A Bird’s Best Books

This book should be read outside – may it go waterlogged, sun-buckled and wind-chapped

I am an avid reader. When I wasn’t building camps, sailing, running or rock pooling I spent much of my childhood immersed in a book. My whole family are big readers and a lot of our family chat is about which book we’ve just read and would recommend. As an adult I am still the extremes I was as a child. Either running around doing 100 things at once or curled up in a corner with a good book. Every year I receive money for my birthday from my Father-in-Law. This year, with the money, I bought an old leather armchair that I placed next to a blanket box (full of cosy blankets) and a lamp. My proudest moment as a mummy was when my youngest read a book in a day – I remember vividly doing that as a child.

I am a huge lover of fantasy and fairy tales and many of my favourite books are surrounded in mystery and magic. But I have found myself drawn to books of a different ilk of late. I now have a large collection of swim related books. I am not a fan of real life reads normally and the only autobiography I have read is Dolly Parton’s (amazing woman). But in my collection of swimming books are real peoples real life accounts of their relationship with wild swimming. And I have found I like it!

So here are my top ten recommendations – the market is kind of flooded with them so there are so many more I have read and could have chosen. I clearly have a preference for those who use water to wash away their demons. I wonder why?

  1. Waterlog: A Swimmers Journey Through Britain by Roger Deakin. Roger is a dude who had his own moat to swim in – which I believe Seabird Kate’s cousin now owns. He was an environmentalist and campaigned for public access to wild spaces including wild swimming. The book is a journal of his swims in fens, rivers, lakes and the sea. The way he describes the swims make you imagine you are there with him – pure escapism and real magic
  2. Floating: A Life Regained by Joe Minihane. Joe is a Brighton resident and swims off the beaches in Kemptown. He also came and did a complimentary talk for us as part of our Swimposium. Joe’s experience of anxiety really resonates with me, which is why his book is in my top ten. It’s loosely based on Roger Deakin’s book above as Joe seeks to swim the same swims.
  3. A Boy in the Water by Tom Gregory. This is a short autobiographical read. Tom was, and still is the youngest swimmer to cross the English Channel. No offence to anyone who has crossed the channel since, but he did it 80s styley. The book is full of Generation X nostalgia, from the fashion he was wearing to the music he was listening to – a brilliant backdrop to a book about a boy and his swim coach.
  4. I Found my Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice. I have found many tribes over the years to meet my needs. But none have needed a tribe more so than Ruth with a husband with advanced MND and 5 (yes that’s 5) children. She starts swimming with friends who call themselves “The Tragic Wives” Swimming Club’ and they swim under the full moon just like the Salty Seabirds. Life affirming, tragic but also uplifting read.
  5. Wild Woman Swimming by Lynne Roper. This book is a collection of writings by the author who swam in Devon and particularly in the River Dart but also the coast. Lynne had survived breast cancer and began swim and continued to swim, all the while writing lyrical about her swims until tragically she died 5 years later from a Brain Tumour. Tanya Shadrick met Lynne, just once, a month before her death and promised her she would edit and publish her writing. And she did. Tanya set up Selkie Press Publishing specifically to do this. (I have heard Tanya read from the book – as well as being a talented and accomplished writer she has a velvet reading voice that you could listen to forever)
  6. Salt on Your Tongue – By Charlotte Runcie. This book, which I read very recently was the perfect combination of a personal story intertwined with mythology and magic. Charlotte writes as she experiences pregnancy and the birth of her first child. As she writes she explores her relationship with the sea and all of the women, real or fictional that went before her. Expect lots of quotes from the book in future blogs.
  7. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. This is the first book selected for Rowena’s Women and Nature Book Club . Amy tells her story of life as a functioning alcoholic and returning home to Orkney as part of her recovery. It’s very real read and when she resettles on the Orkney isles her experiences of morning sea swims and relationship with seabirds made me smile.
  8. The Salt Path by Raynor Wynn. I have read this 3 times! Another life affirming true story written by Ray about becoming homeless and walking the Southwest coastal path with no money, an ill husband and a tent. She is incredibly stoic, and so I found her hard to warm to, but her writing draws you in. A book about how nature and the sea can heal you and if you’ve got love you’ve really got all that you need.
  9. Swell: A Waterbiography by Jenny Landreth. Confession time! I’ve got this book but not read it yet. But since reading Salt on Your Tongue and the exploration of Women’s relationship with the sea I am keen to read this. Women haven’t always enjoyed the access to swimming that they have now. This book charts e social history of the women that went before us to gain equal access in 1930. It is also the author’s story of her experience of swimming.
  10. Swimming with Seals by Victoria Whitworth. Another one on my bedside table. It appeals because again it is someone’s story about her regular swims in the sea with a supportive swimming community and how her experiences changed her life. Again set in Scotland I cannot wait to read it.

