Swimming with Otters

There is a story of “Saint Cuthbert and the Otters.” A friend asked if I could do a talk, on  the theme of Saints, to a group that meets in her church, and I thought this story would serve as an introduction to a talk about my swim. When I read up on St Cuthbert I realised that there is much more to him than a protector of wild life with a gift for hospitality and a fondness of the sea.  

So I was a little apprehensive when I arrived for the meeting, although I was welcomed by the welcomer she was distracted by a couple of ladies who had arrived for a different group. Another person came in, and seeing me standing by the teas and coffee table, asked if there was any chance of a cup of tea. Well it wouldn’t do to say “No”, then talk about hospitality, so I poured her a cup. In the meantime, the welcomer was asking the two ladies, who had got the wrong week for their meeting, if they would like to stay for a cup of tea. When she told them that Ann would be speaking about St Cuthbert, they made their excuses and left. Then as my friend was about to open the meeting another lady, who had also got the wrong week, having finished her cup of tea stood up and walked out. However the remaining audience did seem pleased to be there and eager to hear the talk.

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Artwork “Hospitality to Strangers” from Lindisfarne Scriptorium

A Talk on St Cuthbert

In his last illness, my father could no longer respond, but the nurses  said he could hear us. So I took things to the hospital to read to him. One of the things I read was Compline from “Celtic Night Prayer.” The night before he died, it being Tuesday, I read the Cuthbert Compline.

It was fitting that it was Cuthbert’s Compline, because my father was proud of his Northumbrian heritage. He had done his teacher training in Bede’s College in Durham and he loved Durham Cathedral with its shrine to Cuthbert. He often told us stories about Cuthbert, particularly when we visited places connected with the saint.

My beautiful picture
Durham Cathedral

Once, when I was about ten, I was swimming in the sea with my cousin. It was probably on the Isle of Skye, so not a place connected with Cuthbert, but no matter. My father had been watching us, from a cliff top above the bay, and thought he saw 4 people swimming. When he looked, with his binoculars, he realised it was not people but otters. The otters had swum close enough for us to swim alongside them.

Back on the beach, my dad told us he had been watching us swim with the otters and asked if he had told us the story of Cuthbert and the Otters. Well of course he had. But what child doesn’t want to hear their Dad tell one of his stories again.

This is the story he told.

“In the time when the country was divided, and the king was trying to unite the Kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira into the great Kingdom of Northumberland, he named Cuthbert as the patron saint. For, Cuthbert had lived and travelled throughout both Kingdoms, an ambassador to the Prince of Peace, and both Kingdoms honoured him. Cuthbert also sought to bring unity to the church, which was divided between those who followed the traditions of, Christianity brought from Rome by, Augustine and those who followed the Celtic tradition. Cuthbert had once been a staunch supporter of the Celtic tradition and was among the brothers expelled from the monastery at Ripon for refusing to adhere to the ways of the Rome, but following the synod at Whitby he accepted our Mother Hilda’s example that there should be unity between Christians, and that it was politic to become one church of England by accepting the traditions of Rome. Thus when Cuthbert became bishop he travelled among his flock and instructed them to accept the Roman method of calculating the date of Easter and for the brothers to adopt the Roman tonsure.

But Cuthbert not only loved his people and desired them to live in unity, he also desired that people live in harmony with nature and forbade the killing of his ducks- Cuddy Ducks as they are known in North or eider ducks as they are known elsewhere. Indeed such was his love of nature that he created the first nature reserve around his beloved island, the Inner Farne. We may think of St Francis of Assisi as the first conservationist, but we have our own Cuthbert of the North Sea (my dad loved a play on words). Cuthbert spent time alone, as a hermit, on his cell on the Inner Farne, but when his duties as bishop kept him from his cell, he still sought time for solitude and did not neglect his prayer life.

