Do Good Deeds in Dark Times

Doing good makes you feel good! How the Seabirds built doing good into their business

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The Seabirds became a flotilla as our moral compass points the same way so swimming with each other in the same direction was easy. When we decided to start a business together our decision to be a social enterprise wasn’t even discussed. It was assumed. Registering as Community Interest Company was as fundamentally a part of our company set up as registering with Companies House and signing our Articles of Association. Ultimately we are a business and we need to make money to thrive. But with the money we make we reinvest in our business and donate to causes that share our aims of improving wellbeing and the environment. So why do we do this?

The News is full of unhappy headlines. The impact of austerity on the most vulnerable in society. Leaving Europe with ‘No Deal’. Climate Change and the plight of the Polar Bear. Global Civil War and unrest adding to the Refugee Crisis. I could go on but you get the picture.

I don’t read or watch the News. I bury my head firmly in the sand. It’s a form of Self Care. If I let myself dwell on the day’s news I become overwhelmed at the magnitude of the problems we face as a global community. I am rendered a useless sobbing wreck, devoid of joy. But not devoid of hope. Instead I focus on the small stuff. The daily good deeds that make a difference. The Good News!

There is a viral quote that often circulates in the wake of tragic public events.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

So how does a Seabird do good deeds in dark times? How can we be the people that are helping?

The answer was assumed and simple. We set up a business that gives back!

We have a trading arm webshop that gives supporters the opportunity to give as they live. Giving makes you feel good. So does shopping. So why not combine the two?. The internet is accessible to all and our products are affordable, ethically sourced and sustainable. It’s conscious consumerism. Community Interest Companies are governed the same rigour as any other Company ensuring integrity and honesty in its trading but the profits don’t go to shareholders. They go back into the community.

We have a service that enables people to access the sea in a safe environment with the aim of improving their well being. In an age when modern day living rituals have a profoundly negative impact on mental health, the supporting services are being cut back. People are unable to access state funded services unless they meet certain thresholds. We have received National Lottery Funding to run our first wellbeing service courses aimed at women who lack the confidence to swim outdoors that is accessible to all. Until our trading business is buoyant enough to financially support this service we will continue to raise funds via grants.  This Service provides a contribution to the community.

We have a community of year round sea swimmers and Seabird supporters. These seabirds, sea dogs and sea squids give up their time to read through our business plans, set up Pop Ups, review our accounts, volunteer in the water and provide us with feedback. But most importantly they join us in the sea on a regular basis, so we too get respite from from running a new small business. Being part of a local community group  being part of something bigger, being part of the change keeps our business and our mood buoyant.

 

Doing good really does feel good and whilst it won’t solve the world’s problems, as Vincent Van Gogh said ‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together’. Together we can do good deeds in dark times.

Author: Seabird Kath

Whilst you are here………Our next fundraiser is the  Aviva Community Fund. We are not asking for money but we are asking for 3 minutes of your time to register and vote via the link above. You get 10 votes and can use different email aliases to vote more than once. 

We hope to receive funds to buy equipment like swim hats and dry robes – to keep participants warm and safe, changing and pool facility hire – to provide a safe environment for participants to get used to open water swimming, administration costs and dedicated coaches and instructors to facilitate the courses to ensure the participants get the best out of the courses. Female-centric courses with participants falling into a similar age bracket in a safe and structured environment may be the only way some women would even consider swimming the sea. We are passionate about encouraging more women into the waves to improve their wellbeing and voting for this project would make this happen

Thank you!!!

Libby in the Lakes – swimming with my daughter

I am a Seabird. I swim in the sea. I am not anti Lidos, Lakes and Lochs I just prefer the sea and it helps that it is on my doorstep. This summer I swapped the salt for freshwater swimming in the Lake District and Scotland with a sneaky anniversary trip to the rivers of the Somerset levels. They didn’t disappoint. All special for different reasons. The Lakes because I swam with my daughter.

My eldest child did her GCSEs this summer and I was keen for her to have the best summer ever as a reward for working so hard. She, like me swims in the sea all year round albeit in a wet-suit and as part of her Surf Life Saving weekly training sessions. She is an incredible swimmer, powerful and fast. If I got into trouble in the sea I would want her there. But other than her weekly session and the occasional dip with mates after school she doesn’t swim in the sea, at least not with me. I don’t know why not, I make her look like an elegant mermaid as I splash around frantically trying to keep up with her. Maybe it’s just not cool to hang out with your mum when you are 16! So it was a massive surprise when she agreed to come swimming in the Lake District with me.

