North Londoner, author, critic and climber Al Alvarez’s diary of his as-daily-as-possible morning swims at the ponds on Hampstead Heath, with occasional trips to the warmer pools and hidden ponds of northern Italy. Over the nine years of narrative the entries dwindle, and turn their focus from the ponds’ wildlife to Al’s ageing body and mind.
A favourite quotation (p 188):
The water, too, is seriously cold, numbing my hands and feet, stinging, invigorating….Last weekend Mike King and I were talking about oncoming cold, not anxiously but with pleasure, waiting for the big chill and the challenge of it in the same way as I used to wait at the bottom of a hard climb, knowing I was to be tested and hoping I’d be up to it. And then, once I got going, realising it was no big deal. So I had my swim and came out glowing and fresh eyed, feeling as I used to feel when I went to the top of a hard route.
Publisher page: Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal – Al Alvarez
Granta Interview: Al Alvarez – Al Alvarez & Ted Hodgkinson (22 March 2013)
BBC Four’s Desert Island Discs: Al Alvarez (24 March 2000)