Swimming in the (urk) Liffey

One of the reasons I like living in Dublin is that there’s always something zany going on the centre of town. I walked into town (well, more into town, as we’re about 15 minutes walk from the O’Connell St.) to hear Ethan Hawke read from his new novel (he was charming, it sounded mediocre). It turns out that it’s the day of the annual Liffey Swim! That gets an exclamation mark for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the tremendously polluted state of said river.

I pass the finish line, which is opposite the historical Customs House, and continue on my way into town. After a couple of minutes, more people are lining the streets and I see a number of boats and kayakers in the water. They’re moving in paralell with the lead swimmer, a big lad whose heavy arms are slapping away at the water. He’s got a fantastic lead on the rest of the pack–the guy in second place is a good 30 yards back, and at the front of a mass of frothing river. There were 180 people in all, and for a hundred yards they looked like 360 spawning salmon, arms churning out of the water. In 1923, Yeats painted the scene.

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