Category Archives: Life

Pool

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

My apologies for not having posted a regular blog post in a while, but I’ve been a bit busy with other  things – some Poetry commissions, and some things that will hopefully increase awareness of the awesomeness of my blog and poetry. Specifically, I have been working on upping my Instagram game – or “Instagame” as I like to call it.

For those of you who are not aware, W is for Duck now has an Instagram page. On this, each Friday not only will you be able to read my Friday poem, but now you will also be able to see a video of me reading it. Instagram have brought out a feature called “IGTV” which allows videos of up to 60 minutes in length to be watched, as opposed to the standard 1 minute videos. If you have Instagram on your phone or tablet then you will automatically get IGTV in the latest update. Each week, along with the Friday Poem, there will be “Merry Monday” where I post a brief (a few lines) funny verse just to put a smile on your face, and then also “Throwback Thursday”, where I post a poem from my book ‘The Friday Poems Volume One’. Last Thursday we started off with my poem “Brian the Vomiting Shepherd” – if you don’t know what that is, go check it out!

But enough of that, let’s get on with this blog post.

I went back to Swimming lessons this week, after a two-week break. In the two weeks since my last lesson, I have not been anywhere near the water, so was expecting this to be a tough return to learning.

And I was right.

My teacher this week was Maria, who I am honoured to say I a reader of my blog (hello Maria), as she very kindly slipped a couple of references to my blog into our conversation half way through my lesson when I was getting my breath back and trying not to die.

Maria worked me quite hard this week – well I think she did; she may well have been taking it easy with me. If that is the case, I don’t want to see it when she does work me hard – dear lord, she might kill me! I swam more lengths this week, than ever before – and although this was only 4 or 5, it was hard work. Of course, I wasn’t helping myself by trying to rush my stroke, so that I could finish the length and stop swimming. This is still linked to my anxiety in the water. Maria noticed this and said to me “Relax Larry, you are supposed to be enjoying this!”

Which isn’t the first time a lady has said that to me.

But Maria was right – I should be much calmer in the water. If I relax then I can control my breathing better, which means I will be able to get enough air in because I won’t be snatching breaths, and therefore will not be struggling for air as much, which in turn will make swimming more enjoyable.

To help with this, I did some lengths where I swam normally for a bit, and then when I needed to breathe I flipped over onto my back and took a breath in, before flipping back over and continuing.

By the end of my lesson I was knackered, and as I type this now I still feel the aches in my arms and core. But it was a great lesson and I continue to make improvements. I am getting more confident in the water – when I reached the 3 metre deep end and looked down to see the floor of the pool drop away, I wasn’t as terrified as in previous week.

This was my last lesson for the time being – but I know that I need to find the funds to continue my lessons in the Autumn. Having worked so hard, and having come so far it would be a shame to stop now.

I will strive to find my water to water over the summer, and work on the breathing exercises that Maria gave me, so that when I come back in the Autumn I can continue my improvement!

 

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Pool

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

The irony continues.

And by that, I mean that I continue to make progress (tiny, incremental progress), even though in a few weeks my swimming lessons will stop because I have cancelled them.

This week, we revisited breathing. Aah, breathing – such a tiny thing, yet so vital to the whole “living” malarkey. My fellow pupil and I are in the same boat (not literally – that would be a bit cheeky in a swimming lesson) when it comes to breathing whilst swimming in that we struggle with getting enough breath in, often take in water, and end up panicking / floundering / forgetting any technique we might have learned.

I suppose I had somewhat of an advantage over my fellow learner in that I had already been “taught” about breathing. The simple fact that I had failed to take in anything taught to me is beside the point, but as Kate our teacher explained to us about breathing techniques, I did feel kind of smug that I already knew this.

Luckily, there was no one around to point out that in spite of already knowing this stuff, I still couldn’t do it.

But then I had an epiphany. No, not an epiphany because that is a divine manifestation, and Jesus did not appear to me in speedos and a rubber ring (if he did appear in a swimming pool, I’m fairly sure that he wouldn’t be concerned about his buoyancy). What I did have, is a moment when something ‘clicked’. And for once it wasn’t my lower back. Kate was talking about how we should not raise our head out of the water when we breathe in, but should just turn our head to the side and breathe in. I had tried this previously, but always got a mouthful of water rather than air. Well, this week Kate told us that as we move through the water, the motion of our arms entering the water on each stroke makes the water part and go either side of us. Not Moses style, but enough to create a small pocket of air on our shoulders – a pocket that we can breathe in, in when we turn our heads. Now, there’s a bit more to it than that, but when I tried it out – it worked! Like I said, it wasn’t perfect, but I was able to take a breath and continue swimming, and Kate said my stroke looked much smoother. So it’s that little pocket of air on my shoulder that just might

I also swam a total of four lengths this lesson – again, not all at once, and my technique went very ragged for some of it, but I’m starting to see the rewards of my efforts.

To end with, I’d just like to prompt those of you who aren’t regular visitors to my blog to visit the “Poems” page of this blog via the menu, and take a look at last week’s Friday Poem, “Otis Rem”. This was a poem inspired by the inside of a lift (elevator). I know that doesn’t sound too exciting, but just go with it..

If you are a first time visitor to my blog, I hope you will have a look around, and perhaps pop back to see me again.

Until next time…..

Pool

Hello, and welcome to my blog – and a very Happy Father’s Day if you A) are a Father, and B) you live in the United Kingdom, where it is Father’s Day today.

If you do not meet either one or all of the above criterion, you are still very welcome, and I hope that you are well and life is treating you well.

