Escape from storm Ciara

Hello and welcome!

If ever there was a day to escape from reality then surely it's today when the whole of the UK is being battered by Storm Ciara with winds forecast at 80 mph, huge waves pounding our coasts and power cuts threatening many. So let me lead you away from all of that and join my friends Kate and Fiona as we revisit a day last August for a post-work sea swim.

Our cycle route to Pentle Bay took us along the Abbey Drive through lush green vegetation under majestic trees. Excitement and anticipation added a frisson to our babble of chat about the state of the tide, wind direction and the potential for jellyfish, because today was no ordinary day as we were being shadowed by a film crew and also professional photographer James Darling, who were collecting material for a marketing project for Tresco Island. Our daily dip was the final scene to be captured for use in the recruitment drive for the 2020 season.

The photo shoot had none of the luxuries of hair and make-up nor has James photoshopped these images. I want to talk about this first as vanity tripped me up when I first viewed the photos. I'm pretty much at ease with being seen in my swimsuit as it's what I wear at some point most days, but, somewhat naively, I hadn't really considered how I might be seen through the (professional) camera's eye. Well, it seems that the reality of my self-image needed some radical recalibration! In my head I suppose I must still think I have the figure of my 30 year old self. Aren't we all a bit like that? We remember ourselves in our prime, holding that impression in a handy copy and paste mode when the lumpy truth threatens our mental well being. Issues with body image can haunt us no matter what age it seems. I continue to speak out to shed light and help dispel shame. I'm not overweight nor claim to be, but still feel under pressure due to the imagery we're subjected to daily. 

I know that I often publish photos of myself in a swimsuit, but like most bloggers I choose to share the best, most flattering and certainly never back views! I was initially shocked then downhearted at the rear view of myself. Cellulite and drapey skin are ever present in these shots forcing a certain amount of coming to terms with my 62 year old body. But as my dear husband kindly - and I do mean kindly - pointed out, I write with honesty and try my best to show myself as I truly am. What is the use in me trying to inspire women of my generation when I'm still deluding myself as to who I am? To this end, I'm including photos that I would normally omit as after all, we don't want to scare the horses do we? But, joking aside, if you ever seek me out I don't want you to be shocked after seeing me in soft focus for so long. My fragile ego desires me to be perfect and the perfectionist in me would like that too, but this is the truth of the matter and it deserves or begs no pity from you. Here I am, warts cellulite an' all!

After a certain amount of coming to terms, I decided to post this photo on my Instagram with this text - "We're all equal in the sea, our little heads bobbing above the water, laughter in the air and salt upon our tongues. Age, cellulite and wobbly bits all fade into insignificance as this common bond of wild swimming knits our friendship deeper." And really that's what this post is all about. For years I've been a solitary swimmer, seeing the time as one for meditation and reflection but, last summer was one of group swims which brought new dimensions and time to enrich friendships and forge new ones.

That post-swim energy has us all buzzing, talking about stray seaweed feeling as if it was tentacles of jellyfish. Fiona hates seaweed almost as much as jellyfish.

All cosied up, it's time for a hot drink as the discussion turns to the next swimming adventures for each of us. Kate wants to crack her freestyle stroke, Fiona had plans for the inter-island swim only a couple of weeks away and I was gearing towards my swim around Tresco. 

Previously I might have balked at showing you this necklace choker of wrinkles, but I'm biting the bullet and sharing what's normal for my age. (I'm working at removing perfect and replacing it with normal.) 

As storm Ciara rises in ferocity outside my window, I'm drawing on the feel-good factor of this little outing. It never ceases to amaze me that we can have this fun without spending a penny. Mother Nature has given us the most beautiful of playgrounds here on the idyllic island of Tresco and that's something we always voice when we stop to enjoy the view. 

We're so lucky to live here!

All photos by James Darling courtesy of Tresco Island


The joy of friendship

Meet my lovely friends Bo and Dave who recently travelled from Portugal to visit us for a long weekend. That's surely the sign of a great friendship when your mates travel for 24 hours just to see you for three nights. We had a busy few days, eating, drinking and generally making merry and yes, we had a lot of laughs too. 

