Still swimming

Got bored the two time strands – past and present – and catching up with the past. Got bored with taking photos at Pt Chevalier beach, I have a ridiculous number of them. But that doesn’t mean I won’t carry on catching up, but at a certain point I will run out of photos because I haven’t taken one for ages. And, then there’s no catching up to do because if there’s no photo, there’s no record of the swim. I’ve been going to Pt Chevalier beach nearly every day since about October last year. Except for the times I was at Agnes Waters in Queensland. Yes, you read correctly, that’s Queensland, in Australia!!! I have read that if you use more than three exclamation marks in a row, it shows you are a bit unhinged. Agnes Waters is a beautiful beach. I was there a month ago. Stupidly hot climate. Very warm water. Lovely swims. I have photos, somewhere… here are some. Totally unedited, so the colours and definition are a bit flat.

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Agnes Waters waters – hazy with smoke because there was a bush fire nearby

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Agnes Waters Surfer

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Early morning sunshine from the lookout point on our last day there

Swam today at Pt Chevalier beach, midday tide, sunny, lots of people. Didn’t make to the beach until well after high tide. The outgoing tidal current is strong so I decided not to swim to the buoy. Yes, that’s a development. We have been swimming to the buoy. There are three buoys actually, we have swum to two of them.

Sometimes I swim to the closest buoy by myself. That’s 15 minutes swimming each way, 30 minutes total. It might not sound like much but to me it’s epic. When I first tried seriously swimming freestyle again a couple of years ago I could barely manage five strokes without losing breath. Before that I tended to swim backstroke but now I mainly swim freestyle. So, I can swim for 30 minutes without getting tired.

And I’m reading lots these days. Glad I can. Brain function seems to be improving, finally. Read a Tim Winton novel last week. Currently reading Joan Didion’s ‘Year of Magical Thinking’. Plus lots of poetry. Language poets, and modernists. Missing when I was an undergraduate studying English literature. Same old story really – I didn’t realise how lucky I was. Would love to be studying literature now. I have a much greater understanding of the things they write about. Many of the works we read were written by people who are a similar age to what I am now (which is top secret, by the way). When you are twenty-something it is difficult to get a grasp on many of the big issues like death, ageing, the weirdness of time and memory, the importance of appreciating sunsets and even clouds…

I currently have a schoolgirl crush on this poem:

in a station of the metro

It is verbless. And I love it. Impressionism. Imagism. Modernism.

And I LOVE this one too…

red wheelbarrow

William Carlos Williams. For some reason I missed out on the modernists when I was at uni. I did virtually every other poetry class but had a bad attitude towards them. Thought they were boring. ‘glazed with rain water’ … ‘Petals on a wet, black bough’ … soooo impressionistic, but in a unambiguous, clear way.

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On time

This photograph reminds me of the Odyssey. Or something. The little boat is all by itself, yet appears to have several people on board. Alone but not alone. Perhaps these are Ancient Greek waters. The dingy could be a small Ancient Greek fishing vessel propelled by Ancient Greek oars. The people on board could be wearing Ancient Greek robes and carrying Ancient Greek spears and shields – just in case. Or this little boat could be transporting a few furtive Vikings from Norway to England as they survey the coast and plan future battles.

High tide is getting later and later in the day. This was taken yesterday just after 5pm. These late tides are a bit of a challenge with shorter days and cooler temperatures. Daylight savings ended at the beginning of April so it is dark by about 6pm these days.

Solitary little boat floats near Pt Chevalier beach on the upper Waitemata Harbour April 16 2015

Solitary little boat floats near Pt Chevalier beach on the upper Waitemata Harbour April 16 2015

Daylight savings gives us a tiny taste of time travel. A whole hour. Reading is time travel. Any reading. The older the text, the further the travel. This blog has two time-threads running through it. The present, and the past. Present swims, and past swims that I have photographed but haven’t written about. Both of these threads are chronological. The present is always chronological and it gets mixed up with the past which is also chronological but only sometimes. I’d like to catch the past up to the present so there are no past photographs and swims left in the past. But they are all in the past. Even the present is in the past by the time I write about it. So, it is all in the past. And who cares about chronology. Well, I do. I love chronology. Cause and effect. The order of things. This happened, and then that. Events influence each other. Experiences shape us. Life seems to be a conflicted position a person sits in and is both being moulded by external forces and attempting to mould them.

