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Get in the swim

Like stripping off in front of strangers? Like getting freezing wet? Like being a picture of forced jollity as you are subjected to extreme physical pain? Of course you do. You're British.

Hurrah, then, for the ritual of the New Year's Day swim. Whitley Bay, on the North-east coast, Brighton in the south, and Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire, Wales, all host their own variation on the theme. Last year Saundersfoot's event - which has the ominous rule "everyone must go under" - raised pound;175,000 for charity.

The beautiful village of Mappleton in Derbyshire goes one step further, with its Raft Race and Bridge Jump, in which locals, driven mad by four weeks of incessant Christmas music, boat up the River Dove and fling themselves 30 feet into the water. The winner gets a brass monkey to add to their undoubted balls of steel.

The Edinburgh New Year's Day Triathlon, starting at the Royal Commonwealth Pool, is booked up but you can still turn up as a spectator to stuff Christmas pudding in your mouth and laugh at the participants - guaranteed to firm up your evil cackling muscles even if it leaves your swimming ones as saggy as ever.

ARTYFACT: The Bible is the Number One shoplifted book in America.

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