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Female Cuddy Duck, nesting

Once, when Cuthbert was visiting the monastery at Coldingham, one brother sought to see if he could make some charge of hypocrisy against him. At night, when other men took their rest, Cuthbert went out to pray. One night this brother, stealthily followed him and spied on him from a distance. The saint walked down to the sea and into its waves until they lapped about his neck and raising his arms he began to  pray, his chanting floating in the darkness like the waves of the sea. As twilight came and the dawn began to break he waded back up the beach. There he knelt and prayed again and as he prayed two otters came from out of the sea and warmed his feet with their breath and dried him with their fur. The saint blessed them and they slipped back into their native waters. Then he returned to the house to sing the hymns of office at the appointed hour. The brother was seized with remorse and sought out Cuthbert to confess his foolishness and beg forgiveness. Cuthbert granted him forgiveness and blessed him, but made the monk promise to tell no one what he had seen while the saint still lived.

The monk kept his promise but after Cuthbert’s death made the story known.”

I loved this tale of Cuthbert and the Otters and can relate to praying with nature in solitude. Although if I am in the sea I prefer to be swimming in it and want the warmth of dry clothes when I get out. I had enjoyed swimming with otters though. I probably first heard of Captain Matthew Webb about this time for it would have been around the centenary of him swimming the English Channel. I had never been as far south as Dover and it only looked a tiny distance on the map, so I thought I could do that. Then I found that what looks a tiny distance on a map, isn’t in reality and it involves a lot more than walking into the sea and swimming in the right direction. The little girl grew up and life happened and, although I sometimes swam in the sea, I forgot about swimming the channel.

I finished my talk with my story of how I came to fulfil that dream, as I have written in previous blogs.

Hopes and Dreams

Realising the Dream

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Holy Week

There was a wooden screen in Notre Dame with carvings of scenes from the life of Jesus. I thought of all the generations of people who had seen these scenes and been inspired by them and had taken some photos. On Palm Sunday I remembered that one of the photos was of Jesus on the Donkey. The following evening, I saw pictures of smoke coming from Notre Dame and heard the first reports of the fire. It seemed that the fire was just in the roof so I hoped that the screen would be saved.  It was just reports of smoke then and I was leaving to go to Compline, but as other people arrived I heard that the building was ablaze. By the time I arrived home it looked as if the cathedral would be a ruin and imagined that the wooden screen and its carvings are now ash. I was pleased to hear of the donations of money to restore and rebuild this awe inspiring building. To know it will continue to be a place of worship and a place where future generations can pray immersed in the spirituality of 800 years of prayer.

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The Sunday before Palm Sunday I was leading the evening service and giving the homily at my church. The Gospel reading was the story of Mary washing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. (John12:1-8). After I had looked at the reading I had written some doggerel as I reflected on what Mary may have felt.

When I heard people say the money given to restore Notre Dame could go to help the poor or to save the environment, I thought again of the story of Mary washing Jesus’ feet and the response of Judas.

This is my reflection on John 12:1-8

I sat at the feet of Jesus and was misunderstood,

All  I had wanted was to hear what the rabbi said.

Martha was busy fussing, wanting everything just so,

I wanted to listen to Jesus, I could not get up and go.

The men would have sided with Martha, they expected to be fed,

But Jesus commended my choice, to feed on the living bread.

 

I sat at the feet of Jesus and was misunderstood

I listened to the rabbi and heard what he had said.

I wanted to show my devotion, to give him everything I had,

I took my precious jar of ointment, broke it and was glad.

The perfume rose like incense as I wept and caressed his feet

He looked at me with compassion and my heart skipped a beat.

 

I gave my all to Jesus and was misunderstood.

Embarrassed by my extravagance, “What a waste!” Judas said,

“This costly jar could have been sold, the poor could have been fed.”

But I remember Jesus say, “People need more than bread.”

Jesus commended my choice to prepare his body for the tomb.

As he had wept for my brother, so we would mourn him soon.

 

I stood at the feet of Jesus and now I understood

That I had prepared his body, just as he had said.

I stood and watched his final hours, then they took his body down

And hastily they put him in a borrowed tomb.

