Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Saturday, 29 November 2014

"They all ask me to jump to invigorate and to play soccer, to run, to swim and to fly. Very well. " Pablo Neruda


©Brigitta Huegel
Dear You,

Outside for the first time in November temperature sank below zero.
So it might be a bit strange to tell you how I learned to swim - but Tom's blog http://tomstephenson.blogspot.de/2014/11/last-one-ins-sissy.html  inspired me.

Here you see me on a photograph in Austria. The two little blond girls at the right are my little sister and I (the other people I don't know).
But what I know is that we weren't allowed to go on a boat trip without being able to swim.
So I learned it in the lake Wörthersee in Kärnten.
First we swam around with a swimming ring - I still remember the strange feeling in the arm pits. Again and again our father showed us how to make the movements with arms and legs.
"Now you can do it without that swimming ring", he said after a while.
I might - but I wouldn't - being a coward with too much imagination.
So I swam around happily with that ring.
Into the lake run a long wooden bathing jetty. One day I was standing at its end, peering into the water.
"Jump!" my mother called.
"No - not without my bathing ring!"
"If you do, you'll get an ice cream!" I heard my father shouting from the boardwalk.
"No!" (You won't bribe me).
"Jump!" my little sister cried, sitting nicely at the shore.
"NO!!... - SPLASH!!! Splish! Splutter!! Gurgle! Gulp!!!"
That was me - struggling to keep myself over water - then swimming like a fish.(Without fishfinger coating swimming ring).
My father had lost his patience (which he seldom did otherwise, but he hated seeing me behaving like a - what said Tom so aptly - sissy). So he had sneaked clandestinely behind me - and pushed me in.
After the first shock I liked it."Come in, it's easy! Jump!" I called my sister.
I don't know whether she did.
But I remember we both got an ice cream.


16 comments:

  1. Swimming is a joy to me. It is the closest I will ever come to the feeling of freedom I imagine a bird must feel catching an updraft. However several members of my family do not love water. I guess it is either/or.

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    1. Good that you love swimming - and the feeling of freedom that you describe is wonderful - feeling light as a bird. In diving I love the stillness/silence that surrounds one. .

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  2. Delightful! Sounds very much like my early swimming lessons. We lived along the Sacramento River. My father would tie a rope around my waist and instruct me from the shore. If I got upside down or sank, he would draw me back to the shallows as if I was a fish on a line.

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    1. I see that right before my eyes, Geo., - the rope, your father, the feeling of safety - and the knowledge you could rely on him, whatever happened.

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  3. The earliest memory I have of trying to swim was getting knocked under a wave at a lake. Dad fished me out immediately, but that wasn't a good start, and it dogged me ever after. Though I did learn, finally, to do the crawl, I was, in water, always a fish out of water when it came to doing anything but float around, head securely up, close enough to shore so my feet reached the ground. As an adult, a friend said she would help me learn how to manage waves so I could swim at the edge of the ocean when it was reasonably calm. She explained what to do, then swam out past me, leaving me behind. (Not a mean person, at all, just oblivious.) I was immediately swept under by a wave, then pulled back and forth by the undertow, unable to get up. Fortunately, another friend, spotting me floating back and forth, came and pulled me out. I've learned to get my ice cream by other means, and I do enjoy a float around in the pool!

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    1. Oh Sue, that are a few misfortunes too many - it must have broken the trust in this wet element, though you learned to master it. (And, as I'll always remember: you even modelled for a bathing suit). As to the friend, I think I would call her for a while after that careless behaviour 'an acquaintance' - come to think of it: the word has (almost - we forget deliberately about the 'c') "acqua" in it - not always as solid as rock, acquaintances are.
      Isn't it absolutely wonderful that we can decide what is icecream to us? (Do you know Leslie Levine's book: "Ice Cream for Breakfast"?)

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    2. Britta: Cannot believe you remember that swimsuit, though modeled be a stretch. Still, it was certainly in a good cause, and Lands End still carries it in its line. No, she's a good person, has always been there for the most difficult things. But she grew up with the ocean at her doorstep and I think just couldn't get her mind around the idea that a midwesterner, who had no experience of waves, wouldn't get it on an explanation. I do like your "c" commentary, nonetheless! (I don't know the book--ice cream for breakfast, now that's something I've never contemplated. Raising a tip-o-the-ice-cream-cone to you!)

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    3. Sue, my memory is still intact :-)
      As to your friend: yes, it is possible to think of something as usual/granted, and then one is utterly astounded that another person is not in that subject as a fish in water. (The Ice Cream-book is e-literature, it is about rules we follow, which we are used to, but which have not necessarily been carved in stone. Spontaneity (Eat the Dough; Talk to Strangers etc - quite funny)

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  4. What a lovely story Britta and what a little sweetheart you were. I used to love swimming in the sea and at pool - I was a real water baby

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    1. Thank you, Rosemary, with interest I read about the 'Water-Babies', (A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby), which reminds me of a German friend of mine in Hildesheim: she is related to the Reverend Charles Kingsley.

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  5. What charming little ones you and your sister were. Many of us live life with a metaphorical swimming ring on, so hurrah for the successful unexpected pushes.

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  6. Thank you, Mise - and I'm fully d'accord with the pushes and the superfluous swimming rings in life: often a very hearty push gives one an unexpected but invigorating push in life, so it never gets boring. (That's how I like it).

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  7. I can't remember learning to swim but have always been able to do. It's surprising that you can remember so much from your childhood - the experience must really have stuck in your memory.

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    1. You make me think about a new blog theme: what do we remember from the past? (From the moment I was taught to write I wrote diaries - but before, that is the interesting time). My son could 'swim' doggy-style even as a baby, in deepest water, us by his side of course - (now he can do it 'the right way' :-) - so I believe he will not be able to tell anyone how he learned to swim, same as you.

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