Beardy has happy memories of paddling in the chill waters of the Channel on Winchelsea beach, building castles and flying kites.
I have a constant nostalgia for the crystal-clear, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Spending four years in Greece as a child spoiled me for anywhere else, and I vividly recall the picturesque bays fringed with pine trees, the smooth pebbles hot underfoot in the midday sun, the chirp of the cicadas, the warm sea breeze and delicious cool water.
Swimming is more prosaic these days. For the past two years, I have swum twice a week for fitness. Beardy used to do the same, but hasn’t been able to fit it in for years. As for Serious and Smiley, we took them to the pool before the age of 12 weeks and we have tried to make regular visits since. Come to think of it, Serious was born in a pool, and so would Smiley have been, if she hadn’t been in such a hurry! So one of our priorities when we moved to Belgium was to find a good local pool, and in many ways we have struck lucky. The pool is vast, not too crowded at weekends, and has a water slide to amuse Serious and Smiley.
Of course, it also affords an opportunity to observe and comment on cultural differences. For a start, swimming caps are compulsory. The children look very cute in their rather swish caps – we caved in and bought them because the rented latex ones pull their hair so. Another difference with Blighty: ‘swimming shorts and bermudas’ are forbidden. Apparently this is for reasons of a) hygiene (because men might have been wearing their bermudas all day before coming to the pool) and b) safety (because swimming shorts can conceal weapons (!) such as knives). I don’t know what class of customer they get at our local pool… Anyway, bring on the Speedos, gents!
I suppose I should be grateful. If we had moved to Austria, there would be nude swimming sessions.
I wonder what swimming culture is like in other countries?