Northern Male on Archimedes, Rats Tails and Swim Safe

I have some of my best ideas whilst watching the bubbles in the jacuzzi at my local health club.

Some people find the shower a good place for sudden inspiration. Famously Archimedes was in the bath when he discovered the theory of water displacement.

Apparently he was so excited he leapt out of his bathtub and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse.  When I have a notion for an article, I usually don’t bother with the last bit as they don’t like streaking in Morrisons.

But spas are great places for people watching, one of my favourite hobbies. I often build whole imaginary back-stories to folk I see ploughing up and down the pool or walking by it trying to hold their stomachs in.

For the princely sum of £18 a month (this is the North) I get to use the pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and exercise facilities. I generally don’t bother with the latter as pumping iron or running on a belt whilst being fed mindless current pop choons is what the Devil has in store for me in Hell.

But you do see some fascinating sights. Wobbling bellies drooping over waistbands compete for your attention with sagging breasts and wrinkly arms – and that’s just the staff.

Being in my semi-retired state, I can often be found there of a weekday now but the timing has to be right as most days children are taught to swim mid mornings, of which I have no problem – but some others do.  

Recently I’ve been witness to much chuntering amongst some of the crinklies about this inconvenience. The owner simply replies he could always stop it and put the fees up, to which they grab their towels and stomp off in a huff.

Personally I’m a big fan of getting children swimming at a young age. My daughter could swim like a fish by the time she was six years old. I went through much angst and embarrassment as a youngster trying to learn, so I made sure she didn’t suffer the same fate.

A Yorkshire boys public school in the 1960’s was not a place for the faint of heart. It did have a swimming pool next to the gym (where Mr Porter let us play pirates if we were very good) but it was unheated and trunks were banned. 

If you couldn’t swim naked in the icy water amongst a class of 25 other boys, instruction comprised the master shouting at you to do so and embarrassing you if you couldn’t. So I didn’t.

There was also the nastiness in the changing room. If you take a wet towel and swing it round enough it becomes tight enough to become a “rat’s tail” and this could be used as quite an effective whip. With some practise bullies could leave a red mark on the naked bottom of an unsuspecting young male behind at several paces – so I became adept at dressing and undressing whilst constantly on the lookout. And I still got stung.

After I left school and with considerable fear I took myself off to a local public baths one day and, without any help, taught myself to swim. With no echoing grief or rat’s tails I finally conquered the art of staying afloat -although I remain one of the slowest swimmers you will ever meet and half a century later the smell of chlorine still sets me on edge.

So where is all this leading?

Without exception holiday times in the UK bring reports of people needlessly drowning around our coastlines with depressing regularity, despite the efforts of life-guards and the RNLI. As an island nation we should know better.

Learning to swim is SO important. However, surprisingly  some of us STILL do not respect the power of open water – particularly an ocean, which can turn very quickly from a place of fun into one that sucks the life from you.

So that’s why I’d like to introduce you to Swim Safe.

If you are a parent or a grandparent, you’ll know kids love swimming outdoors. But doing it in seas, rivers and lakes is very different to a pool whatever age you are.

Swim Safe is a community focused programme giving children aged 7 -14 an opportunity to learn how to be safe in and around open water. Take a look by clicking here.

For those older and wiser, the RNLI are currently trying to raise enough funds to replace their Mersey class all-weather lifeboat “Lil Cunningham” which has been serving the people of Rhyl in North Wales since 1992 and is now reaching the end of her operational life.

At the time of writing her new replacement, the Shannon class lifeboat they hope to replace her with is still £150,000 short of the £2.2 million they need to put this state of the art life-saver in the water.

I’m not one for putting out the begging bowl, but as the summer holidays approach, I feel we should all be doing our bit to ensure those by the shore come away as happy as they arrived. Click here if you feel the same.

Being “beach ready” should really mean coming back alive.

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