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Synopsis

Here’s the paradox: your body becomes steadily more troublesome just at that point when the world, which you are soon to leave, becomes sweeter, more poignant, more beautiful, more desirable…

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.

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