Three cheers for the Panama Swimming Club, Whitley Bay! Hip, hip, hooray! They swim in the North Sea every Sunday at 11am, come rain, hail or shine. No wetsuits allowed! The only thing that keeps them out is dangerous water conditions. Ten brave souls were there this morning (sea temperature 14C) - I salute you. We marvelled at them when we were walking our dog at the water's edge. I considered putting on my costume and joining them, but in the event I was too chicken. Maybe I will get my nerve together and join them for their piece de resistance - the New Year's Day swim in January 2010.
Whitley Bay is the first beach I ever knew, the first sea where I paddled - or plodged as it was called in the family. My extended family - grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins - met here each August Bank Holiday throughout my childhood. We would spend the afternoon on the beach and in the sea, followed by an hour or two on the rides at the Spanish City, then back to my aunt's for tea. Happy days! Who'd have imagined that years later I would meet and marry a man from here and continue my alliance with this beautiful place.
This afternoon, two of our kids had a surf lesson on Tynemouth beach and I shoehorned myself into the wetsuit for more outdoor swimming practice. Unfortunately for the surfers, the waves weren't massive, but the sea was lovely for fish like me. It's the first time I've worn my wetsuit in the sea. It makes a big difference - the difference between 'no, I'll not bother, it's too cold,' and 'actually, this is wonderful!'
Front crawl is now emerging as my natural choice of stroke when I'm in the wetsuit. The sea was clear and I kept my eyes open, practising the skill of reining in my imagination. I freaked out when I saw a lobster and a crab lurking on the rippled sand beneath me. Calm down! It was only seaweed, but it doesn't take much to trigger the adrenalin. Today washed away the unpleasantness at Boundary. I left the water four times, but I had to keep returning as I hadn't had enough - the magical pull of the sea.