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After digging out some of my old work for a a ‘creative writing’ course many moons ago I though I would share a piece since I don’t feel ready to share my CampNano piece until after it has been hit with an editing bat.

So instead you can have this offering…

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‘Just imagine a giant ice cream at the other end’ that was the advice my mother had given me to calm my panic.’

Seven years of age shivering at the prospect of having to swim the entire length of the pool, no not just swim..Swim breaststroke! There I stood in my vivid red costume, my long hair twisted up, trapped beneath a tight white cap that tugged at my scalp, and would always make me fidget. The pool itself wasn’t an unpleasant place in fact I loved the mushroom fountain and the huge snake painted gold and green. But today the snake was forbidden, barriers hung sadly around the rails of the slide in an effort to make us all focus on our swimming instead.  The fear of anticipation and the cold air upon my bare skin made my body shiver as I hugged the towel for comfort. The chemical smell clung to the roof of my mouth which was dry and screaming out for a cherry coke, visions of giant ice creams circled through my mind.

‘You in the red are you listening to me?’ bellowed the female voice. She reminded me of a drill sergeant from Krypton factor the way her voice boomed and echoed across the pool. Her black wiry hair was wild and I remember thinking why doesn’t she have to wear a stupid cap. We were ordered to lie down on our bellies and practise, a school of floundering fish trying to swim on dry floor. The raised bubbles in the flooring hurt under my skin and I looked around keenly aware of how stupid we must have looked. The glass box where my mother sat watching was directly to the side of us. People gawping and pointing at us and I wondered if that was how the penguins in the zoo felt.

We were ordered into two lines at either side of the pool, boys on one side girls on the other. I hung behind whilst the louder girls jostled to the front of the queue proudly puffing out their chests emblazoned with embroidered badges. Looking down at my lonely purple badge; it was given to me for a very badly doggy paddled width but proudly sewn on by my mother much to my protests. My half bitten nails picked at the hem of the badge and I tried not to think about that film with the shark that I had caught glimpses of the night before.

‘Ok daydreamer, your turn’

My turn had come upon me far too quickly and I found myself being nudged down the steps into water that I knew was twice my height. The cool water absorbed me and I was hit with the realisation I was out of my depth. A pole pierced the water in front of me causing splashes to hit my face; foolishly I tried to wipe off the water even though my hands were wet. The action unbalanced me, I kicked out my feet so I wouldn’t sink, my arms flailing like coral dancing underwater. I tried to swim, I really did; my body just had another plan. The pole became a barricade almost touching my nose, my body responded by recoiling which tilted my body and pulled me under the water: panic set in. Unseen forces were pulling me down as I thrashed around like an eel on a hook trying to avoid the pole jabbing at my body. Bubbles streamed from my mouth like a soda stream and I swear I saw an ice-cream waving at me.

Then out of nowhere my shoulder was pinched and I felt myself being dragged through the water; the air hit my skin like a welcome blast of reality and I felt my stomach lurch forward in a fit of spluttering. Putting my hands to my face to cover my stinging eyes they were pulled away from me as I struggled to get out of the grips of the drill sergeant. My mouth tasted of …actually I can’t explain the taste but it wasn’t nice, kind of like a Christmas tree mixed with soap. A towel was thrown around me and I suddenly realised I was a penguin again. My mother was pressed against the glass her face white with concern and in talks with a man in a shirt whilst pointing frantically at me. Breaking free I ran over to her and the man opened the door that had never opened before. Suddenly I was in her arms, and had found my freedom, although after a while I became a little sad. When I was asked if I was ok, I simply replied ‘can I still have an ice-cream?’

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