Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Beach closed

DK stared mournfully out to sea and didn't hang around long as this is the second day he hasn't been able to go in, but the combination of the very rough water, strong wind and the possibility that he might encounter a floating shell were sufficient to keep him dry. It's been the worst weather for swimming that we've had since I've been part of the group, with strong currents and winds as well as the waves being deep and so we are all getting a bit rough at the edges. The LE and I walked down for a chat with Coastguard Jim, who was a bit tired and red eyed, having been in position for 48 hours and he filled us in with the detail. 
There's a dumping ground just off the coast not far from our swimming spot and due to the rough seas a couple of 'ship shells' were spotted on the beach yesterday but have since been washed out again and there have been further sightings near Aldeburgh. He's asked for everyone to be aware that there will be no access to the beach from the campsite going South. There are Coastguards positioned all the way down the beach, with high tides and strong winds forecast today and into the New Year they are hoping to conduct controlled explosions as the shells cannot be diffused and must be detonated. The Navy will be joining the operation today to see if they can locate them in the water. 
Sods law again dictated that I didn't have my phone or camera with me and we tried to call Mertz to wake him up and get him to bring the camera to the beach, but The LE's phone didn't seem to be working, then we realised that we were standing so close to her car that it was using Bluetooth inside to call him... She has kindly sent me some shots taken with her phone, as we approached Coastguard Jim into the murk and wind.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Low Tide 00:52 (1.00m)
High Tide 07:13 (2.30m)
Low Tide 13:27 (0.80m)
High Tide 20:01 (2.40m)
Sea temperature: 5.9
Sea conditions: perfect
Weather: heavy frost, frozen dunes
Joined by: The Poet, TBC and The LE
Topics of conversation:
The temperature - both of the air and the sea. There has been a sudden drop, causing a beautiful thick frost, which painted a veneer of beauty over the mud coated marshes. It's not till the thick swathe of brown is dusted white that you realise how overpowering it is and how much the surge has darkened the landscape for the last couple of weeks. Arguably the colours this time of year are always pretty dismal, but we all agreed that this year the combination of the warm weather and the flood has made us feel bogged down. Today there was a sign of the crispness I love, proper cold, the water temperature dropping a degree overnight, although still not down to the usual 4 degrees. Getting in when it's calm and cold is one of the best combinations, allowing the water to dictate how quickly you get cold works for me and as the tide was further in than we expected it was a gentle baptism this morning. When the water is shallow and you have to wade in it can be pretty torturous. When DK used to swim in the ponds he would occasionally have to go through ice, but always the water is at the same level when it's not tidal, this must be a blessing.
Frozen footprints


This was Jagger's first frost and he'd been so excited that he'd forgotten all about breakfast, we speculated about how he will respond to the snow. That should be worth a bit of video.