So there you have it. Ten books. Eight I have read and two I am yet to read. If you do decide to buy a book make a small business smile and buy from an independent book shop. Our favourite is Steyning Book Shop . Happy Staying In Seabirds xx

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August Book Club Read

A Boy in the Water by Tom Gregory

This months book is a book I was bought for my birthday by my mum. It was on my list of books to read so it was perfect timing when it arrived in the post. I haven’t actually read it yet – I am saving it for my summer holiday in France next week.

But look at it, just look at it. A 1980’s nostalgic snap on the front cover and the familiar penguin publishing orange is just inviting you in!

As my eldest child is preparing to leave home next year and we have lots of ‘last’ holidays this type of book could tip me over the edge. I have spent this summer wistfully looking back over old photos of both my children and photos of me as a child – an emotional trip back in time.  All of our happy times are by the sea. We’re just back from a very quick trip to the Isle of Wight which still has early closing. Physically transporting me back in time. So I think it will be tissues at the ready when I read this book.

The author, Tom is the the youngest person to have ever swum the channel. It is a memoir that spans 4 years with a back drop of 80s music on mix tapes. Reading the reviews even made my eyes begin to sting. It is a book that captures the innocence of childhood, the determination of a man in the making and the relationship between swimmer and coach. I cannot wait to dive in!

 

July Book Club Read

July’s Seabird Book Club Read. Floating

It’s been less that a month since we re-launched the Seabirds Virtual Book Club but it is already time for July’s book.

This month we move away from the science of Tristan Gooley to the memoir by Joe Minihane. “Floating: A Life Regained” sees the author follow in the footsteps of Roger Deakin and swims in the locations described in Waterlog. As a Seabird my favourite type of swimming is floating so the title immediately appealed. Joe is also based in Brighton so there was another tenuous link. He probably won’t remember, but I met him swimming in the sea once in front of the bandstand with his friend Seabird Laura. I went all a bit star struck and he just smiled.

As for the book – I know it will appeal to the seabird flock. It’s acutely honest and touches upon topics we regularly consider when swimming in the sea. Our joyful love of being outside and experiencing nature first hand. The warmth of the friendship we have found within our flock. A story of acceptance of his anxiety and how to live with it is also a common theme in our clan.

He writes; “In swimming I found the only thing that truly broke me out of my anxious cycle for longer than a few moments…I swam to fix myself.”

It’s on my list to read again, and again, and again. Joe is a Seabird. Enjoy Salties

xx

 

Seabird Summer Reads

With summer on the horizon. or at least the hope of summer, it’s time to get out a pile of books to read!

With summer holidays on the horizon and the wild swim group continuing to grow it feels like the right time to re-launch the Seabirds Book Club

The next best thing to being in the sea is getting lost in a good book. During our sea swims we often find ourselves talking about the last book we read or which book is next on our list.

Here’s how the seabirds virtual Book Club works;

  • Once a Month a new book is chosen for the Seabird virtual Book Club members to read.
  • It will be announced on Social Media.
  • Ideally the book chosen should be water, sea, swimming, well being related.
  • Anyone can chose a book or write a review – just comment away on social media or here.

This month’s book is ‘How to Read Water: Clues & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea’ by Tristan Gooley. It teaches you how to read the sea and forecast the weather from the waves. It also includes how to read the water associated with ponds and rivers as well as interpreting the colour of the water and understand wave patterns as they break on the beach.

There are lots of references to wild swimming in Sussex so it should prove to be a Seabird’s favourite. It also builds on some of the sea behaviours we touched upon in the Safe Swim Q & A series at Sea Lanes. But our best tenuous link is that the author attended Sandhurst Royal Military Academy with Salty Seabird Jo – apparently he was asked to leave after turning up naked to parade! For that reason alone it must be worth a read.

