All throughout my childhood, my mum has taken me to our local lido. It’s the first place that made me feel truly comfortable with my body. The showers are communal, so everyone just strips off, shivering and chatting. In the water our bodies are tools. It doesn’t matter how they look.
Still, I’d only braved swimming in the winter a handful of times. For this piece, I knew I wanted to swim with Liz (who was making a show about wild swimming), but our interview was planned for February, so I needed to get some practice swims in beforehand to make sure I didn’t die in the middle of the Peak District.
I signed up for the Serpentine with a friend and we started braving the water mid January. We’d stand on the edge of the platform, waiting for the swans to pass, shivering and trying to gear ourselves up for the pain of getting in. She would walk in. I’d dive. For the first ten seconds you really can’t breathe. All of the air whooshes straight out of you, like you’ve been punched in the stomach. Then the water starts to prickle and you’re swimming through shards of glass. It’s simultaneously hideous and astonishing. Half a length in and you’ve never felt better. You get out buzzing.
I loved this hike and swim with Liz. We took her dog and it felt like we were the only two people for miles around.
I’ve since kept up swimming in the Serpentine year-round.