I stood and wept outside a tomb, as I had done before.

Can I believe he’ll conquer death? Will I hope once more?

27 Jesus the Gardener

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Photos from my visit to Notre Dame: the Screen, Palm Sunday and  Jesus the Gardener (with Mary Magdalene). The Bell Towers and the West Door.

What’s in a Name?

The tail end of Storm Gareth was passing over Kent the weekend of the parish Women’s Quiet Day. The title of the Quiet Day was  “The Sea”, but we were lead on a virtual pilgrimage along the Kent Saxon Shore. I was involved in organising the Quiet Day and had been asked to give a brief talk in the final session.

The weather outside was wild and windy, not a day to be out at sea. Inside the church our virtual pilgrimage started in the Thames Estuary, at Gravesend. We were asked to think about seeing God in ordinary, familiar places, where we may not expect to find him. Our speaker was brought up in Gravesend and compared it to how the disciples felt about Nazareth, in John 1:39-43. There was nothing remarkable about Nazareth, but Andrew had recognised the Messiah and invited us to “Come and See”.

During the silence I watched the trees outside being battered by the wind, listened to the roof rattling and thought Gareth is a very odd name for a storm. I wondered do we name storms to try and tame them and to make us feel in control? And I thought what’s in a name? I chose my name Swimming Pilgrim for this Blog and I thought it would help to say what my blog is about, but what I write doesn’t always fit that description. Thinking about the disciples I thought of Jesus giving Simon the name Peter, meaning rock, but Peter wasn’t always strong and dependable.

Our second port of call was Whitstable. This was illustrated  with a telling of the Parable of the Pearl (Matthew 13: 44-46) using Godly Play.

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While I was thinking about this parable I picked up an object from the prayer table. It was a pebble and as I reflected I realised I’d been gripping it quite tightly. When I turned it over it had the word ‘Trust’ carved on it. I wondered where do I place my trust? Someone had shaped and polished this stone, am I willing to be shaped and honed to be fit for purpose?

The final stop on our virtual pilgrimage was Ramsgate. I had been invited to talk about swimming at Ramsgate, when I had been pleased that I wasn’t swimming on my own.  I wrote about this swim in an earlier blog  Anxiety or Excitement

The Bible reading was Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:22ff) and we again reflected recognising when God is with us.

Kent Sea Swimmers had a swim at Tankerton the day after the Quiet Day. Storm Gareth’s wagging tail brought a cold and cutting wind and the sea was rough and bumpy, but fun. We swam against the current to begin with, I only swam past two or three groynes before letting the waves and current bring me back to the beach, so not much of a swimming pilgrimage, but I was still wondering, “Who called a storm, ‘Gareth’?”

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Epiphany at Mermaid Bay

On 6th January Kent Sea Swimmers had arranged a swim at Mermaid Bay in Folkestone.

The sea was cold but refreshing and invigorating. In the bay it was sheltered and not too bumpy. I could have stayed in for longer, but remembered I needed to be warm again before I went to church for the evening service.

A helicopter flew over while we were finishing the swim and getting dressed. We wondered if it was checking to see if we were refugees. If people can assume that we are homeless, as I mentioned in a previous Blog Anxiety or Excitement , then with the recent incidents of refugees arriving on the Kent coast in dinghies, I suppose the authorities need to check us out.

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When I heard of those refugees, some just young children, and all inadequately dressed, I felt compassion or the people making this journey. In January the sea was cold and the air not much warmer. We had warm drinks and dry clothing to change into, but those poor souls had spent a night in a dirigible in whatever they had been able to carry. They were coming from countries that would be considerably warmer than UK, I wondered what must the conditions be in the countries they were leaving for them to risk coming here.

238 Cantarini The rest of the Holy Family

I thought about Epiphany, the celebration of the visit of the Magi, learned people travelling from the same countries that refugees come from today. They didn’t travel as refugees, they were welcomed by King Herod. But, unknowingly, they alerted Herod to the birth of a new king, leading to the massacre of the innocents. I thought of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt because they were no longer safe in their own country, with only the belongings they had taken with them to Bethlehem. I wonder if the Holy Family were welcome in Egypt.

