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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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.