Congratulations are in order, The Poet and Sara's daughter announced her engagement over Christmas and they are in full celebratory mood, even though the son-in-law-to-be is still up in Scotland, from whence he hails. We asked if he'd asked The Poet's permission, which he hadn't, but those of us who've met the son-in-law-to-be agreed that he's such a great guy that he's forgiven the social niceties of another generation. Being a Scot he's never phased by our cold water swimming and occasionally joins us after a quick 20 mile run before breakfast, so he fits right in.
Football - as Norwich had been playing Man U yesterday and DK's son is an avid Man U fan and Mertz had been at the game there was lots of chat that I didn't understand or care for. He'd been with the vicar, who kindly gave him a spare ticket and all his friends and family were also at the match but, as I understand it, you have to sit in the specific seats and he'd not been able to join the others and so had been on best behaviour. He'd managed not to swear till the very last minute, but as they'd lost he'd finally disgraced himself. He'd been out all day and as a result I'd been able to get stuck into my book and my Film Club partner and I had been down to the hut in the afternoon to watch the sun set. She's recovering well from surgery and feels the cold as a result of not being 100% but she wanted to stay outside for as long as possible so I'd wrapped her in a blanket and leant her a hat. She was concerned that she would look like an elderly relative, who been wheeled out into the fresh air but I thought she looked rather stylish. Her dog was delighted to be able to hunt in the dunes with Luna and Willow, bringing her 2 rabbits during the course of the afternoon.
Having missed the Christmas swim, being away, I was grateful that The LE had sent photos to show me the crowd going in, it looked like a great morning here, as it was in Norfolk. I'd hoped I'd be able to swim at Winterton, where we walked on Christmas morning, but a large number of baby seals had been washed down during the storm, so we had to keep away. The parents were keeping guard in the shallows and we'd missed the signs explaining the pups were sheltering on the dunes, but the dogs told us. They were terrified of them and ran away with their tails between their legs before we'd spotted them hiding in the marram grass. I can't think of a more endearing looking creature than a seal pup, they just stared up at us with those huge eyes and brought a lump to my throat, even though they seemed fine. This guy has taken a couple of great shots there: Andrew Stawarz
My new hand warmers didn't get warm, at least they didn't whilst I was on the beach or walking home, but by the time I'd meditated, had my porridge and shower and Mertz was up they'd heated my gloves up nicely in the coat pocket. We've just been for another walk on the heath and they are still toasty, so next time I must activate them before I leave in the morning. They were a Christmas present and are disposable - which is convenient, but not very ecologically sound so I'll use them sparingly.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

High Tide 00:55 (2.50m)
Low Tide 07:09 (0.70m)
High Tide 13:32 (2.30m)
Low Tide 18:57 (0.90m)
Sea temperature: 6.5 yesterday
Sea conditions: too rough for me
Weather: blustery, cold
Joined by TBC and The LE
Topics of conversation, a quick summary: 
DK's cold - he's much better, huge relief all round. He went in, I didn't. It's just too blustery for me ATM and whilst the sea is not cold I just can't risk another issue with my eyes. I think I'm going soft, or maybe just feeling a bit fragile.
The Solstice - we are all very pleased that we have had the shortest day.
The carol service - DK and the LE are 'performing' if that's the expression (I'm sure it's not but with those two involved how can it be anything but?) and The LE has to read a poem which, we had to agree, is not up to the standard of anything she would have written herself. The powers that be need to make the most of the village talent rather than getting them to recite tawdry rum-ti-tum:

But I'm sure she'll make it sound loverly... and she's asked for 'no sniggering at the back' - good job I'm not going.
Jewish penicillin - my dear friend who makes up the other half of the Film Club has recently had surgery and I've been doing her shopping/dog walking etc. and finding things for her to eat is not easy as she simply doesn't fancy anything. TBC and I discussed the benefits of chicken soup, or jewish penicillin as it's known, which she desired after her surgery and I'd love to make huge batches of for my friend, but she's vegetarian so she's having to make do with spiced pumpkin. Her dog, who is one of Luna's pups has been staying with us and we discussed the incident when he had a go at poor little (big/little) Jagger. I've since discovered that he has a thing about disciplining young dogs and makes a point of snapping at them if they are over bouncy... sounds as if I should have had him in class with me when I was supply teaching in Norwich.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Low Tide 04:49 (0.70m)
High Tide 11:11 (2.40m)
Low Tide 16:52 (0.80m)
High Tide 23:13 (2.60m)
Sea temperature: 7.7
Sea conditions: dark, high
Weather: dark with a cold wind
Joined by: TBC, The Poet and Sara and The LE as support.
Rock lobster dance
The Ellies are back from their travels - they have been gone for such a long time that Jagger the puppy is now Jagger the great big dog. She very kindly brought me a birthday present back from Bondi beach, where they think they swim in cold water at 16 degrees - a warm swimming costume. So today I wore it and The Pirate thought I was in a bikini, it's quite skimpy... a summer suit I think, even though it has 'Bondi Icebergs' written on the arse, so cool! We discussed a twinning between the various wild swimming areas they'd been to with our little part of the east coast and at some point she's promised me access to their photos and a travelogue which we can share here. Welcome Back to The LE, it's great to see your smiling face, even if you are not quite up for a swim yet. 
The swimming today was pretty good though, it's still remarkably warm for December, compared with recent years. The Pirate's 'twice Christmas' temperature is based on it being around 4 degrees this time last year, but this evening I went out for a late walk as it was getting dark and there seemed to be a very sudden drop in the air temperature as the wind increased in speed and swung around. It is forecast to plummet tomorrow, but then warm up again. TBC and I have taken to running up and down the beach after our swim, but today the tide had brought shingle with large stones, making it hard to run in comfort so we just jogged about a bit.
The moon - I'd met up with one of the Elders yesterday who'd been in raptures over the moonset, which I'd just missed as I came over the dunes. He's a man of the world, but even he had been knocked sideways by the sight of it on the horizon, huge and tinted orange by the sunrise opposite. This morning we agreed to meet on the river just before 7 to watch it again. As it was so much later I didn't see the final set, and it had hidden itself before it hit the horizon, but it was still pretty impressive. I didn't have my camera with me and the phone can't cope with moonlight, but I thought I'd share this compilation someone sent me from Nefeli Aggellou.
Nefeli Aggelou
This month's moon has been spectacular worldwide.
TBC and I wandered back as we'd got bored of hanging around waiting for the boys to go in so were ready to go home for a warm shower, and as were made our way to the car park we mused on the beauty of the village - regardless of it's current state of post-flood chaos and destruction. The beach huts and harbour buildings are all being dried out or taken away, depending on the state of repair and all the public car parks and paths are thick with sticky mud and reed piles. As the reeds have washed across from the marsh they have built up levels of rotting vegetation and dead creatures, caught out by the water. The saddest sight was the starlings, who didn't stand a chance. The night before I'd watched them murmur to roost in their seemingly secure spot, away from the marsh harriers, warm in their thousands. How many are lost I have no idea, but I've been searching for the survivors since and have seen a traces of them drifting off towards Dunwich, looking for a safer place, and flying higher than I've ever seen before. The Pirate saw another snake in the dunes too, the disorientation of nature will continue for some time yet and there is another super high tide predicted for January 4th.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

I haven't been swimming regularly for the last few days due to other commitments and an error on my alarm system (he pressed the wrong button apparently) so this seemed an opportune moment for a slightly unusual post. A friend wrote this short story recently and has allowed me to post it here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

Wild swimming

Standing on the beach Ellen watched the sun drag itself up to perch on the

horizon and allowed herself one shiver. 

Underneath her feet the gravel twitched as she walked down to where the water

creaked the beach. Letting the sea flirt with her she walked into the breaks,
each third wave leaving the taste of a thousand miles on her skin. 

She dipped her head, then pushed under the surface, letting the tide turn and spin her and press her away from land. Once far enough that the distant cliffs became a sketch she reached into her costume for the small pouch of dried plant material.

Skulling on the waves she crushed bladderwrack, sphagnum moss and burnt heather together, rubbing the powder into her neck. Vertical slits opened up in her skin, pulsing with the ebb and flow of her breath.

With a kick she flipped over and pressed down through the mountain of water, the song of the blind and gilled women getting stronger, lungs shrinking to nothing like the far forgotten coast and the feel of concrete under her feet.

More of Steve's work can be found here:   www.stevetoase.co.uk

Monday, 9 December 2013

High Tide 02:30 (2.60m)
Low Tide 09:07 (0.60m)
High Tide15:43 (2.30m)
Low Tide 21:05 (1.00m)
Sea temperature: 6.9/7
Sea conditions: calm
Joined by: The Poet and TBC with Sara on the shore
Topics of conversation:
The last few says have been eventful and we are still feeling the impact of the floods.The village was well prepared and we are counting our lucky stars and thanking the forethought of the agencies involved in creating our sea defence structures from the 1960's onwards. The surge hit before the high tide, and the wind speed dropped before the surge itself, meaning that although the water reached just below the top of the concrete defences we didn't have the force which was predicted. 