The weather was cool but bright and calm enough for a boat trip. Bo was keen to visit one of the Eastern Isles so that's what we did. It was dead low water as we chugged across St Martin's flats resulting in our fine boatman having to pull the engine up and use a paddle to punt us across the stretch of water that was at times just inches deep. It all added to the sense of adventure, especially when Steve declared that we might not be able to land on Nornour as the low tide had revealed a lot of rocks. We hatched a back-up plan that we would land instead on the nearby stretch of white sandbar and set up our picnic there if necessary.  

But rocks, seaweed and low tide weren't going to scupper our plans! We skimmed around the sandbar and Steve manoeuvred the boat slowly into the shallows of the Eastern Isles. We encountered lots of seals along the way as we pootled slowly through the long fronds of seaweed, picking our way into the shore. They are hugely inquisitive mammals, but are also quick to duck out of the way in response to a camera being pointed their way.

Hurrah, Nornour was ours!

After a couple of beers to wash down our picnic we climbed to the top of the island to admire the view. The autumn sunshine was dazzling and the company wasn't half bad either.

The views are stunning no matter which direction you look.

The Scillonian steams off into the distance, heading back to Penzance.

Bo's photography tip of the day - get down low to find a new perspective. Yep, that works!

So good to capture these special moments.

Time to go home. 

Here's to friendship!
Anna x


An early morning swim

Mornings like this make me so happy to be on my way for a swim. The sparkling sea is the ultimate temptation, don't you think? I was striding out with a couple of friends on this particular Sunday morning, promising them that we would enjoy the special experience of sea swimming together. "We won't go far or fast or deep." was my promise. My companions were Kay and Sue, two visitors I'd met twice over the past year. The first time, a year ago, we'd chatted about island life and I'd told them about my hobby. I offered to take them with me the next day for an early morning swim, but Sue wasn't up for it. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when Sue and Kay attended the opening night party at the gallery. They introduced themselves, reminding me that we'd talked about me helping a friend to brave the sea last year. Sue went on to say that I had inspired her to join her local swimming club and learn to swim - I'm sure she won't mind me telling you that she's 72, making this is a pretty bold undertaking.

The weather, the setting and the sea couldn't have been any more perfect. 

We had swum along the beach together and then I'd raced back to collect my camera to get these shots. The morning couldn't have been any more idyllic which added a wonderful sense of magic to the occasion. Let's hear Sue's account of her experience - 

"Never too old..........

It began when I met Anna last year during my stay on Tresco. Her enthusiasm for all year round swimming in the beautiful sea around the island inspired me to prepare myself for the challenge of joining her when I return the following year.

But being a non swimmer meant several months of swimming lessons at my local pool before I had gained the confidence and ability to join Anna this year for my first sea swim in the crystal waters of Old Grimsby bay.

I might add that Anna was not only the source of inspiration but also took my hand and walked beside me into the cold sea. It was truly exhilarating and I shall be eternally grateful."

Sue is on the left and Kay on the right.

And this from Kay -

` May 2017, in the gallery on Tresco chatting to Anna who kindly invited us to go swimming in the sea the next day, we gently declined…….it was freezing………
But it planted a seed!!!!

`May 2018 again chatting to Anna, the invitation was mentioned again, so I said Yes regardless of my friend's decision, who by the way, had learnt to swim properly during the year, but I knew we would regret this if we didn’t do it……….

` Morning came and we were ready for 8 am when Anna kindly collected us, so we all walked to the chosen beach in some anticipation.  It was a beautiful morning but still cool as it had been during our two week stay, and then there we were ready in our costumes, Anna having gently told us what we were going to do. …………so we all held hands and walked with calmness and confident step concentrating on our breathing until we were waist high and just let go…….and swam……. It wasn’t a shock even though the water was so so cold, but exhilarating, uplifting, exciting and most of all the feeling of how joyful it was to feel alive, the morning was so beautiful the sea so blue, the beach so white, the sunlight reflecting on the water and a voice calling out behind me ` I`m swimming`

My new swimming buddies are sporting that fabulous afterglow that says "I'm alive and I feel great!"

Well done ladies and particularly to you, Sue for overcoming this hurdle and turning yourself into a sea swimmer. Perhaps you too can be an inspiration to someone you meet and empower them to try something outside of their comfort zone. See you next year ladies and don't forget your cossies!

Anna x

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