Comic and author Sara Pascoe recalls her student days by the sea in Brighton, and salutes the soothing properties of swimming. Interview: Alex Reece

Whenever I get a chance to go back to Brighton, and especially at night-time, I love that part of the coast. I think for me, because I was at university there, it was the beginning of being free. I remember quite often we’d make cups of tea in flasks and walk down from our house and drink them by the sea and look for shooting stars.

I was a student at the University of Sussex in the early 2000s, when the old West Pier kept catching fire and becoming more decrepit and more vulnerable. But actually, against any sunset or any sky, it looks so beautiful, even though it’s such a tragic thing.

Brighton’s a very social beach. It’s always full of people walking dogs, or skateboarding up and down. It’s not one of those beaches where you get to have it to yourself for miles and miles. It’s the exact opposite: it’s not yours, it’s everyone’s.

I really would like to live by the sea one day. Like lots of people, I have that fantasy of sea air and the calmer lifestyle and getting to swim every day, no matter what the weather.

I only really learned to swim properly when I started doing stand-up, nearly 10 years ago. I found it was helpful in terms of calming me down. It’s very peaceful and almost baptismal – you go into the water full of thoughts, and then after 20 lengths you’re in a much calmer place.

Obviously swimming in the sea can be really different. You don’t have to swim far – just lie on your back looking upwards. I love that quote [by Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa]: ‘The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears or the sea.’

Animal is published in paperback by Faber, priced at £8.99.

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