Look what I got for Christmas!

Happy New Year to you, my dear readers! I hope that you've had a lovely break and managed to stay well. We've had a super family time over the past couple of weeks and it's been one of our best Christmases ever I would say. My daughter's boyfriend came over from the mainland for the festive period, adding to our excitement as this was the first time we've met him. Suffice to say that he's an absolute gem, a real find and such a happy addition to our family.

So, this amazing vintage leather jacket is what Steve bought for my Christmas. Of course, I made sure that wishlists were passed on to everyone, and this is what I directed Steve to. Many moons ago I had a patchwork leather blazer that I passed on to a friend and this reminds me somewhat of that. The jacket was from eBay, bought at the end of November, leaving just the right amount of time for it to get here in the midst of the postal chaos.

I love the variety of skins used to create this very unusual jacket; the animal print, embossed hide, diamante studs, floral prints, tassel fringes and leather ruffles all go to make it quite unique. It's like wearing a piece of art. Oh my goodness, how I love it! 

I teamed the jacket with an old gold sweater (from H&M) and these funky new jeans (Primark). 

The gold leather Chelsea boots are very ancient (from River Island), but much loved.

I took myself off for a Boxing Day walk to burn up a few excess calories and also test drive the bomber jacket and see how it fitted. It's fab, passed the test with flying colours! 

I stopped to enjoy the view. I wasn't surprised to see lots of people out, stretching their legs after all of those Christmas Day calories. Family groups with dogs, couples out walking and driving past on golf buggies, all passed by below my hilltop perch in the half hour I sat there.

Today's jewellery features another Christmas present - the necklace (Zara) was from a girlfriend and is a perfect accessory for this look. The gold coloured flower ring was a Christmas pressie from her too, a couple of years ago. The other gold ring was a charity shop find. The sunglasses are by Quay Australia.

Apart from family meals together we had a pretty low key time over the holidays. We met up with our extended family for drinks one night which was another excuse to dress up, but no pics of that. I did manage to get some shots of the day that I dressed for work as my favourite Christmas movie, Elf.

This was very well received by all of my customers at the Gallery that day, resulting in lots of laughter and appropriate comments.

And this was my outfit for NYE at home, where I did have my very own kitchen disco while hubby snoozed in front of the TV.

I did full on glitz for that, wearing silver and gold sparkles, sequins and glitter. None if it was new, but all fulfilled the need for full on glamour on the home front!

And finally, here's some swimming shots from the festive period. The first was my last swim of 2021.

And below is the venue for my New Year's Day swim. Green Porth was tucked out of the westerly wind affording just enough protection to make it look nigh on perfect.

I was joined by two islanders, Rebecca and Emma for the swim which was in aid of Mental Health Swims. Photos from each of us earned donations from Speedo. Somehow a group swim always feels better, dare I say even warmer, as you have the lovely distraction of chat and laughter throughout.

Not drowning, just waving!

And that pretty much rounds up my past week or so. It's been great to have some time away from work and to relax in my pj's for a change. I do hope you've had a lovely break from the norm and that you managed to spend some time with your nearest and dearest. Sending you lots of love and good luck for 2022 from my island home.

                                                                                         Anna x


Grounded, by the sea

Hello again. How are you? Is this a good time of year for you? Like many, I struggle with the shorter days and lack of sunlight over the winter months, resulting in S.A.D. I know I've talked about this before, but for anyone out there who's new to the blog then this is my method of coping. Sea swimming truly keeps me grounded, helping me cope with the challenges of the season ahead.

It's over 8 years now since I started sea swimming and to be perfectly honest, it's been a lifesaver for me in more ways than one. The idea of taking a dip in the sea in the middle of winter may seem quite mad, but increasing numbers of the population here in the UK are turning to the ocean to help them with their mental well-being. I swear you never regret a sea swim. 

I was recently lucky enough to meet Olympic champion Keri-anne Payne while she was here on Tresco running a Triscape retreat. I had session in the pool along with a group of keen improvers like myself and came away with a few good pointers. Much as I'm a competent swimmer, my freestyle isn't my best stroke and I know needs attention. I've now got a few tips to help me become a more relaxed and smoother swimmer.

Hopefully next year I'll be able to attend the entire course and come away better armed for my swimming future. I have every intention to continue sea swimming into my dotage in an effort to keep a healthy body and mind regardless of the passage of time. I like the idea of being that eccentric old lady on Tresco who sea swims every day regardless of the weather.

Ear plugs, goggles and swimcap and it's time to go.

Swimming tall, holding that leading arm up until the following arm comes in line with the head. 

Concentration one moment and a lovely sense of flow the next; I'm slowly making progress. Swimming lends itself to a wonderful watery meditation which might account for the sense of well-being that follows.

