Another rough recording by Pony Folk, this one is ‘County Line’.
I could write about that day in Paros where we walked the beach road from Parikia out past the ferry port and the bar and the restaurants, past the campsite and the restaurants on the beach, past the sports beach club where we had swam the day before, where I had found the empty sea urchin shell, out along the narrow beach path, out around and up onto the headland where the wind blew through the aloe vera plants and we climbed high over the sea below, round the corner where the headland felt more of a desert than a beach now and on until we started descending to the roadway below past the deserted campsite club and squeezing our way onto the edge of the end of this new beach.
We walked a while and found ourselves now opposite the town and its beaches, where the ferries now passed between us and docked in the distance. We joined a handful of locals in the sun under some abandoned beach shade umbrellas and watched a scruffy little dog do as it pleased along the water’s edge. We swam and dried off. We swam again, slipping off our constricting swimwear and swimming free in the sea. We lay in the shade to dry off and watched an old man arrive in an ancient Fiat and enter the sea for his daily lunchtime swim, out to the buoy and in again and back along the beach edge.
I entered the water and followed his route, my bravery enhanced by watching his success. Swimming out in the sea and I was free. Free and a little scared, scared of all those things they tell us to be scared of, the depth, the currents, the cold cramp, exhaustion. I thought of all these things as I swam out following his path, his invisible trail somehow holding its permanence through its daily repetition through the waves and I returned victorious. I had conquered the sea.
And that is the story of the sea of Paros one summer of 2017, in the year after the fire and before the operation.
Aberystwyth, the beach, the sun was hot but the wind was cold or at least cool. The temperature had dipped from the high twenties we had been been acclimatised to down to perhaps the low twenties now. The beach was pebbly but they were so small that with a little more effort and perhaps another million years it could be a sandy beach.
Entering the shade was much like visiting the dark side of the moon and with bare feet, the sun soaked pebbles underfoot felt burning hot, so we sought out a compromise and hotfooted it across the beach towards a concrete bastion that we hoped would shelter us from the wind.
Next that classic beach move of trying to change into your swimming trunks whilst in full view of pretty much everyone on the beach, and also those on the esplanade behind, with only a towel the size of a flannel to hide under. After a furtive few minutes, and now with bathing costumes weighed down with innumerable small pebbles that had snuck into every accessible and inaccessible nook and cranny, we made for the sea.
Entering water that is at a vastly different temperature to the ambient air temperature is always an experience. Yes, it will feel cold, yes, it will feel ok once you are in, and yes, once you are in you won’t necessarily want to get out. Remembering the hundreds of times I had swum in the river the year before last never helps, remembering the last few times I had swum in this sea, only the day before, for example, in fact that morning, didn’t help either. The process is always the same, expectantly and excitedly stripping off, and optionally changing into swimming attire, before plunging in up to the ankles or perhaps knees and thereafter inching in up to thigh tops. Then it’s a waiting game, each new millimetre of flesh that touches the water screams out in complaint and then is silent. That wasn’t too bad was it, but to plunge in, chest down, into the water? Not yet, let me think about it. Let me think about it a bit more. Perhaps I should just get out. But the water, and I know I’ll like it when I eventually get in. Ok, here goes. In a minute. Now. Hold on. Now. In a minute. Take a breath, pull a face and I’m in. yes, this is great, watch out for that jelly fish. What’s that? Ok, not a shark, just some seaweed. And I’m swimming, out to the end of the breakwater, and back in again, and out again, and along parallel to the beach and back again, and backstroke and breaststroke and just flapping around for bit. And then, all too soon it’s time to get out.