I am a Pisces, a fish who doesn’t like to be out of water. I often swim in more than one direction pulled by my conflicting nature, water is my element, where I was before I was born, it seems the natural place to be to feel that sense of being myself.
I’m just getting back into being able to go swimming again after a few weeks off due to illness. What a great feeling.Ive always loved swimming. I remember back to those first swimming lessons. It would be 1962 and Mum used to take 4-year-old me to the public baths once a week after school. I remember a big shouty man whose best idea of getting children to swim was to throw them in, no water wings then you understand, and yell at them until they made it to the side. I remember that feeling of floundering madly, gulping air and water and yet somehow flailing madly I made it to the side. Of course this isn’t to be recommended either as a teaching strategy or a way to instill trust in your little darling, but being the ever proverbial water baby I loved it.
Neither of my parents learnt to swim. They both grew up in the urban northern English towns , cobbled streets and clogs for Mum and wide windy moorlands for dad. I don’t think either of them missed it as a child but in adulthood they both very much wanted me to swim safely. Unfortunately as I grew up I realised this was a prime opportunity to take outrageous advantage. Days out or holidays in English and Welsh seaside towns were a taste of freedom for the 7-year-old I became. Dad would pace up and down at the edge of the water, as I edged further and further out to sea. Every so often as his nerve failed him he would wave frantically to me to come further in. I learnt to judge to the nth degree the moment when patience would snap, so I was always just that bit out of reach but managed to string it out so I was in the water for hours and hours. Both my inner anarchist and my inner Garbo were satisfied by this breaking of the rules and the need to ‘be alone’.
I was a chubby child, and am a chubby ( or as I prefer to call it curvaceous) adult. swimming was and is a taste of the freedom of movement my thinner more agile sisters experienced on the netball pitch or running in cross-country races ( does anyone like that?!) Water as we all know supports our bodies. It is fantastic for sore joints, and that feeling of weightlessness is one I would only otherwise experience in outer space. In teenage silliness it was possible to be picked up in the water and thrown about, as a mum of small children to play games of sharks and minnows and chase them till they screamed with laughter as big mummy shark pretended to bite and eat up all the little minnows.
Now I swim in a pool at the gym. It is often quiet when I go in the early evenings ( avoiding the after work rush) or mid afternoon at the weekends. Sometimes I can be the only person in the pool. Then I get to live my fantasy that the pool is my very own and that I can swim any time I want. There is something so soothing and meditative about swimming. The focus is on the moment, this moment only. On breathing. On the stretch of my arms and the kick of my feet. I dream of having ‘swimmers arms’ those well-defined shoulders and perfect curves. No flapping under arm skin there, the perfect arms for the LBD.
Most of all though I long to swim in the sea. The taste of salt in my mouth, the unexpected buoyancy that carries you along. The range of surf from crashing Atlantic waves on a Brittany coastline or a Cornish surfing beach, or the soft golden sands and smooth turquoise gorgeousness of a Greek Island. I am fascinated by the idea of ‘wild swimming’. The exploration of wild water, lakes and rivers. Clear, cool, clean water rushing over brown stones and mossy rocks, the dark blackness of deep water, the rushing of waterfalls. And then there is the excitement of scuba diving. The David Attenborough world of the ocean bed, the colours of fish swimming silkily round my legs, oh the wish to swim with dolphins, to experience that connection. So many worlds to explore in water.