Goggleblog catches up with Kathy Watson, author of The Crossing, a book about the first person to swim The Channel, Captain Matthew Webb
What inspired you to write a book about Captain Matthew Webb’s channel crossing?
I was reading a book about swimming technique and there was a short introduction describing the development of swimming as a sport. It had a section on Matthew Webb’s swim and I was fascinated by the details. Just the idea of swimming for nearly 22 hours seemed staggering.
So I read a bit more about him and as soon as I heard about his insane venture, trying to swim Niagara Falls, I knew it would make a great book. In the end, via Matthew Webb’s life, I was able to write about a whole range of things – Victorian England, the cult of celebrity and, of course, my first love, swimming.
Did you find out anything interesting about his life while researching the book?
I really enjoyed interviewing Channel swimmers, finding out what motivated them, how they’d trained, how they felt when they either succeeded or failed.
Are there any other swimming books that have inspired you?
Waterlog by Roger Deakin. It’s about open water swimming and it has a strong environmental message. I also love Haunts of the Black Masseur by Charles Sprawson. It’s about swimming and reading and swimming and writing which are my favourite things. The Million Dollar Mermaid is also great. It’s about Esther Williams and all those over the top movies where swimming meets Hollywood. And, of course, John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer.
Would you like to swim the channel yourself?
Yes. In my dreams. I am strictly a warm water swimmer.
What are your favourite pools/places to swim?
Park Road in London’s Crouch End. I love the Lido there in the summer. The Ladies Pond at Hamsptead Heath is gorgeous.
How often do you swim?
Two to three times a week. Pretty much every day during school holidays.
Are you planning to do the Swimathon this year?
Yes. I do it with my children, a friend and her children. It’s become an annual event.