Recently I saw a competition advertised on BrtiMums (via Twitter) which I thought would be easy enough to enter. It’s called the Joy of Swimming Competition, sponsored by British Gas, and this post is my entry for it. To be in with a chance of winning a Merlin family pass, which gives year-long entry to theme parks and zoos around the UK, or £250 to spend in JJB Sports (I would easily spend that on swimming-related gear for the family), all I have to do is post on my blog about my favourite swimming memory. So I set about writing a quick post (it has to be at least 100 words, but that’s no problem for Little Miss Wordy here!) But it turned out to be harder than I thought: in fact I have so many swimming memories because swimming has been and still is such a big part of my life, that it’s so hard to choose. In the end I chickened out, and decided to write about a selection of a few favourite swimming memories. I wrote about this fairly recently on the blog, so you may get a feeling of deja vu in certain parts.
Although we have photos of me (as above) swimming as a baby/toddler, of course I don’t remember that far back personally. I’d say my earliest actual memories of swimming were of lessons at Ernesford Grange swimming pool in Coventry when I was aged somewhere between about 4 and 7. I remember enjoying myself so much when I was at swimming lessons. I wasn’t much good at any other sports at school and was always the last to be picked for a team, but swimming I could do, and do well. It was also great to work towards badges, and I enjoyed getting stronger in the water, so I could swim longer distances and learn new skills. I found it great fun to do things like picking up bricks from the bottom of the deep end, tread water for a while (with or without 1 or 2 hands in the air!), or do some skulling (lying on my back. legs still, just pulling through the water with circular movements of the hands). I particularly remember the teacher I had for most of my lessons – the infamous Mrs Leigh. She was lovely really, but did have a bit of a reputation for being slightly scary with her big booming voice and concentration on getting you to swim to your potential – not one to stand any messing around in the ranks!
Moving on to later-primary-school age, I have fond memories of my time as a member of the City of Coventry swim squad. It was there that I learned all about good stroke technique, and got to improve my speed and stamina swimming. The first Friday of every month we had time trials, where we had to swim one 25m length of each stroke (front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke and butterfly), and we were timed doing them. It was a challenge to see if I could beat my personal best and improve my times over the months and years – that was great fun. I also enjoyed the galas we took part in against other squads, both as individual swimmers and relay teams. Most of these were local, usually based at the pool in Nuneaton, but I particularly remember a tour we went on to Devon, where we swam in galas against teams down there in the evenings, and got to visit nice places in the day. Little did I know that I’d end up marrying someone who lived down there! (We met years later and not through anything swimming-related though.)
Apart from badges and competitive swimming, I’ve always loved swimming just for fun too. Family holidays in France always included a lovely blue outdoor pool – I wouldn’t let Mum book a campsite without one! I would spend most of the afternoon and early evening every day in there, just swimming about and playing games with family or friends that I made. I reckon that’s something that helped my French at a young age – one year I made friends with a couple of French girls my age in the pool, and we managed to communicate between us enough to play games in the water.
I’ve continued to swim regularly into adulthood. I particularly enjoyed swimming in the University of Nottingham swimming club as an undergraduate student, and more recently swimming was a real benefit for me during pregnancy – the feeling of weightlessness and still being able to exercise was amazing, especially towards the end when I felt so big!
....to the next generation (Andrew, aged around 9 months, and I swimming at Abbey pool)
Of course I can’t finish this post about swimming memories without including the next generation of swimming fun! I remember, like it was yesterday, taking Andrew swimming for the first time. It was quite an effort to get everything together and go at just the right time between feeds (naps weren’t his strong point so we weren’t too restricted by that), but it was all worth it when we got there. Back in those days I could lay him down on the fold-down changing table in the cubicle, knowing that he wouldn’t go anywhere. I got changed first, so he wouldn’t get cold waiting for me, and then got him into his little trunks. He was just about big enough by then to fit in the smallest size of Boots brand swim nappies which were on offer at the time so worked out the cheapest, and I’d bought a cool little pair of swimming shorts for him that were a bit big for his non-existent bottom (now he’s walking that has definitely muscled up!) Then I wrapped him in a towel, and, after I quickly got into my swim costume myself, took on the actually very difficult task of carrying a tiny baby, a rucksack, a nappy change bag, my handbag and a towel to the locker. That was nothing compared to juggling them all whilst trying to put the coin in the locker. We survived it though, and then headed through to the pool.
It was fairly busy in the small pool, but there was still plenty of room to get in gently down the shallow steps at the side. I introduced him to the water slowly, by sitting down on a step, holding him in one arm and using the other arm to pour water gently onto his skin with a cupped hand. After a few minutes of that, I eased us down into the water a bit more, so that he was completely immersed except for his head. He wasn’t at all phased by it, and was very happy for me to walk around and pull him through the water with me. Of course I was supporting him a lot, especially his head which was still floppy then. He was fascinated by everything that was going on – all the other boys and girls, the lifeguards walking round in bright yellow t-shirts, and the brightly-coloured bath toys like ducks and octopuses that were floating around. Incidentally, the staff at the pool have written a different name on each toy – so there’s Vinny the duck, Alice the octopus and Olly the bear etc. Not that he was really old enough to do much with these himself, but his little eyes and ears were clearly soaking it all up like a sponge. As he was so at ease in the water, I even tried splashing some water around him, and he loved that. It was just about the time when he was starting to smile, and I got lots of smiles and splashing that day. We only stayed in for about 15 minutes, because I didn’t want to risk him getting too cold, though the pool always feels lovely and warm to me, but you can’t tell what a baby’s perception of it is. As we got out, I wrapped him up in the towel again, and then we headed back to the changing cubicles to get dry and dressed. This time I sorted him first, as I can cope with the temperature and still being in a wet costume for a while. He fell asleep on the way home and napped well that afternoon. I soon discovered that swimming was a way to wear him out and guarantee a good nap.
So there we go, a selection of my swimming memories. I’m looking forward to adding many more with Andrew over the years, as that part of our swimming story has only just begun.