By Bill Heaney
Considering she would only swim breast stroke with her head out of the water, Lyn Mitchell says she is more than pleased to reveal that she managed to swim two miles to the Loch Lomond island of Inchmurrin and back to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research.
This was followed by a toast with friends to her late father-in-law David Mitchell, who was known throughout West Dunbartonshire – and the whole of Scotland indeed – as a photographer for the Lennox Herald and a number of national newspapers.
Lyn, who is married to David’s son, Jeff, who is an award-winning photographer for Getty Images,
She sent this message to everyone who supported her magnificent achievment: “I can’t thank you all enough for your swim support, moral support and safety back up..
“It’s safe to say, in relation to my picture [that’s the one of me completey zonked out in receovery mode] that I am completely gubbed but did it!.
“And we have all raised over £1,200 and more cash is coming in.”
Wild swimming has become a huge leisure sport on Loch Lomond, particularly amongst women of a certain age.
One woman, who shall remain anonymous until she tells us we can reveal her name, recently wrote this hilarious article about her experience of her first dip in some very cold water:
Lyn and Jeff Mitchell with family and friends on a wild swim memorial for David Mitchell.
Tales of a Menopausal Mermaid, who shall remain anonymous
Just about every middle-aged woman in the UK is currently stripping off and leaping into any pool of water bigger than a puddle
“Better than an orgasm” that’s how my friend, Harriet, extolled the virtues of wild water swimming.
I still wasn’t persuaded – Harriet left her husband three years ago, put her fanny on furlough and never looked back.
“I had sex for forty years – that’s more than enough for anyone” she declares on a regular basis to looks of shock and, to be fair, often also of envy.
I have never quite sseen the attraction (of wild water swimming – not the fanny on furlough thing). However, Harriet tells me it is fabulous for easing menopausal symptoms. She tells me she no longer does the ‘two finger salute’ behind her children’s heads, and has pretty much stopped telling her colleagues to feck off as she is so calm.
Last night I was googling menopause as a mitigating circumstance for murder and it’s a no-go – so I got to thinking it might be worth it for even a fraction of that zen state. And all her photos on social media made my internal FOMO start to rear its desperate head – I NEED a photo of me with a stunning backdrop in a bright bobbly hat and using #makingmemories and #livingmybestlife!
Sensing my very slight interest, she dialled up her persuasive techniques – using lots of words like invigorating; refreshing; revitalising and bracing. Which I have a feeling all translate to “freezing”.
She reassures me that most of the women who wild swim (you aren’t allowed to just call it swimming apparently) are “as fat as if not bigger than you”.
Which I try not to take offence at. She tells me it is one sport where it is better to have more timber as you are better insulated than the skinnies! I should be quite toastie then!
The clincher though was when she told me no-one notices if you wee yourself a bit. Following a recent unfortunate incident during the jumping jacks’ section of my local fitness class, that is something that does appeal for any new exercise regime. Also, I’ve pretty much worked my way through the top ten in Netflix so I have a bit of free time
So, I ordered a wetsuit only to discover that in wetsuit land a size XXL is actually about a size 12! So I sent it back and after a bit of research discovered where to get proper fat lass wetsuits.
I decided to have a try on my own before meeting the Harriet for my official ‘first time’. And really, that’s where it all started to go wrong.
How the feck do you quickly and easily put a wetsuit on? ‘Massive whale having a seizure’ is unfortunately the image that many of those on the beach that day will never be able to unsee. I was hoping for more Ursula Andress but it was not to be.
I finally got the zip up by doing a headbanging routine that would not have looked out of place in the Bohemian Rhapsody video. Why the actual feck don’t they zip them up the bloody front!
I then had a little paddle up to my ankles before it was time to expose myself to the entire beach (some of whom I suspect were filming) as the wetsuit decided to take my swimsuit with it as I peeled it off.
I stopped on the way back and had a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows and a rice Krispy cake to cheer myself up. And to be fair, it did really cheer me up. One of the very few benefits of getting older is that you get over embarrassing situations so much quicker than when younger.
I told Harriet about my experiences, and she laughed – saying I should swim in skins. I was mightily relieved to find out that meant wearing a swimsuit and she wasn’t suggesting a naked swim. I asked why she didn’t just say ‘swimsuit’ but apparently one of the rules of wild water swimming is that, as well as not just calling it swimming, you must say ‘skins’ not swimsuit.
I won’t be doing ‘skins’ as Scotland enjoys a rather precarious relationship with the sun and so I suspect I’d end up with nipples you could hang your coat on. And possibly pneumonia.
We arrange to go together so she can help me. She asks me not to bring my dryrobe as they are apparently only for ‘wankers’. But I am bringing it as it cost me £150! And all I have used it for so far is sitting in beer gardens. Which I have to say it is really great for. Keeps you really cosy and warm – and is waterproof – I had a bottle of Chablis in the local pub garden recently during a rainy afternoon and came home a bit drunk but bone dry. And not one person in that beer garden called me a wanker!
In fact, they all admired my lovely bright blue dryrobe, and so I gave them the discount code that had arrived too late for me to use so they could all buy one. Drinkers are so much less judgemental than the wild swimming crew! However as a compromise I won’t bring my mermaids tail I bought off Amazon. It was a bit of an impulsive purchase at 3am as menopause doesn’t like you to sleep during the night as that would be too feckin convenient.
We head to Yellowcraig in North Berwick. It is rather lovely though a little busier than I’d like for my inaugural swim. She helps me with my wetsuit – it is much easier with a helper! She also can’t explain why they don’t put the zip at the front. Then we go in.
Now, I thought the purpose of a wetsuit was to keep you warm and dry so you can imagine my surprise as freezing cold water started to fill the suit as I waded in. I was thinking that I’d have to trek to the bloomin post office to send it back. Trust me to get the faulty one. Harriet however advised me that it was supposed to do that and that the water would warm up.
I keep wading in with occasional acrobatic ‘what the feck just touched my foot’ leaps in the air. I finally get to the point the water is up to my thighs and I am seriously freezing. My heart is banging as Harriet circles round me like some kind of bloody killer shark.
“Come on” she shrieks. Then hesitantly “You can swim, can’t you”. Of course, I can bloody swim. Clearly, she has forgotten the girls holiday we had to Tenerife where there was a free swim up bar. Katie Ledecky would have struggled to keep up with me during my frequent trips for a double Jack Daniels and Coke each day.
It is so so cold. My heart is banging, and I remind Harriet that there is a defibrillator up near the car park just in case we need it.
My tummy does a familiar lurch. Feck – please don’t make that be a period. Not now. It’s been six months since the last, but menopause likes to occasionally surprise you.
What if there is blood? What if a shark smells it and comes after me? What if it is a really heavy period and I end up looking like a shark has attacked me and bit me right clean through my torso?
I am starting to panic. I wish I hadn’t watched saving lives at sea the other night. They were rescuing people from riptides. What if there is a riptide? I might end up over in Fife, and then what? I might not get back. Though a chippie at Anstruther might make it worthwhile…
Harriet gives up and decides to get out and dry off. I am not a quitter so I push further and get up to my waist then quickly fall forward. Dear god. I do two very quick strokes – nothing recognisable so let’s just call it free style.
I remember we have hot tomato soup and bread and chocolate brownies and my god I’ve earned them. So, I decide that is enough for a first time and ten minutes later I am in my wanker dryrobe drinking soup while Harriet sits in her swimsuit and a thin towel pretending she doesn’t know me.