Deakin, Roger 1943(?)–
Deakin, Roger 1943(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1943; children: one son. Education: Attended Peterhouse College, Cambridge. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming, environmental conservation.
ADDRESSES: Home—Suffolk, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Chatto & Windus/Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V 2SA, England.
CAREER: Filmmaker, activist, and author. Organizer of Save the Whales campaign with Friends of the Earth; cofounder and director, Common Ground (environmental advocacy group); founder, Gogmagogs (string ensemble); instructor at schools, including Schumacher College, Devon, England.
Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey through Britain, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1999.
Touching Wood: A Wildwood Journey, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including the Manchester Guardian, the London Independent, Modern Painters, and BBC Wildlife Magazine. Scriptwriter for documentaries, including Ballad of the Ten Rod Plot, Anglia Television, and Stable Lads.
ADAPTATIONS: Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey through Britain was adapted for audiocassette, read by Michael Kitchen, Random House.
SIDELIGHTS: Roger Deakin is a writer whose personal interests—primarily in swimming and the environment—have helped shape the direction of his career. His first job, after attending Cambridge University, was as a planner for the Save the Whales campaign, and this experience influenced him for many years. Deakin often writes in the first person, yet his work ultimately reveals little about its author, except for an occasional glimpse back to Deakin's boyhood in England.
Influenced by a lifelong love of swimming, the end of a personal relationship, and a short story called "The Swimmer" by American author John Cheever, Deakin set out in the spring of 1997 on a journey that would become the subject of his first book. Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey through Britain is an unusual travel tale that takes the reader along on Deakin's aquatic adventure. The author explores and swims the lakes, rivers, streams, and other bodies of water in Great Britain, recording his impressions along the way. While Deakin was accustomed to a daily morning swim in the moat surrounding his farm in Suffolk, and had swum as a boy in natural bodies of water, this journey was much more ambitious. From the icy waters off the west coast of Scotland to industrial rivers such as the Medway to Suffolk's meandering River Wissey, Waterlog explores waterways in multiple ways: on the actual physical level, which includes descriptions of the water from a unique vantage point; as well as in a framework Stephen Moss described in a Manchester Guardian review as "a social history of our obsession with water."
Waterlog was cited by critics for its concern with the environment. As Deakin noted on the British Broadcasting Corporation Web site, "A culture is no better than its rivers, and by swimming through them, I could get some sense of the state of the nation from an environmental point of view." Thus, Deakin's aquatic adventure reveals much about modern Great Britain. "To weave environmental and cultural concerns so deftly together in this enchanting and original travel book is a real achievement," wrote Ken Worpole in the Independent. Deakin notes how many of the rivers in Great Britain have been tamed by concrete walls or other structures, while many of them are so polluted that he feared getting sick by swimming in them. Because of this, the British love of swimming in natural waterways has been greatly discouraged and curtailed by industrialization and the Environment Agency. On the other hand, Worpole reported that "Deakin still comes across strong local swimming traditions."
A number of reviewers praised Deakin for his lyrical descriptions. For instance, as Spectator contributor Charles Sprawson wrote, "As he swims breaststroke through the meadows, he views flowers and plants on the riverside with the eye of a frog and the precision of a botanist." Moss added that "Deakin carefully balances the roles of spectator and participant. He has the swimmer's ability to be immersed in and yet somehow apart from his medium."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Deakin, Roger, Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey through Britain, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1999.
Economist, June 19, 1999, "Swimming Pools," review of Waterlog, p. 5.
Guardian (Manchester, England), June 5, 1999, Stephen Moss, "Shiverers in the Deep: Stephen Moss Dips His Toe into the World of the Wet," review of Waterlog, p. 10.
Independent (London, England), July 3, 1999, Ken Worpole, "Tales of the Riverbank," review of Waterlog, p. 10.
Independent on Sunday, May 30, 1999, Mark Sanderson, "Why It's a Good Idea to Keep Your Trunks On," review of Waterlog, p. 13.
London Review of Books, August 19, 1999, Heathcote Williams, "It's the Plunge that Counts," review of Waterlog, pp. 18-20.
New Scientist, July 17, 1999, review of Waterlog, p. 52.
Spectator, May 22, 1999, Charles Sprawson, "No Longer in the Swim," review of Waterlog, pp. 33-34; November 27, 1999, review of Waterlog, p. 46.
Sunday Times (London, England), June 13, 1999, Emma Cowing, "Scotland Toured at a Crawl," review of Waterlog, p. 12.
Times (London, England), June 5, 1999, Alasdair Riley, "It's Our River—We'll Swim If We Want To," review of Waterlog, p. 4.
Times Literary Supplement, July 30, 1999, Adam Nicolson, "In the Swim," review of Waterlog, p. 8.
British Broadcasting Corporation Web site, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (August 25, 2001), "Roger Deakin."