Thursday, 15 March 2018

Review: Dip: Wild Swims from the Borderlands

Dip: Wild Swims from the Borderlands Dip: Wild Swims from the Borderlands by Andrew Fusek Peters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The superb Waterlog by the late Roger Deakin has inspired many people to rediscover the delights of wild swimming; Joe Minihane writes about following in the wet footprints of Deakin in Floating as he travels around the country to the same locations. Swimming With Seals is set in Orkney and tells of Victoria Whitworth wild swimming experiences there. And there is the superb Turning by Jessica J. Lee, where she battles self-doubt and depression and challenges herself to swim in 52 of the lakes around Berlin.

Andrew Fusek Peters takes a different perspective in Dip. This is his account of swimming in the pools, rivers, and lakes over the course of a year near where he lives in the Shropshire county and elsewhere. He is prepared to swim any time of the year, braving the bone-chilling waters in January, dipping into the refreshing pools in the heat of August, being invigorating by waterfalls and braving the delights of a bog pool.

As with a lot of natural history books now, there is a personal side to this book as he describes the other dip that he suffered from, a deep depression that affected him so much so that he had a spell in hospital at his very lowest ebb and reached a point where it was life-threatening. This dark undercurrent to his life was as much to do with personal circumstances as it was his character, he is haunted by his father's suicide and still deeply saddened by his brother's early death from AIDS.

There is a deep melancholy and eloquence to his writing as even though he was better when he wrote the book, the spectre of depression is still a shadow in the background and its swirls still muddy the waters of his life. It also demonstrates the healing benefits of being outdoors and closer to the natural world as he immerses himself in the waters. The book is greatly enhanced by the photographs in the book taken by his daughter took and short excerpts of poetry that are liberally scattered throughout. It is another book in the natural history memoir sub-genre that is worth reading.

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