Adult Swim

If you haven’t heard of it, YouTube it. What you’ll find has nothing to do with this post. I just nicked the title.

It seems that around 20% of adults in the UK cannot swim. Well that’s no big deal, really. If we want to cross a river, we have things called ‘bridges’ that facilitate a non-soaked passage to the other side. If we want to cross much bigger lumps of water, like the sea, we have boats and planes. So no need to swim to France, getting unreasonably wet on the way and finding it almost impossible to keep your Rizla dry.

They tried to teach me to swim in school. They failed. I managed to learn pretty much everything else including metalwork (oh, the injuries were often spectacular in that one! I still have the notched shin) in which I made – surprise surprise, a model cannon. We weren’t supposed to make it fire. But it did. I think my mother still has it.

Yes, I do have an O level in metalwork. The ‘O’ probably derives from the shape of the teacher’s mouth when I leaned a little too close to the shaper machine while cleaning up a casting. I can’t be sure. I was unconscious as soon as it hit.

There wasn’t so much health and safety in those days. It was much more fun.

The only subject I failed in totally was swimming. Just could not do it. Hated being in the water.

Some years later I took up fishing. It’s not going where you think it’s going 😉

I was forced – yes forced – to take swimming lessons when I was about mid-twenties. I’d developed the hobby into fishing on lochs while sitting in boats full of fishing tackle and whisky. There was a woman involved.

Of course there was. Me, being forced into doing something sensible? There had to be a woman involved. It’s the only possible answer. Hey, we are talking about more than 30 years ago now. I haven’t always been a drunken monk.

Learning to swim in those circumstances seemed pointless. I was strapped into so much fishing gear that even if I could swim to Olympic standards, one wrong move and I’d go straight to the bottom. Not a hope in hell of getting to the bank or the boat.

Anyway, I came home to ‘I booked you swimming lessons’ to which I responded ‘You did what?’ in the same tone of voice I’d have used to say ‘You shagged a badger?’

I’ve never had to say that. Given the life I’ve led, that’s actually quite surprising.

So, okay, I bought swimming trunks and went along. Not Speedos. I have never worn those and in case there are any raised eyebrows out there, forget it. Not gonna happen. I boiught saggy ones with a good taught string to hold them up. Just as well as it turned out.

I was in the men’s changing room alone. Didn’t think anything of it at the time. Mind too occupied with water-terror to even notice. Then I went to the wet place.

Well. First properly serious swimming lesson. Eight barely-dressed woman pupils, a female instructor, and me.

So I went home after my first lesson, which consisted largely of getting into water without going into a blind panic, to be greeted with ‘So, are you going again next week?’

‘Yes, I think I can put up with it.’ A tturning point which might or might not have had a bearing on later events. Well later events didn’t turn out so good so we’ll leave those alone for now

As for learning to swim, the basics aren’t that hard. Even I managed it. With no government interference at all and even though still today, I don’t really have any need for swimming in my daily life.

So there are 2 million people who want to learn to swim. Well go and do it then. It’s not expensive and it could turn out to be a bit of fun. You get to hang around with scantily-clad members of the opposite sex (or even the same sex if that floats your boat) and with a valid and well-played sympathy card you can have a pretty enjoyable time.

You do not need government interference in this. You do not need a swimming law. Only the fake-charity lobby groups need those things.

As for me, I learned enough swimming to be able to get out of the water without drowning. Tht’s as much as I think I’l need.


20 thoughts on “Adult Swim

  1. I know how you feel. That all happened to me. I knew I could do it. I wanted to do it. But I ever plunged to the bottom of whatever pool of water I happened to be in. Although I did once make it to the edge of the pool when some moron thought it would be fun to throw me fully dressed in a towelling suit into the deep end. That helped a lot, I must say. I could at least swim to save my life.

    I did discover much later in life that, with the aid of goggles that covered my nose, that I could actually swim much better than I thought I could. So I think it was probably due to lack of coordination between my nose and my mouth.


  2. It’s an interesting fact that non-swimmers are much less likely to die from drowning than swimmers, as obviously the swimmers will be much keener to get in the water in the first place.

    In the days of the sailing navy, most sailors refused to learn to swim as they took the view that, if they fell overboard, a quick death would be preferable to a slow one.


    • Reminds of the non-swimmer Robert Newton, one of Hollywood’s most colourful and loved actors.

      David Niven recounted the story of RN’s navy service when he insisted on wearing a life jacket 100% the time whilst at sea. He grew to despise it and on completion of service threw it overboard, whereupon it sank.


    • Swimming is what actually kills most drowning victims. Non-swimmers don’t generally end up in the water and when they do, the doggy paddle is sufficient to keep you afloat till help arrives.

      What kills people is getting caught in riptides or fast flowing rivers. If you try to swim your way out of that you will become exhausted and drown. Best to lie back and let the water take you and don’t try anything until you are in still waters. Also, shallow rivers with slippery rocks that you can’t stand on. I nearly drowned in the Wye in about a foot deep of water just because I couldn’t find my feet. Damned scary experience almost drowning in embarrassingly shallow water only a meter away from the bank.


      • I had a similar experience many years ago in a mountain stream up near the Salang Pass north of Kabul. It was mid-summer, and very hot even at that altitude (close to 13,000 feet, I think). I was with a couple of other guys, and we decided that the stream next to the road we were on looked very inviting. It was quite shallow where we’d stopped, but very fast flowing. And freezing cold, having not long before been snow on the mountains above us.

