It was a warm sunny day, the water in the lake was clear and inviting, but the ugly red notice said DEEP WATER – NO SWIMMING. ‘Why am I allowed to swim in the sea’ Jean Perraton wondered ‘but not in the country park that has been provided by the council for people to enjoy?’ The search for the answer, or answers, evolved into her pioneering book Swimming Against the Stream, first published in 2005, but now updated in a second edition in 2013.
Her other book also evolved by chance when, sorting out papers after her mother’s death, she came across a hoard of letters that her father had written during his service as a dispatch rider in the Second World War. One Musician’s War, published in 2011, gives a glimpse of army life behind the front, sometimes curiously at odds with more official accounts, a life that demanded not heroism but hard work, stoicism, humour, and patience. She is now working on a history of the river Cam and how its has been used, abused, and above all, enjoyed.
Long since retired from a career working in environmental matters, environmental issues still dominate her life. Jean Perraton chairs the Cam Valley Forum, a voluntary group which works to protect and improve the river and its environment. She also enjoys swimming in the river, and is President of the River and Lake Swimming Association. In between she tries to find time to tend her garden, play the piano and create sculptures, but she rarely misses her weekly table tennis session (or geriatric ping pong as her husband calls it).