What shall we do with the Connaught Club? Chuck ‘em in the pool!
LONDON. A sexily smoggy city that has accommodated some of the most epic and historical events in modern history: the 1911 Festival of the Empire, the 2012 Olympic Games, and now the Connaught Club’s “Crossing to Connaught”.
As I sit down to write this little ditty designed to inform you all about the Connaught Club’s latest charity endeavour, I am hampered by a number of slight complications: I can’t move my arms, my eyes are sore and bloodshot, and every time I swallow I am overcome with the taste of chlorine. “Why?”, I hear you inquire. Well, let me explain.
Every year the Connaught Club (the Club for Freemason’s aged under 35 in London) launches a charity appeal in an attempt to raise funds for the Metropolitan Masonic Charity. As we understand that the average Freemason is a little tired of raffles, the Connaught Club sets itself admirable feats designed to test the courage, stamina and dedication of its members. This year’s charity venture was to simulate the swim from Britain to Ireland, which I am reliably informed is a distance of 56 miles. In short, the fearless and the foolish members of the Connaught Club set themselves the challenge of swimming 90,123.3 metres (1,802.5 lengths) in the outdoor Olympic sized London Fields Lido.
LONDON FIELDS LIDO. Sunday 9th June 2013. At 8am we met. Despite it being June, even the Sun had decided to have a lie in. It was a crisp, overcast morning in East London. The twenty or so swimmers congregated swapping last minute words of inspiration, and in a brieft jubilant triumph over trepidation, dived in to the mock blue water. They were off. I kept count.
The lengths soon started to mount up. By 9am we had completed 100. The team was a mixture of kitted out pros, and happy-go-lucky amateurs. I certainly fitted into the latter category. I would call myself moderately fit, but swimming was never my forte. I am sure the Swansea Otters once decorated me with a patch celebrating my completion of 200 metres, but as those Speedos unfortunately no longer fitted, I was left to use my vivid imagination of the whole affair to motivate me. When I finally disrobed and took over from some already fatigued swimmers, I was happy to dive into the water in order to warm up! The weatherman had falsely teased us by promising a scorching summer’s day. He had obviously had a Michael fish moment, but it was now my time to have a Lewis-the-fish moment.
For those of you who don’t swim, in layman’s terms, a 50 metre pool is twice as long as it should be. During the first half of every length I would glide through the water like Flipper’s spritely younger cousin, then pop up in the hope that I had reached my destination (and for a prolonged gasp of air). Countless times I found myself peering through my water filled goggles at my destination which was another 25 metres away! I adopted the “slow and steady wins the race” approach and gradually clocked up the lengths in my distinct splashing style.
We worked in shifts. Swimmers such as myself would leap in with enthusiasm, complete 20 lengths, and drag themselves out. Other members of the team (those who were able not to swallow floods of chlorine each time they went under) were clocking up some serious miles per shift. Being a drab day, every time you dragged yourself out the pool the cold air would usurp all the heat from your body, causing a fit of shivers and a host of choice words. In a way, the air being so biting was a good thing. If someone complained that they were cold to me, I would simply suggest that they should “man up”, or get back in the pool!
Throughout the day we were attracting attention. We had erected a sign that boasted the number of lengths we were on, and our Connaught Club banner that says a little about the Club. When asked, we openly divulged that we were swimming for a Masonic charity and explained the fabulous causes that the MMC supports. This was met with unanimous acclamation. We enjoyed unknown swimmers offering to help out, and the very kind orange-haired Scottish lady in the café keeping us topped up with coffee and banana bread.
In shifts we chipped away at the miles. By 4pm, and after 8 hours swimming, we were only 100 lengths shy of the target. However, by now the cramp had started to take its toll, and the aches and pains were starting to kick in. At one point I was convinced I was too tired to shiver! However, in a last push to the finish, all swimmers were summoned back in the pool for one final push to the finish line. The last 100 lengths flew by and on the final one we all raced to the finish. Triumphantly we celebrated our achievement (and its end) with a cheer.
The Connaught Club came good again by putting its money where its mouth is, and swimming a truly incredible distance. We presented a bottle of Champagne to Bro. Fabian Rosso who managed to swim 350 lengths (17.5 kilometres!), and the whole team celebrated by consuming a specially designed Connaught Club cake!
The planning, perseverance, and pain had paid off and the Club can be proud that this October we will be presenting a cheque to the Metropolitan Masonic Charity for over £5,000. The funds are still rolling in, so if any reader would like to make a donation, or wants to learn more about the club, please email me on email@example.com.