Everything will be okay in the end
Posted on Monday, October 12 2020 12:58:45 PM in News by Matthew Davenport
"Everything will be okay in the end..."
As I have swam in waters around Liverpool since lockdown began, these words from John Lennon have echoed through my mind on almost each and every swim. Since March 2020 the opportunity to swim has felt a taboo, a necessity and a luxury all at the same time. A taboo because in certain parts of the UK all forms of swimming both indoors and out were banned, a necessity because it was a way of keeping a level head in what felt like national panic and a luxury because many people were not able to leave their house for months on end. The second part of the John Lennon quote reads “…and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Thankfully in England, there was never a specific legal ban on outdoor swimming, especially not in the sea, and I had several conversations with the Police (both professionally and personally) throughout the lockdown to make sure that I did not break the law. This meant that when I was not fulfilling my work role as a key worker accommodating people experiencing homelessness, I was filling my free time with essential sleeping, shopping and of course swimming.
Many of my friends were lucky enough to have a garden big enough for a small self-assembled pool from which they could do ‘tethered swims’, not me, but I had the sea. I also had the small matter of finishing ‘The Polar Bear Challenge’ a fun winter-long swimming event that concluded on the 31 March, and when lockdown started on the 23rd March I still had two set swims to complete as part of the hardest level of the Challenge ‘The Jedi’. Lockdown was not going to be the end of my efforts. Thankfully the weather was kind to me, as was a friend who arranged to observe me getting in and out of the water and was shore watch whilst I completed the swims.
As lockdown eased, fellow swimmers began to come out and dip their toes in the outdoor waters, many for the first time as the pools were not open. It has been brilliant to see many people try outdoor swimming and find that it is much nicer than they thought it would be, and that they are much more capable than they ever imagined they were. Many of my friends had either been working from home or furloughed during the lockdown and had used the time wisely to do what they could to build their strength and skills up at home so that when they hit the water they could do so running, so to speak. However as I had worked through lockdown I made a conscious decision to avoid swimming in groups and at events as much as possible, both to keep socially distanced and to offer support to people who had offered me support during the lockdown.
Although for the last two years I have written about completing the Thames Marathon, this year Henley Swim events were only able to offer shorter distance events due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Instead of the 14km swim down the Thames, they offered it as a virtual event, so I did it for the third time.
Liverpool has got two main outdoor swimming venues, the Liverpool Watersports Centre and the Collingwood Dock, whilst the River Mersey and the Irish Sea need to be used carefully. Across the other side of the river is the Wirral which also has marine lakes that can be used for swimming with prior agreement. However, the fact that there are 3 RNLI lifeboat stations within ten miles of Liverpool are testament to the risks involved and why I ask their advice for most sea swims and never swim more than 100m from shore.
Going into the second phases of a national lockdown, it is not clear what the impacts on winter swimming in the outdoors will be.
I have signed up again for the Polar Bear Challenge at Jedi level and will swim through the winter as much as I legally can. With the longer nights, shorter days, cooler water and colder air, it is vital to have the right gear, such as a Selkie Swim Robe and bobble hats, Swim Secure tow-floats and food and drink to refuel after your swim. I’ve had mine over two years and they are still going strong. Coming back to Liverpool and John Lennon, whilst the current times are definitely not ‘okay’, they are definitely not the end.