The Magi brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, and demonstrate that Christ is revealed also to the Gentiles. I wonder what gifts the refugees might bring with them and what our response to them demonstrates about us.

In Snow

Mindfulness and contemplation, which is useful on long swims, is also helpful in all areas of my life.

Back in February snow was forecast, but it appeared that it would miss Kent. I had been invited for a routine screening for bowel cancer, which I had accepted. My uncle died of bowel cancer, so although the screening isn’t pleasant, I am glad that it is available.

While I was at the hospital a friend phoned to ask if I could give her a lift to orchestra rehearsal that evening. I explained that I was at the hospital and didn’t know if I would feel like going out when I got back, so she said she’d ask someone else for a lift. Although the procedure was still pretty unpleasant concentrating on breathing, as I would in a contemplative exercise, helped me to relax. It was still embarrassing, but for everyone else in the room it was all in a day’s work, they tried to make it as dignified as possible for me and it was soon all over.

By 7 pm I was thinking that there wasn’t really any reason why I shouldn’t go to that evening’s orchestra rehearsal. It was raining, but I checked the weather forecast and the orchestra website and it still seemed that the snow had missed Kent. It continued to rain as I left the motorway and started to drive down Detling Hill. Then I noticed that the rain was turning to sleet and the sleet was turning to snow. Not wanting to drive home from the rehearsal after it had been snowing for two hours I decided to turn back. Detling Hill is a dual carriageway so I had to carry on to the bottom of the hill. As I made this decision I saw all the cars in front of me were coming to a halt. There was a police car in the righthand lane a little way ahead of me, so I thought the queue of traffic would be moving again soon. Then the police cars blue lights started flashing, another police car came through between the two lanes of traffic with its blue lights flashing, the first car pulled out and followed it down the hill. I thought that whatever the holdup was would soon be dealt with and sent a text to my friend to say I was stuck in traffic but would be turning back at the roundabout. She sent a text back saying, “So are we!” We then had a phone conversation which established that they were a little further ahead of me in the queue but didn’t know what had happened either. People had started walking back up the carriage way to the petrol station and returning with bags of supplies or popping into the country park, presumably to find a bush. Then we heard that a lorry had jacked knifed and slid down the hill, causing chaos at the roundabout. The carriageway had been closed, they were going turn the cars back onto the M2, but it was going to take some time. We tried not to chat too much as we both needed to conserve the batteries on our phones. I didn’t take any photos for the same reason, although it was very pretty and although initially I was a little anxious that I was stuck in a jam and the snow was getting heavier the spiritual practice took my thoughts from, “Why did I come out this evening?” to acceptance and remembering Mother Julian’s words “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

I tried to do some writing, but it was too dark to see. When I looked at my notebook in the light I had the beginnings of a poem- which turned out to be a limerick, and some thoughts on a blog post.WP_20190319_17_51_43_Pro

3 Thoughts on an Endoscopy

1.       I heard on the news that people are too embarrassed to go for cancer screening. If I blog about my endoscopy I will feel I am dying of embarrassment, but if I blog about it people may be encouraged to go for screening. So it is better for me to figuratively die of embarrassment than for others to literally die of embarrassment.

2.       I thought the endoscopy was my worst experience today – it still is!

3.       Are the butterflies in my stomach panic or the after effects of the endoscopy? Then I had my answer- just a trump (loud, embarrassing and a danger to the environment.) What a relief that I didn’t give anyone a lift. WP_20190319_17_42_32_Pro

As I have been trying to use less plastic I had my reusable coffee cup in my handbag. I filled it with snow, thinking that by the time I wanted a drink it would have defrosted and I had a tin of boiled sweets in the glove compartment. I also had a yoga mat and a couple of towels in the boot. After a couple of hours I made myself a little nest and huddled down to wait for the cars around me to move.