Here are the links to previous reads;

June 2018 read – The Salt Path , Raynor Winn

July 2018 read – The Last Wave,  Gillian Best

August 2018 read – The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club by Katie May

September 2018 read – Wild Woman Swimming, Lynne Roper

October 2018 read – I found my Tribe, Ruth Fitzmaurice

November 2018 read -Swell A Waterbiography by Jenny Landreth

 

 

 

I Found My Tribe – Seabirds October Book Club Read

I don’t believe we are just numbing ourselves in this sea. I look at my friends coping and surviving. Like the rolling of waves, the thrill of the dive, the rush of the cold, they choose to stay unchained. This is as free as we can possibly be

So this months book review has been written in one of Brighton’s Cafes when I was able to prise my hands away from a hot steaming mug.  I have just been for a sea swim and now it is October there is definitely a drop in the air temperature requiring a thaw out afterwards. What better way to do it on International Coffee Day, in a Cafe, writing about a book that resonated with me so strongly. This month’s book is ‘I Found My Tribe’ by Ruth Fitzmaurice.

I have very little in common with the author but so much in common with her. It is a collection of memories of her life, with her membership in the Tragic Wives’ Swimming Club as a back drop. It documents her thoughts, fears, experiences and swims from the point when her husband is diagnosed with MND to a full moon swim on their wedding anniversary. The chapters are all short and sweet with the most wonderful titles, such as ‘Waves (And Cheese Puffs)’

The things I do not have in common with the author are numerous. She has 5 kids none of whom are in double digits and I have 2 teenagers but we are both mums. Her husband has Motor Neurone Disease and can only communicate with his eyes. Mine is fighting fit but we both struggle to always see eye to eye with our spouses. She lives in rural Ireland and I live in urban Brighton but we both love swimming in the sea and use it as a coping strategy to deal with everyday life. She swims with the Tragic Wives’ Club and I swim with the Salty Seabirds.

I genuinely do not know how she has managed to fit in a swim with 5 children and a husband who needs round the clock care. She is really quite remarkable, hugely resilient and a great role model for modern day mothers. But the best bit about the book is you can easily pick it up and put it down. It is a perfect read for the train or bus as they are all short sweet chapters that can be read independently of each other. Or for those of us that start to get sleepy when we read before bed. Or for readers that just want to grab a read with a sandwich at lunchtime. Just remember your tissues!

Along with Lynne Roper who penned last month’s book Wild Woman Swimming, I was inspired by Ruth to organise a Harvest Moon swim for the Seabirds last week. Ruth’s moon swim is the conclusion to her book and it was something I was very keen to try. It was wonderful watching my tribe appear across the shingle and make their way to the waters edge to swim under a simply stunning full moon. At that moment I knew I had found my tribe.

Hope you all enjoy the book – as ever please do let us know!

 

 

September Book Club Read

I am finding it hard to put into words my thoughts about the September Seabirds Virtual Book Club read. Just thinking about some of the emotions this book invokes starts the back of my eyes stinging and the laptop screen becomes a bit of a blur. It is also an impossible task as nothing I can even contemplate writing comes close to the authors wonderful way with words. I think the best thing to do is just read it, and read it again, and again and again and again.

Wild Woman Swimming is a collection of Lynne Roper’s diary entries about wild swimming. The entries were written over a five year period in which she was recovering from a double mastectomy until her passing. Lots of her thoughts, experiences and stories resonate with me as they will for anyone who has been fortunate enough to be part of an outdoor swimming community.

The book was edited by Tanya Shadrick, Pells Pool‘s writer in residence for the last couple of years. I was lucky enough to attend a Swim Talk event recently where Tanya was a participant speaker and heard her read extracts from the book. She has the kind of gentle brogue you could listen too forever, slightly hypnotic and incredibly soothing. And when the words she recites have such insight into the freedom and respite wild swimming can provide…… well you have the perfect partnership.

So here is a taster to wet your reading appetite. “It’s a spiritual experience, sliding through wild water. Worries dissolve, my mind is liberated; thoughts flow and glide and play like dolphins. My soul swims wild.”

Enjoy and may all of your souls swim wild.

**Disclaimer – This s a book to be read outside – may it go waterlogged, sun-buckled and wind-chapped.

August Book Club Read

August already, so time for another book. I hope you enjoyed the previous two reads, The Salt Path and The Last Wave.

This Seabird is about to jet off to Turkey for two weeks and this is the book I am taking with me! The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club by Katie May. The author is a sea swimmer who lives in Whitstable a shingle beach similar to that of Brighton. So she is a Seabird by default.

