Tag Archives: swimming

June 24, Intergalactic Explorations XXXVI: I didn’t know I was bored.

This gull lives in Folkestone, near Margate.

There were not many humans or dogs about the gardens, so their favourite bench, warm in the noonday sun, was ready to receive them. No social distancing for dogs, though T felt there should be, No social chitchat either, as all three ate in silence, their morning’s conversation making them glad once again that they had joined the Expedition to Earth.

‘That was good!’ said T, fending off the gull who seemed to think the fish wrapper was his due. ‘And so is field-work, but we didn’t know that when we started. Why did you two decide to come down to earth?’

NASA Image

‘To be honest’, said Ajax, ‘I do believe I was bored. Not that I knew the word then. But there were no fish and chips, no smells to interpret, no Melba and Noreen. I didn’t know about love or joy but somehow I hoped to find them.’

Alfie was pensive; he had noticed another white hair on his muzzle when he looked into the mirror that morning. ‘I’m getting old, at least about the face. I hadn’t counted on that. Age and death we never gave a thought to; my emotions were almost non-existent. But the expedition sounded like a chance to get out of the pod, fill out a few spreadsheets whilst feeling the sun on my skin, even if it is covered in greasy short hair!’

‘You can have a bath anytime you like,’ suggested T. ‘The tidal pool is not too far away. I’ve a towel and trunks in my bag.’

‘We’ll guard the bag while you swim!’ protested the chihuahuas.

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16 May: Dexterity at Natation, or the swimming friars.

“We then walked to the beach, where there were a great number of bathers, all men.  Amongst them were some good swimmers; two, in particular, were out at a great distance in the firth of the Guadalquivir, I should say at least a mile; their heads could just be descried with the telescope.  I was told that they were friars.  I wondered at what period of their lives they had acquired their dexterity at natation.  I hoped it was not at a time when, according to their vows, they should have lived for prayer, fasting, and mortification alone.  Swimming is a noble exercise, but it certainly does not tend to mortify either the flesh or the spirit.

From George Borrow, 1843: The Bible in Spain; or, the journeys, adventures, and imprisonments of an Englishman, in an attempt to circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula, available on Kindle or on line.

Borrow did not have a high opinion of friars! Clearly they should not enjoy themselves with an evening swim. To be fair, there were many who opposed his mission to bring Spaniards the Bible in the vernacular – he had Bibles and New Testaments in Spanish and the Gospel of Luke in the local Romany dialect, but without the Council of Trent’s official interpretive notes, which were anathema to Borrow as an evangelical Protestant! Times have changed, thank God, and the Catholic Church and Bible Societies are ready to co-operate in many ways.

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22 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XV The Sands of the Sea 3

 

Margate we live in hope

In the end, all teasing and parakeet safaris forgotten, the three Ossyrian agents did end up trooping down to the beach. It was late November and the water, reflecting the slate-grey of the overhead sky, was far too cold for a swim, yet, in the distance, a frisky pair of Labradors did frolic in the icy surf; oblivious to the numbing temperature, having a fine, wet, afternoon romp.

The two Chihuahuas, ever wary of dogs much larger than themselves, nevertheless watched the pair of Labs from a safe distance with unfeigned interest. The sight of the splashing dogs triggered an intense recollection for one of the Chihuahuas. Ajax vividly remembered the day in mid-September, less than a week after their reunion with the Director in Margate and the whole southeast in the grip of a great muggy heatwave, when ‘T’ had thoroughly amazed them all by shrugging his shoulders and muttering, almost with resignation, ‘This is ridiculous. I mean, here we are sweating away inside and outside, while just across the street lies a great, luscious, refreshing body of cool blue water. Guys…’ he paused, gulping, ‘I don’t care how cold the water is this far north (wistful memories of the languid Pacific still fresh); I’m going for a paddle…aw, what the heck? Make that a dip!!’
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The Chihuahuas were scandalised to the feathery tips of twitching tails as, ten minutes later, they crHarry_Dubai+Seaowded into the great bay window, damp noses pressed against the glass, and watched the Director cross the busy street outside dressed in flip flops, a garish blue and white ‘Tommy Bahama’ swimsuit, and grey tee. With a tattered beach towel tucked under one arm he headed down to the Margate sands, kicked off the flip flops, shed the tee…and resolutely waded into the surging tide; waist deep then up to his chest…shoulders, until he suddenly disappeared.

