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Back in the Water

This week I paddled out of Lockdown. Maybe even dog paddled. On Monday I decided that I’d walked enough. Every nook and cranny of the streets and parks of my suburb had been explored and explored and explored. Ad fucking infinitum.

I needed a change. Something that got me out of the house that didn’t not involve walking.

So. I heard pools were open. Swimming pools. On my interminable walks I’d delighted in seeing kids swimming, jumping off jetty’s, being kids. I might have joined them at Dawnies but I’m a bit of a coward and I hate cold water. Swimming in a wetsuit just doesn’t seem right. Not for an old, superannuated surfer.

No. I’d go and have a dip at the local HEATED pool.

Then something quite odd came over me. I started to feel nervous. The way I’d felt in my youth before water polo grand finals or before I went in to bat or on some opening night or other that I was involved in as a playwright or actor (or both). I won’t go into the gory details but you get the idea. My tummy was rumbling, I was…well…nervous.

How ridiculous. I mean, I hadn’t had a swim since Lockdown (not sure which one) but then, whenever “then” was.

I wondered if I’d get a park or if there was room in a lane. I wondered if my damaged rotator cuff would stand up to it. I wondered if I could still swim.

I dragged my budgies out of the bottom of the swimming bag, grabbed my goggles and headed out to face the water.

The pool was virtually empty. Only a few hardy souls ploughing up and down, up and down plus a few enthusiastic kids jumping in and splashing about.

I chose the least crowded lane, one occupied by, shall we say, less than potential Olympians.. People basically just making it to the end. As I approached the starting blocks and stood beside them (you’re not allowed to use them), I glanced at the lane next to me marked “Medium”. Next to it was “Fast”. Once upon a time I would have dived into the “Fast” lane with confidence. Then I realised “Medium” was more appropriate to an ageing crawler like me. Now I was reduced to swimming in the lane with no name. Oh well. That’s the way it goes.

I leant down, rinsed my goggles and put them on. I peered down the lane. It did seem a long way to then end. I took up a starting position as if waiting for the starter’s gun. I was feeling decidedly queasy. And nervous. Why was I nervous? I didn’t have any idea but I was. I stood up again and pretended to stretch. This was ridiculous. How many times had I dived into a pool and swam a few laps? Hundreds...thousands...hundreds of thousands. To be fair I’ve never liked the moment of diving in and hitting the water. Perfectly fine thereon but I’ve always been tentative about the initial dive (except in races).

I finally summoned up every ounce of courage I possessed and took the plunge. In I went. It wasn’t the most graceful of dives. I sank like a stone and then floated to the surface. I took a stroke. The rotator was a bit sore. Another stroke. A breath here, a breath there. I invited my legs to join in, but they weren’t having a bar of it. They just straggled behind like a couple of surly teenagers being forced to go out with their parents. The thought crossed my mind that I may not be able to finish the lap. Jeez. How embarrassing would that be? I managed to finally make it in one of the slowest times imaginable. People twice my age…or at least a bit older than me…were lapping me in the next lane, people I would have glided past…in my dreams.

I turned. A tumble turn was out of the question. I pushed feebly into the wall and turned back for the next lap. My breathing was ok. That was a bonus. I wasn’t gasping for breath. My left arm was aching and my right one felt like lead. My whole body felt like lead. Had I forgotten how to swim? How was I going to manage a K, 20 laps? I finished the first 100. I had 18 to go. Back I went. My arms weren’t too bad. Considering. My breathing was pretty relaxed. My kick was still rubbish.

I counted. 1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3. It was something I’d always done to get some rhythm. It was a very slow 1,2,3 but it took my mind off thinking about how bad my swimming had become. Was it the weeks and months out of the water? Was it the disintegrating process of ageing? Was it Covid?

Like all swimmers, I kept going and going and going, putting all negative thoughts, (and any others) aside. I was determined to get there. It gradually started to feel better. I got to 10. To 15…16…17…18…19…20!!!

I made it!!

I grabbed the grip on the wall and exhaled before plunging down into the water and removing my goggles. I slid as gracefully as I could manage over the lane ropes towards the steps. A few kids were playing on them, so I waited patiently till they let the old bloke climb out as confidently as he could manage.

I might have looked like a drowned rat with my Covid length hair, my sagging budgie smugglers and my less than buffed body. I might have struggled up the stairs to the changerooms. I might have just swum the slowest k in recorded history but I felt like a million bucks. I was back in the water and, deep down, I knew it would be better the next day, and the next and the one after that.

There’s nothing like swimming.

Nothing.


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