David Walliams, I salute you. You’re funny, you have a beautiful, supermodel wife, and you’ve now swum the entire length of the River Thames, from Gloucestershire to Westminster (all 140 miles of it), and raised over 1 million pounds for Sport Relief.
Often we see celebrities doing great and noble deeds in the name of charity, and I think they all should be commended. Cynics may argue that for some the driving motivation is self-publicity, but it is undeniable that these deeds drive valuable PR and much needed awareness for charities. Some efforts are arguably easier than others. I am not sure that a stint in the celebrity jungle in Australia, is as taxing as we may be led to believe…yet, on the odd occasion, you see someone really put themselves through a gruelling experience and push themselves to the absolute limit to make a difference. In my view, David Walliams efforts to swim the Thames fall firmly into this box.
Old Father Thames, stretching through our great capital and beyond. A river that holds years of history and secrets within its bowels. A river, which 50 years ago was declared incapable of sustaining wildlife because it was so polluted, but thanks to recent efforts is now considerably cleaner than it was. Depending on your vantage point, you can see the Thames in so many different ways. On a bright sunny day, sitting on a terrace sipping an aperitif somewhere with a great view… (Pont de la Tour springs to mind), it can enchant you as you watch life on the river bustle on by. As Oxford and Cambridge compete to make it to the finish post in the annual boat race, it can seem fast flowing and a force to be reckoned with. As you walk along the towpath, houseboats moored at its side can conjure up pictures of a romantic, bohemian lifestyle in a landscape that seems still and calm. And at low tide, somewhere like Plumpton, it can seem rather smelly, with an air of bad eggs about it, as Swans struggle to wade through it’s muddy bed, littered with detritus, lost and unwanted items.
Last week Little Pip and I went for a Thameside walk at low tide. As we ventured down the concrete pathway to look at the water at the riverbed edge, the sheer amount of rubbish and debris left by the river was quite astounding. All manner of items from everyday life, washed up by the river. Tin cans, a bike wheel, various pieces of indescribable metal, driftwood, an old shoe. A tampon applicator, some sort of plastic sheath, a Lightening McQueen ball – as I kicked this out of sight (covered in mud), I turned round to find Little Pip holding a lightbulb. A scavenger’s delight, but not somewhere to spend time with a small toddler with an inquisitive bent.
David Walliams swam through all this, not to mention the 39 million cubic metres of raw sewage that finds its way into the river each year. Suffering with ‘Thames Tummy’ he soldiered on, with vomiting and diarrhoea, until he got to the end. By which point he’d actually swum the equivalent of the English Channel seven times.
As a woman who has trouble even swimming in a public swimming pool for fear of UFO’s – (unidentified floating objects), I consider him remarkable. I would rather of cut off my toe for Sport Relief than swim in that river. I doubt I would ever have the durability and dedication to complete such a feat of endurance, but I am completely in awe of those that do. David, you’re my hero of the week.