Tag Archive: childhood

swimming again

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.



As the little girl flew over the handle bars of her bike, she knew that this was going to hurt. Although the fear of the landing was very real and seemed slowly to increase as she headed towards the tarmac in slow motion, the flight was exciting and exhilarating. In a way that is only possible when a disaster is about to occur, time slowed down.

She looked at the grass ahead of the tarmac and hoped she made it that far before hitting the ground; she thought about the fact that perhaps her mother had known better when she told her not to use the front brakes on the bike; she saw her brothers watch her flight with a mixture of terror and humour on their faces; and she flew. She flew free and wild, her hair blowing away from her face, the wind in her eyes.

She flew.

And then she hit the ground, mouth first, slamming into the grass and sliding down the hill on her belly. She left a tooth, most of the skin around her mouth, large amounts of her belly skin and almost all of her knees on the grass as she slid and slid and slid. She came to a shuddering halt against the fence at the bottom of the slope, the wire making diamond shapes on her face she wore for hours. Her bike lay bent and twisted against the pavement, her brothers running to help while trying to control their nervous giggles.


The little girl stood on the swing, holding onto the chains tightly. She swung higher and higher, her knees bending as she thrust her body forward. The foreswing offered a view of the tops of trees and the sky; the backswing showed the girl the hard, rough ground beneath her. The wooden swing felt solid and hard to her bare feet, the chain cold in her grasp.

Taking a deep breath, the girl lifted her feet from the swing, hanging onto the chains with white knuckled determination. 1……2…..3…….4…..5….. she counted, watching as the swing and her legs got out of synch. Her hands began to sweat slightly and the grip between them and the chain loosen. She hung on with grim determination as she watched the swing move under her feet and back again, slowing down as she began to slide down the chain. Her palms burning, her knees bent, just before she had to relinquish her grip, her feet found the swing seat and she stood on it. She swung back and forward a few times enjoying the sense of relief before again speeding up, adjusting her grip and bending her knees to gather momentum.