(Oliver-based title pun, ‘cos the production currently at Newcastle Theatre Royal is very worth seeing. But I digress).
Okay, so this morning, I got up at half-past four and jumped in the North Sea with no clothes on. As I’m now home and dry (literally), have caught up on some sleep, and the feeling has come back to my extremities, I can now tell the full dramatic story – including why I would do such a thing, and whether or not it was good for me.
It was a few months ago when I first heard that it was happening, through Facebook. My intial reaction was “You’ll never get me doing that”. Then I was a maybe. Then a definite yes. But why, I hear you all ask, would you want to get up at daft o’clock on a weekend, take off every stitch of clothing, and go swimming in some bloody freezing water? It’s a fair question. One, I like my weekend lie-ins. Two, I don’t exactly have the body of a Greek god. Three, the North Sea is surely very cold.
However, it occurred to me that this was something of a challenge to my personal confidence. There was a time when I’d never even contemplate such a thing, but these days, I’m a lot more inclined to push my own boundaries. We all have our comfort zones. But I feel that if we occasionally allow ourselves to go even just a small way out of that, even though it may be scary, when we get through it, we’ve created a greater comfort zone. And the more we do that, the more we can expect to achieve generally.
Psychotherapeutic ramblings aside, there was also the charity aspect. Like many of the participants, I raised money for Mind, a mental health charity. So these two reasons were good enough, I thought, to deprive myself of a Saturday sleep-in and some body heat.
I duly signed up and awaited my fate. Now, I’m pleased to report that the whole thing was tremendous fun. Quick cup of coffee immediately after getting up, and then into the car, with two more intrepid dippers. By 6.15 we were at the dip site, acclimatising ourselves to the temperature (about 5.5 degrees, according to the BBC’s coverage). The sand in particular was very, very cold, so not too kind to our feet. It left me wondering just how cold the water would be.
Eventually, the appointed time arrived, and at the signal, 146 people took off their clothes and ran for the sea, like an army of excited Reginald Perrins. On getting to the sea, I was surprised. It was actually a decent temperature; better than the air temperature at any rate. It didn’t take too long to get used to; soon I was swimming about, dodging waves and basically enjoying thre freedom of being in the water with nothing on. It really is a liberating feeling, much more so when there are numerous others doing the same thing.
But getting out of the water was the worst thing, as then I was cold again, and though I got into some warm clothes sharpish, it took a while for my feet to feel like there was blood running around them again. A sausage sarnie and a coffee from the handy van helped. But I did leave feeling that I really should have stayed in longer. This is my only regret.
So yeah, the comfort zone I spoke of earlier has been expanded, and I’d most likely do this, or something similar, again. I’m still not terribly pleased with my body, but this isn’t to say that I feel ashamed of it. Because, as anyone who does attend such events will testify, naked people are not all supposed to look like underwear models. They look like real people, just without clothes. And there’s something undefinably cool and natural about that.
So many thanks to Jax and Mark for organising it, to those who sponsored me, and to those who re-tweeted my adverts for it (including John Prescott, no less). It’s done me a lot of good, and hopefully Mind, too.