It's not a long swim unless you are only 4 and a bit. So I suppose I was destined to be a little odd. I am often asked where I get it from. I suppose the answer must be from my dad a Parachute Training Instructor in the RAF and accomplished boxer of International repute. During the war years he was commandeered by Colonel Stirling and spent quite some time attending to unusual activities in the desert., an all round nutter and the last of his breed.
After my birth (having rather foolishly popped out ten weeks early) and release from hospital many months later (mother and I both having barely survived), dad was encouraged to provide exercise for my underdeveloped lungs. Today of course, ten week premature babies are a matter of course. It was a different story in 1957 and the results of such historical medicine are nothing short of miraculous. Dad decided to give me deep baths during which time he was to hold me underwater. The stories say, until the back of my neck went blue. After which time, he would lift me clear, allowing me to draw in the biggest lungful of air. I would float happily, long before I could crawl. I was made to laugh and allowed to cry. I suppose it must be difficult for a baby to exercise, I could hardly go jogging.
After hearing all dads bedtime stories, it is not surprising I enjoy the freedom of adventure. Yet today, it would be dad who would most actively attempt to discourage such
activities. He fails. I expect he is glad.
I was being taught to swim at my local swimming club and I can still remember swimming my first width of St James Street Junior pool, unaided.
Then came the annual summer holidays. We always went to stay with Nana and Uncle Bob at Swanage. At the beach on Buck Shore, I would look out to the Isle of Wight (I thought it was France), I promised my mum, I would swim there one day.
Then Dad, he would encourage me to jump off the pier. (It had decking and diving platforms in those days). He would pay me a tanner for every jump. He didn't seem to understand I would do it for nothing. Then he would swim me around the pier and when I got tired I would ride on his back.
One day he said I could swim it on my own for a shilling. I was four and three quarters.