Not three years later the god of children and swimming pools looked down upon my mother, rubbed his chlorine smelling hands together and said “Right, it’s your turn again.”


As a six year old and an eight year old Stephen and I were big kids and life had got easier for my parents. Swimming in particular. We were never allowed into the pool area if no grown up was there, but once we were in the pool, my parents could read and potter about knowing that if we did drown it would probably be accompanied by shrieks and screams and large amounts of blood from a split head. Either that or the one not drowning would raise the alarm. Hylton, however, was still arm band bound. While arm band wearing makes kids a whole lot safer in the water, not wearing them around the pool must be cause for grey hair and stress creases on the foreheads of the adults. Hylton had to learn to swim so my parents could get on with stuff while we played.


Hylton was told that it was against the law for children over 4 to wear arm bands. He liked his armbands but my parents planned to send him for lessons once he was 4. Parenting skills have changed somewhat since the seventies – but then the number of kids drowning has gone up too. Hylton approached his 4th birthday with sticky, sweaty, hot arms covered in slowly perishing orange plastic. He was big and old enough to blow the arm bands up himself and his upper arms were often covered in drool until he jumped into the pool.


In the afternoon of his 4th birthday Hylton stripped off his armbands and jumped into the deep end of the pool. My mother was obviously not as confident of his swimming skills as she had been of mine 3 years earlier because she almost leapt in after him. My grandmother almost had a heart attack this time and tried to jump in to save him. She appeared to have forgotten that she couldn’t swim either. All of the commotion was going on at the edge of the deep end when Hylton’s slick head popped out half way down the pool. He casually swam to the end and got out.


The little bugger had thought it was the law that he had to wear arm bands until he was 4. He claimed he could swim for ages but was waiting until he was 4 to take the arm bands off.


My poor parents.