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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal
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on 24 August 2017
Very intersting, gift for my son who loves to swim in 'wild' places
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on 15 September 2017
A wonderful book, beautifully written
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on 6 February 2017
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on 15 September 2015
This was a gift for a friend, she is still thanking me for giving it to her.
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on 9 August 2015
excellent thank you
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on 25 February 2013
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.
11 people found this helpful
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on 19 September 2014
wonderful celebration of life which is beautifully written in measured tones which never rush or hurry but simply enjoy the moment and make you slow down as well to appreciate the changing seasons and the passing of the year.

I do feel great special empathy with this book as I lived for a while in a flat backing on the ponds in Hampstead and now, following an illness, swim several times a week,sadly in a municipal pool, but still manage to find it very life affirming - something which is a real joy in this book as despite the passing years and irritating health issues, it all becomes somewhat irrelevant when confronted with the determination to just keep doing.

So, even if London is a foreign land and you hate swimming I am sure you will find plenty in this book to svour at a leisurely pace just don't expect anything dramatic to happen but that is rather the point that we should all fave time to stand and stare
4 people found this helpful
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on 14 March 2013
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!
5 people found this helpful
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on 10 May 2013
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!
4 people found this helpful
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on 2 April 2013
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
2 people found this helpful
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