The snow was getting deeper, covering the road and cars. The fluttering snowflakes glittering in the car lights were turning the country park into a Christmas card. As the hours passed I decided to get some sleep. I was confident that the emergency services would get this number of cars moving, but I would need my wits about me for the rest of the drive home. After six hours a policeman knocked on my car window and said that they were going to turn us around, his colleague would tell me when it was my turn, and he hoped I could find another way home. I was pleased as that was my way home. As I waited the cars in front of me started to move and he waved me to follow. I asked if we were going down the hill and he said, “Yes, miracles do happen, we’ve got the road open.”

Going back up the hill I decided to avoid the motorway and as I followed the A249 to the A2 there seemed to be less and less snow. Along the A2 there was no evidence of snow at all.

The snow in my coffee cup had melted but I didn’t need to drink it and there is still a tin of boiled sweets in the glove compartment.

And if you are invited for screening, embarrassment won’t kill you but cancer can.

 

Plastic Less Lent

Our sea life seem to be drowning in a sea of plastic.

During the Channel Swim I saw very little plastic or rubbish of any kind in the Channel, however I watched “Blue Planet” with horror and shame at how we are abusing our earth. While training the swimmers I met were careful to avoid leaving rubbish and open water swimmers and surfers take part in beach litter picks and are taking action against pollution.

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El Greco’s “Saint Francis in Prayer before the Crucifix” (Museo de Bellas Artes Bilbao)

In the church, Lent is a season of reflection a time to recognise our sinful nature and to repent. Giving up something for Lent is a sign of repentance. The damage that we are doing to our planet is something that requires repentance and a change of attitudes.

So last year, rather than giving something up, I tried to use less plastic for Lent. The charity Tearfund promoted the idea of doing what we can rather than what we can’t and each week gave a suggestion for reducing plastic use. Some of the suggestions, such as keeping reusable bags in the car,  I was already doing; but I became more aware of how much we rely on single use plastic.

I joined a Facebook group Plastic Less Lent, where people shared ideas and encouraged one another. Some of the suggestions were helpful, although I wondered if some of the suggestions might just be creating  different problems. There is not much point in recycling if we don’t use things made out of recycled plastic. The properties that have made plastic so useful have also encouraged our throwaway society and I am trying to make a the 5 R’s a habit. The 5 R’s being Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle. The group also shared petitions and campaigns to raise attention and to encourage businesses to find alternatives to single use plastic.

I am still aware of how much plastic I use, but some of the actions I took last year have now becoming a habit and so this year I am again trying to use less plastic for Lent.

Green Anglican www.greenanglicans.org has a Less Plastic for Lent calendar which I am following, and intend to write about in this blog.

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday (from Green Anglicans)

Giver of Life, in the midst of poisoned water, I weep with creation,

In the midst of polluted air I weep with creation,

In the midst of mountains of waste, I weep with creation.

Great British Swim

I have been following Ross Edgley’s Epic Swim since the start in June. I have cut back on my swimming, due to injury, after completing the channel relay, but he has continued swimming, every day, for more than twice as many hours as I had. I am in awe and when I heard that he wanted 300 swimmers to swim the last mile with him when he finished, in Margate on 4th November, I was eager to be one of them. I was at the computer the moment entries opened and thrilled to be one of the 300.

The temperature dropped the week before, and it began to feel like autumn. On the 3rd, I had a dip in the sea, after Whitstable parkrun and I was pleased I had opted to wear a wetsuit. On a positive note, the sea was as therapeutic as an ice pack for my injury, and my hands were still cold enough to make pastry, when I got home. It was Whitstable parkrun’s 8th anniversary and I spent the afternoon baking some goodies for the buffet. Then I packed my swim bag, to be ready for an early start. I decided to try on my wetsuit before I packed it. I had bought it last year in Aldi and had only worn it once and it is too long for me. Trying it on I couldn’t get it over my thighs. A bit of talc helped, but then I realised I’d need something to stop it chafing my neck.

