I have taken up swimming. Nothing exceptional, I know, but I am not a natural swimmer and in six months time I have to pass swimming tests to become a Dive Master. Real tests. In the sea, where I am required to not only swim considerable distances but to also survive, tow along someone else with me and look like I know what I am doing. Dear Universe I pray you don’t give me some giant man-beast to tow during my tests. Have pity on me, you know I am about as good at swimming as a moth that has fallen into a swimming pool and believes it can flap its way out.
You see this is all a part of my grand master plan to turn myself into a graceful mermaid/diving instructor this year. And if I can’t sort the swimming out I am well, let’s face it, a bit buggered really. In a bid to become said mermaid I have taken to the local pool this winter with my new multicoloured swim hat, pink goggles in hand and, damn it, I forgot to shave my legs. Excellent start.
Oh and I have discovered that my hat makes me look like a Chupa Chup lolly. A Chupa Chup lolly with hairy legs. Nice.
I haven’t been taught front crawl before and I need to learn how to do this and do it well. I don’t want to be THAT person, the one who completes their Dive Master swimming test in the slowest time known to PADI. All red faced wheezing and half drowned. Just call me No Points Hodgson? That is so not going to be me. I am going to be the graceful one, first to finish in lightning speed with a smile on my face. All long legs, swaying hair and looking super cool as I nonchalantly rise out of the water like a bond girl. Alright that will take major surgery, my legs don’t know the word long, but it’s something to aim for.
Back to the front crawl. How do people do this? I have never been so nervous on my first trip to the pool, despite my dear family spending time showing me beforehand what to do. My attempts in said pool have so far involved head butting the end of the pool a number of times, which really confused me. No-one else seemed to head butt the end when I watched them swimming. How did they know it was near? Ah, the dashed line on the pool floor. Apparently that is the indicator of the end of the pool. I thought it was just a pretty decoration. Could they not write on the pool tiles ‘watch your head, end approaching’ to avoid confusion and head injuries? Note to self – watch the pool floor at all times. Great, now I have swum into someone’s backside. I was so busy watching for the dashed line that I forgot to look up and I head butted some poor old lady square in the bottom. I mean, really, who does that. Perhaps I should get out now.
There is also the issue of how to actually DO front crawl. There seems to be a lot of windmilling of arms going on, kicking of legs and I’m also supposed to breathe. With so much windmilling and kicking and watching the pool floor I am finding breathing quite tricky. I have been advised to pretend I am licking my shoulder to get the right position for breathing whilst continuing to swim. First attempt at this and what did I do from concentrating so much on the concept? I actually tried to lick my shoulder, choked on a lot of water and promptly burst out laughing in the middle of the deep end and half drowned in the process. This doesn’t go down well in a pool full of serious lane swimmers at 7.30am on a Monday morning. I need to work on my breathing or buy a snorkel.
And the part that really fills me with dread….the lanes. The lanes of doom scare me senseless. I am like a sheep without a herd and I just don’t know which lane I belong in. If in doubt, choose the slow lane. Slow lane is a lovely place to be. It is a very wide lane, it takes up most of the pool and it is full of old people that I have come to adore. There is the cheery middle aged lady that is even worse at front crawl than me. She is a learner too. I like her for the simple fact that we get to encourage each other and I can also remind myself quietly that I am not the worst, I am second worst. Then there are the two elderly ladies that don’t appear to do any swimming. They seem to just hang out at the end like two birds on a wire, wittering away and putting the world to rights. God love those ladies and their hot air. There is the wiry old chap that doesn’t swim but conducts some form of underwater physiotherapy whilst holding on to the side of the pool. He has nearly kicked me in the face a number of times as he rotates his leg and thrusts it wildly out into the blue. I rather admire his lack of care and his crazy underwater moves. But my personal favourite is the very old man. Let’s call him Burt. He looks like a Burt and he is awesome. He is there week in, week out with a big smile on his face and he is the oldest person I have seen alive. He also appears to be wearing actual underwear in the pool; both where underwear should be worn and also on his head. I have tried to get close enough on a number of occasions to establish if he is in fact wearing pants on his head but then I start to look like a stalker. From what I can tell they match his bottom attire and so I have come to the conclusion that they are in fact pants. Until I get to know Burt better I don’t feel it would be appropriate to ask him outright if he has pants on his head. I mean, I have a Chupa Chup lolly on my head so really I can’t speak. In addition to this, Burt has his own unique style of swimming and I rather like it. He swims like a very wonky, overenthusiastic frog wearing pants on its head. You see I feel very at home in the slow lane amongst these people. It is where I belong, my comfort zone, my nest. People say hi to me in here but I don’t think this is going to help me pass my Dive Master.
Ugh, the middle lane. Not quite the fast lane but definitely a different zone to my beloved slow lane. The people in the middle lane are mean and quick and really good swimmers. They are probably all on ‘swim faster’ drugs, high on their achievements as they fly through the water and whoop when they beat their best times. Oh I hate his lane, hate it. It has taken me a month to get up the courage to even go and look at this lane. I told myself I have to do this and really how bad could it be? Very bad, so bad I burst into tears on my first attempt. I tried to keep up with my windmilling kicking crawl and my awesome hat of many colours but they are so damn fast! I got half way through a length, panicked at the demon swimmer approaching me from behind with a look of murder on his face, promptly headbutted the lane barrier and licked my shoulder. Excellent. I retreated to the slow lane and wept into my goggles.
Thankfully things have improved since the early days. I have become a better swimmer and I can do a version of front crawl for a number of lengths. I have even managed to find myself a home in the middle lane – though I think I have bumped everyone up into the fast lane. It seems crowded in there lately. My problem now is I have become overenthusiastic and of the opinion I could maybe go faster. I decided it would be a great idea to swim a length as fast as I could last Friday, to get an idea of how fast I can swim if I am being chased by a shark. I feel it is important to know this in the event of either a shark chasing me or me wanting to keep up with a shark swimming away from me. I love sharks. Anyway, my mini swimming test went well, I was quick(ish) and I didn’t head butt anyone. But I have been on Ibuprofen ever since for a bad back. I think I was a little too keen. I think I may be in the slow lane again next week. Checking out Burt with his pants on his head.