Jacob Charles Wilson


✓✓ Read Receipts: Into the water

A photograph of Dungeness Power Station

The past few days I've spent a fair bit of time in the water. On Friday I swam twenty lengths in the perfectly ascetic municipal moderne Brockwell Lido, where the concrete floor can scorch your feet after only a few hours of sunlight. Then on Saturday I visited Southend-on-Sea for the launch of the Radical Essex book, where I had a very muddy splash at the point the Thames estuary meets the sea. Appropriately, I've also been reading and watching things about water.

  • Place one hand on a surface, move it from left to right or vice versa and listen to what you get. Apply these movements on different surfaces that are easy to find such as wood, glass, a painted wall, skin, clothes on a body, a carpet, or leather. How to imitate the sound of the shore using two hands and a carpet by Cevdet Erek. A few weeks ago I looked after some friends’ little kitten, as a thank you gift they gave me this instruction book, a miniature adaption of the artist’s publication Shore Sea Soundtrack (2007). It's self explanatory, and it's excellent.
  • There's nothing relaxing about a public pool in London when speed swimmers go about their hectic training. If you're not a racing swimmer, speed in a pool seems pointless: what's the rush, where are you going? At the Pool by Inigo Thomas for the London Review of Books. Thomas reviews Haunts of the Black Masseur by Charles Sprawson and writes anecdotally of swimming at the Parliament Hill lido in London, a lido I've never been to but I'm looking forward to visiting.
  • Dhan Uisge (Into the water) on BBC Alba is currently one of my favourite TV programmes. Wild swimmer Calum Maclean travels to remote lochs, tarns, and seas around Scotland simply to swim, admire the landscape, and crack a few jokes. It's inspired me to put more effort into swimming in lakes and seas.
  • I noticed it'd been a while since I'd last had an email from Swimmers, a small press publishers based in London. It turns out they've taken a break to update their website and plan a new events programme. In the meantime I highly recommend signing up to their mailing list.
  • It is not often that a riverbed, let alone one in the middle of a city, is pumped dry and can be systematically examined. The excavations in the Amstel yielded a deluge of finds, some 700,000 in all: a vast array of objects, some broken, some whole, all jumbled together. The Damrak and Rokin canals in Amsterdam were recently drained as part of the North/South metro line archaeological project. Below the Surface documents the thousands of archaeological finds dating from around 2005CE back to 4000BCE.
  • At thousands of feet deep, the seafloor is not merely cold and bathed in black; its surface is mostly barren—until a carcass lands, ending its transit through the water column, an elision between two worlds that began with the whale's last breath at the surface. Where do Whales go when they die? by Nick Pyenson for Literary Hub. An article as rich in insights as a whale carcass is in lipids.
  • There are even some recorded instances, the journalist would describe in a paragraph that the editor eventually cut, wherein divers apparently decide to die. Bodies are recovered with plenty of air remaining in the tank and nothing at all wrong with the equipment, and it appears the divers simply removed their respirators from their lips and let water fill their lungs. The Dive by Samsun Knight on Granta. A short story of a fatal dive in Michigan lake, and winner of the 2018 Disquiet Literary Prize.
  • In December 1981, the Penlee lifeboat was called out to help a stricken coaster off the coast of Cornwall. In hurricane winds and sixty foot waves, the crew of the Solomon Browne made a heroic attempt to rescue those on board the ill-fated Union Star. Cruel Sea: The Penlee Lifeboat Disaster on BBC iPlayer. In my mind the phrase worse things happen at sea is entirely true. This harrowing documentary, originally broadcast in 2006 on the 25th anniversary of the disaster, is a reminder of the dangers of the sea and the necessity and often-unrecognised heroism of lifeboat crews.