The plan was for she and I to drive up to the Lakes on our way to Scotland for a family holiday. My husband and son would fly up to Glasgow to meet us when my youngest had broken up from school. Best laid plans. She soon backed out of the Scotland trip as she wanted to hang out with her mates. Fortunately she still wanted to do the Lakes with me. So as my husband and son arrived in Alba, she got on the same plane and flew home. All she saw of Scotland was Gretna Green Service Station and Glasgow Airport! But not before we had a fantastic couple of days exploring tarns, rivers and waterfalls.

The course has been set for uncharted territory. Not just the unfamiliar freshwater lakes but we are entering a new phase as Libby leaves school. She is changing fast and I am trying to keep up. It’s hard enough trying to keep up with her swimming!  I can cope with the late nights and the boozy experiments and think I have finally grasped what ‘linking’ is but I miss her. She just doesn’t want to be with me anymore. She either wants to be out with her mates or alone in her room. I have created an independent young woman with very strong ideas about who she wants to be and who she wants to be with. And it ain’t me! It’s everything I wished for but I feel bereft.

I was determined we would have the best time together so she could see what she was missing hanging out with her dear ol’ Ma. Spending time with your teens is hard. There is such pressure for the snatched moments you have together to be better than snapchat scrolling you inevitably end up arguing. Probably over snapchat scrolling. But I was not deterred.  Armed with my Wild Guide, we still managed to get lost, but when we didn’t we swam and chatted, swam and laughed, swam and squealed.

It was a wonderful couple of days with a beautiful back drop. I will definitely return to the Lake District. Hopefully with Libby. It was over all too soon and normal service soon resumed. Back to feeling like I had an empty nest but the fledgling was still in it. Redundant in my role as a parent as my child was now self sufficient and flying free.  There is a wealth of information about parenting from how to potty train and other developmental milestones but nothing had prepared me for this. Grieving for a girl that was just upstairs

I am still trying to catch up with the speed at which she is growing (and swimming). I still ask he if she wants to come on a dog walk with me even when I know the answer will be no. Ever hopeful that one day the answer will be yes. Our interactions are mainly me hovering at her bedroom door asking her if she wants of cup of tea. There are still the rare moments when she comes into the kitchen and wants a chat but she in is charge of when this will be.

It was during one of these moments when she told me she really enjoyed swimming in the Lake District with me. She ‘just liked being with me on her own’ and ‘found it relaxing’. In teenage talk that was a very long conversation! It took every ounce of self control not to book a lifetimes worth of trips right there and right then to ensure we would always have that time together. Instead I very coolly suggested she might like to do The Big Bala Swim with me next year. (In my head I was cool, I may well have squeaked it whilst clinging to her). And she has agreed! So next year Gwynedd with my Girl. Until then bedroom hovering will have to do.

Author: Seabirds Kath

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Don’t be a mug…… buy non-plastic reusable

No excuse for single use!

So, here at Seabirds HQ we only want to sell products that we have tried and tested and love. Our love for the sea has deepened our love for nature and opened our eyes (with the help of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet) to the horrors of plastic pollution – especially marine pollution. Seabirds have wholeheartedly joined the crusade to reduce plastic pollution from our own personal habits to the products we sell in the ‘eco-goods’ section of our shop.

We wanted products to reduce the use of #singleuseplastics. They must be built well so it will be durable and not become yet more waste. We also want them to be pretty so you love them like we do.

Also, we LOVE tea. It helps us warm up after the sea. It sustains us in times of strife (or long meetings). So we bring you the pint sized (!!!!) enamel, Seabirds Mug. We have used our camping, at picnics, eaten cereal out of them at festivals (it was the only thing that got stolen when my daughter took it to Reading Festival!) and at home for cold and hot drinks. They come with our lovely Gertie seagull logo and they have a certain nautical appeal in their navy and white.

