As a child Dad always used to take me and my brother Paul to the swimming pool every Saturday morning. It was always a lot of fun and something I really looked forward to. I’ve always loved being in the water. It didn’t matter if it was the bath, the pool or the sea it was a genuinely happy place for me to be. Mum never ventured into the pool. She wasn’t a confident swimmer and never liked to get her hair wet. The only time I did see her swim was in Corfu where the water was very warm and shallow. Even then she managed to elongate her neck to giraffe-like status in order to save her hair. She’s better on dry land.
When we came back from swimming Dad always treated us to bacon and eggs. The taste of Highland Toffee from the swimming pool vending machine was by now a distant memory so Dad always set about the frying pan like a man with a purpose. These were different times. He fried the bacon in lard and the eggs glistened in their sunny side up state as the bacon crisped up. If there’d been such things as smoke alarms in those times our house would have been deafening the street with a high pitch shrill.
Making sure that my kids could swim and be safe and confident in the water was just a matter of course. I assumed that both would take it to it, quite literally, like ducks to water. S went to baby swimming classes and seemed to share my love of being in the water. She’d go out of her depth, pretend sharks were chasing her, do cartwheels in the water etc. It was easy. E, on the other hand, was like trying to drag Dracula on to a sun lounger in the Costa Del Sol. There were times we didn’t even get into the water. His distress was audible and real. Thankfully after three different swimming clubs and god knows how much cash he finally likes swimming.
Now that E is happier to be in the pool it’s meant that we can go swimming as a family. In theory, this should make things quicker, easier and on the whole less stressful. It doesn’t. Before we even get to the pool there seem to be a thousand things that need to be prepared:
- Has everyone had a wee?
- Does everyone have a towel? Not one that’s just been picked up off the bathroom floor and is still covered in toothpaste (or worse).
- Goggles, armbands, noodles, and plasters (wonderfully represented in Motherland episode on BBC).
- Change for lockers
- Swim nappies
- Make sure cossies on before leaving the house*
*For husband and children, this is very easy. For me, it’s the time that I realise I’ve not shaved in 6 months and although not a single person will be looking I instantly feel the need to blow off the dust from my old Bic razor and dry shave legs, pits, and beaver. This results in skin resembling that of a recently plucked battery farm chicken.
By the time we get there, shove clothes and bags into small and stinky locker I’m already thinking why are we bothering. Even then after we’ve squelched our way through to the actual pool I can see that T is very accustomed to the temperature of the water. He has, after all, been in the water for ten mins by now.
We’re in the pool, S is halfway through a synchronised swimming routine within seconds of getting her hair wet and I’ve managed to prize E from around my neck. It’s at that point I look at all the women coming out of the changing room and standing at the edge of the pool. They all have that look in their eye. They’re not looking for their partners in the pool. In their heads, they’re working out the exit routine. The time where they’ll have to stand freezing with their one piece around their ankles as they struggle to get a towel around their toddlers to prevent hypothermia. The days of having a private cubicle are long gone. They’re thinking about how to stop their kids from running in the changing room, slipping and breaking a bone. They’re wondering if the swimming pool water really does go a different colour if one of their kids does do a wee in the pool. They’re thinking about the problems facing them now and within the next 60 mins.
Looking at them I wonder if my Dad ever had any of those thoughts, or if like the fry-up it is a case of ‘different times’.
It’s at that point, when my hair’s all wet and my mascara has run down my cheeks that E will turn to me and say, ‘I need a poo’.