The river banks were breached and all of the low lying land was flooded. One of two houses were reached, but they all had time to prepare and put in their flood boards. All the wooden buildings on the harbour were below water on and off for 36 hours and the north side of the river was almost as badly hit as it was in 1953. The Harbour Inn landlord brought in a lorry and emptied the building, which ended up 5 ft deep in filthy water, but he's aiming to be open again by the end of the week. The owners of the wooden buildings here have already started their clearing up process. On a personal note we were extremely lucky with our beach hut, 75% were either flooded, damaged or even uprooted and moved into the fields, ours may be tiny and a bit tatty, but it is on the highest ground on the shore and was left on a dry island, with the sea rising in front and the flood waters from the river and marsh rising behind. http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/region_rallies_around_flood_hit_coastal_communities_as_edp_launches_norfolk_and_north_suffolk_flood_appeal_1_3089499
Reeds washed down from the marsh caught on the bridge 

Dunes devastated

Disorientated adders

The disruption to normal life was not sufficient to deter me from party plans this weekend though and on Friday friends started arriving for birthday celebrations, which lasted till Sunday afternoon. Although it's not actually my birthday till Wednesday I'm away on a course this week so Saturday was my 'official birthday'. I've had the most wonderful time with all my girlfriends here, I feel blessed, privileged, tired, hungover and emotionally drained - in a good way! My BGF excelled herself, collecting together  songs and messages from important people from my life so far and we listened to them all on Friday night so that I could get the crying out of the way before the party proper. DK compose a special birthday song for me a Beth pulled out all the stops, her voice silenced the entire group - no mean feat. There were gifts galore, including these amazing wellies all the way from Legs, in the US and Phillips baked me the most delicious cake, with home made crystallised rose petals and lavender. 

My present from Mertz was that he picked up the bill and shipped out for the weekend, he returned to a house full of hungover and happy women, to make us brunch, a brave move, especially as he'd spent the weekend with one of his oldest friends and was probably more hungover than the rest of us put together. The other brave person was DK's Son, now known as Il Faccino, who worked as butler, waiter, DJ and cleaner upper for the evening - he was magnificent, and even agreed to pose with the team.
His look says it all...
When I get a moment I'll do a little clip reel and post it here, in the meantime if any of you are reading this, THANK YOU!!! This morning I woke up and realised that the only way the weekend could have been any better would have been if I'd been born in the summer and then we would have been able to be on the beach and everyone could have felt the benefits of Dr Sea the morning after the night before, as I did.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Low Tide 05:38 (0.50m)
High Tide 11:51 (2.60m)
Low Tide 17:52 (0.60m)
But actually it's the next tide, at around midnight that we need to be convcerned about.. "highest risk of a sea surge for 30 years".
We had a very quick dip and made the most of the calm before the predicted storm, The Pirate had had the call from the Flood Defence team, warning him that he may be able to swim around his kitchen by this evening and there is a sense that we all need to batten down the hatches.
The BBC explain the potential surge here: News Report with video
The sky was stunning though, Mother Nature is really flexing her muscles today, the boats have come into the bay to ride it out, and the birds were all on the cow fields out of the wind. I was a tad late as I just had to take these:

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Low Tide 03:58 (0.70m)
High Tide 10:11 (2.60m)
Low Tide 16:18 (0.60m)
High Tide 22:37 (2.60m)
Sea temperature: not taken

