Buoyancy is the tendency for an object to float in water.
It is also the ability to recover from disappointment and failure.
That bright yellow buoy out there on the horizon means a lot to me.
It is my marker and comforter and I swim out regularly.
Regardless of the temperature.
It is one of many that litter this stretch of coastline.
Once there I move with the currents towards Bexhill-on-Sea.
Swimming goggles mist up and the horizon wobbles in front of me.
And at the seaside I often lose myself to childhood memories.
The voice of my Grandmother, Gladys.
She used to hate the water.
Gladys, 86 year old Kent hop picker to her 40 year old grandson, Andrew Ronald from Bromley:
I think you’re barmy doing it.
Come out, or you’ll get frozen.
Here are, get hold of this and pull yourself out.
You’re as daft as they make them.
The wind’s blowing ninety miles an hour and you’re out there ringing wet.
You silly bugger.
I always loved her.
On the buoys are written ‘8 knots’, I don’t know if this might be
some kind of speed limit but 8 is an important number for me and my
surname is often misspelt with the ‘k n’ from knots, so I feel as if we
have an affinity.
They communicate with me.
And they are useful for hanging on to when the marine life attack.
But I don’t like to touch them.
Beneath their slippery luminosity dangles a chain which has always disturbed me.
It goes deep deep down and when it’s rough it jingle jangles most peculiarly.
If I was a mine-sweeper I’d get rid of them, I’d send them to the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea.
The rhythms and undulations of a body crawling through water beguile me.
Then there I was one day swimming parallel to the horizon.
Head down accompanied by the muffled noise of a bloke.
He’d been trying to tap me on the shoulder from inside his boat.
Interfering with my stroke.
Apparently I’d been spotted by some land lubber.
Clothes had been abandoned on a beach.
There had been a series of telephone calls which could be traced all the way back from the tap on the shoulder.
It was mine and I was still out of reach.
I was impressed that he had come so far to rescue me.
I found myself apologising profusely:
Sorry to have made you come so far.
But the man was happy to have been called out to play in the inflatable dingy.
He was there to help me voluntarily and as he explained:
Half an hour earlier mate I was up a fucking ladder painting my mother-in-law’s pantry.
Safe in the knowledge that I was safe from danger he set about an about turn.
There he goes heading for Rock-a-Nore and the harbour master.
I was happy he had left me.
I’m alone maybe half a mile from home.
Me and my own laughter, deep in the deep water.
Harangue the waves, multi coloured doge, emphatic sun, avenger of dancing-girls wearing crowns of blazing fish.
This is dangerous.
But wonderfully contagious.
I’m getting old and I keep coming back for more.
This ambition to stay alive is rife.
It’s a big fish
I’ve swum into it.
Wet and slippery,
Black and cloying.
It has a hold and I’m fighting for the life of me.
Fish are the masters of disguise; it’s an empty bin liner.
A shock in this fading light and glooming.
Then back to the got-to-get-going.
And I’m off into a south westerly.
Hastings pier bobbing away splendidly in her abandoned regency.
Left as a monument to skulduggery from the powers that be.
My under arms are sore, cold to the core.
It’s just started raining and somewhere round here is the shore.
It is almost dark and my buoyancy weighs heavy, but I’m still above water.
The swim is almost over.
A pathetic tip toeing dance as I make my way up the beach and back to my clothes under the gaze of
the Ocean watcher.
His rescue a failure.
And then the words of another swimmer inveterate interlocutor and inspirer;
“When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is – water – and it begins to move with the water around it.
No wonder we feel such sympathy for beached whales; we are beached at birth ourselves. To swim is to experience how it was before you were born.
Once in the water, you are immersed in an intensely private world as you were in the womb.
These amniotic waters are both utterly safe and yet terrifying, for at birth anything could go wrong, and you are assailed by all kinds of forces over which you have no control. This may account for the anxieties every swimmer experiences from time to time in deep water.
The swimmer experiences the terror and the bliss of being born.”
Buoyancy is dedicated to Roger Deakin author of Waterlog who died on the 19th August 2006 on dry land.