Personal

The Summer I Went Swimming

I might never have been a prince, but I had my Pallas

If the cliffs were any closer
If the water wasn’t so bad
I’d dive for your memory
On the rocks and the sand

Dive For Your Memory (The Go-Betweens)

I’ve always wondered about my-life-is-shit blog posts.

And shuddered at the idea of posting one myself.

Expecting that you would retreat from your own absorptions to agonise a while in my godforsaken corner of Gethsamene?

Like we all have our shit moments … shit times even, don’t we? 

So why douse you in my dejection, floor you with my sorrows, and we haven’t even properly met …

Christ knows there’s enough stuff clamouring for attention online.

Grab me. Amuse me. Explain me. Transcend me. 

Even infuriate me.

But engage me.

My compassion is not dead, but alas, it is fatigued.

Needs a reason to get out of bed some days.

Now if you’re good at it, can find the universal in your specific melancholy, and put arresting imagery to it, you can be a poet or a writer. 

Or one hell of a blogger.

Why, add guitar and drums, build up an intriguing back story, and you’re Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan.

Or Michael Stipe …

“September’s coming soon, I’m pining for the moon”.

Nightswimming

Now there are bloggers out there who really do have it tough, or at least don’t always have it good, but who I can engage with because they are so much more than their conditions or their afflictions.

They’ve just got something about them in their writing, their charm, their wit, their off-the-wall crankiness, whatever it is, and I care what happens to them.

And want to read on.

Now there are bloggers out there who really do have it tough, or at least don’t always have it good, but who I can engage with because they are so much more than their conditions or their afflictions.

Yes, that was just a preamble to me delving into my own downer.

Of course this shit pandemic hasn’t helped.

Or the shit, shit weather …

The realisation that this awful August is fast-fading into September’s fall, when “Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine”, as Keats put it, in Ode On Melancholy.

But this virus business is really biting now.

We’re long past the early days of “we’re all in this together”, clapping for the frontline heroes, and see-you-on-the-other-side positivity.

Because we don’t know when it’s going to end.

And match terraces remain empty. Music halls are silent and we’re wondering how this back to school business is going to pan out.

Just the other night I caught the closing credits of the movie The Squid and the Whale, and Loudon Wainwright’s The Swimming Song was playing.

Click on it here, if you don’t know it. It’s a gorgeous, jaunty song, so evocative and joyful, with lyrics like

This summer I swam in a public place
And a reservoir, to boot
At the latter I was informal
At the former I wore my suit
I wore my swimming suit, yeah

This summer I did swan dives
And jackknifes for you all
And once when you weren’t looking
I did a cannonball

And I was immediately back in a place called Pallas, and the reservoir there, maybe six miles from where I lived as a child, and I can still feel the shocking exhilaration of that plunge into those icy waters.

Even on the hottest of hot days, it was always fr-ee-zzz-ing!

Which only added to the fun.

And I remember the trek to get there, off out the back road from our town, the towel and ropy old blue trunks under my arm as we joshed and pushed and goofed along, and the final leg, across the vast swaying summer fields that led to this magical place.

Will I ever see it again?

And I’m thinking of the limits this pandemic is putting on the freedom of my own kids … all this social distancing, and masks, and curtailments … and wondering will they ever know proper freedom again?

Summer days at Pallas so long ago

I doubt it.

I don’t even know if it is still there. Or if kids are still cannonballing and acting the eejit there. 

Like I did.

It’s not just that I am afraid to even think how long it is since I was last lost in Pallas … even the name, eh? 

I’m thinking of the boy that was me, who lived for the moment, cared not a jot for what had gone before, or was to come, had nowt to worry about — in the summer anyway! — and only thought about food when he arrived home, giddy, tired and elated, and attacked his steaming plate with the relish of the ravenous.

And I’m thinking of the limits this pandemic is putting on the freedom of my own kids … all this social distancing, and masks, and curtailments … and wondering will they ever know proper freedom again?

And their best years ahead of them.

It’s getting in on them.

In on me …

How could it not?

I have alluded often enough here to the difficult relationship I have with my teenage daughter.

And it’s got even worse in these awful days … 

Nothing to be said here about all that.

It’s sad, it’s regrettable, and I hope it passes.

Into something better.

For her. For me.

But I am only part of the problem.

You don’t have to choose discontent.

Life can throw up some tricky stuff.

But how you react is a choice.

And we can only hold your coat, it’s you who must play the game.

That’s all I will say on that.

But I guess I can make choices too … and remember the summer I went swimming …

“This summer I might have drowned

But I held my breath and I kicked my feet

And I moved my arms around

I moved my arms around

Yeah hee!”