On one of Ross’s YouTube videos he said, regarding body shape, that the body is an instrument not an ornament. Clad in my wetsuit, mine certainly wasn’t an ornament. I added talc, a buffy and some Vaseline to my swim bag and hoped I’d be able to get into the wetsuit and be able to swim in it.

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It wasn’t late when we left the party, but the M2 was closed at Faversham, so it was a slow journey home along the A2. I had everything ready for the next day and went straight to sleep. Still, I didn’t feel like getting up when the alarm went at 5am. I felt the tired shivery-ness of too little sleep, and my hips ached. I wasn’t sure if it was my injury or from dancing the night before. I forced a cup of tea and a bowl of porridge down me, dressed and we were on the road. Fortunately the M2 was open.

Arriving in Margate we followed the Dry Robes into Dreamland. I felt a bit daunted, everyone else seemed to be finding it quite easy to put their wetsuit on, but they probably didn’t get theirs with some kitchen scales, a growbag and a bratwurst, all for under £40.  

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After the safety briefing, where slower swimmers were told to get in first, we streamed down to the beach. It was thrilling to be part of the crocodile wending its way to the beach. On the beach, without my glasses and among hordes of people taller than me, it took me a little time to see the bag drop, so I wasn’t one of the first in. I wasn’t one of the last either and the water didn’t seem as cold as it had done the day before.

As I didn’t know how long I would be swimming for I was still glad of the wetsuit, although it felt as though there was extra resistance against my arms. I was beginning to wonder how much longer we would be swimming for, when I saw one of the jet skiers signalling us to swim to the right. I looked right and saw the group had stopped swimming and were gathering, a group of white hats bobbing in the water. I started bobbing too, and lifted my goggles, but still couldn’t see much beyond the mass of white hats. People started cheering and we all joined in clapping our hands above our heads or punching the air. I could make out a boat, people were pushing forward, but there was such an atmosphere of excitement and joy. I thought I saw a pink hat, no a pink tow float, but I couldn’t see Ross. More cheering and clapping, and somewhere people were singing ‘Ross, we love you’. It was like Beatlemania with blokes.

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And then the pink buoy bobbed away around the crowd. I was hemmed in from all sides and could not see, but knew I was part of something. Then we were off again. Moving back. Carried on the tide, with no room to stretch out, without pushing the person in front. Yet everyone was apologising, to each other and smiling.

Then there was another cheer. Cheers from the land. Cheers from the water. We were stopping again. Someone was pointing and I looked behind me. In the sky, plane trails had formed a heart. We were being held in the group by the marines. As we waited two planes began the manoeuvre to make a second heart.IMAG0569

At last we could swim in. On dry land, someone opened a can of Red Bull and put it in my hand. I didn’t feel cold, but as I held the can I began to shake and the drink frothed and fizzed. I took a sip. It tasted better than sea water, but I was getting more of it down my front than down my neck. My husband posted a photo of me captioned, “Red Bull gives you fins”. IMAG0615

Even after we had changed and had breakfast, there were still crowds on the beach wanting to see Ross. Men just wanting a man hug. Children wanting him to sign his book. And the 300 who wanted a photo and to say what a privilege. And he was greeting everyone and was genuinely pleased to speak to us. Eventually he spoke to me. Someone took a photo of him with me on my phone, but somehow my cold, fumbling hands had put it on a 2 second delay so the photo was of my hand as my phone was handed back. IMAG0618

It was a privilege swim in with him and to meet such a humble man. His people were trying to get him to move on but there were still fans who wanted to greet him. It had been like being in a charismatic, evangelical church, but with more enthusiasm. And I wondered, I was missing church, but here we were praising a bearded man and trying to touch the hem of his garment. Was this worship?- was it idolatry? Who am I to judge- God looks on the heart.