And there it is, the joy of the afterglow. I love the sense of achievement after a swim, no matter how long or short. My Swim Secure tow float gives me confidence as I know I'm always visible even in low light like today.

I've bought two new swimsuits for this winter. The white one above is by Roxy and the green is by Animal

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have a great week!

Anna x


Floral Converse boots and purple agapanthus

Hello again! How's your week been? I've had the day off today and even though the weather wasn't perfect, Steve and I took ourselves off in our boat and headed out to the Eastern Isles. White sand, clear turquoise water and a few glimpses of the sun as we lazed on an uninhabited island were enough to create our very own chill zone. A couple of beers with our picnic and we pretty much set the world to rights in a few hours.

And so on to the outfit of the day. I've recently bought a new pair of Converse boots which inspired this look. The floral boots are on sale from Office currently (see here). Increasingly I seem to be wearing flats for work and these are a bright and breezy way of lifting an outfit out of the doldrums.

Aren't they totally funky and great fun too!

I've paired the boots with with these patterned wide legged crops from H&M (pre-loved) which I've had for a couple of years now. The white floral top was from New Look in a summer sale, but not this year. Setting the whole shebang against the purple agapanthus is a riot of colour, one that will be over very soon, hence I was keen to capture the flowers while they were still in bloom.

I picked out accent colours of pink and turquoise for my statement rings, adding my favourite Quay Australia sunglasses for another jazzy aspect. My sea glass pendant is a tiny blue droplet made by Drift jewellery out of sea glass I collect from our beaches.

The pressures of work are gradually calming down now meaning I'm more able to fit in my wild swimming again. I'm back at the ever-so-heavenly Cradle Porth in the shots below. 

I'm so lucky to have the chance to swim in these clear waters all year round. I feel the mental health benefits are almost more important to me than the physical ones. My solitary swims in particular take me to a calm place; a welcome state of zen, an escape from the norm and into a watery world where my senses are devoid of sound (with earplugs in place) and are taste and sight oriented. The delicate shades of sea greens and aquas lull me into dream world where under sea creatures like bold little brown crabs fend me off and purple globe jellyfish pulse their way on by. Nature unwinds me, undoing the knots of tension in my shoulders and emptying my buzzing brain. I emerge refreshed and revitalised, ready for the next challenge that life may throw my way.

Anna x


My new Batoko Swimsuit

Hello lovelies!

We've had a mixed bag of weather this week, but on Monday and Tuesday Fiona and I skipped off to the beach after work to make the most of the sun and high tide on Cradle Porth. This was Tuesday's swimming suit, a recent purchase from the eco brand Batoko who recycle plastic to create these eye catching cossies.

You'll find the Puffin swimsuit here. These delightful little sea birds can be seen on the Isles of Scilly at this time of year, although you'll need a boat trip out to the far outcrops of rocks to see them. Seemingly they migrate by late summer, but I'm not sure to where.

As a wild swimmer the state of the sea obviously matters hugely to me; I'm so lucky to swim in these clean, clear waters that surround the Isles of Scilly, but even here we have plastics and other waste wash up on on shores albeit to a much lesser degree than most coasts. Batoko is a small relatively new business who are endeavouring to raise marine awareness and also play a part in regenerating our underwater sealife. Find out more on their website here.

The swimsuit is a great shape with a medium high leg and also a back that covers the dreaded waist roll. The material is firm and very figure flattering. And of course the Puffins are adorable!

Summer has arrived and my daily swims are not the same chilly challenge as they were 6 months ago when I was plunging into the icy sea in my favourite cove. The arrival of some purple jellyfish are another sign that the sea temperature is rising; little purple globe ones and huge lilac ones with long wispy tendrils the same colour as my cossie were wafting about in the tide as we swam out towards the boats this evening.

The odd mild insult is exchanged between photographer and her model.

And this was the post-swim vista as we enjoyed our hot flasks. Tresco island is looking pretty tropical eh?

Anna x


Why I Swim

Hi there!

I've noticed of late that I've got some new readers here and on my Instagram account and thought I'd like to share my wild swimming story with you. Why I Swim is a project currently being run by Swimferal and one I've added my voice to. Click on the link to find out more.

And this is where it all starts. Personally I find the call of the sea is so strong, but maybe that's simply because I live in an incredibly beautiful part of the world. Who wouldn't be drawn to the ocean when you see this?

Winter sea swimming is all about staying warm before and getting warm after your swim. I wear a full set of wet weather gear as it's so efficient at keeping the wind out as well as keeping the heat in. Underneath this is a fleece jacket and joggers, cashmere polo neck, heavy duty thermal long sleeved top plus the obligatory woolly hat and gloves and thick socks and fur lined boots. This is one time I'm happy to forego the glamour!

The swimsuit has no thermal properties however, so it's up to me to thrash about as fast as I can to keep warm. Ear plugs, swimming cap and goggles are essentials for me. 

