As a toddler I held a fascination for water. We lived on the coast and spent many family days on the beach. Even at three years old I would want to be in the sea, so much so that while the family were unpacking the car I raced off down the slipway and jumped into a large pool, left by the outgoing tide. The commotion that followed involving my Uncle dashing down and jumping in himself to scoop me out, Mum and Aunty being both furious and scared witless at once. I was told never to do that again, and I didn’t, not at least until the next time we went to the beach. The pool was always there, and I would always attempt to jump in. I had no fear of the sea, but the family feared for me!
When I turned four, my elder cousins started swimming lessons in the local pool. Mum went along to enrol me. On being told, ‘we don’t teach them until they are at school’ Mum famously replied, ‘she will be drowned by then, she keeps jumping in the sea’, needless to say, I was the youngest learner in the pool.
I remember some of the swimming lessons. We were taught by a pair of brothers, who were fair and tough. We were put through our paces and I soon realised that there was more to swimming than jumping in and out of water. Eventually I got the hang of it, and over the years I went through the various certificates. The pool was my place of choice for exercise, and later for meeting up with boys.
Thinking back to these times always makes me smile, life really was simple then. I was blessed with a warm loving home, with an extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles who were regular visitors in our house and with whom I shared some fabulous times. It also makes me think of how my parents worked together to make sure that we knew our boundaries at the same time as encouraging us to reach for the stars. That is such a clever thing to do.
I guess it would have been easy for Mum to stop taking me to the beach, or to strap me into a pram or put me on reins to keep me from the sea, but she didn’t. She simply decided that if her daughter loved the water, then she must learn how to respect it, and to keep herself safe. That is a lesson for life in itself.
I can’t even add up all the hours in my life I have spent swimming. The fun I have had, eyeing up the boys in the outdoor pool in the summers of my teenage years; swimming competitively, though seldom ever winning a race; under warm sunshine on holidays across Europe, with my children; floating on a wave and being at one with the world.
There have been a fair few disasters while swimming, but these will appear later this Advent, each one a learning curve in itself. More tomorrow.