Immersion: John Wright reviews Dip, by Andrew Fusek Peters

 

 Dip cover

DIP: Wild Swims from the Borderlands

244pp. Rider.  £16.99.

978 1 846 04447 2

Andrew Fusek Peters seeks out the wilderness of dark pools and out of the way rivers.

Dip is a personal journey of Andrew Fusek Peters’s ‘wild swims’ in and around Shropshire and the Welsh borders. After I adjusted to the idea that bathing in cold water may, in fact, be invigorating, with many positive side effects, I began to take vicarious pleasure in his quest for those Borderland waters.

The more I waded in, the more I found the book drawing me deeper under the surface as the author, skilfully and with rare candour, reveals the dark world of his own depression and his short confinement in psychiatric hospitals where he wrestled with the devils of his own psyche.

The book makes clear that Peters’s lifelong habit of wild swimming is not only a source of joy to him, but also a cure – a means of recovery when the pressures of daily life became too much. We are taken on the journey into his life, meeting his wife, family and friends, as we learn how the wild swims have taken him from a lonely, fear-filled place back into the warmth and joy that of his family life.

Given Peters’s record as an author and poet, we should not be surprised to find that his language in describing these adventures is vital, vivid and full of unexpected metaphors and sonorous alliterations. His language drew me in like a charm.

The book also contains a series of black and white photographs which not only complement his powers of description but also open up the landscapes of wild swimming to those unfamiliar with the terrain.

Dip is a testament to the healing virtues of two great powers: that of water and that of writing. The book reveals the catharsis he undergoes not only through swimming but also the act of writing his experiences.

I put the book down feeling uplifted, aware of a somewhat subversive thought niggling away at me: that a dip into untamed water on a hot summer afternoon might do me the power of good.

Andrew Fusek Peters is appearing as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival on October 9 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm in the Studio Theatre, Library of Birmingham: Writing In The Wild: Tim Dee, Andrew Fusek Peters & Jean Sprackland

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