Did I mention that the idea of keeping my head under the water was a terrifying one? Yes, I think I did. Well, just a reminder, in case you forgot from part I –
I was traumatized!
For me, that was a major hurdle. According to Popov, a great Russian sprint freestyle swimmer, (and may he rest in peace): "The water is your friend. You don't have to fight with the water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move." Okay, Mr. Popov. You say it's that simple? Right. Easier said than done. Yeah, fat chance of it happening just like that.
But over time, I made progress… little steps… relaxed more… gained confidence… began to enjoy the water… almost embraced it… remembered Popov's words… the water is your friend… share the spirit… share the spirit… the water… your friend… the water… your friend… the words played over and over in my head, like a mantra… Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om.
And all went well until the day Madame Instructress dropped the bombshell!
It was D-DAY!
"Today we're gonna put down our boards and we're gonna ———"
Gonna what? Swim without a board? Never. Negatory. Nooit. Not gonna happen. Not in this lifetime. Not while I have breath in my body. (Well, barely… because I'm at the point of hyperventilation…)
Read my lips. THE. BOARD. STAYS. End of story. No ifs, buts or maybes.
Meanwhile, Madame Instructress smiles, graciously. My heart is thumping, louder and louder. She's gotta be kidding me! I had been doing fairly well up until that point (with the help of the board, of course) I had managed to keep my head under water, simultaneously kicking my legs and propelling my body forward! And all this with my eyes open. NOTE WELL: EYES OPEN! For me, that was MAJOR progress. And now she was determined to ruin the friendship.
To cut a long story short, I have a vivid recollection of the SECOND lesson WITHOUT the board. (The first remains hazy…) It starts something like this…
Madame Instructress: How are you today?
(What a question! What do you think?)
Me: I've been better, thanks.
(Actually, I think I've relapsed. Back to square 1.)
Madame Instructress: And so have I… been better, I mean…
Me: Oh, have you been ill?
(She seemed okay at the last lesson. Though I can't really remember…)
Madame Instructress: Not really. Just nursing a tender patch on my arm (points to her upper arm)
I notice faint, blue marks on her upper arm.
Me: Oh, did you fall again?
(She does seem to be accident-prone. Was even knocked over by one of the kids she tutors)
Madame Instructress: No. This is where you gripped me. Held on for dear life. Panicked when you couldn't feel the wall in front of you.
I feel terrible. Embarrassed.
I apologise, profusely! That first lesson without the board is just a blur. But the marks on the upper arm say it all.
Me: It's a wonder you didn't charge me for GBH? (Trying desperately to lighten the moment of awkwardness…)
AND BY THE WAY, I HOPE THAT PUT A SMILE ON YOUR DIAL. AND I HOPE THE SMILE IS ONE OF SUPPORT FOR MY AMBITION – NOT FOR ANY OTHER REASON. LOL. (and don't you dare ask about the progress from this point onwards… because I'm not telling. End of story!)