As I drove out of town the sky brightened showing patches of blue and by the time I reached the small car park there was full on sunshine. Hah! It is for exactly these moments that I carry a set of swimming kit under the back seat of the car at all times.
It is a very low spring tide and Mussel Rock is cut off from the beach by only a narrow band of shallow water. The rock is draped with tresses of kelp around the base whilst the top is barnacle encrusted and gouged into sharp relief. The centre of the rock is actually hollowed out, not that you can tell from here, and the water flows in and out through two narrow tunnels so that every tide for just a short while there is a perfectly serviceable hidden swimming pool.
Another of the local swimmers is on the beach, we chat for a moment remarking on the improvement in the conditions since the weekend as now the sea is flat calm rather than the raging surf it had been.
I swim straight out into the slightly less sandy water where it is almost blue-green though too silt filled for me to see my toes. I turn and swim around the back of the rock listening to the waves slurping in and out of nooks and crevices. The sun makes the kelp glisten and, as always, it puts me in mind of the description of the aliens in The War of the Worlds and, as always, it makes me wonder if the seals are about and are closing in ready to pounce on an unwary foot.
Just to add to the feeling of isolation, low sunshine is so bright off the water that the beach and cliffs in that direction are an indistinct dark blur.
I complete my circumnavigation and run around in the shallows further down the beach towards my towel.
As I dry a woman wearing a black swimsuit walks down the sand and into the water and for a moment it looks like it could be another of the local swimmers. It’s only March for goodness sakes, there are never this many swimmers here, swimming is the thing it seems.
I stop and chat to her as I’m heading off the beach.
‘I saw you from the coast path and you inspired me’, she tells me.
Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever inspired anyone before. Conned, browbeaten, and cajoled by other devious means, but inspired is a first.
‘Well at least you had your swimsuit’. I’m making the assumption that everyone carries spare swim kit at all times like me.
‘Knickers and t-shirt’, she confesses, ‘I haven’t swum in ages’.
Proper inspired then. I feel quite positive about that.