As my friends and family will readily agree, I’ve done some pretty foolish things in my time, usually late at night and undoubtedly with alcohol involved.

Since my, ahem, ‘lifestyle change’ of a few years ago (You did Dry January? Welcome to my world) I’ve decided to ‘put something back’ whenever I can. This is why I usually say yes when I’m asked to get involved with charity events. Normally this involves me flinging on a clean shirt and acting as MC for the night.

So when I took a call from Virginia Macari asking me if I wanted to get involved with an event that the Collective Calling charity were organising to help children in Tanzania, I immediately said yes. I anticipated dusting off the diner jacket once again.

Which just goes to show that I should enquire more thoroughly before agreeing to do something.

This event was a little different.

It was a 200m sponsored swim.

In the Mediterranean.

In January.

The last time that I went in the water in January was to celebrate my birthday. There was snow on La Concha – which should have perhaps warned me that it was going to be a ‘little chilly’ – and when I dived it was so cold that I certain parts of my anatomy retracted at a rapid rate. So far and fast in fact that I had two round lumps on the top of my head where my man jewels had shot up and rebounded off the inside of my skull.

Any thought that I might undertake the swim wearing nothing but a pair of swimming trunks were soon ruled out by two factors. The first was the advice of a Romanian yachting friend who explained that, as I’m not exactly in my teens anymore, ‘cold water shock’ might actually induce a heart attack.

The second was perfectly clear at the Press call for the event, when I found myself standing next to a group of ‘ripped’ crossfitters who where also taking part in the event. No amount of chest puffing out and stomach holding in was going to help me here. A quick call to a friend who runs regular canyoning trips soon sorted me out with a wetsuit.

After several days of torrential rain, the day itself was beautiful and sunny and a sizable crowd gathered to watch the event. After saying hello to the organisers, I casually slipped away to shoehorn myself into the wetsuit – no easy task, I can assure you. But when I looked over my shoulder I saw in horror that the rest of the charity swimmers were already in the water. I yelled, charged through the crowd and crashed into the surf with all the grace of an oil tanker being launched.

Once again the water was freezing and I had the ignominy of being the last one back on the beach. But as I gulped a life reviving café solo I could reflect on a job well done.

And at least no one had mistaken my floundering form for a cetacean and alerted the Norwegian Whaling Fleet

http://collectivecalling.org/