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When you buy one, not only will a Seabird do an actual happy dance (think Snoopy) but as as Social Enterprise we reinvest our profits back into the community through local charities that help people tackle mental health issues by going into the sea. So you too can do a happy dance when you feel your money is funding good stuff and you are getting a pint mug for your tea that will last forever! #pintforlife #pintoftea

Author: Seabird Cath

Swim Changing Robe – privacy for your privates

We get in the sea almost every day. We have no changing rooms. We get changed on the beach, basically in public. Unless you are a blatant exhibitionist there comes a time when you would like to cover up and be able to get changed without flashing the passers by. There also comes a time, around November, when you need to get changed as fast possible with as little biting wind nipping your tender flesh as you struggle to pull up your pants!

We had a few towelling changing robes amongst us but were not satisfied with what we had. They were too small, prone to tearing at the splits on the side and worst of all , prone to boob flashing down the arm holes! No good at all. Others of us were using micro-fibre towels. Again no good at all as they shed plastic micro-fibres into the water when we wash them. So we wanted to find; big, natural fibre, great quality changing robesthat allowed us to change quickly and securely without flashing our bits to all and sundry. We looked for the best available on the market…

We found them with Booicore. A family business started by a couple who love extreme sports and knew first hand the outdoor changing struggle. Booicore make their robes in the EU. They have designed them to be roomier and longer than others on the market. They are long enough for even the tallest amongst us. They are wider and hang lower on the arms so no boob sightings. They are well made and wash well. Best of all they are really pretty and come in many bright colours so we can look like a gang of rainbow Jedi on the beach after a dip! What more could we want?

Booicore say “The Booicore changing towel is extremely durable, combining convenience, warmth and comfort. So, after a day mountain biking, surfing or swimming there is no more struggling with getting changed on the beach or in the car. Our towel is manufactured to give you plenty of room to keep your modesty intact.” and Seabirds totally agree. Which is why we are happy to sell them here.

Let us know your favourite colours in the comments.

Review by Cath Seabird

Tips for warming up after sea swimming

“After drop” is common after swimming in cold water; you get out and feel fine, and then you start to get colder, sometimes growing faint, shivering violently and feeling unwell.” (Outdoor Swimming Society) 

Learning to head off the after drop is a key part of continuing to swim in cold water all year round. While in the cold water you can be lured into a false sense of security (numbness!) and stay in for what turns out to be too long. With practice you learn your limitations and just how cold you are going to be about 10 minutes after getting out. You then moderate your swim times and get out before you feel you have to. Then the key is warming up – slowly. If you have a hot shower, for example, the blood can run from your core (where it is working hard to maintain your core temperature and keep you alive!) to your skin and actually make your temperature drop along with your blood pressure – potentially making you feel faint and ‘stinging’ your skin.

Tips to warm up after you get out of cold water: 

  • Get dressed as soon as you can. Preferably starting with the top half of your body.  Use a haramaki. As you start to warm up blood starts to recirculate in your extremities and peripheral blood vessels, cooling as it travels. You can lose up to 4.5°C from your core temperature so a haramaki is great.
  • Use a robe or a sports cloak to get dressed quicker and protect you from the windchill as well as your dignity.
  • Put on a hat and gloves and have some tea from a flask you brought with you!
  • Put on lots of layers. Haramaki, gloves, hat, thermals.
  • Sip a warm drink: this helps warm the body gently from the inside.
  • Eat something: sugar will help raise body temperature so have some cake!
  • Sit in a warm environment: chance for more tea and more cake with your fellow swimmers….
  • Walk around to generate body heat. It can take some time to warm properly. Running up and down the beach while waiting for your friends-who-faff can help.

For more information about acclimatising to cold water, the benefits and the risks go to the Outdoor Swimming Society 

If you have any good tips please add in the comments 🙂

Author: Cath Seabird

Swimming with my Sister

My love of swimming in the sea was cultivated from a young age. I spent every school holiday, even the cold winter ones, in a converted railway carriage on Selsey’s East Beach. It was the stuff of Enid Blyton books. Sea swimming numerous times a day, camping out in haystacks, racing the Lifeboat maroon onto the beach and cycling on an array of Rand Hand Gang bikes for miles on the flat reclaimed land. All of this I shared with my brother, foster siblings, cousins, new friends (now firmly established as old friends) and my little sister. With only 2 years between us in age no matter how much I tried to shake her, there was always my younger sister! In her orange towelling bathing suit.

