"I'm a Mediterranean and Indian Ocean kinda girl.." before summer 2020 this is what I'd often say to people who suggested I join them for a swim in the sea where I live. I'm lucky enough to live on the South Kent coast, it's beautiful, creative and commutable if I must - but it's sea is the English Channel. Pre 2020 that meant maybe a couple of swims in the summer, where I'd make a fuss about the cold and wonder why I even bothered.
This year, as I think you realise, has been a bit "different" to other years. The summer was warm and the sea looked refreshing and lovely so I went in for a swim on the warmer days. Some days I got up early and headed down to the beach with the actual intention of going for a swim, not just to cool off. The summer early swims at Folkestone's Mermaid Beach felt like being part of an exclusive club of people who KNEW the beach was at it's best early. It was friendly but people respected each other's space, social distance and each other's unsaid meditation that is part of it all.
Each day in the sea is different. It feels like an infinite combination of variables, all taking turns to be prominent.. The sky, the clouds, the light, the wind, the waves, the colours, the tides, the temperature, the people who are there. Every swim a new combination and a new experience.
How very refreshing and what an antidote to the mundane world of lockdowm.
Before I knew it I was going sea swimming most days. I'd got to the point where I wasn't making a fuss about the cold and just running straight in (gazelle-like, obviously!) and I wasn't cold. Yes, the actual swimming was good - you always feel better for any type of exercise - but there was more feel-good than that.
My favourite thing about the summer swims was the calm blue water and the sound it made as I swam through it. Next to my ears was the gentle splosh and splash of the sea... and not a great deal else. I had a view of the land that most people in the town didn't at that point. The trees and the cliffs against the blue sky as seen from the sea. I'd lie back to float and loved seeing the moon and the sun both above me.
I'd share words of gentle appreciation of it all with one or two other likeminded souls and then get out and get on with my day, feeling refreshed on many levels.
Then one August Sunday morning I headed down to the beach, it was sunny and perfect. It was also my birthday! I left my things on the beach and went into the sea. I had a pretty decent swim (for me, I don't go for distance), appreciated all of the small things as usual and got out to enjoy the sun and my coffee.
As I was getting dry, someone sitting in a small group of women waved and called my name. A couple of friends were amongst the group and invited me to join them. They were having their coffee and amazing looking Swedish Cinnamon Buns. They had a spare one which they offered to me. I accepted gleefully and it went perfectly with my coffee. They headed into the sea for their swim and I sat with my coffee and bun in the sunshine - a year older - with a smile on my face.
It was great to watch them splash their way into the sea - some more hardy than others but the screams of utter joy and the laughter warmed my heart. This was the kind of happy sound that had been missing from my world, and many other people's I suspect since Lockdown. It was possible to feel light of spirit again!
They invited me into the group, to join the WhatsApp so I could see when anyone was swimming so I could join them if I wanted and to swim and eat Swedish Buns together on the beach on Sunday mornings.
As the warm days have faded and people get back to work, the group has shifted a bit - even more like minded women are now included. Some can no longer make the swims thanks to life stuff and the cold. But that is all OK. I still go on my own sometimes too.
I have deepened my friendships with those I already knew and met people I wouldn't have without the swims and the group.
The sea swims are great for the body and mind, as are the friendships. Sometimes we feel the need to run in and scream while we crash through the waves. Not from the cold, just from the general day to day frustrations of life! It's the best way to just let it all out!
Sometimes we swim at lunchtime and one of my friends said that it always feels like she is restarting the day with her swim. It's like a new beginning, how brilliant is that? A chance to approach the day all over again, with fresh eyes.
I did have one day last month where I went down to the beach with a friend, the weather was awful but we were psyched up for a swim. But the swell on the sea was just too much. Neither of us felt safe. We were in our swimsuits, at the water's edge, contemplating it but reluctantly headed back to our clothes and got dressed. We drank our coffee and had our buns on the beach in the rain, in agreement that we had made the right decision. We were both brought up to have deep respect for the sea and acknowledged that sometimes you just have to walk away - for your own sake.
The sea swims are good for mindfulness. Knowing we had consciously decided a "non swim" was the safest and best option, the slow rituals of the undressing and dressing, the getting dry, the fun accessories of the colourful swim hats and the tent like Dryrobes. I need my 2 towels and my garish swim shoes as well as my retro style swim hat.I need that little frisson when I step in for the first time, wondering how it's going to feel today. Weirdly, I have come to enjoy experiencing how I am experiencing it. I'm aware that's a bit meta. Let me explain.. as I said, I used to be adverse to cold sea. Now, I know it's not warm and that it's going to be getting a bit colder every time I go in. I'm enjoying seeing how that feels, how my body responds, whether it's too much yet (I'm in a swimsuit not a wetsuit!), when it might be too much how cold will that feel? What will that feeling be like? How much ultimately can I handle?!
Getting out after the October swims is a bit different to getting out after the August swims. In October, basically, straight away you feel amazing. You feel confident, empowered, dare I say a bit invincible? Mainly NOT cold! But I know I have to get changed quickly and to get my coffee and be dry ASAP. In August the whole getting out was fine.. not as fresh, not as exhilarated, not as proud of myself but good in other ways. How on earth will this feel as the month/months go on? No idea. But I am looking forward to finding out.
The Cinnamon Bun and Sea Swims Club (check out the order of priorities right there in our name) has thrown me an escape through Lockdown and beyond. The swims and the friendships are the best birthday present I even could have had. Roll on Sunday.
So why is a Voiceover Artist telling you all of this? It's not got much to do with Voiceovers, has it?
Well, maybe. In Voiceover you bring yourself to the studio and the work every single time. This is me, this is who I am. This is who you get when you hire me. Dare I say it that the fresh sea air, the swims, the laughs, the location, the intrepid adventures, these are all things that are part of me and my brand and underpin my work.
"Keep swimming" is the best advice I can offer in all aspects of life
You can follow the adventures of our "mixed ability" swim club on Instagram @the_bun_club where we will start posting things soon!