I'm not a beachy-swimmy-surfy type of Australian.(South-West coast, between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.)
Kids here start swimming lessons when they're old enough to walk — I bet very few of my mates here would even remember a time when they couldn't swim.(City Beach, our best and most beautiful metropolitan beach.)I was born in England and learned to swim only when we knew we were going to emigrate, as one of my aunts had been to Australia for a holiday and assured me that, judging by the people she'd met, I'd never get any friends, and no one would even speak to me, if I couldn't swim.
This rang true with me, as I recalled being on holiday in Germany in 1967, and feeling very ashamed of myself when friends of the family I was staying with growled at my hosts in startled incredulity: "Sie kann nicht SCHWIMMEN?"
So, fearing absolute social ostracism, in the autumn and winter of 1969, I made weekly trips to St Augustine's Baths in Norwich and gradually taught myself to swim. I can still feel my nasal passages contract and my eyes stream at the very memory of that steamy, chlorine-infused fog at the baths.
And when I say I can swim, I really mean I can propel myself while floating.
Of course, Australia is beach crazy, but I made a lot of friends despite my lack of technique, so ya booh sucks to you, Aunty June.
On my first week at my new Australian high school, skinny and pale from the long English winter we'd just left,I got roped into the swimming carnival by a very cruel, heartless phys-ed teacher. Took a day off though. So ya booh sucks to you, too, phys ed Nazi.
Today, I love looking at the beach, and walking along it, and hearing it from my bed at night when we're down south. I don't mind not swimming while everyone else is heading for the horizon in an easy, relaxed crawl.I'll just sit on the sand and take the pics.