Roberts, an 'ologist', that used to co-present a programme on BBC TV
called 'Coast' made a film on the subject of wild swimming that was
repeated during this past summer on BBC Four. Wild swimming ;
the enjoyment, the freedom, the exhilaration and the exploration of
it, and throughout the programme a voice over, as she swam, spoke the
words of one Roger Deakin. I was also taken somewhat by the images of
the young and beautiful Dr Roberts swimming in some of these places;
and in particular a Lake District tarn.
never heard of Roger Deakin. But his poetic words and prose sparked
something in me and I researched his name, and found amongst other
things, the website Caught By The River. This website seemed to
celebrate Deakin and his writings. Through links I bought Deakin's
'Waterlog' his book about wild swimming and a journey across and
around Britain, its coastal waters, lidos, open pools, rivers,
waterholes and the like.
should do, I thought.
this summer I made my way, not with any difficulty by any means, down
to the water's edge of the vast lake over which I look from my living
room windows and my balcony. I have swum in this lake before but not
once did I venture in last summer. Was I too busy? If so doing what?
How could I not have set aside an hour to drive down or even walk or
cycle to? The thought of the murderous cycle or climb back up the
mountain side was not too pleasant, but with a little effort and
practice I could get used to it.
newsletters I received from Caught by the River, the more I read
about Roger Deakin, the more I felt I should just dive in. And write
about it. Just for fun.
have been in mid-August. I hadn't swum for ages. How long could I
swim for; 5 or 10 minutes? Could I make it that long without passing
out and sinking to the stones below? Only one way to find out.
was warm. The lake lapped but was mostly flat across only broken by
the fishing boats and the motorboats some way out, roaring loudly
past dragging someone on skis or a wake-board. Maybe that was the
reason I hadn't bothered having anything other than a refreshing dip
after a day strimming someone's mountain slope garden.
But as my
wife sat upon the stones and read, or swum a few strokes to cool off
in the heat of August I swam for about 12 minutes, and the next day
15 minutes. And then I managed 20. Each day a little more, each day
just enjoying the feeling of flying as Deakin sometimes puts it,
sensing the liberty of the movement. I could see the sunlight shining
on my tanned skin and the sense of well being as the water gently
broke over my shoulders as my breast stroking arms broke through the
warm surface waters. Finally coming into the shore, and standing on
the stones nearly two metres below the water remained cold.
Before making tomato sauce to preserve for the winter months ahead from 3 kilos of the Italian plum variety grown by friends we stayed with down in Lot-et-Garonne last week, I searched for a recipe in Elizabeth David's Italian Food written in 1954. As the pages flicked past, my eyes fell upon the following, which I repeat here with much respect to my teacher/cook;
"It will be seen that this dish is very different from the slice of nondescript meat encased in a sodden jacket of bread and blotting paper and fried in synthetic lard which so frequently masquerades as a Milanese cutlet in this (Britain) country."
Wonderful. She told it like it was and so often, still is. I feel she needs to be put firmly before any budding cook, any lover of food, any European traveller who has not had the chance to read her work and find what an inspiration she was.
Here above, a couple of litres of really good tasty tomato sauce made with about 3 kilos of peeled tomatoes, several garlic cloves, which were added to sweated out & nicely softened chopped onions, a bunch of small basil leaves; the last on our balcony's plant, some origano, some thyme, some rough old sea salt from somewhere around this beautiful country's coast and some freshly ground pepper. Once that was cooked and tasting good it was given a quick blitz while I thought how best to proceed.
The problem was, that having got home from Périgord late Friday I went the following morning to a local agriculteur's business, which is like a cross between a small garden centre, an old fashioned ironmongers and in spring somewhere to collect the new season's hen chicks, to buy a rotavator, answer an advert for one to hire, to find gardening services or a small flat to rent for a month in summer on the Côte d'Azur and somewhere to have the lawnmower repaired. There I found the shutters down and a small notice advising that, due to a death in the family; the matriarch at 95, the business was shut, I assumed, for a period of mourning.
So where else would I buy 'capsules' for my Le Parfait jars, donated for the job? There was nowhere else. Sunday morning and the business still shut I ventured to a few local supermarkets that open until midday only... sensible country France, and practical too but none had what I needed.
My trusty neighbour, he of the wisteria, didn't use that system and so now the sauce sits, chilling at the bottom of the 'frigidaire' until Friday morning next which is the earliest I can revisit this little problem.