Ian Down's Poetic Touch Across The English Channel

Ian Down’s Poetic Touch Across The English Channel

Ian Down is an English Channel swimmer who completed the Channel in 15 hours 47 minutes in 2010.

He was awarded the Pierre Van Vooren Memorial Trophy by the Channel Swimming Association for its Best Swimmer in Arduous Conditions for the 2010 season.

He explains the background of a song he wrote about swimming across the English Channel, “Victoria Wood wrote the lyrics and music to the song called The Ballad of Barry and Freda, popularly known as Let’s Do It. I wrote a song and named it ‘The Channel General Song’ as a parody of the Victoria Wood’s song:

The Channel General sat one day
Surveying her swimmers in the bay
The wind was soft. The sun was up
Freda drained the tea from her cup

Barry was up, and maxim-making
His shingle stompers to the swimmers taking
She stubbed her fag. She felt sublime
Her red caps were coming in to feed on time

[But one got out and said:]

Can’t do it
Let me quit
My shoulder’s bad I need to moan
I’m hypothermic
Feeling sea sick
I’m tired and I want to go home
Feel horrid
And squalid
I need to get out and eat something solid
Can’t do it I’ve had enough

[So Freda said:]

Stop chatting
Get back-to-backing
Or you’ll get an extra hour or so
Quit bleating
My heart’s a-bleeding
If you’re asking to get out, it’s ‘no’
No more yak
Just go back
I’m not fooled by your plan of attack
Get in and start to swim

[But still she heard:]

Don’t want to
I’ve turned blue
I can’t feel my hands no more
Must stop now
Can’t see how
I can swim when I’m so sore
It’s no fun
When you’re stung
By a jellyfish the size of the sun
Can’t do it I’m getting out

[So Freda replied:]

Get to it.
Swim through it.
Do 5 hours and you’ll be through
Listen mate
Nothing great
Is easy in life it’s true
Don’t blubber
Or ask for mama
Just move one hand and then the other
I’ve heard it all before

[no chatting at the walls]

I’ve heard it all before
[come in on time for your feeds]
I’ve heard it all before

[stay close to the shore]
I’ve heard it all before

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source