(There's a photo in our downstairs toilet of me aged 20 in a 1980s 'selfie' with my dad and his third wife. It was taken in a log cabin in the deepest wilds of Wisconsin, a land of lakes where I swam daily. In the photo I'm wearing the Lampeter University Canoe Club's t-shirt - three cavemen, paddles and canoe and the tagline “Whitewater crazy men”. We weren't)
Not compared to Andrew Fusek Peters anyway. His book Dip contains details about twenty-odd wild swims in the Borderlands. There's three swims on the Long Mynd, plus Colemere, the River Clun, Ludlow Weir, Shelve Pool up on the Stiperstones, and places further afield.
The main difference between his book and Waterlog, which he acknowledges as his inspiration, is that somehow Deakin manages to make swimming on one's back through algae and dragonflies, cow slurry and sheep shit an idyllic saunter through the summer shade.
Peters' book, by contrast, is full of places where you can get freezing cold, mind-numbingly wet. Heart-stopping river bends, arse clenching waterfalls, scrotum tightening water-holes. The reason Deakin never got here is plainly because Shropshire's so fucking cold.
I read the book soon after reading Al Alvarez's diary of a man facing up to morbidity by swimming in Hampstead Ponds year after year (Peters also swims there in this book and acknowledges Alvarez's book). I also read it just after Richard Mabey's Nature Cure. Depression is a theme in all these books. Depression and a form of salvation through nature. It's probably crass but I couldn't help but feel that Peters' dips were a self-medicating version of ECT. Strangely though, having read all three books and adding them to my own thoughts, I was left with an opposite impression. What if nature and one's immersion in it was contributing to the depression?
I don't speak from any experience of clinical depression. Just from how I experience Shropshire from time to time. It's easy to disappear into yourself. For me, writing, or a compulsion to write, is like a form of madness. Far too much time spent alone. Voices filling the emptiness. If I spend too much time alone in my own company with my own thoughts, it does sometimes feel like the waters are closing over my head.