All the fragile heat built up in the last week is blown away. One hardy father (a weekday lunchtime regular) and his happy, enthusiast son are the only ones in: “Let’s do a length of breaststroke — race this time.” says the boy, and the father is game, sets off, fast. Doesn’t see, as I do, that the boy has been distracted by a float: Is trying to throw himself onto it in a seal-like motion, only to have it go away from him, back to the starting end.
I smile, liking them: their defiance of the weather; their being together, out of doors, without equipment, on the weekend — the type of simple companionship I had with my mother in early childhood and which I am recovering with her again now.
For us, as with this father and son, it is happening in and around water: She was twenty years held back by her weight but when I began to swim here three years ago to offset the soul-destroying back pain, she — the shyest of women — began, bravely, to take lessons herself. She has lost three stones and they feel like those to us both: great, heavy rocks have been rolled away and light has been let back in; love of life has begun to flow. She can get back, with care, with support, to my childhood beach with me, is thinking that this summer — for all she’s 74 — she just might get her old ply surfboard back out… We might do a week’s road trip and swim together at Penzance, Chagford, Buckfastleigh, Bude…
Lidos as restorative, redemptive spaces then.
Before I pack up and rejoin my family across town , I sit for a few minutes, hands in lap: that happy ability to sit just looking that I got not from mindfulness or Buddhist tradition but from Granny Shadrick, the other indispensable woman in my childhood, whose whole entertainment — apart from snooker on her black-and-white set, and the town’s annual pantomime, its Fire Service Jumble Sale — came from nature.
Knowing her only in widowhood, when the farm was gone, this was the view from the kitchen sink that sustained her: Starlings, whose greedy ways with bacon rind and bread she battled daily through their season; someone else’s sheep beyond the back wall moving in patterns familiar to her since earliest childhood; clouds she could read as surely as I my schoolbooks. I carry her with me now and love best the times, as now, when I feel to see as she did. I sit looking and understand how this pool has become for me what the field behind the bungalow was for her. A world within the world.
This extract from: Scroll 01: Line 02: 48-91ft: Day 6 (Sun 29 May 2016): Conditions: Dry after the storm, light breeze drying the leaves.