What were your reasons for taking up swimming?
Initially, & predictably, because I thought it would be good for me. And because a fear of deep water had stopped me swimming for too long. (When I was ten, my father lost his footing & accidentally dropped me into the murky River Avon!) Once my children could swim safely & without supervision, I retired to dry land. Other than the odd dip in a sun-warmed sea, I rarely swam again. Four years ago I joined an over 50s group & began, tentatively, swimming widths because the idea of deep water still made be nervous. It’s deep! Why would anyone swim in deep water?
Have the reasons that keep you swimming changed over time?
Not as such. I still swim to keep fit but because I’ve learned to love it & gained in confidence, I swim as much for pleasure & well-being as I do for reasons of health.
In what way do you believe swimming to benefit your creative process?
Water is our natural element. It’s where we come from. Once I learned to swim underwater, I discovered the strange muted bliss beneath the surface & how my thoughts drifted in time with the ebb & flow of the water. I’ve always had creative ‘lightbulb’ moments in the bath – the swimming pool is simply a larger version. I swam in the sea a while back which took swimming to another level. Although the fear tried to return, I resisted. I’d like to swim with tanks – that would be a story.
Please describe the experience of swimming…
She breathes in … as deep as her lungs will allow… Gliding from the edge of the shallow end of the pool, her foot relinquishes contact with the tiles; her body moves of its own volition, like a fish. She continues the glide for as long as her indrawn breath holds, heartbeat steady, deeper & deeper, the muted sounds of the other swimmers echoing & separate. She is not in the water, the water is part of her & she is liquid. Her limbs become streamlined, her body weightless. Surfacing, the air is a small shock. Another breath in & she dips down once more… In the water the body becomes a thing of grace – in the water we are equal.
Thank you, Louise, for inviting me to chat on your lovely blog.
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Ghostbird was released in March 2016 & was long-listed for the Guardian ‘Not the Booker’ prize 2016 & nominated as a Guardian Reader’s Book of the Year 2016. It is available for purchase from Honno & Amazon. Snow Sisters, Carol’s new book, will be published on 21 September 2017. Thanks to Carol for agreeing to this interview.