There is a notice on the side of the swimming pool at the Health Club, carefully positioned by the steps into the water so you feel you really need to read it. In case, you know, it's carrying some kind of health warning.
You can't be too careful, can you?
I don't have my specs on, so I have to peer very closely at the notice. My nose is virtually pressed right up against it. It is explaining all about new rules governing visits
to the pool with young children. Every rule is accompanied by stick figures, representing adults and children of varying sizes. It's not as simple as one adult per set number of children because there are a number of variables, such as whether the children
are wearing buoyancy aids, as well as how old they are. What nobody seems to have considered is the case where the adult is more vulnerable than the children.
When my grandchildren accompany me to the swimming
pool, there is little doubt who is looking after whom. When the artificial waves started crashing in on my last trip to a pool with the Little Welsh Boys, it was eight year old Sam and six year old James who rescued me. "We've got you, Nanna!" they yelled
above the commotion, holding me tightly until their father arrived to haul me to the poolside.
I am not a good swimmer, much as I love the actual act of swimming. All of my grandchildren are much more confident
in the water than I am, right down to Young Faris who isn't two yet but will fling himself off the side of the pool into his Dad's arms without turning a hair on his curly head. If Faris were writing today's blog (don't worry, you Faris fans, I will be letting
him loose on the blog again very soon) he'd doubtless be telling you that he isn't quite up to swimming the English Channel as yet but he is sure he will manage it when he is a little bit older, say two years old perhaps?
When Katie and Eleanor were small, we used to have great fun in the pool. They liked to play hairdressers - which involved filling a plastic tea-pot with water and pouring it all over my head. I was a very patient client.
My favourite people to swim with are my sister Maggie and my grandson Jack. Maggie swims with a purpose, just like me but quite a lot faster. Like me, she is perfectly happy to swim up and down, up and down. Others may find it boring but we find it
therapeutic, my sister and I. We don't need crashing waves, slides, flumes and other watery excitements. In fact we like our swimming pools long, straight and boring. I think it must be a throw-back to our childhood days and the weekly visit to Romford Swimming
Baths where our Dad tried to teach us to swim before treating us to a hot Oxo drink in the cafe and a trip to the park on the way home.
Swimming with Jack is similar in as far as we swim up and down, up and
down. He completes several lengths in the time it takes me to manage one - but if you do the maths you will realise that this means every few lengths we will find ourselves at the same end of the pool where we can indulge in a brief conversation before we
set off again. Afterwards we meet in the cafe where I treat him to hot chocolate and a toasted tea-cake - which is a step up from the Oxo drink, but every bit as welcome.
So, it seems to me that there
should be another notice on the side of the pool, setting out the rules for children accompanying grandparents. The symbol denoting the Aged Ones could be the same as the one you see on roadside signs - you know the one I mean, with the little bent couple
with walking sticks and hair in a bun? Obviously (I say quickly) I am not little or bent, nor do I carry a walking stick or wear my hair in a bun. But I am prepared to overlook these discrepancies in the interests of clarity.
There will be one picture showing the grandparent accompanied by two children with a watering can, with a large red tick showing that this is allowed. Plus another showing the grandparent being rescued from crashing waves by two small
people. This too is allowed. Not forgetting another showing the grandparent surrounded by children diving between her legs, hurling themselves off the sides of the pool and being careful not to splash her too much because she doesn't like it. Two ticks for
Safety First in the swimming pool. You know it makes sense.