The Swimming and the Writing Viruses – Kindred Species

Forget the Rottnest and English Channels, Galway Bay, Watson’s Bay and the rest of them, Surfmuppet’s big goal this year is to get a novel done and dusted, ready to go out into the world for better or worse.

Yes. A novel.

That’s the reason surfmuppet took up this swimming obsession three and a half years ago – to run away from a novel he had spent over five years working on and totally fucked up in the end.

So in keeping with the spirit of 2014 – The Year of the Novel, the muppet went out and bought himself a brand, spanking new MacBook Pro, with the Retina thingy, downloaded Scrivener, and set a goal of 1,000 words a day.

The technology decision is important. For years muppetman wrung his hands about writing in longhand, on the computer, in Word, in Notepad, in Evernote, in IA Writer and a plethora of God knows what other means.

Fuck the lot of them. Went out and spent a bundle on the Mac and bought a GoPro for good measure, which he persuaded his wife to give him as a birthday gift on the 2nd of Jan.

Like Barack Obama, Princess Diana and Julia Guillard, children of the transition year of 1961, caught between Baby Boomer and Gen-X, the muppet just turned 53. And if it’s going to happen, it’s got to happen now.

Around the turn of the year, in decision mode as to whether to pack in Vladswim and use the 6am to 8am slot every morning to fire up the Mac and get cracking on the word count.

Problem is, learn too much from Vlad, Charm and their funny bunch of swimming obsessives to just walk away.

Take Deano.

He’s training like a demon and is odds on to rip through the water at Rottnest for a  cracking time. Paid his deposit last week for the English Channel pilot and boat for his crossing in early August 2015.

A deliberate man.

Surfmuppet has watched other deliberate men this year step up to the plate and cross the channel. Trained with them, in pool and ocean, had coffee and bacon and eggs with them in cafes after, seen the light in the eyes and felt the fire in the heart.

Big John – July 2 in 18:15 hours in 13 degree water

Motorbike Marty – August 27 in 14:39 hours with 3 metre swells along the way

Doctor Jim – Swam with him for 5 hours at Balmoral in 15 degree water when he was doing his six hours Channel qualification swim. Saw the torture he was going through, face to face – but he just kept on going and did the Channel in 15:03 on September 21

Slovakian Pete – 5th July in 11:43

There are other men and women, but saw these four up close and personal in the training and preparation – watched, saw and felt what it takes to prepare to swim that particular stretch of frigid European water.

Reckon there’s a bit to be learned from types like these at the place where long distance swimming meets long distance writing.

At the most basic level, the swimming is all about kilometres done every day, writing about kilowords every day.

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that but what the hell.

Sticking with Vladswim for the moment and trying to slot in the writing around the swimming – but if something has to give, the writing is the priority.

And so to Saturday morning, decision to go to Bondi for the 7am bash with the Vladsters or fire up the Mac and start punching out words.

7am finds our man sitting at his desk and feeling the touch of the keys under his fingers in much the same way as the aquanauts 40km away over the hill in Bondi are feeling the grip of the water as they wade out into the North Bondi rip.

Writes for four hours and blasts out 5,600 words. Along the way, in the eye of the imagination watching the guys and gals chalk up the laps of the Bondi Crescent, feed and hydrate, back into it. Finishes at 11am figuring out that even total diehards like Bondi John, Marty, Cyril and Deano will have packed it in by then.

These words are training words. Surfmuppet is circling his potential themes, characters, plots, dialogues like a great white rabid with hunger after the long swim from South Africa to Australia, circling a pod of seals and sizing them up for the juiciest, fattest, most delicious looking one to rip into to. Once the target is selected then, “Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!” No surrender. No quarter given or asked for.

Plenty of seals swirling about in the muppet cranium. Pondering whether to dig up the corpse of the aborted novel from a few years ago and breathe new life into it, or start with a fresh piece of seal blubber. Only the oracle of the words can tell.

With there still being a chance of doing Rottnest, the muppet cannot afford to back off the training, so headed down to Clovelly Lagoon in the later afternoon for a solo session.

Into the water by quarter to five for a three hour stint, until seven forty five. Getting well dark by that stage. Last of the swimmers and frolickers leaving the water. Fish gathering in schools, getting ready for the night time feeding frenzy. Out by the mouth of the lagoon, in the full tide gap above the underwater murder of seaweed encrusted rocks, the dark water of the open ocean zealously guards her hungry children from the eyes of would be prey.

Crack! Collides into another eejit out swimming in the half light, smash of heads, that feeling of getting punched on the nose. Right calf goes out on strike in sympathy with the bruised head, massive cramp. Muscle bunches up and the pain is…struggles in the water until somehow gets to the wall and massages the muscle back to a state where he can hobble to the ladder and call it a day. Still sore 24 hours later.

Ah well. Time to get the gear ready for training in the morning, iron the shirt and polish the shoes in preparation for the one-on-one with the replacement boss at work. Not for nothing do they call him the wolf of the north, so surfmuppet has to be on his best behaviour.

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