When I arrive at the swimming pool today there are two children (one large, one small) receiving individual swimming lessons from fit-looking, red-shirted instructors.
They are both in the Medium Lane – which, regular readers may remember, used to be called the Slow Lane but was re-named, presumably so as not to dent the self-confidence of those people who swim very, very slowly. Not
to mention mine.
I would have taken my stately swimming into the other lane, labelled the Fast Lane, but (i) the name is a bit off-putting to such as me and (ii)
three Serious Swimmers are powering up and down the pool in the Fast Lane, making waves which would surely overwhelm / overturn me, should I risk swimming in their wake.
I therefore stay in the Medium Lane, where I feel safer, even though the larger of the two children under instruction, who is holding a float and kicking his legs wildly, keeps ignoring the pool policy (which is to swim in an anti-clockwise direction)
and splashing straight into me. Each time he does this, his instructor calls out, laconically, “Sorry ‘bout that!” but I don’t hear him telling his pupil to steer clear of me. The younger child also has a float which is shaped like
a giant frog. She squeals with delight and grabs hold of it with great determination. I wish I had a frog float too. Or, rather, I wish I were young enough to be able to have a frog float without anyone laughing at me.
I wonder what kind of a swimmer I would have been had there been anything like Baby Swim Classes when I was tiny? I’ve watched my grandchildren in countless swimming classes over the years and
marvelled at the way they are introduced to the feeling of water in their faces. Now the older ones are all like darting fishes, totally at home in the pool, diving underwater to collect the dive-weights I throw for them and swimming through my legs, the better
to unbalance me. And only last summer, during our lovely Family Holiday in Deepest Devon, we introduced Morgan (the youngest of the Magnificent Seven, soon to be the Extraordinary Eight grand kids) to the swimming pool for the first time and he took
to it as if he’d been swimming since birth.
I have lost count of the number of Sunday morning swimming lessons when I used to accompany the Youngest of the
Darling Daughters to watch Team Baldwin go through their paces. They’ve stopped swimming lessons now, having reached a certain level of expertise, and I do miss sitting at the side of the pool, in my bare feet, chatting the long morning away with my
lovely daughter, while keeping one eye on the pool so as to be able to silently applaud progress made with the diving, the speed trials and – my favourite - the Use of Flippers.
I once asked my teacher-daughter, the Middle of the Darling Daughters, what she would have done if faced with me in her PE class, quaking with fear at the thought of having to turn a somersault or hang upside down on the wall bars.
“I’d have helped you feel comfortable being upside down,” she said. I wish she had been my teacher. Though I often think my children, all super-confident in any kind of physical exercise, would have thought me a pretty poor specimen
if I’d been in their class at school. It is somewhat sobering to think that it is doubtful they would have included me in their circle of friends.
decide to make my escape from the pool when parents start arriving with their small-fry, all excited at the prospect of Junior Swim. The Serious Swimmers are still churning up the water in the Fast Lane so I take myself off for a shower and then to the
health club’s cafe where I claim a free coffee, having completed my Loyalty Card. I feel pleased with myself for having achieved a free coffee. Even if the only effort I had had to put into this achievement was the enjoyment of drinking nine Medium
On the way out to the car I see a chap I used to work with, tapping away at his computer, so I stop to exchange what some call “pleasantries”.
And I hear myself saying, with exactly the right degree of nonchalance; “Just been for my regular swim...”
In those few words I manage to give
the impression that I have spent the last hour powering up and down the Fast Lane with the Serious Swimmers, demonstrating my faultless Front Crawl, brilliant Breast Stroke, streamlined Back Stroke and (the killer) perfect Butterfly, executing tumble turns
that would leave any on-looker speechless with admiration.
Like George Washington, I never lie. And yet, and yet...