pastimes


In an earlier post concerning my winter swim in the ocean, I mentioned that the water was somewhat chilly but that the swim was glorious. Of course, I used some poetic license to emphasise the water’s temperature. My mother decided to write me an email to point out that the water in these parts was 18.1 degrees and that such a temperature is not so cold. I am not sure where my mother found such a statistic, for today I went for another swim. This time I was in the water, swimming laps in the ocean baths, for about 20 minutes. And the temperature: 15 degrees. This was obtained by simply putting a thermometer in the water (as the lifeguard does each day).

I have always marvelled at the old fogeys, who manage to swim throughout winter in these parts, even in water that would make a normal person blue with cold and suffering the effects of the cold on motor control. I speculated that perhaps such people had begun to lose the function of some nerves, so that they lost feeling to some extent. I wondered whether the many experiences of life made what once seemed like extremes into rather normal events.

Today, 9 August 2015, I decided to go for a swim in the ocean. This is the last month of winter in these parts, with chilly nights and fresh days. The water still has its winter feel. Down on the beach, I was the only person headed for the water. The few others present were rugged up, seeking to find some quiet on a winter’s afternoon by the water – albeit only for a look and the touch of the biting wind.

As I strode towards the water, I expected a brass-monkey and breath-taking dip, for perhaps a few seconds. Instead, it was glorious! I dove under waves, caught a few, sensed once again the salt water on my skin. Eventually, I came out of the water and went to change. I felt as though I was glowing.

Instead of a once-off event, I do believe this is the beginning of yet another swimming season. They seem to get longer every year. Another pleasure of age – they keep increasing in number.

I must admit I have a love of pocket watches, carrying one of my collection around with me at all times. So I was thrilled to read this, an address given to collective farm workers from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in December, 1935:

Secondly, that the government has decided to make a gift of an automobile truck to every collective farm represented here and to present every participant at this conference with a gramophone and records (applause) and watches – pocket watches for the men and wrist watches for the women. (Prolonged applause.) (Works, vol. 14, p. 123).

watch

James Endicott (1898-1993) was both a Christian missionary and a communist. Of Canadian background, he was ordained as a minister in the United Church. His claim to fame was active support of the communists leading up 1949 and then, back in Canada after more than two decades in China, speaking and agitating openly for support of the PRC. He was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize in 1952, for his work towards peaceful coexistence between communists and Christians.

endicott

endicott and zhou

This was a meeting between Endicott and Zhou Enlain in 1972.

Earlier, I commented on a glorious pleasure of age: the afternoon nap with snoring. I have them now on an almost daily basis. But I have always envied the ability of an old professor to nod off during a lecture given by someone else. He or she may give an introduction, especially if it is a visitor, and then promptly fall asleep, with snores, for the full stretch of the lecture. At it’s close, he or she is then able to ask a question and end with words of thanks. So that is my next aim: the lecture nap. I have a few conferences coming up, so intend to use them for some serious practice.

For many a year I have been looking forward to this time of life: when an afternoon nap becomes irresistible. (One of the many pleasures of age, which I have been noting from time to time.) I mean not the occasional nod at a meeting, or the brief kip on a train. This is the real thing: lean back on a reclining chair, or perhaps on an old day-bed in the sun-room, close your eyes, and soon enough you are off. The trick is to snore, for without snoring it is not an old-fogey nap. Since I am not a natural snorer, I ensure that I lie on my back. The first low rumble in my throat indicates that sleep is about to come upon me. And about an hour later, I will wake with a snore, thinking, ‘I hope I didn’t snore too much and disturb people’. This is best done when visiting others and is a very appropriate act for grandfathers.

Today, on Mayday, we had the inaugural Stalin Prize film night. More than I expected gathered to watch the epic Fall of Berlin (winner in 1950). We drank vodka, soaking it up with various nibblies. Some extraordinary scenes, such as the one when a mad and rat-like Hitler meets prelates from the Vatican and promises them that he will save ‘Western civilisation’, or the Stakhanovite themes at the beginning, replete with the rich harvests and steel plants that smiling children simply visit on a whim, or indeed the calm, measured, albeit somewhat stiff Stalin himself, who calmly directs the Red Army with insight and brilliance. Not a few laughs, but most stayed rivetted to the end. After all, it is really is a love story between Alexei and Natasha.

fall-of-berlin

More film nights to come, with other winners of the Stalin Prize.

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