Friday, July 20, 2012

Swimming the English Channel

The English Channel, which is also called in French… “La Manche” (That’s not a Don Quixote reference, okay?) or in Cornish (nobody speaks that anymore, do they?) “Mor Bretannek” is this little itsy-bitsy strip of water (tell that to the poor schmucks swimming) at 350 miles long at its widest to about 21 miles long at its shortest… which is where?
That’s right, Dover… or more exactly, the Strait of Dover, which is where I am standing here freezing to death and reading this in a small paper brochure which WAS acting as an umbrella until is crumpled and fell apart in my hands.
Did anyone ever tell you that it rained a lot in England? I mean, I’m an Oregonian, and I’m telling you, it rains a lot here.  I know these pictures don't show it, but it was pouring on me for an hour right before this...
Ok, back to the Strait of Dover. This is a strategic place. Romans and Gauls (seriously, the gall of some people) and Normans… have been coming over here for centuries trying to mess up British Beefeaters and why not… it looks pretty easy.
I mean, I’m standing here with my toes over the edge of this cliff and France looks like a big bloated grey beached whale in the distance…nope, sorry… that’s just Gerard Depardieu.
The first man to swim the Channel from Dover to Calais was Matthew Webb of the UK on August 25th, 1875. He had attempted a crossing two weeks earlier but had to abandon because of rough seas. The first woman to swim across the channel from Cap Gris Nez to Kingsdown was Gertrude Ederle of the US on August 23, 1926.
Five men had previously swam before Ederle but she beat their times by two hours, creating a record for female swimmers that lasted until 1950. The first man to fly across was Juan de la Cierva of Spain on September 18th, 1928 which was actually the first flight between London to Paris.
Anyway, standing here and running around with the sheep in the tall grass… I started thinking about why people do things. What calls us to try impossible feats of endurance….and why more people don’t do them? We lost that somewhere. Most of the people I know only want to grow their business or expand their portfolios or achieve some level of proficiency that allows them early retirement… you never see anyone who does something crazy or wild just because it is their dream. At least… not at middle age you don’t. Maybe I was just born in the wrong era. Either way, standing on the Cliffs of Dover, I think about all the miles that lay before me, and how I want to dive in headfirst and swim for the breakers without looking back.

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