Swimming and book publishing have in common the ability to take a person right out of their comfort zone. If you're reading this there's a good chance you're a swimmer of one stripe or another. So you may be familiar with the unsettling moments it has to offer; the exposed feeling walking from changing room to pool where you feel certain that everybody is staring at your wobbly bits, the blind flash of terror when something unseen and unidentifiable touches your foot in murky water, the chill that runs up the back of your spine when you swim through an inexplicably colder patch of lake water, the knot in your stomach when that barrel jellyfish drifts closer and closer, the crushing disappointment when the tuck shop has run out of your favourite post-swim cake... all those and more.
The unsettling aspects of getting a book into print are equally many and varied, and we endured one of them just before Christmas. Now that The Lido Guide is almost ready to be sent to the printer our thoughts, and those of our publisher, naturally begin to focus more sharply on marketing and publicity.
"We need some headshots of the two of you, for publicity" said our editor Imogen.
I'm fiercely uncomfortable in front of camera, so was all for sending in something that had been taken around some pool or other. Preferably one were I'm unrecognisable by virtue of swim cap and goggles, and where the water hides my many and varied chins.
Janet was less keen on this approach. So we agreed that we should have a go at something more dry land based. We tried a few candid, informal shots (many thanks to Gill from Historic Pools for joining in with this) but we soon realised that it is simply unfair to expect a friend to make silk purses out of sows' ears in this way. And besides, darlings, my hair was all over the place in that breeze. So Janet, being the consummate professional that she is, arranged for us to go to a photography studio in Bristol one chilly afternoon. She tried to organise me in terms of making sure we were wearing something compatible. I see, now, that this is what the casually put question 'so what are you wearing?' was designed to do. Unfortunately, my stock approach to questions about clothes is to freeze and clam up. I entirely lack whatever gene some people have that enables them to take an interest in fashion, clothes, shoes, bags etc etc. I have only once, for an example, bought a coat that wasn't of the practical, outdoors, waterproof and / or down-filled variety. And to be honest, that was an accident. I'd gone out to buy a pair of trousers for work and came home with a coat. This is what happens to me, when I shop for clothes - chaos. So what I said to Janet, when she asked that very sensible question, was 'I don't know, haven't thought about it, whatever is first out of the drawer I expect'. In short, I was no help.
Fortunately, we both turned up wearing black. Janet had brought a spare outfit, just in case. I marvel at that woman's foresight and planning, I really do.
The bright young thing who was our photographer for the afternoon was infinitely patient as we prevaricated, squirmed, tried to smile like we meant it and did our best to do as we were told. Shoulders like so, arms like this, stand like that... in some ways it was nice to just be told what to do. Although she did ask me, at the outset, whether I had a 'favourite side'. My blank look and gaping mouth was probably all the answer she needed. At one point she asked us what was the weirdest thing that had happened to us as we'd been dashing all over the country visiting pools. Our response was instantaneous, and unanimous - 'THIS!'
But we managed to hold it together, and after much sifting we have a shot that we are content with. So... meet your authors.Out of their comfort zones but still smiling. Which, really, is what swimming is all about.