The Good Read Review said –  the uplifting novel about friendship, community spirit and how ordinary people protect what they love. 

It struck a real chord with me as it is about friendships formed on the beach and in the sea. There is a familiar backdrop of a change in personal circumstances for some of the characters. This is exactly how the Seabirds came together. During difficult times we found each other and the solace of sea swimming, drawing strength from each other.  We never planned to keep going all year round, we just didn’t stop and grew into a a wonderfully eclectic sea swimming group. We became the Seabird Community.

One of the book’s characters is described as a bossy organiser – I think I know that seabird is me!

As ever with the Seabirds Virtual Book Club please let us know your recommendations and you thoughts on previous reads. I can’t wait to get on a sun lounger and start this months.

Seabird’s Book Club – July Book

So I finished the Salt Path. It was a wonderful read. I know many of the places referred to on the SW Coastal Path so it was very familiar to me. The situation the main characters found themselves in, is not. It left me heart broken at times, especially knowing that this was NOT a work of fiction! A read for the bedroom or the sofa rather than a public beach unless you are wearing a huge pair of Jackie ‘O’ glasses to hide the tears. I really warmed to Raynor – a survivor in the truest sense. If you haven’t read it yet – DO!

This month’s book is The Last Wave by Gillian Best. Her debut novel. I am already nearly finished and is an easy read. The story is told by the main characters – each with their own perspective on events that happen throughout their lives. Always in the background is one woman’s love of sea swimming and the escape from day to day drudge, responsibilities and worries it provides. The main character, Martha, is clearly a Seabird. I hope you enjoy the July read.

Here’s the blurb: A beautifully rendered family drama set in England between the 1940s and the present, following the life of Martha, a woman who has swum the English Channel ten times, and the complex relationships she has with her husband, her children and her close friends.

The one constant in Martha’s life is the sea, which offers an escape from her responsibilities as a wife and a mother, consolation when she becomes ill and comfort when her husband succumbs to dementia.

The Last Wave is a wholly authentic, tragicomic portrait of family life as it is buffeted by sickness, intolerance, anger, failure and regret. This mature and compelling new voice offers a novel soaked in empathy and salt water.

Here’s how the seabirds virtual Book Club works;

  • Once a Month a new book is chosen for the Seabird virtual Book Blub members to read.
  • It will be announced on Social Media.
  • Ideally the book chosen should be water, sea, swimming, well being related.
  • Anyone can chose a book or write a review – just comment away on social media or here.

 

 

Seabird Book Club

The next best thing to being in the sea is getting lost in a good book. Preferably on a beach. But if not, a bed, sofa, cafe or pub will do. Whether you download audio books, use an eBook Readers or stick with analogue paper copies, reading is good way to unwind and rest for a few minutes or hours every day. During our sea swims we often find ourselves talking about the last book we read or which book is next on our list. So we’ve decided to open up the discussion to the wider seabird community and launch our Book Club alongside our webshop.

The Seabird’s Book Club is virtual.  So, if you can’t make the first Thursday of every month in the Mermaid Pub then you can still be a member and join in! You also won’t get publicly named and shamed for not finishing the chosen book. If you don’t like the chosen book….you don’t have to read it….or you can wait for the review the following month to see if it’s worth a punt. All of these things have prevented me from joining any sort of Book Club in the past. I can’t stay up later than 9pm and I certainly can’t go out past 7pm. And the sort of people I associate with Book Club’s tend to be PTA or academic types, both of which intimidate me. I’m also scared someone will choose Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. This is probably not true in the slightest. But I have convinced myself it is for many years. But I like reading and I love talking about a good book. So a virtual Book Club it is.

Benefits of a Book Club

  • Helps you to focus on finishing the book – makes you put aside ‘me’ time.
  • Reading reduces stress – fact!
  • Book Club book discussions aren’t English Literature exams. Members aren’t expected to analyse the language used or know what a simile is. It’s an informal chat about a book and what you liked or disliked about it.
  • You become part of a reading community and make make new friends

Here’s how the seabirds virtual Book Club works;

  • Once a Month a new book is chosen for the Seabird virtual Book Blub members to read.
  • It will be announced on Social Media.
  • Ideally the book chosen should be water, sea, swimming, well being related.
  • Anyone can chose a book or write a review – just comment away on social media or here.

JUNE BOOK

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

From the inside flap:

Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

Hope you enjoy it. I am 4 chapters in and gripped (and an emotional wreck!)