She was ever present in the sea with me. If there was a summer thunder storm at night we would be allowed to get out of bed to jump into the sea to watch the fork lightning display floating on our backs. (It was the 1970s there was no H&S). We perfected our jumping and diving at high tide off the breakwaters into the depths that the long shore drift had created. We created flotillas of rubber dinghies, washed up crabbing pots and floats and old rowing boats and set sail into low tide lagoons.

With exactly the same upbringing and childhood experiences it has always fascinated me how we grew into such different adults. She is always well turned out and I look like something the cat dragged in. She has incredible patience with people, probably due to working as a nurse for 25 years, and I, diplomatically put, do not. She is able to cope with blood and gore while I am firmly hidden behind the cushion. I get in the sea all year round and she, even on on a summers day does not. But she did. She just doesn’t anymore.

The family holidays of the 1970s and 80s on the Sussex coast have been replaced with annual family celebration holidays. If there is an 0 or a 5 at the end of your birthday year you are expected to find a big house, by the sea, and invite siblings, parents, children, aunts, cousins and dogs to join you. This year it was Dad’s 75th and we headed off to Bude at Easter. I packed my swim suit, my sister did not.

What is not outwardly apparent is that behind my sisters immaculate appearance and organised life she has more than most to deal with. Her youngest daughter Emily has been refusing to go to school for most of her time at senior school. She is now in year 10 and they have lived with school refusal for 3 years. My sister works for the NHS and is like a blood hound when it comes to getting answers but even with that on her side she is no closer to a resolution. I could go on and on about the lack of services available, scarce school funding, female autism going un-diagnosed, acute anxiety, daily melt downs but you get the picture. Life is incredibly hard for my sister and my niece. With that in mind I planned to get Emily in the sea. This I knew would be relatively easy as she loves the sea. It calms her and gives her overworked brain a rest. She swims with me at Grandma Seaside’s on the Isle of Wight and this time in Cornwall her cousin and uncle were going to teach her how to surf. We bought spare wet suits, gloves, boots, robes with us and Emily packed her swimsuit.

So during the holiday, Emily headed into the sea at Widemouth bay and had some foamie fun in the white water. My sister watched from the beach, every present, ever anxious. She doesn’t like the cold water and the waves fill her with dread. Yet here she was watching her daughter, entrusting her to her cousin, having fun. Knowing she had to sideline her own anxiety to allow Emily some respite. Later I went in for a skin swim with my sister-in-law, in the waves, to the amazement of neoprene clad on lookers and again my sister looked on. Same seventies upbringing in the sea but she couldn’t bring herself to get in. To be honest it didn’t even cross my mind to ask her if she wanted to join us as I assumed the answer would be a firm no. And she hadn’t packed her swimsuit.

The holiday house was full, all week, with wet-suits, towels, swimsuits drying on every available radiator and hook. Talk was invariably about swimming, surf spots and surf reports. Post sea highs where shared around the fire with steaming mugs of post sea tea. The highlight of the week was that my husband and niece were going to join me for a swim in the iconic Bude Tide Pool. The surprise of the week was when my sister announced she’d like to join us too! Now to find her a swimsuit.

I often wonder what made her decide to come for a cold water skin swim that day. I think it was because she could see how much it does for my mental health and for her daughters. Perhaps she was curious about the post swim happiness high and whether it too would be some respite for her. Maybe it was good old fashioned sibling rivalry. The Tide pool has sides and a way to get in safely with no crashing waves. It also has changing rooms so that you don’t have to struggle on the sand to get your knickers on. For her the perfect conditions. So she borrowed by daughters swimsuit, refused neoprene but donned various rash-vests, gloves and boots. She questioned why she was doing it over and over again on the way there but didn’t turn back.

