Learning to Swim (Andrew)

No one needs a bag when they have a towel

It’s funny. I can remember swimming, but I can’t remember learning to swim. Instead all I remember is trunks and towels. 

We would swim on holiday in the small Perthshire town of Aberfeldy. It has a sports centre with a 25 metre pool and every day on holiday we would go for a swim. We would get ready by grabbing our towel, folding it lengthwise in half and the rolling it up with our trunks inside. We’d then carry it under out arm up to the centre. We’d then unroll it, get changed and then repeat again on the way home – except this time our armpits would get wet because we were carrying a soggy towel and trunks. 

We never thought to use a bag. There was no need, once a towel was rolled up with your trunks then you didn’t need anything else. Not even goggles because for some reason our Dad didn’t believe in goggles. “You don’t need them”, he’s say, “If you duck your head under the water, it’ll sting for a minute but you’ll soon adjust.”

Which was okay for him, as, due to an illness, he only had nerves attached to one eye so was basically a cyclops when it came to swimming. He’s suffered an aneurysm behind an eye and been subject to a medical procedure that  he said “used a soup spoon to pop out my eyeball so that it could hang down my face like a Christmas decoration.” Somewhere there’s a medical case study describing the procedure he went through. We’ve never looked to find it – in case there’s photos of our Dad sitting proud with an eyeball like a yo-yo.

Because of his operation, he would never use goggles and would dive straight in, swim back and forth for 20 minutes and jump out with bright red eyes. “See,” he said, “you’ll get used it!”

We didn’t.

I could never put my head under the water. I still struggle now when water gets into my goggles. I need to stop and clear it.

But we never got our own goggles. It never occurred to me. Just as it never occurred to me to get a bag. I was learning from my Dad and we just did what he did – even if he was medical miracle who thought he was Aquaman – and somehow I learned to swim. But I don’t remember how. It certainly wasn’t by listening to my Dad.

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