relationships Tag

K (50) meets me on a bench in the muddiest of the meadows. She travels light, a practical clutch of swimming essentials. She already swam ‘illegally’ in a lake nearer to home with friends that morning but since she’s here she’ll have a second dip.

We’ve only exchanged a few brief emails before this first encounter. I know she’s a medic, three teenage children, a single parent. With an immediate intimacy created by the cocoon of sanctuary at the pond, she speaks of years parenting a hospitalised child, the end of her marriage, the unwavering support of female friends, spoken often through tears – of gratitude, the deep pain of motherhood, of relief.

Despite layers of jumpers and clutching a thermos of tea wrapped in gloves, I’m shivering after my swim. K urges me to get moving, concerned about my dropping temperature, kindly attentive but without a fuss. She volunteers a hug, an acknowledgement that two strangers just shared something remarkable by the standards of the outside world. ’I’d love to be part of your project’ she says. ‘I’ve never felt particularly comfortable in my own skin, but that’s getting so much better now, partly due to the accepting community at the pond.’