The ponds of Hampstead Heath are small oases; fragments of wild nature nestled in the heart of north-west London. For the best part of his life Al Alvarez – poet, critic, novelist, rock-climber and poker player – has swum in them almost daily.
An athlete in his youth, Alvarez, now in his eighties, chronicles what it is to grow old with humour and fierce honesty – from his relentlessly nagging ankle which makes daily life a struggle, to infuriating bureaucratic battles with the council to keep his disabled person’s Blue Badge, the devastating effects of a stroke, and the salvation he finds in the three Ss – Swimming, Sex and Sleep.
As Alvarez swims in the ponds he considers how it feels when you begin to miss that person you used to be – to miss yourself. Swimming is his own private form of protest against the onslaught of time; proof to others, and himself, that he’s not yet beaten.
By turns funny, poetic and indignant, Pondlife is a meditation on love, the importance of life’s small pleasures and, above all, a lesson in not going gently in to that good night.
The adrenalin still flows in lively extracts from 11 years of journals * The Times * A beautiful unfolding of a story, told in deceptively simple prose but with a great power to move * Sunday Times * A marvellous book. Even the title Pondlife is spot-on: unlaboured, light and right. But it has no business to be as invigorating and absorbing - its success is against the odds * Observer * Al Alvarez is a writer's writer whose brilliant insight has illuminated everything from suicide to his love of poker ... A miniature classic of a man's defiant assertion against ageing * Metro *
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