In the middle of June I was contacted by Emma Robertson, a producer for a television company called Tiger Aspect. They specialise in making TV documentaries and Emma was busy setting up filming for a programme called “Wild Swim” featuring the famous TV actor, Robson Green. Robson had made a similar programme on wild fishing for Channel 5 that had been well received and had good reviews.
Dave and I were to meet Jessie-Lee Cardew, the Assistant Producer for a chat as she was keen to find out a little more about our swimming backgrounds and what inspired our great lido challenge to swim a mile in every UK lido for Save the Children fund. Jessie was sweet and very kind talking us through the production process and would we be available for filming the week beginning 30th. June? We were up for it, and another of life’s new experiences was about to unfold.
Jessie contacted us the following week to tell us that they had decided to use the Tinside Lido at Plymouth for the lido part of the programme. We were pleased as this lido certainly ranked in our top three for its beauty and magnificent art deco charm plus the pool staff were very friendly last time. Robson was to start his swimming odyssey there and it was to take him all over the UK swimming in a wide variety of unusual swimming places including for instance a swim around Burgh Island and Tintagel. He was also going to meet Queen of the Channel, Alison Streeter who had swum it a staggering 43 times and Lewis Pugh who has swum the Arctic.
With Diana driving, we made our way down to Plymouth arriving at the pool well ahead of the appointed time of 10am. Production was already in full flow with Robson making several swims across the pool tracked by a camera and film crew using a specially made floating pontoon to enable them to get a real close-up of the action.
Robson broke off from filming and came over to introduce himself to us landing a smacking kiss on Diana’s cheek and I swear she hasn’t wash her face since! He was friendly warm and funny throughout the day and was prepared to spend time with anyone who approached him. Even our male director was called darling!
The lido itself looked absolutely magnificent in the glorious mid summer sun. With the mouth of the River Tamer and the ocean as a backdrop and flanked by Plymouth Hoe at the rear, the whole place sparkled. Robson was most interested in its sense of theatre and this was the initial line that he took when interviewing us later in the day. You could see where he was coming from with pool’s beautiful curved lines and it’s staggered sunbathing staging, it gave the impression of wonderful amphitheatre
It was great to see the pool on a hot sunny day. When we visited it on our challenge in 2007, there were grey skies and it was raining quite heavily. Only a mum and her daughter were swimming then so it was wonderful seeing all the patrons come in when the pool opened to the public at noon. They came in all shapes and sizes, some young some old, many families but all with an obvious love of the place. Dave and I reminisced about our youth when we used to turn up at the start of the day with our sandwiches and soft drink and would only go home when we were turfed us out at the end of the day.
Meanwhile the filming proceeded at a slower pace than expected as the film crew got to grips with their new equipment and we were asked by Jessie if we could wait until 2pm to do our bit. The production company had hired a helicopter to fly in and take some aerial views of the lido, the sea and the Hoe.
For our interview with Robson, we sat in our swimming costumes on the concrete platform overlooking the sea. The chat took a somewhat quirky line as I was asked to describe my Houdini act which I used to perform at the Barnstaple Swimming Club’s Annual Carnival Gala in 60s at the Rock Park Open Air Pool (sadly no more). This involved being tied up, chained, encased in a sack and then thrown off the top diving board into a flaming pool. I don’t think the health and safety people would be very impressed these days and I guess that my wife would be grateful for that.
Dave was able to explain his great love of open water swimming, the freedom it gave him and the enhancement of the senses it inspired. We both agreed that no indoor pool could inspire such a feeling. He had learnt to swim in the Jubilee Open Air Pool in Penzance and went on to represent his country in many long distance open water events before gaining an international reputation in triathlon.
After half an hour it was our turn to swim with Robson. Several scenes were set up, one of which required us to swim with him in a line with Dave on one side and me on the other. We were to swim past a bevy of local beauties who were reclining languidly by the side of the pool. As we passed, Robson said “Come on Bob, say something!”. The only thing I could think of was “If I look as if I’m in trouble, do you think they would jump in and save me”. The film crew must have liked it as we filmed that sequence three or four times.
It must have all been very exciting for the locals too as one young lad kept swimming across the camera range at strategic times! We loved our day’s filming with the glamour and excitement of it all. I don’t think I will run to employing my own personal trainer as Robson did. Fitness coach John had been his regular companion as he trimmed a stone and a half off his figure over the previous three months though he did look impressively fit and good in his swimming costume. In the last piece of the day we found ourselves sitting with our legs dangling in the pool imagining what lay ahead for him in his great swimming adventure. True to form, he asked me where I got my flashy light blue speedos (the old variety). I had to tell him these would soon be coming back in fashion especially when I introduce my “back to the future” woollen 40s style cossie. Now there would be a sight to savour!