I have mentioned a few times that my sisters and I were competitive swimmers when we were younger. We swam at least three times a week, straight after school (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Every trip to the local swimming pool lasted for several hours. We would swim up and down, up and down, up and down, length after length, mile after mile. The local swimming pool was a 25 metre long pool.
We also swam regularly in Wigan which had an Olympic sized swimming pool. (Sadly that pool was demolished some years ago.)
There was a problem that was the downfall of a competitive swimming career for the three of us. None of us were competitive. We just loved swimming. My parents would never have fostered a competitive spirit in us. But we were all strong and fast swimmers – especially Milly. Well, Milly was faster than all the other swimmers in her age-group. I probably had the most stamina. I never tired out. I have swam for five hours continually and not wanted to stop, except that the staff blew the whistle to say they were closing soon.
We had a strict swimming coach who used to yell at us with instructions to improve our stroke. I remember her shouting at us to go faster and push harder and kick more firmly. We did what she told us, but none of us had any particular taste for winning. For a long time, we kept on winning races. I upset one of the neighbour’s children when I raced against her and ended up beating the rest of the children by about half the length of the pool. All those hours and hours of practice meant we were very swift through the water. She was so upset she told all the other kids in our street that I cheated – I don’t see how I could have cheated without anyone noticing…but it just contributed to my growing dislike to racing.
One by one we all told Mum and Dad we did not want to race anymore. We still loved swimming, but competitions were taking the pleasure out of something very special to us. All three of us little ones were total water babies. My favourite memories are our time playing in the water before and after we were under the charge of our scary swimming coach.
We imagined ourselves to be swimming in the sea. We could all hold our breath for a long time and we swam with our eyes wide open in the chlorinated water. We sometimes pretended we were fish and just wriggled our bodies through the water the way fish move through briny oceans.
We used to swim along the bottom of the pool normally at the deeper end of the pool pretending to be mermaids. We often played a game with either a coin, a hair bobble or one of locker keys. One of us would drop it on on the floor of the pool and the other two would comb the entire pool in search for the object as if we were diving for treasure.
We sometimes used to pretend there was a shark that we had to escape from, or we used to try to jump up out of the water pretending we were dolphins. We danced in the water like synchronised swimmers and we performed all sorts of somersaults and twirls in the water. To us the water was our playground, and we felt totally relaxed within it. We imagined all sorts of watery games that entertained us for hours. I don’t know what the life-guards thought of us three girls.
Even today, I often wish the swimming pool was empty so I could play like I did as a child, diving and dancing to my heart’s content. But instead I have to swim like an adult…up and down, up and down.
This was in response to THE ELEMENTAL CHALLENGE hosted by Teresa aka The Haunted Wordsmith: