Byron & Bo

tempestuous sea

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more”- from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron

And now, for something completely new and fun

My First Interview!

I know! I actually stopped talking and listened too.

BD & SPB.D. & S.P. in Portugal.

My dear friend Bo Derek who, at the age of 56 (and may I add, a wee slip of a thing is our Bo, as you can see!) decided she was going to compete in the “Hellespont Swim” from the shores ofTurkey to Asia.

The Hellespont (or Dardanelles, as it’s now called) is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Every year, on the 30th of August, National Turkish Victory Day, the straits are closed to all vessels for just 90 minutes, allowing approximately 600 crazy brave humans to attempt this iconic swim.

Bo Derek

 I was so inspired by Bo’s feat that I asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing her story here with all of you dear Slim Paley readers.

So off we go!

SP; I remember when you first told me you’d decided to attempt the Hellespont Swim and I thought, well, ALL my friends can’t be sane…but truly, WHATEVER possessed you??!

BD; It’s all Slim Paley’s fault and that June 2012 post called “Swim”.  As I scrolled down thru all the gorgeous images, I remember thinking “I used to be a water person. Where did she go?”

Swim Lynn Sherr

BD; I was especially taken by the pretty blue cover of Lynn Sherr’s book “Swim-Why We Love The Water”, downloading it right then and there.  As Lynn writes so beautifully of our relationship with water and swimming, she recounts her own experience swimming the Hellespont.  Now called the Dardanelles, this stretch of water from the Black Sea to the Aegean separates Europe from Asia. Rich in history, famous for the battles of Troy and Gallipoli, Greek mythology tells us Leander used to swim across the Hellespont every night to visit his lover Hero, who would light a lamp to guide his way. (Leander drowned one night, btw)  Lord Byron was so taken by Leander’s love story that to prove the crossing was possible, became the first known person to make the swim (on his second attempt) in 1810.

So “what possessed me?” you ask. I was certainly moved by Lynn Sherr’s book and suppose I was ripe for a mid-life adventure. When my girlfriend, Shehkar, agreed to do the swim with me I was well and truly committed.

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SP; I seriously think I’d have taken one look at the extraordinarily choppy sea that day and made a dive for the nearest bar. Did you have even a moment where you thought “I just can’t do this”?

BD; Yes! In case of bad weather, as happened in 2010, (but really, what are the chances that would happen again?!) our back-up plan was to sit in a lovely Turkish cafe and drink Raki and welcome in the “strong” swimmers. In the days leading up to the 30th the weather was just gorgeous, the water still as glass. Shehk and I had a couple of practice swims, relaxed and made some new friends. Then, during our orientation on the night of the 29th, the organizers informed us the forecast for the race  was “rough” advising anyone with any doubts about their abilities to reconsider and not attempt the swim.

But…Shehkar and I decided that after a year of training, we should at least get our toes wet.

The day of the swim I woke before dawn and heard the wind before I saw it. Oh shit. No way. White caps on the water and wind whistling thru the windows of our modern hotel room. The Perfect Storm!

SP; Amazing that you both were still determined to go for it! How about once you were swimming-the distance was so much longer than expected, due to the conditions-was there any time you considered raising the white flag so to speak and be pulled to the safety of a fishing boat?

BD; At least a dozen times! What have I gotten myself into?  As we stood at the start of the race looking across to the Asian side, it looked so far away….impossible for a human to swim. But the “brochure” said “the swim is 2.7 miles-with the aid of currents, equivalent to a 1 1/2 mile swim”.  I glanced over at Shehk. We both knew we were over our heads and undertrained for that vast expanse of nasty water.

Lord Byron

SP; Lord Byron, well known to be an excellent swimmer despite suffering from a club foot, purportedly described his swim as more meaningful than anything he’d achieved, whether “political, poetical or rhetorical” Did you think about Lord Byron and all the attendant history in the crossing while you were swimming, or were you just concentrating on staying alive?! 

BD; That was the plan.  As a Slim Paley pioneer, I have, over the years acquired a new appreciation for Byron. I’d memorized the “I love nature more” bit from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and some Led Zeppelin songs, because other open water swimmers had shared they have their favorite sonnets and playlists to get them thru the tedium. Never got the chance.  Stroke, stroke, breathe.  Stroke, stroke, fuck! salt water instead of breath.  Start over. Stroke, stroke, breathe. For one hour and fifty four minutes, that’s all I remember. That and a tweet my neighbor Jimmy Connors sent me the night before the swim; “Go for it Bo. Remember your training.”  Simple, but the single mantra that kept going through my mind as I put one arm in front of the other. So much for poetry.  Honestly, I think the only reason I finished is because I didn’t think I would. This attitude allowed me to relax and take it one stroke at a time.  I thought, I’ll just keep going until I hit a wall.