Sea conditions: calm, grey
Weather: grey
Joined by: The Poet and TBC (The Bridge Captain has been shortened, not sure how she'll feel about that), and Sara keeping watch
Topics of conversation:
DK's apology to TBC - he'd forgotten to let her know we've moved to WST (Winter Swim Time) and was very sorry. Poor old TBC had arrived at normal time and wondered where we all were as she'd missed the announcement yesterday. DK and The Pirate had made and executive decision as it's so dark these days. This morning I'm not sure it would have made a difference, it was dark grey and looks to stay that way.
There was then one of those sequences of conversations, the likes of which never happens anywhere other than first thing in the morning on the beach, and only when we have the DK/Pirate/Poet combination. The Pirate admitted that he'd  confused Tom Daley and Daley Thompson, thinking it was Daley Thompson who had come out online. The Poet then told a joke about Camels, whose punchline was "Of course it's a female camel, I'm not queer", DK tried in vain to stop him, but he was on a roll. DK then accused him of being very 1950's and we all looked at The Pirate, who I accused of being very 1890's, which he took as a compliment.
DK is still getting over his charity event in London at the weekend, when he and his friend Maureen had been booked to entertain with song and humour. It had been a total trial for DK, having set off at 6.30 am and not getting on stage till 11.30pm. Legs had posted the following on Facebook by way of explanation:
So, report from London: DK got talked into performing his Christmas song with Maureen at a charity do last night at Leicester Square Theatre in aid of New Orleans Jazz Musicians Affected by Hurricane Katrina, or something worthy, produced by Harry Shearer and wife, also performing (rather lengthily in fact). Also Kiki Dee, Rob Bryden, Jaqui Dankworth. Others. Show didn't start until 10:15 PM. No sandwiches backstage. No coffee, no tea. No water. No expenses. No cabs home. DK and Maureen, she in high heels, trotting along Oxford St to 1:30 in the morning for one and a half hours, no cabs to be found. 
TBC and I usually go to an exercise class on Tuesday with my Arctic team-mate Mark, but dear Mark, in preparation for his Marathon De Sables has overdone it and exacerbated his old problems with his back following his helicopter accident in his RAF days. He ended up in hospital at the weekend, so certainly won't be making the LOTV's jump about today. Get well soon Mark.
Sara and I discussed the recent murmurations over the marshes, which have been spectacular. I'd missing most of the best one at the weekend, trying to race down to a view point in time, but their house has amazing views and they seen a corkscrew tower of starlings. Yesterday they'd been very keen to roost and hadn't 'murmured' much but I'd been on the marsh till dark, where I'd met a young man with cameras, who had come all the way from Dereham in Norfolk to see them. I think I'd also spotted one of The Artist's friends down on the path, but those of us who hang about on the marsh at dusk tend to ignore fellow shifting shapes in the gloom in case we scare each other, it's an unwritten rule that you just walk in silence, only acknowledging each other if you pass. Here's a little clip of the birds rushing to roost last night.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Low Tide 02:18 (0.90m) 
High Tide 08:34 (2.50m)
Low Tide 14:44 (0.60m)
High Tide 21:14 (2.50m)
Sea temperature: 5.9

Sea conditions: calm, deep
Weather: frosty, crisp
Joined by: Just The Poet and I today, but Sara and a friend joined as spectators.
Topics of conversation:
The sunrise - it began to lift above the horizon as we met, the sky having changed colour as I walked across the marsh. The blue burned off and the sun warmed the cold off the water with flaming flecks. It was one of those morning when everything stands still momentarily. We looked in vain for signs of comet Ison, but there was only the evidence of planes travelling to Scandinavia with their vapour trails masquerading as comet tails. Such a shame.

I only had a very quick swim today, I've had another enforced break due to health issues resulting from the original infection in my eye orbit, so I didn't want to overdo it and also... it was bloody cold! The temperature had dropped considerably since my last swim, regardless of that and the fact that I was still feeling tender, it was wonderful to be back in the water and it had to be done. I'd been starting to wonder whether my foul mood (which had started to impact on those around me, even strangers, like the woman who told me to F off in the cinema) was due to not having been able to swim or the pain. I suspect more of the latter, there's a very good reason for the phrase 'like a bear with a sore head' - just call me Grizzly.
Sara's friend has a lovely dog, I hadn't met a Wheaten Terrier before and she is delightful, my phone died on me again this morning so I couldn't get a photo, but found this one.