Caught by the River

Pleasures Of May (by Robert Macfarlane)

Robert Macfarlane | 31st May 2008

By Robert Macfarlane;

“Well now, what have been the multiple pleasures of May? May for me is the month of outdoor swimming: the first time in each year when it’s warm enough to swim rather than just to plunge in, screech, and haul out. The month when the lidos open in Cambridge (on Jesus Green and in Emmanuel College). So I spent a weekend in Norfolk, swimming salt (on Holkham Beach, with a wintry bite still to the water, and my two-year-old son hanging round my neck like a sea-monkey) and swimming fresh (a pool in the River Stiffkey under an old hump-backed bridge, just deep enough that I could swim breaststroke and not brush the bottom, and the current just strong enough that I could swim against it and stay in exactly the same place. When I found it, the pool was guarded by a swan, who only ceded it to me, with a hiss, after I asked him six times if he’d mind me swimming
I’ve also planned a 2-mile river swim from Grantchester to Cambridge, down the River Cam, for a couple of weeks’ time. There’ll be swimmers from all over the country, and other people manning the support craft (aka punts and kayaks filled with warm clothes and whisky-filled hipflasks). We’ll be swimming through the stretch that Virginia Woolf said smelt of ‘mint and mud’. Hoping for a hot day, and that the pike of The Cam don’t mistake me for a bream.

And I’ve read Wild Swim, by Kate Rew and Dominick Tyler, which is kind of a gazetteer to some of the best outdoor swims in Britain, but also a passport of a kind into the magical world of wild swimming. I’m biased, I guess, because I wrote the introduction to the book. But then I wrote the introduction because I really liked the book.

Finally, terrestrially, I had an Andy-Goldsworthy-inspired reverie in which I spent an hour or two trying to work out if it would be possible to organise a thirty of my students to pick five or six thousand of the tens of thousands of daisies that have flowered on a vast lawn near my office, and then line all the blossoms up into a sine-wavey curve that would run the length of the lawn. That’s how hard academics have to work at this time of year.”

Robert Macfarlane has a good attitude. He is a true adventurer and a great writer. We highly reccomend his books, “Mountains
Of The Mind
” and “The Wild Places” (out now in hardback, paperback in July) and thank him massively for this contribution.