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London alive ahead of royal wedding

London is alive ahead of the royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle

Opinion

London alive ahead of royal wedding

Sami Muirhead meets members of The Serpentine swimming club who swim year-round in the icy waters of the famous London lake.

As you read this (thanks, Mum), Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be embarking on their married royal life together.

I love love and I am writing my column from London this week (while pinching myself).

My workplace, Mix FM radio, has sent me and Toddy to cover the royal wedding. A dream come true. But in the lead-up to the wedding, we have been soaking up the charms of London.

Hyde Park has stolen my heart and offered me such serenity every day. I always love nature when I travel, and Hyde Park is the most stunning area at this time of year, with squirrels running in the green grass and country flowers in shades of pink and mauve blooming everywhere.

We stumbled across a group of swimmers in The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park who stopped me in my dreamy tracks. I could not believe these white British bodies were willingly jumping into the water where only swans and ducks are brave enough to go. Even in summer, the water is really cold.

Roz Stoople has been a member of the club for 50 years. Being a member means you have to attend Saturday morning race days and plunge into the near freezing water year around. It is as far removed from Nippers at our blue and yellow beaches as I can imagine.

“It is okay weather wise for me to swim most of the year, but a few Christmases ago the ice on top of the lake cut my arms as I was swimming in the lake,” says Roz.

“Many people think we are crazy, but the friendships I have made here over the decades are priceless and the craziness bonds us.

“I also believe the cold water keeps us young,” adds the 82-year-old.

The worrying part is the fact Roz thinks this is a sensible thing to do.

The club was established in 1864 and members say the sense of camaraderie is strong. The club also does not tolerate anyone who feels the cold.

If you Google the club, you will see the rules state that while some external events are wetsuit compulsory and people need to use them for training, the club doesn’t consider the use of wetsuits to be within the true spirit of a year-round swimming club.

Diving into freezing water in the middle of London without a wetsuit seems plain bonkers to me, and yet I was totally smitten with the club and its members.

I told them with happiness that on the other side of the world, we have many clubs who swim in the ocean every morning at 5am. In a smug tone, I said our water temperature was tropical and we were much better off than them. I was told promptly in response there are no sharks, stonefish or jellyfish in the Hyde Park lake. Touché!

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Sami Muirhead is a radio announcer, blogger and commentator. For more from Sami tune into Mix FM.

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