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11 AUGUST 2007


For the Romantic poets and their followers, swimming symbolised many things: heroic challenge, liberation from the pressures of bourgeois life and a return to nature and the womb.  Enthusiastic swimmer Arthur Smith takes the plunge into a world of dangerous depth and wonderful waters and explores an enduring icon, and symbol, at the heart of the holiday experience – the swimming pool.

Arthur is joined by pioneer polar swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh and Charles Sprawson, the author of cult swimming classic, Haunts of the Black Masseur and Duch Historian, Thomas van Leeuwen who wrote The Springboard on the Pond: An Intimate History of The Swimming Pool.

Presented by Arthur Smith

swimming pool in Mauritius

Photo: Swimming pool in Mauritius

This week’s guests:

Lewis Gordon Pugh is an endurance swimmer.  On 15th July 2007 Lewis completed a 1km swim at the North Pole to highlight the effects of climate change. He swam for eighteen minutes and fifty seconds in temperatures of -1.8C (28.7F), the coldest waters a human has swum in. Last year Lewis became the first swimmer in history to complete a long distance swim in all 5 oceans of the world, a feat which many had considered to be the "holy grail" of swimming. He also became the first person to complete a long distance swim in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.

During his career spanning nearly twenty years he has pioneered more swims around famous landmarks than any other swimmer and is regarded by many as the greatest cold water swimmer in history.  As a boy, Lewis moved from England to South Africa, where he first started to swim.  By the age of 17, he had completed a swim from Robben Island to Cape Town, and shortly thereafter he crossed the English Channel.

All of Lewis's swims were done according to English Channel Swimming Association* Rules, which only allowed a swimming costume, cap and pair of goggles - no wetsuit, no drysuit.

*Channel Swimming Association LTD

Charles Sprawson is an enthusiastic swimmer and the author of Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Hero as Swimmer, a classic which takes its reader a watery journey through the culture and literary history of swimming.
Charles learnt to swim in India, in a pool donated to the school by Edwardian prince and cricketer Ranjitsinhji.  Later in his life, Charles went to Arabia to lecture in classical culture after reading an ad in The Times (in Latin) while working as a swimming pool attendant in Paddington.  He swims most days in a hotel pool overlooking the Thames but remains very fond of swimming in Italy and Greece.

Haunts of the Black Masseur: Swimmer as Hero
Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition
ISBN-10: 0099223317
ISBN-13: 978-0099223313

Thomas van Leeuwen is a Dutch historian and author of The Springboard in the Pond: An Intimate History of The Swimming Pool. Thomas has travelled to pools in different parts of the world. Inspired by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, Thomas has attempted a study of the architectural form of the swimming pool.  Thomas believes that America has more swimming pools than the rest of the world.  These watery basins serve as playgrounds, gymnasiums, Edenic sanctuaries, reflective oases and, of course, status symbols.

The Springboard in the Pond: Intimate History of the Swimming Pool
Publisher: The MIT Press
ISBN-10: 0262220598
ISBN-13: 978-0262220590

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