Mesmerised by the sight, both Chihuahuas, watching through the high bay window, were, at first, frozen in a static tableau by their stunned amazement. Seconds later, Alfie, thoroughly confused by ‘T’s eccentric behaviour and more than a little worried, began pawing and leaping at the unyielding glass, barking his frantic concern. Some relief was eventually had when the Director’s head of greying hair could be discerned above the water and, finally, the rest of him (clad in the vividly blue and white ‘Tommy Bahamas’) as he drifted, floating on his back; seemingly suspended at a mystical junction of blue on blue where the immensity of the Thanet sky met its match in the English Channel.

When the Director returned to the flat a half an hour later he walked with a jaunty step and there was a discernable sparkle in his deep brown eyes. The pair of Chihuahuas sulked in a corner, narrowed eyes appraising him with suspicion. ‘T’, for his part, nodded enigmatically before excusing himself in order to shed the soggy swim trunks and pat down his salt-spiked hair. He eventually returned to the front room dressed in normal fashion and looking distinctly refreshed. Plopping down in the old charity shop rattan chair tucked into the bay he beamed at the two Chihuahuas, ‘Guys, that was just great! I can hardly believe that we’ve been here all this time and right across the street, well…’ he trailed off with a blissful look on his homely face.

Daring to break his silence and fully aware of the gravity of the situation, which was about to border on insubordination, Alfie piped up, ‘But ‘T’, how could you??!’ He shot a worried look at Ajax in a silent plea for support, ‘We HATE getting wet!!’ ‘Yeah, I reckoned that was the case a long time ago.’ Far from sounding upset, the Director didn’t seem concerned at all. Cracking a yawn, he continued, ‘You didn’t think I noticed that when we go out for a walk that you two will even dance around a puddle – just so your paws won’t get wet?’ The canines were freshly scandalised when ‘T’ laughed out loud. ‘And remember the look on Ajax’s face when he jumped on the green scum covering Will Turnstone’s pond thinking it was grass…and disappeared under the water? Oh, just priceless!!’ There were tears of mirth in his eyes. ‘Why??!! How could you?? I just don’t understand, ‘T’,’ Alfie beamed; and was there just a hint of reproach in his tone? ‘T’ suddenly blinked. ‘Oh! I get it… You two think that if someone likes something that you don’t like it must be wrong. Yeah?’

Ajax would have blushed if Chihuahuas were capable of that sort of thing but Alfie refused to be cowed by the Director’s bantering tone. ‘Well,’ he growled, ‘isn’t it?’ The Director’s mirth gave way to familiar reflection as, reaching down, he lightly scratched behind the diminutive tricolour’s ears. ‘Sometimes it is,’ he agreed without reluctance, ‘but there are other times when one Chihuahua’s ceiling may be another Chihuahua’s floor.’

TJH

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21 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries XIV, The Sands of the Sea 2

 

earthnasa

One of the things that had early enamoured the delegation’s Director of that strange planet called Earth was the presence of not one, not two, but five major salt water oceans. The Director’s home planet, within the sprawling Ossyrian Confederation, possessed many stunning streams and a few shallow lakes – most of liquefied ammonia but a few world-famous tourist attractions that ran with the mirror-brightness of molten mercury – but these were mainly for aesthetic admiration and nearby inhabitants rarely went in for a paddle or dip. Stunned by the beauty of the opalescent North Sea channel between east Kent and what he reckoned must be northern Belgium, which seemed to change colour with every mood of the capricious sky in an antipodal love affair that would have done justice to any couple – bickering or dewy-eyed – found in the classics of terrestrial literature, he would spend long hours along the shore; hunting for treasures that might litter the sand, or simply staring into the endless blue. And then, while stranded in the sun-drenched daydream called California, he had screwed up his nerve on a particularly sultry day and taken the plunge.

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Oh, yes!!  The memory washed over him like the sloppy kiss of a saucy courtesan with impossible emerald-coloured skin as soft as watered silk and gold dust swirling in her eyes. Though she could dance with abandon and even (when out of sorts) be dangerous, the unselfconsciously beautiful Pacific owned a touch that both soothed and tingled, relaxed yet stimulated, all of his weary senses. The Chihuahuas, safely ensconced in England, either with Mrs. Fox in Cornwall or Will Turnstile’s raucous tribe closer to home in Canterbury, were never forgotten as he floated on the soft swells and then, emboldened, body surfed the crashing waves of blue-green foam. No, not forgotten but perspective was regained. As the mystic said long ago, all would be well, all manner of things would be well.

TJH

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