The town where I lived didnât have a proper swimming pool for the whole of the town until I was aged about twelve or so. There was a swimming pool in the centre of a big park, it was open air and only open in the summer time for a few weeks. I remember the opening times being quite unreliable. The only other I knew about that didnât require a longer bus ride into the city was a pool belonging to a school that was very close to the house I lived in.
So you can imagine that as kids in this neighbourhood we were totally excited for a trip to the pool if the chance came about. Saturday mornings when the school was in the summer term was our chance. The word went around that it would be open at 10am on some Saturday or other. The word got around a bunch of us nine year olds using the local word of mouth jungle drum network.
There were no changing rooms, we probably put our swimming togs on at home before we left the house. So it didnât take long before we were in the water. I couldnât swim and I doubt if any of the others could either. The pool was small, very small. It was about six metres long and two metres wide. Maybe not as long as that even. There was a small wall at the edge of the pool that you stepped over to get in the water. We didn't need any swimming pool toys.
I learned to swim in that pool, and it was a case of having to learn. What I was doing was to do a crocodile entry into the pool. This is where you are sliding in on your belly. Then I was hoping to make a diagonal move across to where the bar around the pool was. I could not reach the bottom with my feet. One time with doing this I didnât quite make it to the bar. But instead of sinking as I thought I surely would, I moved my arms like a swimmer. It worked and I got to the bar, and that was my first time actually swimming.
Iâd never had any swimming lessons and in fact never did get any. Following that scare I tried a bit harder in the shallow end to teach myself to swim. Later when I was older and at a different school I did go to another swimming pool. Both with the school during lessons and at weekends with my brother and sister. With the school lessons I even did bronze and silver personal survival awards.