I was hoping to have a nice post to write about our weekend away featuring some shots of a couple of literary places that we visited. But, the best laid plans often don't work out. Some other excitement rather took over the weekend, and I forgot my camera. So all I can do is tell you that on our way to Kent, we finally went to visit Knole House, which I had been desperate to visit since reading Inheritance by Robert Sackville West last year, and because of its connection with an author that I had discovered as part of my Virago Venture - Vita Sackville West. Not that much of the house is open to the public, but there is a beautiful deer park with the most wonderfully tame deer. And on the way back from Kent, we finally visited Sissinghurst, which is where Vita Sackville West lived after her marriage to Harold Nicholson. It's primarily famous for its beautiful gardens - she was an avid gardner, but you can also see the room where she wrote (halfway up a tower) and their library (I enjoyed perusing the shelves and spotting things like Rebecca West and Joy Edmundson's Born Free alongside what were evidently a lot of Nicholson's political tracks). So very sorry that I didn't have my camera to share those with you.
The reason that we went to Kent was to do a Swim (only I persuaded Mr W to make it into a weekend so that we could take in those places which he had previously claimed were too far to do in a day). It was an ironman distance swim (3.8 km) and my first organised sea swim. Having done several ironman swims before, I wasn't too worried about it, although I did expect the swell on the sea to slow me down a little. How wrong I was! At the safety briefing, the organiser mentioned the current which had caused problems laying out the buoys for us to swim round (3 laps), and delayed the start, but which would disappear as slack water arrived with high tide. However, by the time we started the swim, I could not discern any current in the water, and just concentrated on swimming, deciding that a sea swim is quite grim owing to the taste of the salt water and the motion sickness caused by the swell. By the middle of the second lap, when I had just overtaken Mr W (who had had a 50m start on me because he is able to run into the sea from the start), things started to change. As I approached the last buoy on the 2nd lap, I didn't seem to be making much progress. I swam, and I swam, and the buoy didn't seem to be getting much nearer. Eventually, after a huge effort, I managed to touch the buoy, but I couldn't get round it, but decided to continue. Off I went on the third lap, merrily heading back to the start of the course. As a novice sea swimmer, I didn't not cotton on to the fact that it was due to a change of the tides making things different - slack water had passed and the tide had turned. Failing dismally to get anywhere near the second buoy, I ended up in a group of about ten swimmers who were advised to aim for the far left of the beach. It took me about twenty minutes to get back to the shore, feeling grumpy that I hadn't been allowed to finish the swim (it didn't occur to me that I wouldn't be able to!); I met Mr W on the beach who had bailed out before me, and we watched the other swimmers come in. Unfortunately, some swimmers had got further out at the point when the current came into action, and a rescue operation involving two RNLI lifeboats had to commence! 6 swimmers were washed into the next bay!! Unsurprisingly, this made it into the news, both at the Daily Mail and the BBC. I should point out that both reports are somewhat exaggerated; in fact 6 swimmers finished the course, 22 made their way back under their own steam like the pair of us, and 25 had to be picked up in rescue craft.
So that was my Bank Holiday weekend. It was nice to have a Bank Holiday, having had to work the last four, but I think I could have done with a little less excitement! We'll certainly give it a go if the event is held again, not least as we identified some other interesting looking National Trust properties, such as Churchill's House, Chartwell, in the vicinity, and our travelodge room, whilst a bit of a comedown after wedding luxury was extraordinarily good value (£55 for two nights for two!)
Sunday Poetry - John Clare
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