Others attempt to help me bring Stevie Smiths poem (Not waving, but drowning) to reality…..

by Pseud O'Nym

A couple of weeks ago I was by the seaside in Dorset. To be more specific I was at Lulworth Cove, which I am reliably informed could easily mistake it as being located in Greece when the weather is right. Unfortunately the day I happened to go there the weather was most decidedly wrong.

Whilst the sun did try to make an appearance, it was a very weak sun against very thick clouds and it’s efforts put me in mind of a very drunk man attempting to have sex. No matter how eager he was, it just wasn’t happening. Repeated attempts to penetrate offered a tantalizingly cruel expectation, which went unfulfilled. This was of less concern than the occasional drizzle, which along with the overcast sky, only added to the typical English seaside experience. So, naturally enough, one did what the English normally do when confronted by conditions such as this at the seaside and prepare for a swim. It wasn’t cold it was but merely bracing and good for me. ‘Not getting hypothermia is good for me!’ I thought but I was persuaded against my better judgment to embark in this folly.

I should mention that one of the side effects of my brain injury is that not only has my ability to walk and talk been affected, but also it would seem, my ability to float. This was forcibly brought home to me a coupe of years ago, when I ventured to my local leisure centre (a leisure centre puts one in mind of a vast space filled with people dozing in deck chairs and other comfy chairs, engaged in a range of sedentary activities, and not involved in vigorous and sweaty exercise!). The first challenge was getting changed. One might think that disabled changing areas had been designed to comfortably admit a wheelchair or similar. Disavow yourself of that foolish notion. My walking aid is narrower than a wheelchair’s width and it just about got into the changing room. That should have been a warning to me, however my carer at the time was an advocate of aqua therapy, the theory being that the water pressure in front and behind me would effectively stabilize and support me. In so doing I’d be able to exercise in a way that would be impossible without the support of the water. That was the theory at least. Mind you, time travel is also theoretically possible and the theory that the water would support me fell as quickly as I did in the water. I wasn’t much like Michael Phelps as more Vanessa Feltz. Despite numerous visits to the leisure centre, the result was always the same. In water I do a good impersonation of a stone.

Meanwhile, back in Dorset, there was no start to the fun. To keep me airside of water I need a buoyancy aid, a waistcoat filled with foam to aid flotation and for added dignity, a strap that goes between my legs to hold it in place. My inability to get to the waters edge unaided necessitated two companions to assist me getting into the water. Despite assurances that the water wasn’t cold and that one would soon get used to it, this proved to be an exercise in optimism over experience. I found myself in water that wasn’t warm and which I had no desire to get used to, all the while doing the doing the King Canute tiptoe. Which gets it name from forlorn belief that when a wave of waist height approaches you, you stand on tiptoes to avoid it touching things which it shouldn’t touch. To soon you’ll discover that you’ve been unsuccessful and the sound of this lack of success will be greeted by a high pitched screech, quickly followed by you stating you want to get out, followed by someone pooh-poohing the very idea and splashing you with cold water in order that you get used to it.

Greece it wasn’t

A few minutes later when I lost all feeling in my lower limbs, one of my companions held onto the front of my lifejacket and the other supported my back, whilst I lay flat and drank a lot of water. This was accompanied by me protesting loudly for comic effect -at some length – and so loud were my cries that an elderly couple on the beach were heard to remark to each other “What on earth are they doing to that poor man?”. After what seemed an eternity of these shenanigans, I returned to dryish land and eventually my teeth stopped chattering. On the walk back to the car I was asked how did I feel?

I replied that I felt on top of the world.

Actually, this was a terminalological inexactitude or a lie, if you prefer. All the while I was in the water was thinking about the last time I’d been in the sea, a couple of months before my accident, snorkeling on The Great Barrier Reef. A month of no one else to please but myself, a month spent at Ningaloo, Australia. Over thirty miles from the nearest town and more than six hundred from the nearest city, where the one hotel in Ningaloo sent a car to the ‘airport’ – more a landing strip attached to a warehouse – to collect you. One had set out purposely to get there. There were no day tippers. It was bliss. Over one hundred and sixty miles of marine national park. Nothing to do but snorkel. And snorkel. You’d get on a boat, it’d take a group of you out to the reef and then you’d be immersed into an underwater carnival of colour, in the clearest, warmest water I’d ever been in.
On one occasion, I was snorkeling on the reef when I spotted a shark. It wasn’t big, maybe five or six feet long. So I did what anyone whose name when turned into an anagram contains ‘sharksemen’, and is armed only with an inquisitive nature and an underwater disposable camera would do – could do. I followed it. Staying well enough away not to scare it – about thirty feet – for fifteen glorious minutes I observed its total indifference to my presence. When I judged it no longer saw me as anything other than to be ignored, I ventured nearer and took a photo. It’s my desktop image now, but then it continued, swimming away from the reef and toward the rest of group, with sadly predictable results –near enough to cause panic and frantic shouts amongst the rest of the boat party. The shark swam away, and naturally I berated them at length and with swearing for scarring the shark away. They were Germans, Swedes and Italians after all….


But now such memories are just that. Memories. Well, you can’t very well snorkel wearing a buoyancy aid, now can you?

Next time….Bored of emotional bingo? Play David Cameron’s political version instead……….