My parents weren’t swimmers. In fact they weren’t sporty people at all. We went out for walks when I was young and we loved the beach, but my earliest memories of swimming are very embarrassing sessions with my primary school, where I splashed around hopelessly, feeling quite literally out of my depth and hoping that it would all soon be over.
For me, school swimming was just one of those things you endured and hoped that it would end quickly. I progressed from a hopeless splasher to someone who could swim about ten strokes without arm bands but when it was over, I heaved a sigh of relief and hoped that I would not have to go swimming ever again.
And I didn’t. Not for many years. I paddled in the sea. I took regular baths. That was more than enough water for me. There was an outdoor pool at high school and the thought of stepping out with my adolescent lily white body in a swimsuit to the world, coupled with my inadequacies as a swimmer made that a terrifying prospect and one I managed to avoid at all costs!
Fast forward a few years to my first ever ‘girlie’ holiday and my first ever holiday abroad and I found myself in Faliraki in Greece. The beaches and the sea were breathtaking and I couldn’t resist going in, which was fine as long as I only ventured out as far as I was comfortable. Towards the end of the holiday, we took a day boat trip, which was also amazing until it was time for everyone to jump off and have a swim in the sea.
It was one of those moments when you wanted to be swallowed up. I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t swim, aged nineteen, but a tentative glance down at the water made me realise that it was just a bit too deep for me (understatement). I have no idea why but I jumped in. Ridiculous really looking back, clearly as a demented teenager, not looking stupid was far more important than drowning!
Obviously I didn’t drown. I somehow came to the surface and one of the guys helping on the boat saw I was struggling and grabbed me. He took pity on me and quietly showed me where I was going wrong and for a few minutes I swam in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, well sort of half floated, half tread water would probably be a better description but at the time it felt pretty fantastic.
Over the years, I have swum and although I have never had lessons, I can thrash around a pool now and look vaguely like I’m swimming. As for the children, they all swim and have had or are having lessons. Learning from my own experiences, I have taken them swimming from tiny babies and started lessons as soon as they were old enough. I think swimming is an essential skill and even the two you get boys at six and eight are far more competent swimmers than I will ever be. I am always so proud to see how confident in the water and R was recently chosen to represent the school in a gala.
As for me? Well I will never be an Olympic swimmer that’s for sure, but who knows when I have that wonderful thing they call time, maybe, just maybe, I will go and have proper lessons and learn to swim as well as my children.
This post was written in response to the Brit Mums Joy of Swimming competition which is sponsored by British Gas, who are offering free swims this summer across the UK as part of their British Gas Free Swims For Britain programme.