A busy week in the pool with 102 laps on an elongated Monday session and the normal 90 today which might not sound particularly interesting except that today as I was getting to the end of my swim and pushing hard to get my 90 in the allotted time, a swimming teacher and a lad in his twenties arrived in the pool. He was in the lane next to me and the teacher was walking up and down watching him and shouting things to him. He looked to be struggling, he was flailing around and stopping and starting. When I was done, I asked the swimming teacher about him, he couldn’t swim and this was his first lesson. I told her that I hadn’t learnt to swim freestyle till I was in my forties and now I swim 100 laps and told her to tell him he can do it because I did and I was much older than him when I learned, granted, I could swim breaststroke but it was about the effort you need to put in and how much you want to do something that’s going to make it happen. Later, he came and thanked me.
I cast my mind back to my mid-forties when I was bought a swimming lesson for my birthday. I could swim the breaststroke but not freestyle and I’d been frequenting the pool often and doing lots of lengths only using breaststroke to the point that it was hurting my knees from the action of that stroke and the number of lengths I was doing. I was living in New York at the time and the lesson was there with an ex-Olympian and boy was he tough. I told him I could swim, I liked to swim a lot and wanted to learn the technique for freestyle. He got me in the pool and I showed him what I couldn’t do, a look of horror came across his face. He barked orders at me for an hour, “Stretch your arms out, stretch your legs out, kick your legs, scoop the water under you, point your fingers straight, lift your head”, it was agonising. After I left the pool, I tried to remember what he said and when I was on tour with the ex-band, any chance I got to go and swim before leaving a town I’d get up early to practice. I remember getting a taxi to the Olympic pool in Munich and standing there in the shallow water trying to remember what the mad angry teacher told me – stretch this, do that. The moral of the story is that eventually I figured it out and found myself floating and moving forwards. I’m not the best swimmer or the fastest or the most elegant but I can do it. Lads of this lad’s age (22) power past me in the pool but I am always first in and last out. In the changing room, the lad came up to me and said, “The teacher told me what you said and thank you for the words”. I told him about my experience and that if he persevered he would be able to do it. “One day it just happens”. It’s like playing the guitar, one day you can just do it.
The weather changed today and it was cooler, no rain but it’s coming. It’s still out there tonight and there’s a dog barking somewhere in one of the back gardens. It’s the same dog every night and it’s just far enough away to be atmospheric rather than annoying. I can’t imagine how it is for the closer neighbours or why the owners let it bark like this into the early hours. Unless it’s a stray or if it eventually stops or people are just used to it. It’s the sounds of this city, in the mornings when I go to bed I always hear the cockerel crow. For some people it’s the sign to get up, for me, it’s the sign to go to sleep.
Wales beat Turkey today 2-0, Italy beat Switzerland 3-0 and in that group, Wales are now second with a very good chance of making it to the last 16. It was a great game, Bale missed a penalty but made the two goals for Ramsey and Rogers. Finland lost 1-0 to Russia. But the other hot news of the day is that it’s Kloppo’s birthday! That’s how they refer to Jürgen Klopp in Germany. I was randomly talking to a German family in Penzance one day (as you do) and when I said we all love Klopp, they looked at me blankly, when I explained, the father said, “Ahh you mean Kloppo!” and beamed.
Music today has been Amythyst Kiah. She is a rootsy Tennessee singer-songwriter whose first album Dig (she does a cover of Fake Plastic Trees) was released in 2013 and her second, Chest Of Glass, in 2017. Wary and Strange is released on June 18th. It’s the follow up to her collaborative album Songs Of Our Native Daughters. She doesn’t have a Wikipedia page but she does have a Grammy nomination for the song Black Myself. Great if you like this kind of thing.