SP; Lord Byron & Led Zeppelin-both ‘Mad, Bad & Dangerous to know’- I love that!

JCBo’s beau, John Corbett cheering her on

(J.C. ended up pulling 6 struggling men out of the water)

BD; All of a sudden, Corbett shows up along side me in a rescue boat, screaming, “You can do it love. You’re doing great! I’m so proud of you! Go!”

John Corbett & Bo Derek

SP; Were you aware you were staying so in synch with Shehkar or were you both shocked to find you’d finished only 5 minutes apart?

BD; We started the swim together and my plan was to come out if she did. I kept my eye on her for the first 20 minutes but then I got caught in the melee at one of the three buoys that must be passed to our right-or be disqualified. ‘Melee’? I was mowed down by the other 500 swimmers trying to starboard the buoy. Let me take a moment to make one thing clear. I am not a group activity person. Or, for that matter, a touch a stranger’s body parts person. All of a sudden I’ve got legs, arms, boobs and, er, speedos in my face!  I slammed into the orange ball and tried to set off over and over again, until I finally found a couple of big boy swimmers, rolled over on my back, wedged myself between their lengths and kicked like hell.

SP; Hmmm…a Bo Derek sandwich…I wonder if they had any idea who they were escorting!

BD; I never saw Shehk again until the end. I’m so happy we both finished for all the reasons you’d expect, but also, as Shehkar put it; “Imagine if one of us didn’t finish and for the rest of our lives we’d have to say, “Oh, I’m just so glad that she made it…I’m so happy for her”. Instead, I can say Shehk made it 5 minutes before I did, even while helping a panicked swimmer to safety.

Bo & Shehk

Bo & Shehkar moments after the race.

SP; So, let’s get real; After decades of being one of our most universally famous icons of beauty-how much pressure, if any, did you feel donning a swimsuit (and horror of horrors) a bathing cap on the world stage again?

bo derek Bo, then & now. Whatever!!

BD; Swimsuit? No problem. I’m 56 years old so expectations are set pretty low. And by the time you’ve trained for this swim, you’re more concerned about making it to the other continent than about how you look. And frankly, you look pretty good.  Not perfect. Not a “10”.  But strong-a trait I personally find very attractive in swimmers. I wore a black rash guard,for sun protection, of course. We were given a strap-on ankle device that times your effort. I fancied it gave my ensemble a bit of a navy seal look. Swim caps have a tightening/pulling effect that can work in your favor.

bathing caps

BD;But oh my! Those friggin’ swim goggles are not made for the skin of 56 year old eye area. They caused bags, bruises and even something called supra-orbital neuralgia that sends shocks of severe pain to your face. For training I usually swam with a goofy looking scuba mask, but on race day, because of the cursed conditions, I had to use proper goggles. I expect my retirement fund will come from inventing swim goggles for a certain age demographic.

In the end, our swim turned out to be 4 miles and because of the weather, we swam against or across currents the entire way.  When I made it to the finish, hobbling up the ramp with a pulled a groin muscle (just like real athlete) I wanted to curl up in a ball, cry a little and and vomit (swallowing that much saltwater makes one very sick)  but the news cameras were there, so I grabbed a stranger’s sunglasses to cover the goggle damage and babbled on to the press about how great the experience was.

SP; I know how hard you’ve trained all these months and I’ve been truly inspired by your determination and commitment. There were many men, twice your size, that didn’t see the finish line. Has completing the Hellespont swim sparked your desire to set even more challenging goals for yourself?

BD; I gave!  Shehk and I both gave.  We are one of the ‘strong swimmers’ now. Forever redefined. I hope this makes sense, but I feel like one of those women I would like to be like. I even suspect my stride has changed as I enter any pool or the sea because I swam the Hellespont.

Bo & Shehk

The Strong Swimmers celebrating their success

BD;Meanwhile, Shehk and I are both discussing a swim next year but I’d never attempt those conditions again.  Do they have a swim around the island of Capri?

SP; As a matter of fact, yes, with little stops along the course where you can buy sandals from boats!

BD; And does it matter that 40% of the swimmers, especially big, strong men twice our size and strength didn’t make the swim? Hell yes!

