Swimming Lessons

June 6th 2006

I’ve never learned how to swim and when I saw an advert in the local freebie newspaper the other week to the effect that the local leisure centre would be holding free swimming lessons specially designed for Oldies I decided to take advantage of the offer. Well it’s something to do, and although for the last sixty eight years I’ve somehow managed to avoid falling into the canal and drowning you never know, especially if I start having the dizzy spells that older people are often prone to. I therefore presented myself at the swimming pool at the appointed hour, which was 9 a.m. this morning.

There were eight would-be swimmers in total, all male, the powers that be having decided that any prospective women swimmers would be accommodated in another session, obviously deciding that the swimming lessons would go more swimmingly if there wasn’t any scope for hanky panky.

Of the eight of us one man had only one leg, one must have tipped the scales at thirty stones at the very least, one was a dwarf, and one had a humpback. The other four of us could be classified as normal, although one man had a glass eye, which strictly speaking is not completely normal, but a lot more normal than the rest of the motley crew. Lined up we must have looked like we were auditioning for Star Wars 7, The Return Of The Grotesques.

I had grave doubts that once the fat one entered the pool he would displace so much water that we’d all be swimming in the rafters but I kept my thoughts to myself, at least for the time being.

The lesson began. First we had to lie on our bellies and do the breast stroke, as demonstrated by the lady instructor. This involved moving our arms and legs, or in the case of the one-legged man his arms and leg, in a sort of frog like motion. After a minute or so the one-legged man asked, not unreasonably I thought, if his being minus a leg would cause him to go round in circles rather than in a straight line, once in the pool. The instructor said she hadn’t come across this potential problem before but that they would ‘cross that bridge when they came to it’.

A bridge that needed to be crossed immediately, as we’d already come to it, was that the fat man, balancing somewhat precariously on his belly, kept falling over every time he made more than the smallest frog-like motion with his arms and legs, and on a couple of occasions would have squashed the man with the glass eye and maybe caused his glass eye to pop out if he hadn’t had the good sense to fling himself out of the fat man’s way. The instructor solved this by moving the fat man over against a wall, which stopped him falling over on that side, and by shoring up his other side with two medicine balls from the gym.

The hump backed man, obviously a man with a sense of humour, said he was thankful we weren’t doing the back stroke or he’d be in the same boat and would require shoring up himself. His mention of boats got me thinking that if you wished to propel yourself through water then a boat would be a far easier and safer way of achieving this rather than by swimming, certainly a less tiring way, as after about five minutes of lying on my belly moving my arms and legs in frog-like motions I was absolutely knackered. I mentioned this to the instructor who said that when we were in the pool it wouldn’t be so tiring due to the buoyancy of the water. Fortunately we were then asked to get in the water to test out this theory.

At this point the fat man excused himself as he ‘needed the toilet’. I hazarded a guess that it would be doubtful if the toilet would feel the same way about him once he’s deposited his thirty stones on it.

There were steps down into the pool, which is four feet deep at the shallow end. The dwarf, at about three feet I would guess, disappeared completely before bobbing to the surface again and splashing for dear life in a furious dog paddle. The instructor told him to get out while she had a think about it, obviously never having had to instruct a three feet inch dwarf trying to stand up in a four feet deep pool before.

The fat fuck returned from the gents (you will see why I have relegated him from a fat man to a fat fuck in a moment). Eschewing use of the steps, and quite without warning, he jumped into the pool. A wave of tsunami proportions headed for me at about two hundred miles-an-hour, completely engulfing me, and filling my eyes with the heavily-chlorinated water. Minutes later my eyes were red raw from a combination of the effects of the chlorine and from rubbing them, and several hours later I still looked like the something out of a Hammer horror film. The Trouble couldn’t look at me without screwing up her eyes.

I’m in two minds as to whether I’ll be going to lesson two next week. If it wasn’t free I wouldn’t even be considering it.