Chronos is the father of Zeus, the father of all Gods. Time is the father of everything. Time marches on. Time is linear and time is circular. Trauma alters the relationship with time. Time is constant but to the traumatised it is excessively fast or excruciatingly slow. The head spins. Moments become hours. Hours disappear. Time is pain. The wish is for time to rewind back to the idyllic conditions before the trauma.

In relation to the thread detailing the swims of the distant past, the next batch of photographs were taken at Surfers Paradise in Australia. I’m going to write about that in the next blog then come back to this one and create a link that will travel forward in time. Kind of. Another thread I left hanging was mentioning that the Cricket World Cup final was currently being fought out between New Zealand and Australia. Well it didn’t turn out to be much of a fight. The Australians wiped the floor with the New Zealand cricketers. A game like that is not particularly pleasant to watch. Not so much because ‘my’ team lost, but because there was very little tension. I really felt for the New Zealand team when the inevitable loss became evident. I felt their pain and felt for them a bit more as they had to stick it out right to the end.

April swimming and the end of the Odyssey

There has been a cold snap as we fall deeper into autumn but somehow I have still managed to swim every day. Yesterday I was suffering the third day of the worst headache ever (complete with nausea) and was quite unsure about whether to brave a cold swim but despite the odds it completely cleared out the aches and pains.

Still swimmable

Still swimmable but there weren’t many swimmers at Pt Chevalier beach on April 15 2015

I am particularly proud of the swim I had on Monday the 13th of April. When I arrived at the beach I discovered there was an incredibly strong wind blowing straight onshore and no one in the water so I decided not to swim but walked along the beach instead. My jacket was virtually useless in the strong cold wind. I was about to go home when a fellow swimmer arrived and encouraged me to give it a go. It was more difficult than usual to get into the sea but worth the effort. I was tossed about the waves in a manner that reminded me of a west coast surf beach but this felt a bit safer because there wasn’t a dangerous undertow pulling me out into deep water.

A stormy day with strident westerly onshore winds kept most swimmers away from Pt Chevalier beach on April 13th

A stormy day with strident onshore winds kept swimmers away from Pt Chevalier beach on April 13 2015

Prior to the cold snap from Monday to yesterday the weather has been surprisingly warm and calm for this time of the year. Here are a few photographs from the last couple of weeks.

Autumn paddle boarders at Pt Chevalier beach

Autumn paddle boarders at Pt Chevalier beach in early April 2015

Looking north west as the sun goes down.

Sun is about to set at Pt Chevalier beach

Sun is about to set at Pt Chevalier beach in early April 2015

The composition of the following photograph could be said to be somewhat boring as it is very static and based around the rule of thirds but I quite like how the sky/air sea/water and sand/earth contrast with each other and have different textures, and how the light/fire interacts with each part.

A very calm morning at Pt Chevalier beach

A very calm morning at Pt Chevalier beach in April 2015

The following photograph reminds me of pictures I have seen of the coast in England. It could make a lovely watercolour painting. The red and white sail seems to erase everything behind it and takes on the appearance of a (triangluar) door to another world.

Love the red and white sail on the small yacht.

Pt Chevalier beach in autumn 2015. Love the red and white sail on the tiny yacht.

Oh, and I finished reading Homer’s Odyssey. It is surprisingly cinematic. A beautifully written action movie. Odysseus is the (original) hero. The ultimate, prototypical hero. The parallel action sequences are quite striking and remind me of parallel editing in films showing two (or more) things occurring simultaneously building towards a climax. Plus there was the added tension of dramatic irony where the reader knows things that the characters in the story do not. ‘We’ know that the beggar is actually Odysseus, but the characters don’t know it for a while. And it totally amazes me that we can get inside the head of someone who was alive almost 3,000 years ago.

Yesterday and Today and a bit of World Cup cricket

Yesterday was a showery day and when I visited Point Chevalier beach it was calm and intermittently sunny with storm clouds on the horizon.