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The morning of August 31st (the day after the Hellespont Swim)  64yr. old Diana Nyad commenced her 5th bid to swim from Havana, Cuba to Florida, a distance of 110 miles (177 km).  Accompanied by a 35-person support team, without a shark cage, but protected from jellyfish by a silicone mask, full bodysuit, gloves & booties, Nyad successfully reached Key West, aprox. 53 hours after she began her epic swim.

SP; Wasn’t it just the coolest that the incomparable Diana Nyad accomplished her history making 100 mile swim only three days later? Were you and Shehk in great company or what?! BTW, are there no jellyfish in the Hellespont? I’m afraid of jellyfish in my pool for God’s sake.

BD; Yes, I did get a jellyfish sting on the face during our practice swim, but nothing race day, thanks to the gods. It was amazing that Diana took off from Cuba to make swimming history so soon after our effort and my little 4-miler made me feel I could almost identify with her suffering. When you consider that after the Hellespont, I had a victory dinner & drinks, slept well, drove 4 hours to Istanbul, had another very chic victory dinner & drinks with friends, tucked into my bed at the Pera Palace Hotel (one of the 1,000 places to see before you die) and thought-all this time…she’s still swimming.

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Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul

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Benefits of Swimming

Many, many thanks to B.D. for sharing her adventure with us.

I hope you are as inspired as I am!

SWIM Post

Bo talks with Entertainment Tonight about her swim HERE

A fun account of the 2013 swim by a male swimmer (fyi-he didn’t succeed!) HERE

Keep Calm, Go Swim

Post mentioning Byron HERE

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“Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” by Casper David Friedrich, 1818

Uncredited photos via Pinterest.

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Remembering on Memorial Day Weekend

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It begins with my mother’s recollection of a visit to Belgium on her honeymoon 50+ years ago.

To fill in their story just a bit; my father was young, British, Protestant, an only child. A rather dashing chap with an avid love of travel and geography.

 Mom was a black haired, blue eyed Irish-Catholic. One of 7 children, and in her own words “having barely traveled out of the borough of Dublin” she thought my father a fine catch with his fancy car, film star hair and English ways. He thought she had beautiful eyes, elegant hands and, I suspect, fun brothers.

Despite major family oppositon due to the Catholic-Protestent issue, they married and off they went. To hear them both tell it now, which in fact I did just last night, is a tale of two very different honeymoons but that, dear readers is another post book.

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Their itinerary included 7 (or 8 ) countries, possibly a boat, or not (father rolls eyes here), untold amounts of bacon & eggs (according to him, she wouldn’t eat anything else-mother rolls eyes here) and the car robbed of everything ( clothes, camera and all the honeymoon photos) outside the Folies Bergere.

But, this post is about the day they went to Belgium.

 My father’s grandfather had been a soldier in the 1st World War. He lost his life, alongside literally thousands of others that day in Belgium, in 1915. Seemingly endless tides of brave yet unimaginably terrified young men and mere boys rising from the trenches to be caught in barbed wire and machine gun fire.  He left a widow with 7 children back home in England. Some 40 years later, his grandson now wished to pay his respects at his grave.

My mother; “Of all the places we’d planned to see, your father’s visit to his grandfather’s grave was very important to him.” 

When they arrived at their destination in Belgium they were overcome with emotion at the immense size and immaculate condition of the beautiful cemetery. On this they both agree. Meticulous care had been taken honouring the memory of all the heroic foreign souls who had lost their lives in battle on Belgian soil, even after all these years. My mother remembers searching the rows of identical headstones for what seemed like hours, to no avail, almost reaching the point of giving up. My father recalls he had a map of sorts; a grid of numbers & letters, I presume sent to the families of the deceased after the war. In any case, after quite a hike, they came upon a lone gardener to whom my father spoke a few words en francais. When the gardener heard my father’s last name, he lifted his jacket from where it was placed…directly upon my great grandfather’s headstone.

My father; “Can you imagine the emotion, upon finally arriving there amongst thousands of graves, to find it was my grandfather’s headstone being tended at that precise moment?”

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So I’m dedicating this post to my great grandfather, and his son, my grandfather, who also served in the British Army in World War II

and to all the brave troops who are serving now.

Without them we have nothing.

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In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw *sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

~

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Cemeteries of the Great War 1914-1918, Belgium, 

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PS. Thank you to my parents for allowing me to share their tapestry of memories with you.

Have a Beautiful Memorial Day Weekend!

xoxo

SP

Heads Up

vintage cameo buttons

Cameos are cool again.

Just thought I’d mention it, in case you hadn’t noticed.

cameo braceletThen…

Amadeo cameos

Amedeo

…and Now

cameosCameos & tats, who’da thunk it?!

