When I’ve quickly torn off all my clothes and dumped them into the locker (just about remembering to pull on my trunks) I descend and gratefully fall into the cool, blue, pool. Slowly I start to fizz and melt into the water. All of that sticky grime and niggling workplace nonsense bubbles and splashes away. I am like brilliant, tungsten white, magnesium that courses and spits around in water. I am like that tumbling, chalk bright tablet that bubbles away in the glass with fury then comes to an eventual, crystal clear, calm.
At the pool, for a swim, cold water washes and ripples ahead of me, aside of me and all is wet and well again. With each kick of my leg and fast front crawl of my arms, all is well, again, as I swim.
Of course it was not always like that. Not those first few lessons in the public baths where I’d gulp great municipal mouthfuls of heavily chlorinated water. The pool where I’d swim and regularly swat aside from the surface several upturned, bobbing, black, beetles. The dazzling, sky blue pool where I’d also dodge the dive bombing boys that could already swim like the man from ‘The man from Atlantis’ but never looked quite so handsome or very much like Bobby Ewing in Dallas. How did that actor ever get more than a few yards bucking and swimming like he was having an unlikely (on camera) under water orgasm? But I digress from gulping down plenty of unwanted swimming pool water to splash and splutter my way onto my very own and much coveted 25 yards swimming certificate, but not, alas, the life savers award. I could never dive down deep enough to save that ridiculous black plastic brick in the regulation, very wet, sodden and unfeasibly heavy, karate suit.
These days I like to pass on, with damp pride, the gift of swimming to my little daughter. That is if I can successfully squeeze her into her swimming costume as well as wrestle her into the unfeasibly large and very absorbent ‘swimming nappy’ as well as steering her away from wriggling and squirming her way off of the wobbly, red, plastic changing table. Invariably I manage to achieve this much which is then followed by plenty of dipping and whirling of her around the pool until exhaustion sets in – mostly for me, not her. In the pool she will always want to do another ten minutes more than me.
So, that’s agreed then. Swimming is the most relaxing and exhilarating activity which remains open to me and everyone else that lives close by to a public pool or the poshest of gyms. With just a kick of the leg and mighty splash of chlorinated water swimming also manages to seamlessly reconnect that silver haired sub mariner of today, who I catch a glancing brief glimpse of in the mirror, with yesterday’s vanished and slightly awkward, gangly poolside youth.
But sometimes those dazzling, wobbling, mirror like waves and rippling waters darken when I recall one other poolside moment. It all started so well. Me, proud dad, and precious young daughter, happy together in the municipal waters of Birmingham. Me, the proud dad that earlier in the morning was happy to have heard how extra swimming lessons were going really well and even happier still when I saw a gap open up ahead of us in the pool to allow me to swim up to the deep end and back, quickly, ahead of my much slower daughter. This I did with energetic speed. I kicked out, strong and fast for a couple of kicks, until, unexpectedly, I hit something firm, but not so firm, with the hard ball of my kicked back right foot. I obviously had to stop and check behind me. What damn fool was it that couldn’t see me in full flow? As I looked back I noticed my own daughter standing nearby, upright in the pool with her back to me. As I approached I noticed her hands covered her nose, then I saw streams of brilliant bright red blood drip and pour down her petal white cheeks, into the water. That morning I’m not afraid to say I howled longer and louder than she did as we eventually sat and settled with the young first aider by the side of the pool. My young daughter, I recall with fleeting pride, stayed remarkably calm as I fretted and thought about possible brain damage, hair line fractures, micro surgery, plastic surgery, life long deforming scars, an angry mother, a cauliflower nose, and most of all my terrible carelessness and failure to protect that which was most vital and valuable to me and every father – the cotton ball safety and well-being of my only little girl. Fortunately it was, in the end, a simple nose bleed. But to this very day of writing we have never been swimming together again.