Why I needed to splash out on a new swimsuit

WE got away in the end.

It was a last-minute decision. We discounted the entire continents of America and non-English speaking Europe before fastening on the Lake District.

I went there once before with my daughter Ruth. It was a similar time of year and, as I recall, bitterly, it rained the whole time.

It couldn’t rain like that again, surely. Oh yes it could and, with accompanying gale, even our biggest, sturdiest umbrella was not person enough for the job. (I assume “person” is the politically correct way to use the old saw.)

So we got wet and used our holiday spending allowance to buy thermal gloves.

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In the car park, by Lake Windermere, a dad was trying to persuade his small son to wear his woolly hat.

“They won’t let you on the boat if you don’t have your hat on,” said dad persuasively.

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Small son wailed and threw his hat to the ground.

I looked at the lake. It seemed to me they wouldn’t be letting anyone on the boat without a life jacket and being lashed to the mast. Even the swans weren’t having any. They were all out of the water looking extremely put out.

The geese were in agreement. It was too rough.

Small son pulled his hat off for the third time as my hat was caught by a gust of wind and went bobbing across the car park, heading, inevitably for a huge puddle.

“When I was here with the scouts in June 1968, it was glorious weather,” remarked my husband. “We climbed to the top of Scafell.”

“When I was here with Ruth in 2008, the weather was very much like this.”

Not noting my caustic tone – he says he doesn’t understand sarcasm which is pretty remarkable given he’s been married to me for more than 30 years – he went on: “Yes, even the local people went on about how lovely it was – it was the driest summer some of them had ever seen.”

“Hurrah!” I sniffed as the wind set my nose running.

“Yes, it was clear, and sunny and the skies were blue...”

“I can imagine,” I lied.

This three-night break in the Lake District was our quality time together for 2010. We booked three nights in a hotel with a fine dining restaurant and a swimming pool. Our room had a four-poster bed and a view over sheep.

Have you tried buying a swimsuit in November?

Having put my old one on only to discover that my small weight loss had rendered the foam cups at the top of the one-piece inadequate to the task required. (ie I could get everything in but it all threatened to fall out during the outward arm movement of breast stroke).

I needed a new swimming costume. I tried all the high street department stores but the only ones I could find were the Rebecca Adlington-type competitive gear with a streamlining effect.

When you reach a certain age, what gets streamlined in one place, simply gets pushed out in another. So attaining a go-faster torso would mean the left-overs would force their way out, leading to bulging neck, thighs and upper arms.

I was looking for something more flattering than flattening and had the classic conversation in one shop.

“Excuse me, do you have any women’s swimwear?”

“No, I’m sorry, we don’t stock any this time of year. Not much call for it...

“Just me, then.”

“Oh no, you’re about the fourth person to have asked this week...”

There was no way I was going to miss out on the hotel’s pool and Jacuzzi experience so I resolved to swim with my elbows pressed to my sides to prevent any unfortunate fall-out and subsequent prosecution.

I was going to swim and nothing was going to stop me... not even the overnight snow on the highest peaks; not even the fact that I hadn’t shaved my legs, thus further decreasing my body’s aero-dynamism.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I didn’t show up on someone’s hotel questionnaire under any other comments.

Wonderful hotel; great food; fantastic service; pity about the hairy woman in the pool with the flappy swimming technique.

Everywhere you look in the Lake District there are hooded people in anoraks with proper walking sticks, waterproof trousers, and hiking boots. Alternatively, there are cyclists, who look much the same except you might catch a gleam of lycra-clad leg and note a huge protruding forehead – caused by wearing a cycle helmet under your anorak hood. If Doctor Who was to arrive in Grasmere in his Tardis, he would probably think benign mintcake-eating aliens had taken over the planet.

Every other store sells “adventure wear”. If you happen to accidentally brush up against a rail of nylon windcheaters in one of these outlets, I understand the build up of static electricity is strong enough to stick you to the shop window.

You will have gathered that I am not much of a fell walker. My husband suggested I might need the services of a mountain placement team. Unlike the brave souls who rescue people from mountains, the placement team would carry people like me up the hillsides so that we too could wander lonely as clouds that float on high o’er vale and hills.

As opposed to standing at the bottom of said hills, wondering if I might feel a bit more inspired if I tucked my trousers into my socks.

And anyway, I dispute the fact that clouds are lonely in the Lake District; they seemed to have plenty of company while I was there.

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