A heron

A Wednesday evening, the penultimate week of late summer hour’s at the Men’s Pond. It is raining, not heavily, enough to keep the swimmers down to a few quietly determined bathers. They stroke silently close to the outer ropes and nod acknowledgement to me as I pass.

This summer has been good for swimming. Plenty of evenings like this, and while it has been warm the water has not got near the temperatures of previous years. In late August it is regaining its bite, especially on cooler days. Unlike previous years I have largely swam alone, stolen visits here not matching plans for meeting friends and family. It suits a part of me: the part that leaves worries at the bottom of the water. The other part, that loves this place and bringing others here feels neglectful. This though is not the place to fret.

The flock of parakeets that lives on the heath is noisy at first, their bright green feathers striking against the lime, elm and oak trees lining the bank. Then they quieten down, and the only noise I can hear is the churning of water and splash of my arms.

As I come to the end of my first lap there is a beating of wings. A heron, like a pterodactyl when viewed from the water, swoops in over the jetty. It looks to land on the diving board then decides against it, and rises and falls as it whirls round to the eastern edge of the water, where it comes to rest by the bushes. The guard notes the arrival of a familiar visitor. I climb out, dive back in and reverse my path round the perimeter. The rain gets heavier as I get out, as always emerging better than when I went in.

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