Sunny foreground with rain clouds on the horizon on a calm Saturday at Pt Chevalier beach

Sunny paddleboarders in the foreground with rain clouds on the horizon on a calm Saturday at Pt Chevalier beach

Here’s another photograph from yesterday.

Yes, that's a dog on a paddleboard

Yes, that’s a high viz dog relaxing in the autumn sun on a paddleboard at Pt Chevalier beach

Today, however, was quite a different story weather-wise.  A strong wind was blowing in and whipping up unrelenting waves. Freestyle swimming was still possible but it was a bit of a hectic mission.

Choppy waters at Pt Chevalier beach

Choppy waters at Pt Chevalier beach

The waves may not look too big in the photograph but there was quite a swell. I felt a bit like a sailing vessel being tossed around as I swam along parallel to the shore. The New Zealand cricket team might feel a bit like this at the moment as the run rate is a bit slow 33 overs into the first innings of the Cricket World Cup final against the fearsome Australian cricket team currently being played in Melbourne. But there is hope as NZ batsmen Ross Taylor and Grant Elliot have just made 100 runs in their partnership.

Piha 6 April 2014, Pt Chev today, google translate

Looks like this was my last swim in the 2013 / 2014 summer. It was at Piha, with friends. The photos aren’t great, which can be what happens when beer is consumed. Probably shouldn’t have gone swimming but there was a group of us (safety in numbers) and we didn’t go out too deep. And the Piha surf has a sobering effect.

Early evening at Piha in April : Aprilis in prima vesperi ad Piha : νωρίς το απόγευμα στο Piha τον Απρίλιο.

The rough and tumble of a west coast beach swim is awesome, but these days I seem to prefer the restrained inner harbour experience at Pt Chevalier. This afternoon the water was particularly calm, which gave it a noticeable temperature gradient. The top 10 to 15 cm were lovely as this top layer had been warmed by the intermittent sunshine, but just beneath that it was increasingly chilly as the depth increased. Definitely refreshing. Definitely thinking about the advantages of a wetsuit. Apparently they can make you more buoyant so swimming requires less effort.

Mid afternoon high tide on a calm day at Point Chevalier beach. Mid síðdegis háflæði á rólegu degi á Point Chevalier ströndinni.

Mid afternoon high tide on a calm day at Point Chevalier beach : Mid síðdegis háflæði á rólegu degi á Point Chevalier ströndinni.

Speaking of effort, I’m still reading the Odyssey. It’s taking me a while but I like it a lot. There are words and phrases that jump out – like this:

‘For as I detest the doorways of Death I detest that man who under constraint of poverty babbles beguiling falsehoods.’ Book XIV

These are the words of ‘long-suffering great Odysseus’ who is disguised as a tramp, talking to his swineherd Eumaios who doesn’t know whether Odysseus is dead or alive and has talked at length about how he misses his much-loved master dearly. The bit about a poor man babbling isn’t particularly interesting, but the phrase ‘doorways of Death’ mixes the everyday (doorways) with the tragic (Death), and also serves as a reminder about how ever-present death was for people ‘back then’. Telecommunications and modern medical practices hadn’t yet arrived. If someone went away, there was no knowing whether they would come back. There is still an element of this these days – which is why airports have that eerie feeling of melancholia mixed with hope – but we are permitted a great many more fulfilled hopes than the ancient Greeks were.

I absolutely adore what Brian Eno – the inventor of ‘ambient’ music – says about his Music for Airports.

“… Whenever you go into an airport or an airplane, they always play this very happy music, which is sort of saying: ‘You’re not going to die, there’s not going to be an accident, don’t worry!’ And, I thought, that was really the wrong way around, I thought that it would be much better to have music that said: ‘Well, if you die, it doesn’t really matter.’ You know. So I wanted to create a different feeling, that you were sort of suspended in the Universe and your life or death wasn’t so important. …”  Part of an interview that can be found about halfway down this page

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Ambient photography : Ambient consequat. Interesting that there is a Latin word for photography.

