Where are the wild things? Swimming, of course

We took on nature in its purest form and gave our souls a thorough cleansing

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The Independent Online

My friend, CDG, is really into wild swimming. That’s the one where you drive for miles, then hack your way through aggressive undergrowth in search of secret ponds to dive into and splash about. The idea is that it reconnects you with nature and cools you down so you can think properly when you go back to your job in the week. CDG wanted to do one. She came round the flat and smacked us with her ‘book of swims’ and she kept smacking us until we’d put our trunks in our bags and were running down the stairs in our goggles.

Five of us drove out into the countryside’s depths. Me, CDG, CDG’s book, Flyboy and The Doctor. We stopped to buy a picnic; Peperamis of various strengths, Haribos and sparkling water, and then we Tom-Tommed our way into the countryside. Up roads, which became tracks, which became smaller tracks, which became basically paths. The car plugged and we got out. The book had delivered us to a picturesque church balanced on the elbow of a forgotten river. An ugly, great adult was there to ‘greet’ us.

Fierce, fat, Godly and territorial, she took one look at our snorkels and dinosaur floats before spitting out the words “you’re not swimming here” and digging her hooves in next to the gate, like a big Christian hippo. The book said we should swim from this beast’s church but she didn’t look like a huge fan of ‘the book’. She pointed to a bunch of overgrown nonsense that we could hack through to the water. I wanted to ping my goggles into this mean-spirited mammal’s face, tear her denim skirt to shreds and dash her old-fashioned spectacles against a gravestone. In the end I only did about half this and then we pushed on, bashing a path with sticks and the book.

CDG’s book is touched by magic. It bulges with outrageously beautiful swims and if you squint at some of the smaller photos you can glimpse men and women enjoying the creaks without any knickers or bras on. I don’t know what she paid for it, but it is extraordinary. And for CDG the book is everything. She carries it around with her the same way some people carry around a tuba. It possesses her. In conversation she will sometimes zone out, and you’ll know that she is imagining plunging into an emerald lagoon or placing her towel by a moat.

And now, with one more swing of CDG’s book, we broke through to the river. It was beautiful. Fresh, blue-green and inviting; microscopic bubbles seems to bounce up from it and dance in the sun. I collapsed by its lips, I had been badly bitten by dock leaves and The Doctor rubbed Peperami’s against my shins as CDG stripped to her jet black cozzie and splooshed into the river. In many ways CDG is exactly like an otter. Not on dry land so much, but when there’s water involved. There’s a sliding scale, but when she sips the stuff her nose twitches like an otter and her fur bristles. And when she immerses herself in it, she is a seriously lutrine piece of kit. Lutrine. Otter-like. It’s magical. Flyboy whipped off his gear, too, and jumped in bollocks-out. Legend.

The Doctor also bombed in as I licked my wounds and tried to avoid bluebottles. I’m famously all for nature (my dad makes elderberry wine) but we were quite deep in at this stage (you could only hear the road quite faintly) and you do read tales of bluebottles smashing into people’s faces and I didn’t fancy asking The Doctor to pick the shards out. There were snakes, too, and possibly spiders so eventually I dived in too. Sanctuary. Blissful, admittedly cold, sanctuary. I swam round to the church and found the others.

The four of us splashed about in the depths of nowhere for what seemed like hours. There was a swing and The Doctor got stuck on it. It was like a dream. And when we emerged we were purged of our sticky, urban existences and refreshed and ready to attack our lives anew, replenished, fixed and with cleansed souls.

CDG got back in and swam some more. I leafed through the book. We drank warm sparkling water. We got back in our car and drove back to all the horseshit.