I emailed Matthew on Thursday to ask how it had gone. "Read my column on Saturday," he replied. Well at least he wasn't dead and I didn't have to torture myself with the thought that had I been more vehement in my warnings he might not have gone through with it!
His column today describes the experience. Now The Times is behind the paywall I am not sure how much of it I am allowed to quote, but here's a taster...
In a couple of weeks I shall turn 61. London has been hot. Online tide tables said that there would be high tides, midweek, in the small hours. My partner (fiercely opposed) was away.
“Come on,” I thought. “Do it.” I told Jonathan, an LSE student who’s working for me. “I’ll come too,” he said. High tide, 03.35 on Thursday morning. Tom would be there on balcony duty. Supper, a few hours’ sleep, then . . .
Astonishing, how fearful I then became. How had I got myself into this? Why hadn’t I kept my mouth shut? Now I understood the subliminal reason I’d never done it before. All that thinking about it and boasting about it had scared me. At midnight, as I lay my head on the pillow, at first sleep would not come.
It’s being woken in the dark that’s worst. I donned trunks and an old singlet to swim in, and some discardable flip-flops. We stood on the balcony. The river was very black. We called a minicab just after 3am to take us under the nearby Rotherhithe Tunnel to the other side. We crept down the Globe Stairs wordlessly, so as not to alert any flat-dwellers, and undressed. Each wondered if he’d be going ahead if it wasn’t for the other...
...The water was choppy but not too cold, and I could feel no current. We swam silently, breaststroke, surprised at the ease. Except that across the water, perspectives were altering unaccountably. Then I saw trees moving behind the buildings on the other side. Why? When I turned to look for Globe Stairs behind us, they were far over to our right. We were being carried upstream. Fast. The tide was still coming in. Fast.
We were breathless, and getting cold. We could see the stilts of a riverside boardwalk some way away, near the Prospect of Whitby pub in Wapping... We pulled our way round to a little creek, plunged across and climbed a high iron ladder on to a road. We had been in the water for perhaps half an hour.
It's a great article about a very daring deed. I've done a few stuid things in my time, but none of them matches that!