I am not usually awake at six am on Saturday morning. Thanks to a combination of my Apple alarm running amok and an undercurrent of anxiety about today’s activities, here I am.
I am swimming later.
I have a test to determine whether I am safe to be let-loose in open water; that is how it goes in the UK – you must demonstrate your swimming proficiency to be allowed entry to a lake. It makes sense and it seems is a very British way of doing things.
I have my wetsuit ready; it is inexpensive neoprene that I bought a few years ago in Aldi – I am not sure if it has ever been worn.
I am not a cold-water person.
Yesterday I listened to the Adam Buxton Podcast. He was interviewing his pal Louis Theroux. Louis took an ice bath with Joe Wicks. I can’t imagine. Jumping into ice-cold water is all the rage these days. I struggled with the relatively warm Mediterranean last week.
I have an old photo somewhere in the house of my friend Nick during and after he immersed himself in a very cold pool outside of Dundee. The place was called Reekie Linn. You can check it out.
Last week, when I was in Greece, the UK was frazzling in climate-change extreme weather. This was inevitable if you have had your eyes open for the past twenty years. I am sure it will get worse. I am confident we will reach a tipping-point and things will go to hell. There you go, that is humans for you. Shame we aren’t as smart as the dolphins.
I read yesterday that the heatwave had led to several-hundred excess deaths in older people; every year there are hot days and every year approximately 500, predominantly people over the age of 85 in the UK die, generally from the direct effects of dehydration and sun-exposure or indirectly from the associated falls, heart attacks and strokes.
I also read that over 13 people drowned during that week. The figures are difficult to calculate as there are likely some currently ventilated on intensive care units who have near-drowned and there might even be people whose bodies haven’t been found or their absences noted.
It is a tragic and predictable statistic.
The facts show that most victims of drowning in the UK are children and young men. Cold shock is a factor as is over-confidence and lack of awareness of the risks.
I remember just over a week ago reading the news of the heatwave and reckoning to myself that people would drown. The idea had been suggested in the Guardian. I played it out sitting on a porch of my Air B&B in Kefalonia.
I thought of the people who, at that moment, were alive. Either in their beds at home, or at work. Sitting in front of their computers. With their friends, families. Unaware their lives would end.
Of course, none of us know what will happen tomorrow. When the end will arrive. It is random and inevitabile. This is life, of what it is to be sentient, to be a human, to have insight into the absurdity and unpredictability of existence.
I finished reading Ruth Ozeki’s book, ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ which is a complex story involving a novelist character called Ruth who finds a Hello Kitty box washed-up on the beach near her Canada island home. In the box is a Kamikaze pilot’s watch, a set of letters written in French and a book of À la recherche du temps perdu which contains a diary written by a Japanese girl called Naoko, or Nao, which is read as Now, an allusion and part of the overall magic that is time past and present and, now.
I won’t tell you more about the details of the story suffice it to say that quantum time is touched upon (I didn’t understand), which, is part of the magical thinking that plays-out in the minds of people who have lost loved-ones in tragic circumstances such as drowning.
‘If I had taken them to the cinema instead of the beach’
‘If the weather had been different’
‘If they had learned to swim’
And on and on and on.
Time, as far as I am aware is immutable. It moves in one direction, at least outside of fiction.
I have always had a fascination with time-travel. I know I am not alone as there is an entire science fiction genre dedicated to the topic, whether the Time Machine, Back to the Future, the Time Traveller’s Wife or the two European series I recently watched on streaming TV, Dark (German) and If I Hadn’t Met You (Spanish).
I sometimes wonder why I am drawn to the topic which is as real or unreal as any form of Sci-Fi (I am not bothered by Star Trek or Star Wars).
My life has had a series of bifurcations, moving countries when I was younger, for example, that were major deviations from the norm. Combined with my introversion and reflective tendencies these have been fertile ground for this imagining. Perhaps.
What do you think?
It is cold (14C) and wet today.
The butterfly beats its wings, and we are all prisoners of time.
I recommend the book. (Murakami mixed with Margaret Atwood, bibliophilia and Zen).