I mentioned Bob Dylan earlier.

The old bugger, 79, has just brought out an album, Rough And Rowdy Ways … and it is most excellent.

There is a song on it, Murder Most Foul, ostensibly about the killing of John F Kennedy, but which Dylan really uses as a jumping off point for a trawl through his back pages.

Oh, the imagery, the beautiful melancholy … wonderful!

“Hush, little children, you’ll understand
The Beatles are comin’, they’re gonna hold your hand
Slide down the banister, go get your coat
Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
I’m going to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age
Then I’ll go to Altamont and sit near the stage
Put your head out the window, let the good times roll …”

Thanks for reading — try another one … sure, why not follow my blog!

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22 comments on “The Summer I Went Swimming

  1. I hope things improve, every which way they can. I didn’t know the London Wainwright song – but I love it, and can see how it fits your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keep you head up and smile It makes the idiots wonder what you’re doing. Look to the east when everyone else is looking west and they will question themselves. The simplicity is still out there you just have to look for it

    Stay well and Laugh or at least avoid crying

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Where would we be without writing? Creative and one hopes cathartic when needed. I am glad that you can share some of what you are thinking and feeling and wondering. Hoping for better days for you and your daughter. I also appreciate your take on what is liable to get and keep your attention. Best, Michele

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tough times all round. It’s hard to get the balance right between venting some of the anxiety during this period of time versus making yourself feel worse by wallowing in feeling miserable. A dose of fresh outdoor air and finding some small moments to enjoy helps our spirits, but this year does feel relentless.
    I hope things feel a bit less bleak for you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tough times indeed, the weird thing is, the whole being locked away from the rest of the world worked really well for us as a family…it’s getting back to the ‘new normal’ that’s causing problems. I’ve noticed my daughter’s mood plummet too (do we all have a difficult daughter? I have three but only one drives me nuts!) Your memory of Pallas sounds amazing. I saw a frog in the garden the other day and was immediately reminded of childhood days when we’ve visit the local ‘Lickey Hills’ where there was a frog pond and we’d go with our nets and bring home buckets of frog spawn on the bus. The one year we went a little late and brought home some frogs instead…the bus driver was not too pleased as we couldn’t stop some of them escaping! i wonder how many people have caught the bus with a frog? Take Care Enda, Winter may be coming but brighter days are always there in your mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny it has largely worked very well for our son, and our relationship with him. He has had a lot to deal with, and has dealt with it all so well. She is more up and down, and we get the ‘down’ bit in spades. Love your ‘frog memories’. Hilarious! Maybe not for the driver, but the image you have planted in my brain is priceless! You are the chief person I have in mind as a blogger who has been through, and still is being put through, the mill, but writes in such a lovely, engaging way. And I always seek out your posts. Thanks, Anne

      Like

  6. As a little insight into your relationship with your daughter right now; I had an awful time with my parents from about 14 to 18. It was turbulent at best on a daily basis. They thought I was being difficult. Looking back, I was dealing with depression, anxiety, dismissal from friends and a whole lot of confusion around life and how to handle what was going on with me. Hormones never helped. The frustrating thing was and still is that I had no idea how to communicate any of this at the time. On the outside I was just deemed angry, stressed and struggling with school. This too shall pass Enda. #WotW

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose I am kind of banking on those kind of ‘happy ending’ stories coming true, Emma, and not the ones where things get worse and you hear the horror stories!! Thanks for taking the time to leave such a kind, thoughtful and positive comment

      Like

  7. Things have been hard, strange and very different. I hope things are better for you soon. x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Teenage daughters make it absolutely crystal clear that you can’t be a prophet in your own house. Her friends think I’m cool, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. These are such strange, tough times and I also wonder whether our children will ever know the kind of freedom that you describe in your memories of going swimming in the reservoir. Reading about it brought back memories of my own childhood going swimming in our local open air pool. I’m sorry that you’re still having a tough time with your daughter and I hope that it does improve at some stage for you both. #WotW

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Enda, you have captured these strange and sad times perfectly. There are some bloggers I have had to stop reading lately. It’s not that I don’t like their writing, I just can’t take any more melancholy added to my own right now.

    Your post reminded me of swimming in a local reservoir when I was a kid. We had to sneak in by scaling an 8-foot fence, though. Only a few of us did it. It was fun, exhilarating! Thanks for bringing up those great memories!

    Like

  11. So profound! I also wonder how this will all end and exactly how we will determine when it will be over. Will we even recognize when it’s “safe“ to return to life again? A part of me wonders if we shouldn’t be returning to normal now and taking what precautions we can, while embracing the consequences that may come as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

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