I’ve taken up outdoor swimming. I just thought you should know | Fiona Maddocks

OK, I only started last month and I don’t know how long I’ll manage it, but for now it’s making me glow

We all eat our words. “No way” sneakily turns into “OK, maybe”, then “yes”. You vow never, ever, to wear Crocs, then you see your smart friend in a yellow pair and British Vogue has named them the It-shoe of the winter season (true) and suddenly you’re weakening. My volte face is more extreme. I’ve joined the thousands who’ve taken up outdoor swimming during lockdown. I don’t much like swimming. I’m not good at it. I dislike casting clouts and favour a hot-water bottle all year.

“You’ll need a bobble hat,” advised my aquatic mentor, suggesting a garment I haven’t owned since primary school. I am initiated into the secrets of neoprene, a fabric as alien as Chantilly lace. I arrive at the appointed hour (entry is strictly timed) looking like Nanook of the North. A hardy regular congratulates me on starting this habit mid-December in a pandemic. I glow. But then I am still fully clothed and have not yet set foot in the water (5.6C).

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