Reading the Odyssey is like swimming freestyle along Pt Chevalier beach. Each little piece of effort is added to the next little piece of effort and before long you get there.

Each little piece of effort is added to the next little piece of effort and before long you get there – Nummum singula opera addantur quae paulo post modicum labore perveneris – Works apiece added that shortly after arriving a little effort – Works addidit singula , ut paulo post cum venisset a labore – Works added by one, that a little later, when he was come from the labor – Opera additum est, qui paulo post, cum venisset a labore – Was added to the Opera , who, a little later, when he was come out of the labor – Additum Opera, qui paulo post, cum venisset a labore – Be added , who, a little later, when he was come out of the labor – Accedit, qui paulo post, cum venisset a labore – Add to this, that thought a little later, when he was come out of the labor – Accedit, quod paulo post, cum venisset a labore – Add to this, that a little later, when he was come out of the labor – Accedit, quod paulo post, cum venisset a labore – Add to this, that a little later, when he was come out of the labor.

Not sure how accurate these mechanical google translations are but have reached a stasis after going backwards and forwards translating the same (but transforming) phrase into Latin, then into English, then Latin, English… Digital bilingual chinese whispers. Looks a bit like Language Poetry.

Why the languages? They give an illusion of movement to stasis. My ambient staycation involves escape to foreign countries of the mind.

Each little piece of effort is added to the next little piece of effort and before long you get there – Κάθε μικρό κομμάτι της προσπάθειας προστίθεται στο επόμενο μικρό κομμάτι της προσπάθειας και πριν από καιρό φτάσετε εκεί – Every little bit of effort added to the next little bit of effort and time before you get there – Κάθε μικρό κομμάτι της προσπάθειας προστίθενται στην επόμενη λίγη προσπάθεια και χρόνο, πριν φτάσετε εκεί – Every little bit of effort added to the next bit of effort and time before you get there – Κάθε μικρό κομμάτι της προσπάθειας προστεθούν στην επόμενη κομμάτι της προσπάθειας και του χρόνου πριν φτάσετε εκεί – Every little bit of effort added to the next bit of effort and time before you get there.

The google translation relationship between English and Greek appears to be more accurate (or consistent) than that between English and Latin.

Swimming in the rain, the Odyssey continues.

Yes, it was raining when I went to the beach today, which seems to make swimming easier although not many other people seem to agree. And at Pt Chevalier beach it’s not too difficult to keep the towel dry.

A rainy afternoon at Pt Chevalier beach today

A rainy afternoon at Pt Chevalier beach today

After Odysseus was confronted by those awful female monsters Skylla and Charybdis as outlined in the last post, apparently he ended up trapped on an island with the goddess Calypso who offered to make him immortal – but he was pining for his wife Penelope so declined the offer. Poor Odysseus! He was virtually emasculated by Skylla and Charybdis then trapped by a goddess! Of course he hopped into bed with her quite a few times but then he wanted to go home. Typical. Then I bet he gave Penelope all the excuses. ‘Sorry Penelope, she trapped me! And I had to prove I was a man after meeting those mean and nasty monsters!’ Despite not knowing whether her husband was alive or dead for many many years, and being surrounded by ardent and persistent suitors, Penelope was required to remain chaste – despite being chased. So, Odysseus would rather be reunited with his true love than be immortal. Do I really believe that? I think that he would rather be mortal but powerful than immortal and less powerful as it is likely that the goddess Calypso would always trump him in any kind of power-stakes because she is truly immortal, rather than the ‘muggle-wizard’ hybrid he would be if she granted him immortality. Maybe.

I feel slightly connected to the events of Homer’s Odyssey when I’m swimming as there is only really one sea. Perhaps I feel slightly immortal as I’m immersing myself in an ocean that has been circling the earth for about 3.8 billion years. Mind you, the earth has been around for even longer so there goes that theory. But then again, we don’t immerse ourselves in the earth unless we are dead and buried, and then we don’t usually get to blog about it.

The Odyssey

Writing about these previous beach visits is a bit of an odyssey, a mission, an ongoing quest. Actually, (warning, a not particularly subtle segue follows) I am reading the Odyssey. Not in ancient Greek, but a translated version.

