I have signed up for a weekly swimming slot in a local private pool, and as I went along for my first session, I was struck by the similarity of the arrangement to the psychoanalytic contract. The rules are simple and set out in advance. For one hour each week the pool is there, available for just me. My swimming hour is at the same time and in the same place all year round, and I pay whether I choose to go or not. The only reason for interrupting the arrangement is if there is a catastrophic breakdown of the pool, in which case I will be informed and offered an alternative. My time slot is precise – from 12-1pm – and I need to leave time to change at either end, so realistically I have 50 minutes in which to swim – the psychoanalytic hour.

I leave my shoes and coat outside the door, and wait until the previous incumbents have vacated the swimming barn before I venture in. Once inside the swimming hall, there is a simple etiquette to follow, designed to ensure that the environment remains clean and constant, and free from conflict. It is a calm and empty space - no sound, no surprises.

The water is still and blue, reflecting the winter sun as it pours through the barn windows. Over the seasons, the light will change but that is all. But there will be subtle differences from week to week: the water temperature and the play of light on water and walls will vary, the faint odour trails of the previous users and the echoes of their voices, the invisible traces of skin sloughed off in the water and words spoken into the silence minutely change the atmosphere of this seemingly neutral space.

An hour, or 50 minutes, on my own: sacrosanct and precious time. Water has always been my preferred medium to move in, to think and to unwind. Here it promises a previously seldom realised solitude and intimacy. What will I do, how, what and who will I discover?

I start with slow freestyle swimming up and down the short length of the pool and find a rhythm that loosens up my aching joints, and begins to slow down my thinking and breathing, while I gradually begin to feel more, and differently. I love the meditation-in-motion that swimming becomes once the presence of others – obstacles in the water – is absent. The pool is short but I am not here to train, and I find that a flow enters my movement which proceeds effortlessly – my attention is free to wander and explore. The water enfolds me, it does not ask anything of me, while it consistently offers its support and soft caress. Whatever I notice comes through a reflection of myself in relation to this passive and massive embrace. Unlike the sea, it does not alert me to its lethal potential, but I know it’s there and that vigilance is my responsibility. The water will allow me to sink or swim but it won’t force me to do either.

After some time, I stop doing laps, and start to float around and play. I dip down into the water, doing dolphin undulations and feeling my way into the resonant co-ordination of water and self. I stretch and slide, pace and balance – I do yoga stretches, which are easier and made more fluid with the support of the water. I allow the water to gently knock me off balance, and tip me into its depths, and with little hops or twists I find myself in playful movement with my seemingly passive partner.

After an hour, I am free and my body is full-feeling and energised – I feel more alive, and a bit cold. I climb up the steps out of the water, pull on my dry clothes and don my heavy coat as I leave the pool barn and go out, wet hair cold against my head, into the sharp air of a sunny November afternoon.

I like this new arrangement. I think this will be a creative partnership and that I have found a good therapeutic environment where week by week we will interrelate a bit more and watch the gentle transformations that our encounters invite.

I am changed by my swim. The pool has already received its next visitor, but my listening partner is subtly changed and carries the echoes of our sensorial exchange, while I am reminded of our recent encounter by wafts of chlorine that periodically tease my nostrils as it floats up from my slightly dry and taut skin.