        Of course, I was the first one to wade in. I got to about knee-deep, and the combination of the speed of water-flow and the slipperiness of the rocks underfoot caused me to lose my balance. The water immediately swept me away, plunging me down a couple of shallow falls, into a gorge where I was sucked well beneath the surface, and eventually spat me out into a wide and relatively calm pool about 50 yards downstream. It was very frightening because it was so unexpected, but it had been so exhilarating also that I just had to go and do it again.

        It was a real buzz, albeit a potentially lethal one with all the submerged rocks we were narrowly missing in our uncontrolled underwater helter-skelter. But I was in my late teens, and at that age you think you’re not only immortal, but indestructible too. We ended up spending a few hours there, getting swept down through the rapids and then trudging back up to where we’d started.

        A memorable day.


  3. Living on the sea-cide as a child, swimming lessons at school were mandatory and I actually quite enjoyed them, for reasons that might get me lynched from the nearest Yewtree (despite only being 10 at the time myself). A Norfolk childhood.

    Later I had to pass the survival swimming badge with the Sea Scouts (a paramilitary, right wing, youth organisation for those who don’t know) 25 metres clothed with a full pack.

    Escaped Norfolk as a young adult and didn’t touch water for recreational purposes until one summer, 15 years later, my youngest wanted me to take him to the local Swimming Pool. Being a good parent I did so and thought teaching him to swim would be good father/son bonding.

    I jumped in the pool at the deep end and damn near drowned. Literally. Seems, for some people at least, it AIN’T like riding a bike or even a bicycle. You can FORGET how to swim.


  4. Following on from Curmudgeon comments…..I joined the Merchant Navy at the grand old age of 16.5 years old and couldn’t swim….. in the first 2 weeks I had to do a safety course…. I passed my sea survival course even though I couldn’t swim… I even have the certificate to prove it…. but boy was it a long way down from the top diving board at Blackpool swimming baths… and all the way down my life [what little there had been] flashed before my eyes….. but amazingly I didn’t drown and I headed out to sea….. eventually after a fashion I learnt to swim on board one ship I was on…. but now at 52 years old I just can’t be arsed….. so if 20% of adults can’t swim…. quite frankly it makes bugger all difference …. they are all still capable of passing their sea survival course…..


  5. Fish pee in fresh water and people pee in pool water, neither is clean.

    Rainwater contains nasty chemicsals that have been leached from the air.

    Only ‘sanitized’ water should be consumed or bathed in.

    Everyone that dies has probably drunk water, the association is very strong and absolute.


  6. I last got in a pool at a hotel high up beside Lake Garda. I’d prepared before I went there by buying two pairs of garish, cheap swimming shorts. Not the Speedos sort of type. They looked splendid in an explosion in a paint factory sort of way. However, once in the water a slight flaw became apparent. The shorts were too big for me.

    I managed not too badly. Grab hold of the waist band and do not let go until safely horizontal on a sun lounger of sorts. Not so bad and I did save a few quid on the shorts. The swimming shorts are no longer in this world. Well I presume they are since they went into a charity rag bag. Perhaps they were retrieved? Perhaps they live on being worn by another chap who can swim one handed, likes saving a few quid and thinks garish colours are the way to go.


    • Of course, you don’t see the likes of Mark Spitz winning multiple gold medals wearing baggy shorts. Speed of progress apart, another disadvantage is that they often inflate if you jump in feet first. Fine, indeed a helpful buoyancy aid if one remains upright, but potentially dangerous if you attempt to swim – often resulting in an bussled arse above the surface, head below it. Releasing the trapped air can be quite spectacular though.


  7. I can swim a bit despite the fact that I don’t float. It amuses the grandkids no end when I sit on the bottom of the pool.


  8. I find it even more remarkable that 50% of people can’t fart.

    I think we should actually be calling it ringpiece envy. The ladies will never achieve true equality until they can let rip with gusto and alacrity like we chaps.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve always been like a fish in water, for as long as I can remember. Perhaps because my awakening years were spent close to the equator, where jumping into water to alleviate the heat was a survival technique. Assuming, that is, that there were no sharks around.

    In my advancing years, I no longer indulge in those long coastal exploratory swims of an hour or more, but I still enjoy getting out of my depth. 🙂 And I have the good fortune to live on an island surrounded by crystal clear waters (I’m not into murky depths…), so I can indulge my pleasures of swimming and diving all summer to my heart’s content. Work permitting, of course. But I do work for myself…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I never learned to swim. I had a manky toe that got me out of swimming at school. I managed to keep that sicknote going for two years after the toe healed.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I learnt to swim courtesy of the Heath Citizens Association, aged 8. We used Penarth Baths which had seawater, so was slightly more buoyant than fresh. After our hours lesson once a week we went to Bracci’s on the front for a coffee, and then to load up on Love Hearts and Blackjacks and Fruit Salad from the shop next to the Pier. My junior school used the Gilbert Crescent Baths, splendid old piece of Victoriana. I can smell the place still… there was so much Chlorine there was a yellow haze over the water. It made a gas attack on the Western Front in 1916 seem like a breath of fresh mountain air! Then in Grammar school we got to go to the Hi Di Hi Olympic sized swimming pool that was the Empire Pool. Well by 11 I was a pretty damn good swimmer. Once you learn to sit on the bottom of the pool with your eyes open and realise you’re not going to drown, you are sorted for life. I used to swim for the school team and the Scouts.

    One year our idiot Games teacher at Cathays inexplicably hired the open air pool in Pontcanna fields next to the HTV studios, for our annual gala. It was June going on December, and so fuckin cold I went blue. But we set records that year that have never been equaled, we skimmed over the water like Waterboatmen trying to finish the race and get out of the goddam pool!


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