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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silver swimmer on golden ponds.
Al Alvarez sounds like a lovely man and he certainly knows how to turn a lovely sentence. This is a diary of his almost daily swims in Hampstead's ponds. Oh, how he loves them! Now in his eighties, Al Alvarez mourns the passing of the years but enjoys the passing of his days. The birds and haughty swans, the spring flowers, the people he meets, even the ice-cold water...
Published 17 months ago by Sue Kichenside

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ramblings of an old man
I've been a fan of Alvarez but this! My diary is more interesting than his! I kept turning the pages waiting for something, indeed anything, to happen. And nothing did.
Published 14 months ago by Simon


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silver swimmer on golden ponds., 16 Feb 2013
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal (Hardcover)
Al Alvarez sounds like a lovely man and he certainly knows how to turn a lovely sentence. This is a diary of his almost daily swims in Hampstead's ponds. Oh, how he loves them! Now in his eighties, Al Alvarez mourns the passing of the years but enjoys the passing of his days. The birds and haughty swans, the spring flowers, the people he meets, even the ice-cold water. Especially the ice-cold water. He recalls winning and losing poker hands at the Vic on the nights before his swims. He talks a little about his friends and family, his house in Italy. I found myself thinking of Sinatra singing "Oh it's a long, long time...from May to September." I found myself thinking of a lot of things actually. Youth, aging, how on earth this man could swim in the Hampstead pond throughout the winter, whether he knew my late father who also played poker at the Vic. I could perhaps have done with a nod to the narrative arc, but that's just me. And I wish I could write like him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest book, 22 Sep 2013
This review is from: Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal (Hardcover)
Excellent. Getting older? Read this book, It is perhaps a slow book, perhaps seemingly repetitive to some readers but its written by an older author as his life carries on at his pace. (Indeed my pace). It all comes together very well at the end. It is not a page turner so best read slowly a bit at a time. I felt quite at ease with this -the meaning of life takes a while to work out. This is not some philosophical 'what is life' book. Of course knowing the Hampstead area, the Heath and the Heath Ponds is an extra bonus but in no way detracts. But you come always come and visit. I'm glad I read this and pleased
I read it at the pace it was written.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Facing Up, 25 Feb 2013
By 
Mr. D. James "nonsuch" (london, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal (Hardcover)
Al Alvarez, Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal

Albert Alvarez (A or Al Alvarez) is known mainly as a poetry critic, anthologist and novelist, but none of this would be apparent from this recent journal, which deals with his daily routine of swimming in the Hampstead and Highgate ponds. We learn a good deal about the vagaries of English weather, the various waterfowl that visit or are resident on the ponds and the fact that our author is an ardent poker player, but literary talk is kept to a minimum. The prose is disarmingly simple, largely restricted to facts about wildlife, the changing seasons and their effect on the writer. Hence on Saturday 10 May, 2008, after recuperating from a stroke: `A beautiful summer day - almost a week of them in fact - but better than summer because it's the beginning of May and everything is suddenly in bloom. The mayflowers are heavy with blossom and the chestnuts with candles, Queen Anne's lace is waist high, the great copper beech shines and shimmers with light, the air smells sweet and the whole world is green and young and fresh.'

The ponds, especially in winter, are frequently seen as a Paradise, and the daily swim, which becomes increasingly difficult for the geriatric Alvarez, is essential to his bodily and spiritual well-being. But this is a story not only about the delights of moving in water, but about the process of growing old, of facing up to failing powers and the author's ultimate demise.. With his eye open and his senses alert, Alvarez has described the water, the air and the natural world supported by these elements with precision and accuracy. Nature, especially water, has kept Alvarez literally and spiritually afloat in a world that is beautiful but sad - at least to we humans. As he struggles to swim a few yards, flanked by two faithful lifeguards who will help him to dress and hobble to his car, Alvarez begins to lose interest in reviewing, finds life literally a pain (he has been a cripple for years, after suffering from a mountaineering accident) and has to admit, `the truth is I really am falling apart depressingly fast.'

The reader, however, comes to admire the author's scrupulous honesty in recording this gradual process of decline and his heroic determination to carry on. We understand his anguish and anger - as when he is refused renewal of a disabled sticker because he can still walk. The getting into a car before a swim and doing up buttons after it become huge challenges. Thankfully the author still has a devoted wife, loyal friends, and, one trusts, many readers rooting for him.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journal, 14 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal (Hardcover)
Good humour with flashes of real insight. Nuanced descriptions of the change of seasons and coping with the inevitable physical burdens of getting older. A great example of the journal genre, like a relaxing friend to read.
Its also a book you can just dip into!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable read, 10 May 2013
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This review is from: Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal (Hardcover)
I loved this book, a look at nature and an honest account on aging. As a veteran athlete I could empathise with the need to keep the body moving - however difficult that might be. Sad when I finished the book - always a good sign!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book lovely man, 2 April 2013
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This review is from: Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal (Hardcover)
As a swimmer and swimming journal keeper I enjoyed it very much. Al's lifelong swimming career seemed to be coming to an end. I do hope he is managing to get in occasionally. Godfrey Sayers
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ramblings of an old man, 24 May 2013
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Simon (Beckenham, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I've been a fan of Alvarez but this! My diary is more interesting than his! I kept turning the pages waiting for something, indeed anything, to happen. And nothing did.
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Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal
Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal by Al Alvarez (Hardcover - 14 Feb 2013)
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