This set of photos was taken in January when Fiona and I happened to hit upon a lovely still day that was worthy of a photo shoot. I've no idea what the sea temperature was, although I may have read somewhere that it was 8 degrees. I maybe need to buy myself a water thermometer. From water's edge to swimming I take as little time as possible. Not for me the strange ritual of wading slowly into the water followed by that chilly flicking and splashing of cold water onto the top half of the body. No, I walk purposefully into the sea up to waist depth and plunge right under as quickly as possible. During the winter months the wind chill factor is often colder than the actual sea temperature, so get in and get going!

The clear icy water has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties as well as being a boost to the immune system.  Which brings me on to the main reason I swim...

At the age of 18 I was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, Ulcerative Colitis to be precise. It has been a long term illness, one that has resulted in me being hospitalised on several occasions, being treated medically rather than surgically with not much success over the years. The disease can be hereditary and is also stress related which is ironic as having bowel disease itself is very stressful. If you can imagine living with a bad dose of food poisoning for prolonged periods of your life and the impact thereof, you might get the idea of what it's like to live with bowel disease. I've missed weddings of family and friends, Christenings too and other social occasions where being away from a loo was impossible for me to manage. (Question - why do Churches not have loos?) Travelling is out of the question during a flare-up and eventually your life revolves around a mental map of loos or more often just being at home if the stress is too much. The stigma of bowel disease makes it awkward to explain what looks like odd decisions or behaviour (suddenly leaving a gathering) as it's not an easy subject to weave casually into the conversation. Most people are pretty squeamish about this topic I've discovered.

And so it was, eight years ago that I suffered a particularly severe attack which laid me low and left me feeling beaten. After a week of crawling back and forth between sofa and bathroom I decided that I needed to take control of my health. The prescribed medication made my condition worse and the steroids that the doctors kept in reserve for acute flare-ups had previously sparked a series of manic episodes - no drug is without its side effects as I learnt to my cost. Things were as bad as they could get.

Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can start to make your way back up again. This was no time for wallowing. It was time for me to take my own health in hand. I spent hours searching the web, looking for natural ways to get well and to boost the immune system. After lots and lots of reading and rejecting the wacko ideas and their wild promises, I came across a book that claimed to treat bowel disease through diet. Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall shares the details of her own experience; the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is what she created in response to her daughter's bowel disease. This was to be the first stage of my recovery. I followed the diet for a month and by that time was well enough to leave the house again.

The next stage was to rebuild my strength. The web came up trumps again suggesting Cold Water Therapy. The natural remedy of taking the waters has been used for centuries to bring about wellbeing for all sorts of illnesses. The cold water shocks the immune response galvanising the white cells into action. I didn't need much persuading. My initial swims were merely dips under the water and out again. Yes, it was shockingly cold! However as I was able to stay in longer and swim a little further every day it became more bearable. It was May so the water temperature wasn't too cold. As the summer progressed, so did my swimming. 

So, that was then and this is now and I've been well ever since. The combination of diet and swimming are what works for me. I can't say that this would work for everyone, but it's been like my own little miracle. My commitment to wild swimming comes from a driving need to be well. I don't drink alcohol, smoke or eat junk food. I've made a lifelong pledge to myself to do the right things in order to stay well. The joy of being able to travel (ah, the good old days), to swim for hours, to walk for miles - all without the worry of where the nearest loo is - it's a heady sense of freedom! Who would have thought that I could spend 6 hours in the sea as I swam around the entire island of Tresco? If someone had said that to me eight years ago I would have thought they were mad.

The icing on the cake has to be the wonderful afterglow that rushes through your system after cold water swimming. That sparkle, that buzz; it's probably the thing that all wild swimmers see as the elixir of life.  Swimming isn't just my hobby, it's part of who I am. Without my daily swim I'm a fraction of my whole self, running on low until I'm topped up again by the energy of the sea. I'm so grateful that my health journey led me to this place.

Two pieces of information about outdoor and wild swimming have emerged in the past year, both pertaining to good health. The first (seen on BBC TV) is that scientific research has shown that cold water swimming can play a part in delaying the onset of dementia. And the second (heard on Radio 2) is that the effects of cold water swimming i.e. the mobilising of white blood cells are similar to the effects the Covid19 vaccine has on the immune system. 

Eight years ago I was the only wild swimmer on the island, raising a few eyebrows as I beat a path to the beach regardless of season or weather. Nowadays the sport has taken off within the Isles of Scilly becoming a selling point for holidays and activity breaks. There's barely a week goes past without open water swimming making the news now that it has become a mainstream form of exercise. My post script to this has to be that my two sisters have both taken up sea swimming in the past 12 months too. Hurrah for the joys of wild swimming!

                                                                                                         Anna x

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