Strange to be bringing SWIM to the city I talk of leaving years ago in my show, because I longed for the hills again. Even stranger to be swimming in lidos because I have never really associated them with the type of outdoor swimming which I talk of the last decade. But today's swim in the rain was the next best thing to a dunking in my reservoir back home and I really enjoyed the community of it.
I woke to a feeling of frustration with yesterday's opening night in London because we had very poor tech and issues from the start of the show and I clearly needed a dip (as both my musician and stage manager told me!) so meeting the lovely Anna, a musician hailing originally from Edinburgh, was a lovely tonic. Anna invited me to join her at Brockwell Lido in south London. This grumpy feeling I had when I arrived to change and realised I'd forgotten my flyers to promote to this lido's footfall of swimmers, was quickly drowned in the water and I got over myself! There wasn't anything more I could do to make this show worthy of London! Anna shared in a similar frustration, having only lived in London for 6 months: how difficult it is to break down the 4th wall of the audience engaging in you live on stage and giving you something back.
Anna grew up swimming with her family in the sea as a regular done-thing. When she moved to Manchester, she took up swimming in the city outdoor pools ie Salford and gained comfort in her love for swimming during lockdown when she felt particularly lonely.
I told Anna how brave I thought she was to then up sticks and move to London on her own. But there's a huge strength in Anna's persona and I hear she is a very talented musician, so I sensed she was determined to let everyone know that and to follow her dream. I commented that perhaps she sought the open water in lockdown again because that was a go-to from her childhood, and there was subconscious comfort in doing that (especially as she said she likes to swim alone).
The water was surprisingly cold. I had been poo-pooing that any water down south could be cold compared to our icy resevoir, but I could barely stay in longer than a few lengths.
I was like a drowned rat when I got out. We changed together (again not used to changing rooms, I was all discombobulated!) Anna's teeth chattered madly. A lady dressing next to us overheard our conversation and piped in about her theory on why a London audience is less willing to be vocal in an audience or give anything away. Good to talk theatre in a swimming environment!
I thought I was a little over prepared on the way in to the lido on the bus: down jacket, waterproof and thick shoes (London was definitely much milder!) but was so thankful for all my layers when making my way back across the city as I really was feeling cold. Perhaps all the emotion of the previous night was making this harder on my body.
I would've liked to hang out longer with Anna, but both having lunch engagements, I made do with listening to her music on my journey instead. Her sound is soothing and reassuring.