 

Joining the 250 Club

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing 1Thessalonians 5:11

I had thought that I would get back to running after the swim. Back to Whitstable parkrun where 4 Ever Hopeful had formed. I had, also, hoped to have joined the parkrun 250 Club before the swim, but when I was injured in April and told not to run, I accepted I would have to wait.

It was frustrating to be told, by the physiotherapist, that the swimming had aggravated the injury and I should neither run nor swim  but continue with some gentle exercises and cold compresses. Throughout the glorious hot summer I looked longingly at the sea but had to resist the urge to go in. Although applying a pack of frozen peas wasn’t much of a hardship.

So I returned to parkrun, as a volunteer, still on 246 runs and no closer to the 250 milestone.

But you can walk at parkrun.

So, when I could manage to walk the full 5k, I volunteered to be tail walker. It was then I noticed that my 247th parkrun was my 47th time volunteering. I signed up to tail walk for the next 3 weeks intending that my 50th  time as a volunteer would coincide with my 250th. All was going to plan until I was told that we had a GB athlete as tail walker the week of my 250th. However we had new pacer vests, so I paced 42 minutes instead. It was fun to be pacing again. I am almost as excited helping someone else to get a personal best as I am getting one myself. The people who walk or walk/run parkrun were trying as hard as the front runners who offered encouragement as they lapped us at the top of Fraser Hill. I was reminded of the verse above from 1 Thessalonians to encourage one another as we are doing, for encouraging each other seems to be the default position among parkrunners. I wondered if this is because we have a common interest or if there is a something deeper and more spiritual.

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I had baked a cake to celebrate joining the 250 club and my 50th time of volunteering. Again, it was not one of my better efforts. Volunteer milestone T shirts are ‘aubergine’, which is more of a purple so, I thought  my lilac icing was close enough, But my attempts at birds looked more like bottled nosed dolphins, which might have been the influence of all that swimming, if my tortoise hadn’t looked like a dinosaur. But it seemed to taste okay. 

And my green 250 milestone T shirt arrived today.

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Blood Moon

The phenomenon of a blood moon was predicted on July 30th, and Walpole Bay swimmers had advertised a night swim. So, although I sustained an injury in an accident on a rib in April, and my physio had said I should rest after completing the Channel Relay, I didn’t think a little night swim would hurt!

I had swum at Walpole Bay last November and remembered it as calm and peaceful. The sea was choppy but the pool was  calmer than the sea. Other than Kent Sea Swimmers there were few other people about. It had been Remembrance Sunday and we had swum in silence at 11 am, which was moving in a way, with the sound of the sea and the gulls bringing to mind those in peril on the sea and those lost at sea in wars.

Walpole Bay
Ready to swim in November

In July, the weather had been hot and sunny with clear skies for weeks, but of all the days when I would want clear skies, the 30th didn’t look like this was it! It wasn’t completely overcast when we set out for Margate, and, ever the optimist, I suggested it might blow over. However, as we drove down the M2, we were driving towards the black, storm clouds.

It had been another warm, sunny day and there were still people on the beach and in the sea when we reached Margate. But as the grey clouds gathered many were preparing to leave. Round at Walpole Bay there were still lots of people around and in the pool, and a gazebo on the prom was blasting out music, and looked as though they were planning on DJing for the duration. It was not as I remembered and the possibility of seeing the moon through the gathering storm clouds was becoming more and more unlikely.

We were early for the night swim and decided to get a coffee while we waited to see if any other sea swimmers arrived. We reached the top of the steps as the rain started. And as we ran to the hotel the first flash of lightening split the clouds. As the thunder rumbled I decided against swimming in a thunderstorm.

I was disappointed that I could not swim, but perhaps it was just as well. After having an X-ray and MRI scan the Consultant has suggested that I stick to gentle swims in the pool.

Instead of the blood moon swim, we had fish and chips on the seafront and watched the lightening show. And I thought of the 46th Psalm to the tune of the bouncing bombs, and I was reminded that I can be still in the midst of the storm.

And I remain a swimming pilgrim.