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Do not fear how love can hurt you
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Away from the desk - June 2014

05 Jun 2014

Lunchtime swim anyone?

Did you ever see that episode of ‘Seinfeld’ where Kramer took up doing laps of the Hudson River because he found the pool too constricting?

Which of course leads to some hilarious grilling by Jerry – the germ-phobe – about why on earth Kramer would want to do this.

“What is that smell?”

“That’s East River.”

“You’re swimming in the East River? ...”

Jerry then goes on to express his disgust at the concept … it’s classic Jerry vs Kramer sensibilities at play and it’s hilarious.

At the end of the day, whilst I, as a middle-classish, urban dweller, could relate to Jerry’s point of view, my heart was with Kramer.

Because there really is nothing like swimming in nature – the sea, a river, a watering hole … a fake beach created from imported sand maybe?

When my friend Mikey gave me the little “Harbour Esplanade – Continuing the Conversation” postcard asking for community input to the conundrum that is the Docklands waterfront, I was a little bit excited because he mentioned “fake beach”, “bringing in lots of sand, and other stuff” which conjured up images of lunchtime swims, ice-cream stands, striped beach towels, and feeling refreshed and clean as only a swim in the sea can make you feel.

I was excited because everybody – young, old, in between, active, not very active, extra or introverted – gets something quite special out of a beach, a body of water, a horizon to look at and dream into.

Our eyes are just as much made for gazing out at expansive and distant horizons, as they are for staring into computer screens, smartphone devices and the insides of trams and trains as we commute into work.

I haven’t been snorkelling in the bay but I know there is a whole secret world of creatures, fish, sea horses, jelly fish, seaweed, living in the sea in front of us. Hidden and very special.

I have a good feeling about this.

Imagine being able to cool off in the patch of water that fronts Harbour Esplanade on those hot summer days when the whole of Docklands – the city – the universe – seems to emanate heat, and when you feel like a marshmallow person slowly but surely melting into the concrete walking around in it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked longingly at the water, dreamed about stripping off and leaping into the sparkly cool water, swimming alongside (probably around) those elegant white jelly fish and deep into the cool, green depths.

Perhaps you can see yourself sitting on the sand and reading a book? Or walking along the beach holding hands? Or having a picnic? Or skipping? Or … you get the drift …

Wouldn’t that be better than a whole lot of shops? Or a fun park? Or more restaurants?  

Something experiential, that takes you out of yourself and puts you in a new element, so you can return to ground refreshed, clean, present.

The other flow-on effect of enabling folks to swim in the Docklands sea is that it would, I think, encourage a sense of pride in residents and workers of this area. There’s nothing like immersing yourself in an environment to create a sense of connection and belonging.

That’s what Jerry didn’t get about Kramer’s motivation to swim the East River. It was like he was, in swimming it, accepting its flaws, and embracing it anyway … taking the good and forgiving the bad.

As more people decided to join him in his swimming excursions there grew a sense of kinship between the ones who were willing to take the risk, to take the big leap of faith into that river, and those who would not. Basically everyone did, but I can’t remember the end – selective memory prevents me from remembering – something about ear infections? Who knows? Who cares?

So while the conversation about Harbour Esplanade continues, I can only hope that we get something special.

And a beach would be very, very special.

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