890A4843Italian Vogue

cameos

Victoria Hardstone via Fourtane

cameo earrings

muse-china-12-e1335986433479Arizona Muse via Vogue China

Old photo cameo

cameo braceletsAmedeo  on Lexington Ave. in NYC is the place to buy cool cameos.

cameo ringsThey even customize.  A loved one, or perhaps a favourite pet, or just beautiful initials.

carving cameosBoth images via Amedeo

carving cameosThese are not your Grannie’s cameos

downton abbeyBTW, shouldn’t the Dowager have a cameo on her collar?!

cameos

890A1716A most beautiful head in the Palace of Versailles

marlon-brando-julius-caesarand the most beautiful head in movies.  No contest.

Marlon-marlon-brando-30617224-1259-1107right??

Heads are in-house too.

cameo rugs

cameo rugsRugs by Stiles BK

the-libertine-magazine-campaign-january-2013-yatzer-patrick-gilles-and-dorothc3a9e-boissier-at-home-in-thier-flat-in-paris-3via The Libertine magazine

The trick is to keep a cool head.

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and don’t let it get all stuffy.

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Axel Vervoordt

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lanvin09Lanvin

Go big or go home.

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Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed….

Percy Bysshe Shelley

bust in garden

Lanvin cameoLanvin

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Just don’t lose your head  (Sorry)

slim paleyand make sure to have fun with it.

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Hey-How about that last episode tonight?

What the…  :(

Still, we must soldier on. We’re British after all (caught up in the show much??)

Try to have a good week all the same.

~

(Buttons top photo, my own. Green desk photo via Pinterest)

BE MINE

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As Valentine’s Day is but a breathless day or two away,

I thought I’d gather a few of my roses for you.

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 12.24.26 AMSome fun with Instagram 

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 2.57.51 PMI zoomed these roses through a shop window in Paris. I think the glass had a beautiful effect on them, don’t you?

 

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The Beloved

It is enough of honor for one lifetime

To have known you better than the rest have known

The shadows and colours of your voice,

Your will, immutable and still as stone.

The shy heart so lonely and so gay,

The sad laughter and the pride of pride,

The tenderness, the depth of tenderness

Rich as the earth, and wide as heaven is wide.

~

Sara Teasdale

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L1010648From my garden.  

K, I’m ready for spring.

screen-shot-2011-02-13-at-1-41-21-pmDo you have any special plans for this romantic day that, let’s admit, has become just a tad commercialized ?

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Remember way back before political correctness when as kids in primary school we were allowed to send Valentine’s cards to whomever we wished and not necessarily the entire class, girls & boys both??

I DO. Oh, The Horror.

I will have dinner out with my husband of 25 years (this April. He would have sent me a Valentine in class) and then we’ll rush home to watch the opening season of “Survivor!”

I know. Can you believe how hot that is?!

 

Thank you to all you sweethearts that have voted for me in the final round of the  HOMIES 

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And have a beautiful Carnation & Baby’s Breath-free Valentine’s Day!

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(moving pic & children via Tumblr)

God I Love Being a Mom (Part II)

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So…our “Baby” or “Stretch” as he is more commonly known around home is all tucked in at college and we’re officially Empty-Nesters.

WOOO HOOO!!

 Big Rave at our digs this weekend!!!

I must laugh at the image of letting the house go to pot (er…perhaps an unfortunate turn of phrase :) ) when the kids go away instead of the parents!

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Seriously though, it’s a major turn of the page but that’s what Life does…

If Kahlil Gibran hadn’t already written “On Children” in “The Prophet” I’d continue to wax poetic, but Kahlil pretty much said it all, didn’t he?

Thanks to all those who shared their kind words and wisdom on my previous post.

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Somehow “Harry” my son’s stuffed lion since before he could talk and Bob Marley co-habited without incident these last few years.

Oh, and BTW, thanks to all my son’s childhood friends for carving their names into his leather headboard whenever they slept over!

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Packing was majorly poignant.

Only for me of course, not for Stretch.

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Pretty much all my comments were met with “Uh…Don’t think so Mom”

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If I could only share his remark when I suggested he bring ‘dress shoes’ in case he had a date…

Alas,

that could seriously jeopardize my skype-ing chances with him.

The boy IS funny, I’ll say that.

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left behind

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I’m guessing packing up boys for college is very different  (and faster) than sending off girls!?

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“God I love being a Mom (Part I)” (from 2011)

Oh, and one more PS. – Son, if you’re reading this;

YOU FORGOT YOUR HELMET!

xox

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