Sunday, March 11, 2012

Swimming lesson

Today I made the surprising discovery that I can swim.

I've learned to swim at least fifteen times. People will tell you that you never forget how to swim, but that's not true. Perhaps I suppressed my ability to swim in order to obliterate the memories of all those swimming lessons, awkwardly bobbing up and down in a suburban pool that was ninety-nine parts chlorinated water to one part child's urine. Or perhaps it's because I hate getting my face wet.

Or perhaps I'm just awkward, in every sense of the word.

Today I got up and went for an hour long run around Singapore. I started at 6:30 and that meant I had the treat of seeing Singapore change from utter darkness, lights glowing in the buildings, through the first glimmers of the sun, through to the blue skies of early morning and the shininess of a new day.

I also got to see two police officers chastising some youths sat on a bridge by Clarke Quay, and several large piles of rubbish left at the riverside, possibly the remains of last night's party for somebody. While this provides jobs for people (either telling other people off, or picking up after them) it fails to mesh with Singapore's image of orderliness and structure.

I ran past the Merlion, which was spurting water into the bay, even at 7 in the morning. You get no rest if you're a fictional aquatic feline.

Finally, I ran home to Chinatown, and perspired for an hour before we went over to the Fullerton to see friends visiting from Hong Kong. Apart from a brief excursion back to Chinatown to show them our apartment, we spent the day at the Fullerton, first eating breakfast and then sitting by the pool.

My wife tried to get me to go in the pool, but I was more interested in reading my book, Tibor Fischer's Under The Frog. I first read this when I was a teenager, and I was surprised to discover how much of it I remembered, but there was only so much Booker-nominated Hungarian tragicomedy I could consume while sat by an infinity pool in Singapore. I relented, and sat with my legs in the pool. It was freezing cold, so I went back to the lounger, and large men with tattoos jumped in the pool and got the cover of my book wet.

No matter how good the book, there's only so long you can sit by a pool and do nothing. I'm not sure quite why, but I decided to get in the pool and see what happened if I tried to swim.

To my surprise, it wasn't an impossibility after all. I hadn't realised that all you need to do is thrash your arms and wiggle your legs, and you'll tend to move forwards. I made it halfway along the pool before I was worn out, while my wife looked on with a combination of bemusement, surprise and horror.

You see, for the last three years I've constantly refused to go anywhere near a swimming pool, on the basis that I can't swim. No matter my wife's entreaties, the water has not been for me. I suppose I'd never before been trapped in a situation where I had nothing better to do apart from swim, so my super-secret superpower of marine locomotion was never before revealed. Even to me.

Now I knew that I knew how to swim, I took advantage of the pool and carried on thrashing around in it as much as I could, which was probably a bad idea because I'd been for the longest run of the year today, and also because I wasn't wearing any sunblock, so now both my wife and I are salmon pink across random patches of our faces and torsos, and it's painful to move. Life is so difficult sometimes.


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