Sunday, 27 April 2014


Song for the week is a bit like me: it's pretty old and extremely unfashionable, and check out his voice - definitely effeminate.  However, it is metaphorical and doesn't really appear to be what it is on the surface.  This second sentence does not apply to me.....I once met Al Stewart and did that thing when because I had no reference to him apart from songs I couldn't think of anything to say.  I think I managed, "You write songs" and he said "Yes", which was kind as he probably didn't need me to tell him what he did. I need to polish up my small talk.

      Dark and the Rolling Sea - Al Stewart (now I see why my dad used to moan about long hair.                                                                       It's just not right...)

It's been an early Saturday morning, same as always.  I went down to the local lake at Welwyn which has just opened up for swimming.  I had some guys from a well known news agency photographing a filming me.  They want to chart my progress and put a multi media presentation together of the whole event.  Today was to get to meet me and then test out some of their equipment.

It all got off to a poor start. We arrived at 6.30am on a dark, drizzly morning to find that I wasn't allowed to swim without a wetsuit. It's not the worst news I have ever had, but part of the training for the Channel is about acclimatising to cold water.  The fact that I may well use a wetsuit for the Arch to Arc means that I wasn't too bothered, but I prefer the freedom and masochism of natural swimming. Nothing breathes more life into the body than a cold water swim. I even have a weird affection for the pneumatic grip of the shivers that can loosen your fillings. Anyway, the guys were able to film and get me to do swimmy things which I wouldn't have been able to do had I been shivering my nether regions off in the cold.  Poor old Dave D who had come for one of his stupid fast swims hadn't got his suit and just hung around with the guys, whilst what should have been an hour long swim turned into a two hour Vogue wetsuit shoot (that is obviously not true).

Dave Dawson, High Priest of Umbrellas, patiently waits whilst Neil and Lee take pictures and I take pictures of them. I am in the lake at this moment.

But talking of masochism I guess it might be assumed that there is a darker side of my psyche that allows me to push myself to levels of pain that would appear to be self harming.  I understand that, apart from the fact that I am terrified of pain and in doing all these events do my damnedest to avoid hurting.  Sure, I go to some pretty dark places mentally, but the overall sensation of completing a big event is a sense of achievement and satisfaction that I find hard to describe.  And so, junky that I am, I keep going. I think I understand why I can keep going.

When I used to drink so destructively, I thought I was weak.  My friends and family reinforced this by saying stuff like "use your willpower - just stop after a couple", or "your problem is you have no willpower".  Both viewpoints, helpful as they were meant to be, were missing the reality of a life threatening situation.  Firstly, no amount of willpower will help a person deal with addiction. The less travelled road to recovery is down a completely different path where willpower serves no purpose. No human power can match up to an addiction.  Secondly, and here is the paradox of addiction, it was only when I got sober and talked to some very knowledgeable people that I discovered that part of my problem was that I had willpower in spades.  It takes a very determined, very committed person to stand at a bar at lunchtime and order a pint of strong lager when he is still reeling, suffering and nauseous from the night before.  But I could do that day after day after day.  Now that is willpower!

Nowadays I don't do that.  But it became part of my life to use that tremendous capacity, that strength of will,  to keep going in a more constructive, more satisfying way.  So now, when I am in those dark places 60 miles into a 78 mile run,  suffering, reeling I tap into that willpower.  I can take the suffering because the end game is worth it.  And I remind myself every single day of my life that no matter how hard an event is, it is nowhere near as hard as it was when I stood at those endless bars day after day exercising my willpower and sinking from sight.

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