We talked a lot about cold water shock and what she should expect when she got in the water. It was March when the sea is at it coldest. I got in first and showed her how I floated on my back and controlled by breathing. She attempted to get in a few times and needed a bit of coaxing but eventually she took the plunge. You could see by her face she was trying really hard to control her breath so we sang. We swam and and we sang and slowly she was able to talk and regulate her breathing and we took a gentle breast stroke turn around the pool. And we were transported back to the 1970s when we regularly swam in the sea together. She was able to forget about life’s daily challenges for a few precious minutes and was so chuffed with herself that she had done it her happiness was infectious. For those few precious minutes she was back in her orange towelling swimsuit with no inhibitions, self consciousness or anxieties.

As a regular outdoor swimmer I am asked all the time if I have a favourite swim. Well this was it. It was the best swim ever. I have swum in the beautiful Glens of Scotland, Tarns in the Lake District, Rivers in the Somerset levels but I never thought I’d see the day when I would share the sea with my sister again. There was no thunder storm, breakwater jumping or dinghies but I did share the sea with my sister again. And it was the best! And now when she holidays in the UK she packs her swimsuit. My sister is a Seabird.

Author: Kath Seabird

Meet the Maker I – Richard Levine

Our exciting new feature, ‘Meet the Maker’, focuses on individual artists, designers and generally creative peeps, finding out what helps to float their boat.

“My work is experimental and playful, not constrained by a single discipline.”


First up is award-winning artist Richard Levine, whose invaluable input helped Seabirds design and create our logo. Richard is a very patient man; you can see this quality reflected in his artwork, over and over again in the painstaking, minute attention to detail in his pieces. He spent weeks teaching me how to use Illustrator, a fiendishly complicated computer drawing programme for someone more comfortable with pencil and paper. Without Richard I would certainly be in need of a wig by now, and the logo would be a piece of cr*p. Erm, not very good at all.

When we met yesterday, in a little café tucked away from the busyness that is Brighton seafront, I asked Richard to talk to me about his work. For someone who describes themselves as primarily a “graphic artist”, it’s hardly surprising that he cites his primary influences as the “OP” (Optical) artists of the 60s and 70s, think Bridget Riley and Viktor Vasarely. He was also inspired by vintage Disney animation from the 20s and 30s – Mickey Mouse remains his first love (sorry Alisa).  What is more unlikely however, is his admiration for some of the “Old Masters”, such as Holbein. We also chatted about Van Gogh for some time and Richard explained that he aims to combine all his inspirations into one, single whole – a completely new genre if you like. He says It’s like throwing everything into a bucket, shaking it up and seeing what comes out.”

He begins by mixing pattern and colour in hundreds of different combinations and then applies this to a 3D form, such as a dog. “I chose dogs because everyone recognises their form.” My mission is that you should be able to recognise what the image is, but as a completely new thing, a new idea.”

This summer Richard won Judges’ Choice award in the Castle Fine Arts Summer Exhibition. “I see this as a real breakthrough – to be included as one of the twenty finalists was amazing enough but to win outright, well, it hasn’t really sunk in yet to be honest.” Even though he’s had exhibitions in the USA, Japan and Europe, and has had work commissioned- his portrait of Richard the Third presently hangs in the Offices of Leicester City Council, he feels like winning this award takes him to the next level. Although, still exhilarated by his recent recognition, Richard remains his usual down to earth self – “You can’t please everyone, you’ve just got to do what you like yourself.” Happily, for Richard though, other people like it too. Check out more of Richard’s incredible work here. Richard’s Website

So next we turned to talking about sea swimming, which Richard began this April, inspired by seeing some our Seabirds photos which we’d posted online. He thought that it looked like a lot of fun and had been wanting to get in the sea for some time; 15 years to be precise. His first “swim” lasted exactly 1 minute – he knows this because he gave his son a stopwatch to time him. The second day he managed 2 minutes and was up to 12 minutes by the end of April. You might be thinking that this sounds much more like some kind of endurance test than anything else, but Richard explained that he had never experienced such a “serotonin feed-back” either during or after any other form of exercise (he should know, he’s tried them all: running, walking, cycling, yoga, Pilates, the gym, I could go on). He likes the way that it makes him feel more grounded and immediately brings him back into his body, particularly as he spends a lot of time alone with his thoughts, while he is working. It sets him up for the day and makes him feel as though he has accomplished something. He’s now, by his own admission, completely addicted and a day without a dip, is definitely lacking. Richard is now utterly convinced of the restorative benefits of the sea. As are we.

Author Ruth Seabird