I’m about halfway through Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus has just related several stories about how he managed to deal with a mean and nasty Cyclops; a many headed female man eating monster called Skylla (who lives in a cave in a rockface on the edge of the sea) and another female monster (who lives near Skylla) in the shape of a whirlpool called Charybdis among other things.

He tells the story of how he had to get past Skylla and Charydbis a second time (I think, if I’ve got this whole thing sorted) in a partially broken vessel (sailing ship). This is what he says:

‘But I went on my way through the vessel, to where the high seas had worked the keel free out of the hull, and the bare keel floated on the swell, which had broken the mast off at the keel; yet still there was a backstay made out of oxhide fastened to it. With this I lashed together both keel and mast, then rode the two of them, while the deadly stormwinds carried me.

‘After this the West Wind ceased from its stormy blowing, and the South Wind came swiftly on, bringing to my spirit grief that I must measure the whole way back to Charybdis. All that night I was carried along, and with the sun rising I came to the sea rock of Skylla, and dreaded Charybdis. At this time Charybdis sucked down the sea’s salt water, but I reached high in the air above me, to where the tall fig tree grew, and caught hold of it and clung like a bat; there was no place where I could firmly brace my feet, or climb up it, for the roots of it were far from me, and the branches hung out far, big and long branches that overshadowed Charybdis. Inexorably I hung on, waiting for her to vomit the keel and mast back up again. I longed for them, and they came late; at the time when a man leaves the law court, for dinner, after judging the many disputes brought him by litigious young men; that was the time it took the timbers to appear from Charybdis. Then I let go my hold with hands and feet, and dropped off, and came crashing down between and missing the two long timbers, but I mounted these, and with both hands I paddled my way out. Both the Father of Gods and men did not let Skylla see me again, or I could not have escaped from sheer destruction.’ (end of Book XII)

I haven’t read any secondary literature, but it strikes me that Homer’s Odyssey is a lot like an action movie. It was written sometime during the 8th Century BC, so, nearly 3,000 years ago, and its setting is at the time of the Trojan war, about 1250 BC. It is a retelling of how Odysseus had an arduous and long journey home after being one of the people who wrecked Troy by hiding inside a wooden horse. The written document we know as Homer’s Odyssey has come about after many generations of people telling and retelling the story of Odysseus. I can’t help thinking about how the fish that was caught gets bigger every time the tale is told.

But anyway, one of the things that interests me about the passage quoted above – apart from the cinematic nature of the action – is how he describes his ‘waiting time’ in relation to legal proceedings brought about by ‘litigious young men’. Imagine Odysseus, hanging from a (fig) tree, for quite some time, in a perilous situation, while his vessel is sucked down into the deep sea by a (female) whirlpool sea monster, thinking about lawsuits. Perhaps he was thinking something like… ‘Imma really gonna take that Charybdis to court for her time-wasting shenanigans’.

Interesting, too, that Skylla (the many-headed monster who had previously reached down from her cave to grab, then eat, several of Odysseus’s male companions) is female. And living in a cave. This brings back memories of when I studied all that Freudian psychoanalysis in relation to film theory – in particular, monstrous feminine and the vagina dentata. Furthermore, Charybdis is a whirlpool. As such, she creates a canal that, well, emasculates Odysseus by taking his broken vessel off him – he is helpless without it, and hanging from a fig tree, the tree that saved Adam and Eve from the shame of being naked – the shame of being sexual. Basically, there seem to be a myriad of sexual undertones to this part of the story. Fascinating!

And, so, back to my Odyssey where I tell the extraordinarily lame tales of my swims. There aren’t any sea monsters, only a few human ones that lurk at the back of my mind.

There is photographic evidence that I attended Pt Chevalier beach on April 1 2014, at low tide which means there wasn’t a swim, merely a walk. No caves were found, no whirlpools, no lawsuits. Apparently there could be a more benign explanation for the whirlpool monster known as Charybdis, as she is probably the Goddess of the tides. If this is the case, she is out.

Low tide at Pt Chevalier beach

Low tide at Pt Chevalier beach