and Gaynor. Milos and Gaynor are celebrating their latest win of the Finnmarkslopet 500 in Norway so we sent them a congratulations/we miss you text too. It was lovely seeing them all and now that they've all gone I realise that we didn't make a date for the next one, I guess we'll have to wait till Mark has run the Marathon de Sable...
2011 team in Kiruna

The winning team

Gaynor and Milos

You can follow Milos's races here:

The weather - we had previously discussed this at length and the rough seas have meant that the three of us had not been in the water for, at the least, three days and at the most, a week (DK's shoulder had enforced his rest too) but it really has changed dramatically yet again. We joked that the snow was ordered for the Arctic reunion and that the water had calmed just in time for The Viking. Here are a few shots, taken over the last 3 days by way of description.
Just now

Viking bridge - no Viking




Sunday, 10 March 2013

Low Tide03:08 (0.50m)
High Tide09:37 (2.40m)
Low Tide15:26 (0.80m)
High Tide21:26 (2.50m)
Sea temperature: not taken
Sea conditions: perfect for the surfers, not for us
Weather: Snow melting, wind getting up
Joined by: Sara and The Poet and a couple of surfers
Topics of conversation:
Mainly whether we were to go in or not - as I'd arrived a burly surfer with a mow-hawk was running back to his car so I called to him asking if it was his kind of sea. He shouted back "YES!" but when I asked if it was a swimming kind of sea he skidded in the snow and ground to a slippery stop. He thought for a moment and said "I don't see why not - you'll go a long way!" We all met up on the beach, DK was hoping to get back in after a few days enforced rest due to inflammation of the rotator cuff and tendonitis (dodgy shoulder) and Sara is suffering from a similar complaint but she wasn't even hoping to get in. The consensus was that it would be foolish to try as the waves were rolling along from the north and the tide was high, which meant the shingle was groaning out loud as it shifted with the current. The wind has melted the snowfall of last night, which was a surprise to us all, but made the sauna even more fun last night for the gentlemen Kings and I. We'd been able to use the snow to cool off and a curry to warm up again.
Mabel - it's so lovely to see Mabel off her lead once more and on the beach with less intent to run off, in fact almost no intent other than to get out of the wind, which I don't blame her for. Her new beeping/air-puff collar, which has been used by the whole family, is working and she now comes back when called. Result.
Comic Relief - DK and Sara are part of the fundraising team, playing the piano and serving tea respectively for the Mother's Day tea party and DK is also making a fool of himself online - click to view and sponsor:
Playing funny for money

Thursday, 7 March 2013

High Tide06:26 (2.20m)
Low Tide12:26 (1.00m)
High Tide18:34 (2.20m)
Sea Temperature: hovering at around 4 degrees
Sea conditions: calm, cold, grey
Weather: see above
Joined by: The Poet
Topics of conversation:
I've not been able to post recently as a result of technical issues and work/exams, but having replaced my computer and got through the worst exam on Monday (algebra/number) I'm hoping to get back into the swing, so this is a summary of the last week or so's topics (and weather by way of pictures).
The weather has been improving and as if by magic the first of March brought with it a calm and sunny day, with the air temperature rising considerably. The overall mood rose with it and I bade farewell to February, my least favourite month, with relief. It's not been a great one this year. Illness has been rife in our group and The Pirate is still struggling to shake his cough, which is exacerbated by the cold air and the cold water first thing in the morning. We finally got to the bottom of Mertz's violent illness, new information came to light after he had been bed ridden for 2 days following a call from his mother, who has been equally sick, in fact they have worked out that they had simultaneous d & v that night. They both ate oysters at Sunday lunchtime and the sickness cannot be a coincidence, we all feel. Although we assumed that these things move more quickly, a quick surf shows that this is not always the case with oysters and in fact they have recently been found to harbour the winter vomiting bug norovirus. The NHS reported on this in November last yearNHS online  we bought them from the harbour and so he's going to let them know in case it was a bad batch, which has hit others. His mother is frail and it has really knocked her for 6, having seen the state he was in I can see how she will not be recovered for some time. The Swimmers joked that as the oyster his mother ate originally had my name on it, I was trying to poison them both at the same time, I prefer to think that she took a bullet for me, she's like that.
Pond Life - DK and I have been discussing Al Alvarez's book at length over the last few days, as he kindly leant me his brother's copy, and I have now changed my header to reflect it's impact upon me. Whilst I was sick I felt I wasn't recovering quickly enough for my liking and reading the book helped me to crystallise why I find recovery harder now that I am a cold water swimmer. It's not just that I miss the swimming when I'm sick, but the more days that pass without a swim the lower I feel. I cannot judge whether this impacts negatively upon the length of my recovery, but it certainly makes it more painful. The book takes the form of a diary, over a period of years, and is open from the start that he is addressing his own mortality. It is painful to read about the inevitability of decrepitude but it chimed with me, even though I haven't reached 50 yet, especially in relation to the two-way impact of not swimming when you are unwell. The addictive nature of cold water swimming in relation to other physical exercise must be hard to understand for those who greet us on the way to the beach in snow, wind and rain with comment like "NUTTERS!" and I wonder if Pond Life would have such an impact upon them. He advocates The Three S's, which you can't possibly argue with, and the positive thing about getting older is that you have more time for all three and surely they can only help make the ageing process more acceptable. It's also made me realise the differences between sea swimming and pond/lake/river swimming as we do see changes in the sea conditions and weather each day but not the surrounding wildlife or plant life in such an intimate way. I have enjoyed lake and river swimming but never swum in the London ponds and I want to even more now, if only to meet the characters, human and avian.
There has been much discussion about The Pirate's sartorial elegance - in this weather we aim to get off the beach as quickly as we can after the swim as there is a point at which the body temperature suddenly drops. If you can get dressed and moving before this moment in time then you can usually feel your feet when you get home, otherwise you haven't a hope in hell. This morning The Poet decided that I get dressed quicker than anyone, this may have to do with the Arctic trekking or to do with having to get dressed and out of halls of residence in the morning at the speed of light when I wasn't formally a resident, regardless it is a valuable skill and one which I hone by wearing clothes which are easy to put on. The Pirate on the other hand is hampered by  a couple of limbs that don't operate well in balmy temperatures, let alone freezing ones, but more importantly for the purposes of this debate - he is hampered by inappropriate clothing. Sara and I are determined to get him kitted out with new shoes for a start - thin tussore socks and wellie clogs might be comfy but they a so fiddly and the coat, whose lining is padded but has a mind to separate from the outside layer whenever an arm goes anywhere near it doesn't help, nor does the plastic zip. A few stitches here and there and a strip of valcro are in order. The Pirate's wife knows a fine seamstress, perhaps we should hand it over to her, alternatively I found this rather fetching onesie:
That's all for now, catching up will take some time as we have had so much to talk about recently.