TOUR DIARY DAY 6. The day started in a discrete panic, huddled under the weight of the promise I’d made to my friend Alexandra to jump in the North Sea that afternoon. After saying our goodbyes to Anouk, Calum and Flynn, we set sail from Edinburgh in sunshine and hugging the coast, followed the winding A1 south. With every mile, the sky grew darker until barely 50 miles from Newcastle we were driving through a thick squall of pooling rain, the sea to our left, heaving and pitching, which briefly brought the possibility of forfeiting the swim with dignity.
Sadly, the rain eased as we arrived and though it was bitterly cold, the gaggle of excited lady swimmers who greeted us on arrival at Alex and Ditte’s house made it clear that this wasn’t the sort of weather that would make them reconsider their life choices. So, with no further option but to don my bright yellow shorts that last saw action in the bath-like waters of the south pacific, we made our way in convey to Tynemouth. Large tankers sat mournfully out at sea, gazing back at us, coats and scarves hiding our costumes, as we made our way down to the beach.
Gus being the sensible, artistic misanthrope that he is, managed to decline the offer of swimming with all the grace of a hangman offering to do your laces, but like a good sport accompanied us to the beach. There he stood while we shifted from from foot to foot uneasily, offering softly articulated words of encouragement as well as photographic services, the better to warn the future.
Once on the beach a sort of mania gripped everyone. The sea was positively foaming with violent intent and though I thought I could detect a ripple of uncertainty in the group, we were committed now. Alone on the beach save for a disinterested clutch of sea gulls and Gus, we ran across to the rocks, and with the panting elation that comes from the sure knowledge of impending pain, we undressed in a flash grinning at each other like lunatics, as much to convince ourselves that this was a good idea as each other.
I won’t lie, stripped to my canarys, pale blue skin and scraggly beard, it was not a pleasant sight but the minute the last garment was off, we ran like our lives depended on it. Chariots of Fire music would not have been inappropriate. I’m not sure if we yelled as we ran but I definitely remember asking Alex is there was a way we could not do this.
I don’t remember her answer because at that moment we hit the sea and while I waited for the endorphins I’d been promised, I froze. Suddenly this was not a good idea, but we were in the water so we semi-swam, semi-stood and wondered what to do next. The rip was pretty strong and it seemed like we’d done what we came for but at that moment, Ditte, who had gone out a little further got hit by a wave. With the intense cold and the sucking tide, she was in a little trouble and struggling to get back towards us. In the unaccustomed role of hero, old canary shorts came to rescue and we made a funny pair as we lurched through the rip back to the shore together.
Once we all got out, we felt like we’d climbed Everest and my body congratulated me on being alive by pulling sundry poses for Gus’s camera. We got dressed hurriedly and made our way back to home where in in decent simulation of every Famous Five book ever, we sat front of the fire all tousle-haired and had tea and cake. As the swimming party thinned out to leave Gus, Alex, Ditte and I the rest of the night passed in a blur of red wine, Dylan songs and a delicious curry that Gus made.
Tonight we play the Cumberland Arms with Ditte Elly in Newcastle. It will be historic and I can’t wait. x