Philip Eade

Taking the Waters

Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal


Bloomsbury 272pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

In 1960, after a climbing accident in North Wales, Al Alvarez’s broken leg was set so badly that over the next thirty years all the cartilage in his ankle gradually wore away. By 1993, aged 63, this hard man of letters could barely hobble to the foot of a rock face, so he reluctantly gave up trying and turned instead to cold-water swimming to deliver the adrenalin rush that he used to get from dangling off mountains. Thus began his daily pilgrimage to the ponds on Hampstead Heath, where he first swam when he was 11. His ten-year journal of these morning dips makes up this haunting book, which began as a swimming diary but turned into a chronicle of getting old.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,