I can not remember a time when I was not able to swim. I think I was born a water baby. My earliest memory involving swimming is at a beach when I was about three or four. I was in a yellow plastic dingy with my brothers and my mum was swimming in front, wearing a sun hat and sunglasses and pulling the boat along. This obviously made a great impression on me.
Swimming was always a part of my childhood. There is something relaxing about diving into a pool and swimming a couple of lengths. You feel as if you are in a world of your own as your arms slice though the water and your legs kick up the distance. The world sounds different in a pool, voices sound muffled and there is a background ring of happy laughter intermixed with splashing. It indulges escapism.
I remember going swimming every week with my brothers. We did swimming classes and each week was a different challenge. We ended up with an array of badges sewn onto our swimming towels, 100m, 200m all the way up to bronze medallion in lifesaving. Each hard earned and treasured. Every week we did something new, from swimming lengths in pyjamas to learning to dive. There was a separate diving pool with three boards, one was really high. We picked up the courage to jump from the second board but never quite managed the third. When you are standing there is looks so high, even though you know that its not that bad having seen it from below.
After each class we used to go to the snack bar which overlooked the pool and have a treat, a packet of mixed nuts and a drink or a sausage roll. Somehow the simplest snack tastes much nicer after exercise. We used to love watching the other people swim below us, wondering if people had sat there and watched use while we were in the pool.
Our visit to America was a real eye opener. The weather was gorgeous and each motel we stayed in had its own pool. The first thing we used to do was rush out with our towels and try each pool. There is something magical about swimming in the open air in the warmth with the sun beating down on you. In one pool there was a shallow pond right next to it on the other side of the fence. One day there was a great commotion and it turned out that a snapping turtle had been caught. We watched enthralled as the man who caught it demonstrated how it snapped when confronted and had nightmares later about it snapping our toes while swimming.
We also experienced swimming in a lake for the first time while we were here. A lake is a whole different experience to a swimming pool. The water has a different coloured tint and the bottom is soft and muddy not stone. There are reeds and pond weed and there may even be fish. You duck dive into the murky depths not knowing what might be lurking beneath, it is an adventure in itself. You never know how deep the bottom is and have to be careful not to go too far in case you are out of your depth. It is an adventure, you can pretend you are the first to swim in the lake while listening to the birds sing overhead and the wind blowing though the trees.
Now I am a mum myself I want my son to know the joys of swimming for himself. I took him to the pool when he was a baby. You learn how it feels to learn to swim as you watch them with their armbands on struggling to keep afloat in the shallow end. You want to swim yourself but are bound to keep them safe and pull them next to you teaching them the joy of water. As he got more confident, with weekly lessons he would swim after me trying to catch me still staying in the shallow end. Now he will follow me up to the deep end, trying to pick up keys from the bottom and enjoying the swim. He has his own array of swimming badges switched onto his towel and I am so glad he is confident in the water.
This post was written as part of the Brit Mums Joy of Swimming competition which is sponsored by British Gas. If you would like a free swim this summer across the UK you may want to look at the British Gas Free Swims For Britain programme.