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The Mermaid Who Couldn’t Swim: Poor Patient Tim
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The Mermaid Who Couldn’t Swim: Poor Patient Tim

Here I am four or five lessons in. I emerge from the water and Tim the swimming instructor is making motions with his arms again. I would say that this is somewhere around the nineteenth or twentieth time that Tim has tried to show me what I should be doing with my arms to achieve a successful breast stroke. I laugh and tell him that in my head I am one hundred percent doing this silly little scoopy, circular motion thing in front of me. His face confirms that I am definitely not.

‘OK, I’m going to keep practicing’ I say as I try to remove a blob of sticky black eye makeup from the inside of my goggles, wondering how on earth it even got there, and proceed to realise that the removal of my make-up before I came was far from sufficient and that I do in fact look like a panda who’s just been through a break up with Taylor Swift. This might have bothered me greatly on week one but I’m starting to get less phased by such things. I’m not even bothered about the teeny bop lifeguards watching me anymore and I’m getting to know the other swimmers, which is nice.

There’s Anne who’s lost her confidence since her hip replacement, Anne loves a chin wag between mini lengths (she and I are still yet to go out of our depth in the pool). Then there’s Claire who’s lovely, she’s one of the good ones zipping around like a fish. And finally in our small section of the pool we have Roger. I’m pretty sure his name isn’t Roger, but he doesn’t say much and you never quite know where he’s looking because his goggles are quite dark if you know what I mean. So we’ll just call him Rog and move on.

My head’sunder the water, I’ve managed to take a breath and go under without water getting up my nose and or inside my goggles, I’m always thankful for these small mercy’s. I’m in my own underwater world where there’s only muffled noise and beautiful blueness all around. Anne’s making her way past in the opposite direction. Right, focus. Funny scoopy small circle, funny scoopy small circle. I’m always supposed to be able to see my hands. That’s not happening. Oh poor Tim,he’s so patient. Hang on what are my legs doing? They aren’t doing anything. I haven’t got a float but I’m definitely floating. This is new. My legs are literally being motionlessly hauled along behind me and I’m not panicking and flapping around like Bambi on ice. I'm OK with this. 

Home alone moment - I'm not afraid anymore! 

I haven’t breathed in a while. I should do that.

When I stand up I’m like I’ve just won gold at the Olympics. Except no one’s noticed,they’re all experiencing their own personal wins. I enjoy my quiet victory,I’ve never been so calm in the water before. Then Tim’s there, he’s talking about the direction my hands should be facing and how far I should be stretching forward for each stroke and where my shoulders should be and what the gaps between my fingers should look like.  It’s OK, Tim doesn’t know the extent of how anxious I’ve always been in the water. I smile and nod and continue practicing my imitation of breast stroke with more confidence than I’ve ever been able to muster before.

Still smug in the changing rooms afterward, I enter a cubical which has a used sanitary towel stuck to the wall. Hello planet earth! This doesn’t take from my high though and I leave the leisure centre knowing that although what I’d achieved probably wasn’t swimming, it was definitely not drowning either. 





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