Pickled and proud

18 Oct

Last year, I wrote about my first ocean swim ‘surfari’ on Heron Island. This year, I returned for the sequel. Yet again, it was awesome.

The swimbeciles, the Murwillumbah Brass Monkies and Tim the Turtleman were missed but instead there were just as many characters like the laydees who wore their Sydney Skinny tee shirts all weekend; Keith Keitzmann from Auckland who scored the honour of back of the pack in the long swim and invited us all round to his to have a swim and stay over; and the 70 odd year old chap ‘swimming’s not really my thing’ who has just come back from competing for Australia at the World Masters games in running. The hats were silicon so I didn’t need to worry about Gill’s latex allergy. I managed not to confuse my Olympians there being (as far as I know) only one present this year in the form of former Clovelly Cherub ‘Big Brew’. And just to keep him company, a tiger shark turned up out of the blue just like in the Maui channel.

The 1km was a bit more challenging this year (for those of us that went the whole
way round the course although most people didn’t notice the short cuts being
taken as whales happened to turn up and put on a breaching display just as we
were all swimming).  The 3km was a bit easier coming up just short as it was so horribly choppy at one end of the island that os.c kindly cut a little tiny bit out.

Both races were won by the same trios in different order.  For 2 of the laydees, believe it or not, it was their first (and then second) ocean swim!  They come from Tamworth (wonder if they’ve heard of the Tamworth Two) and a 50m pool has only just opened in their locality this year.  Talented water polo players, they thought they’d give this ocean swimming thing a go!

yarncapAfter dinner, Paul Ellercamp ran a little impromptu ‘Spinning Swimming Yarns’ following our night of telling tall tales the week before in Sydney.  It was a great night, thanks again to all that made it possible and helped raise almost $2,000 for Cure Cancer Australia.  You can read some of the stories here and here.

But on the subject of stories, I wanted to write something more than what I said on Heron about 2 very special laydees that I got to know better over the long weekend.

gherkinsYou see, we had a little bit of a posse of Can Tooers.  As well as ourself, Gill and Glamorous Glenda, two of our more senior cobbers, Bev and Marie, came along.  On the first night Glenda tried to get them pickled.  She scammed a box of pickled gherkins off the ever helpful restaurant staff claiming that’s what USA swimmer Gary Hall jr munches on to fend off cramp.  But Glenda, if you google Gary Hall jr and gherkins, for some reason, it comes up with a David Duchovny, aka Agent Mulder, quote on the subject of his red pants – ‘They can stuff it with two plums and a gherkin and put it on display’.  So I am a bit confused.  Anyway, Bev (who doesn’t drink) fell for it even though older and wiser Marie did not.  Big Brew was cynical about the gherkins and Gary Hall jr but was happy to get pickled and proved wrong.

Anyway, I don’t even know how to begin to tell you about these amazing laydees.  They met little more than a year ago on the Mekong river.  When Bev (66) found out that Marie (who turned 76 this week) lived round the corner from her in North Sydney, she said, ‘I could spit on you from my balcony’.  Marie disputes this claim to puckering up prowess or spittoon skills.  Bev says she’ll keep practising.

Bev asked Marie to do a Can Too swim program with her.  Marie agreed protesting later that Bev forgot to mention that she couldn’t really swim.

TA posse (subset of our pod) of Can Tooershat would have been about the only thing that Bev couldn’t do however.  Little by little over the course of the weekend, we discovered more and more about these remarkable laydees, both of whom are grandmothers.

Bev has driven a train, sky dived, jumped out of a helicopter, been a traffic controller, chauffeured the King of Greece, built her own house with hubby John, gone spearfishing, ridden a motorbike from Cape Town to Jo’burg, fired a kalashnikov and an AK47 and is a marriage celebrant.  She is passionate about rugby union (former hooker – in the game not on the game) and paralympians.  Every year she organises a car rally as a fundraiser for the Australian paralympians and says she just goes places looking for as much dirt as possible.

Former ex-first class trolley dolly Marie tells hilarious stories about beehives, vomit and false teeth on the original kangaroo route.  Pronounced Marie with a long ‘A’ as one American passenger once remarked ‘like the New Zealand native’, she admits to being thrown out of Uni for being too wild.  She narrowly missed out on selection for the Melbourne Olympics as a fencer (as in sword fencing not farm skills).  Having lost a diamond earring swimming last season, she is threatening to have the surviving one made into a nose stud and to get a tattoo.  Her family have recently bought her a paragliding jump.

Sea star.  Just like Bev and Marie

Sea star. Just like Bev and Marie

The pair were defeated by the nasty, nasty break at last year’s inaugural Little Big Swim but conquered the 1km Cole.  Heron was their second (and also third for Bev) ocean swim.  During the swim, Marie was offered a rest by a kayaker.  Uncertain of protocol and not wishing to be enveloped in some Diana Nyad controversy, Marie at first refused and then negotiated that she would grab a temporary hold but only if she was allowed to still kick.  When the lovely Karen pointed out to Bev nearing the end of the 3km, that Marie was on the shore cheering and suggested a wave, Bev replied ‘but if I wave, people might think I want to be rescued and I don’t!’.   True to form not just in the swim, Bev started a conga line at the gala dinner and Marie spent the evening enveloped by an inflatable turtle that she pulled from the ceiling.

It doesn't matter that we were the rear of the pack

It doesn’t matter that we were the rear of the pack

I keep telling them that they are only whippersnappers in ocean swimming terms.  I wonder what they will do next?!  They were and are inspirational to me and I hope many other Can Tooers and swimmers.  Good luck for this coming season girls.  You are awesome!

2 Responses to “Pickled and proud”

  1. Kate October 18, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    You have me in stiches! Sounds like a fabulous trip… with endless laughs… wish I could have been there!

  2. Libby October 18, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    Amazing ladeez…you are in good company and so are they – you are amazing too!!

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