Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture

Front Cover, Nov 4, 2009 - Sports & Recreation - 159 pages
"...a fascinating book ...very readable, informative and entertaining... excellent illustrations." Leicester Mercury. "...the whole story makes for a fascinating social history." Bristol Evening Post. "Superb" Daniel Start (Wild Swimming). This captivating book puts flesh on the bones of British history, exposing for the first time the dramatic impact that swimmers have had on culture and morals. It explores the reason for a change in attitudes that has shaped the lives of every man woman and child in Great Britain and to varying degrees the world. British swimmers once filled the lakes and waterways of England. How did these sportsmen, the pride of the nation, find themselves chased out of the water, rounded up and confined to indoor swimming pools? Discover how pride turned to prejudice as swimmers sparked the development of the unique British culture of prudery. This book fills the conspicuous gap in understanding, that envelops this controversial and thought provoking subject.

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"Superb" Daniel Start (Wild Swimming)
"...a fascinating book, ...very readable, informative and entertaining... excellent illustrations." Leicester Mercury: Dip into our lost history (wild
"...the whole story makes for a fascinating social history." Bristol Evening Post: You can have a really wild time swimming in lakes and rivers
"...a thought-provoking and stimulating book, written in an accessible, direct and conversational style. ...of interest to every outdoor swimmer." The Outdoor Swimming Society (wild swimming)
"An excellent book so many memories" Michael Morris
"I distantly remember a beach, a grey sea, a chilly wind and my mother holding up a flapping towel so I could change into my new swimming trunks. I achieved it proudly and with praise, without a single soul being able to glimpse my willy or bottom. There was great relief as the towel was removed but my mum realized that I had them on back to front so I had to go through the whole prudish act again, but now with the additional ingredient of sand within!
At many points in the narrative of Chris Ayriss's new and illuminating book my memory was triggered of picnics by the paddling pool in our sunny park, being horribly sick in the over chlorinated and frightening swimming baths and communally skinny dipping in a rural river on a blissfully hot sunny day. Good memories and bad - I'm sure we all have them - undisturbed until now.
I was interested when I first heard of Chris's ten year labor of love to write a book on the history of swimming as it covered a bit of the same water as my last book about the River Soar. So I leapt in and thoroughly enjoyed reading the book in a matter of hours as Chris has an easy style that doesn't get in the way of the endless facts, stories and legends. And what facts they are! The Romans equated the skill of swimming with that of reading because they could conquer the world with the skill and how comparatively recently it was considered very unlucky to save someone from accidental drowning! Why the Victorians squeezed the grip on the behavior of naked boys enjoying the river waters and the contemporary obsession in removing anything that might get a local authority sued, like diving boards and paddling pools.
Bathing and swimming have gone in and out of fashion regularly since the Romans astonished the conquered Brits, with their heated bath complexes. These pleasure palaces of their empire eventually became dens of iniquity and vice over the long centuries and so baths became strictly controlled towards the end.
Nearly 2000 years later Chris was seeking photos and illustrations for his book and constantly came up against archives having been recently censored with photos of children swimming being removed and unavailable. With those he did secure for publishing, he angst over as the unaccountable shadow of paedophilia hangs over us all, but in the interests of clarity he published them and be damned.
Chris is a Leicester lad and so his model of how attitudes and local authorities changed throughout the country in their provision of swimming, was Leicester itself. And it is an edifying read about the antics of huge Daniel Lambert floating like a whale with men on his back in the River Soar, through a time when the British Empire ruled the world of swimming and Leicester provided a couple of great sporting heroes who set the pace, the first heated swimming pool since the Romans and on into the chlorinated and dreadful penny pinching of the council today where not a single outdoor paddling pool or lido can be experienced in the city.
Hung Out To Dry is a serious work of dogged research, personal experience and an insightful indictment of our times where to have water fun is now so regulated that it will cease to be fun at all! Read this book and wake up to what has happen to the English." Roger Hutchinson

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