I have decided to stop swimming lessons. I have not taken this decision lightly, and it is based purely on financial reasoning. The cost of living is going up, while wages are not so I need to tighten my belt – and that means stopping paying for things that I do not really need. I can already swim – my lessons were just for technique improvement, and to build my confidence. This is just a postponement. I will return to these lessons as soon as I am financially able to.

So, I had a lesson today – and we worked on our arms. It transpires that what happens with my arms is equally important when they are both in and out of the water. When in the water, my arm should push water back behind me, and thus help propel myself through the water. When out of the water, my arm should stretch out and over in an arc, as if I was reaching over a barrel. I was reminded that I also need to make my strokes smooth and gentle, which in turn will give me more time as my arm is out of the water to breathe in and get a full lung of air. At present, I’m still favouring the short, fast, frantic stroke with short gasping intake of breath, resulting in panic and flailing in the water.

On a more positive note, I managed to swim a full length of the pool (25 metres) – three times during my lesson. This is an achievement for me, for it involved traversing the deep end of the pool where all my fears and anxiety lurks. My technique left me for the last third of the length, but I am pleased that I made it.

I will admit that I am aware of the irony at play here. Just as I start to make progress, I am stopping the vessel in which my progress is carried. But in the time between my finishing these lessons, and renewing them I will continue to practice what I have learnt, and strive to gain confidence in my breathing technique so that when I return to lessons, it will no longer be a barrier to improvement.

Pool

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

It was my third swimming lesson this week – and my third with a new teacher. Yes, I know that last week I assured you that I would see my regular teacher return this week, but for reasons not divulged to me, she has not appeared. So, today I had Maria – who is the head teacher of the swimming school. She isn’t a headteacher (Principal) just the main teacher – but from her demeanour she has the reputation of being a no-nonsense type of teacher and does not suffer fools lightly.

As you can imagine, I was nervous.

As a matter of fact, I have suffered terrible bouts of worrying before each swimming lesson so far. Anxiety, worrying, and a lack of self-confidence are just three things that I am learning to deal with in my life (the others are devastating good looks, a beard you can set your watch by, and a crippling sense of humility), so I could say that it is understandable that I might be nervous. But, I’m not sure why I am so nervous before each know lesson. I know that one of the reasons I am having these lessons is to overcome my fear of being out of my depth, and become a stronger thus more confident swimmer, but it’s not fear that I might drown that affects me beforehand. The fear of drowning only comes to me when I am in the water swimming and see the depth of the pool deepen and realise that I could realistically drown if I mess my stroke up or get too tired. It’s also not a fear of people seeing my un-toned, middle-aged body as I walk around the pool or swim in the water. Although II am unhappy with my fitness and body condition, I have no concerns when I am at the beach or at swimming if other people do. The cries of ‘dear God – my eyes!’ or ‘that reminds me, I must by a frozen chicken’ do not bother me.

I think I get myself so worked up about trying to do better than the week before, that the fear of failure makes me nervous. And so I fail.

This week’s lesson started with a vital piece of information being confirmed. Around this morning’s breakfast table, I was talking to my fiancée about my lesson, and how we had looked at breathing, and how difficult I was finding it. During the conversation I discovered that when my head was face down in the water, I was supposed to breathe out – so that when I turned my head to breathe in, I could get as much air into my lungs as possible. Now, before you all scream at me “well, obviously – you idiot!” please understand that I hadn’t considered this before, and it had not been passed on to me by my teacher. Except that it had; when my teacher last week, Jo told me to think “Bubble…bubble……breathe” she didn’t want me to think the word ‘Bubble’, she meant that I was to breathe out – creating bubbles – and then turn my head and breathe in. What I had been doing was holding my breath whilst face down in the water, and then trying to breathe out and breathe in, in the half a second my mouth was out of the water – which wasn’t enough time, so I wasn’t getting enough air into my lungs and was therefore unable to maintain an effective and calm routine.

You may now scream at me “well, obviously – you idiot!”

So, the focus of this lesson was (again) about breathing – breathing out underwater, and when to breathe in and the correct body / head and neck position. I spent the first 5-10 minutes just stood in the pool putting my face down in the water and breathing out, and then lifting my head out of the water and getting a good lung full of air. I tried breathing out through my mouth and then my nose – and to be honest I find breathing out through my nose more comfortable. Then we tried actually swimming and trying this new-found additional bit of technique. And of course, it was a disaster. I must admit I was frustrated by today’s lesson. It feels that I can only do one of the individual techniques that make up the entire technique of swimming properly. If my arm stroke is good, then my breathing is off, my legs are kicking properly, I don’t have floppy feet, and I’m not rotating my body enough to get my mouth out of the water. If I do any of the others right, then everything else is wrong.

So, we tried me swimming on my side. My leading arm (I swapped them when I turned to swim back to the side of the pool) would be outstretched and holding a float. The idea was for me to put my head resting on my leading arm, and then look down into the water to breathe out, and then twist my head up (whilst keeping it resting on my arm) to breathe out. At the same time, I had to kick my legs well to keep my hip up which enables my body to rotate when my face is in the water, and then rotate back when I breathe out. So, on my way out away from the side of the pool, my leading arm was my right arm, and I was breathing in from my left. On the way back, leading arm was my left, and I breathed in from my right. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde! My swim out was shambolic – I was all over the place; my head wasn’t on my arm, my breathing has horrendous, and my body shape was non-existent. The swim back, wasn’t much better – but my head was on my arm, I had more rhythm to my breathing, and my body position was better. I tried it several times, and each time it was the same. At one point, on my better swim back, I went off course and nearly torpedoed a poor two-year-old having their first lesson – so even my good work nearly went awry.

Maria told me that everyone has one side stronger than the other – but she urged me to really work on my weaker side, as otherwise I will end up with unbalanced shoulders. I assume the dangers of this would be like when you have a wind-up scuba diver as a kid in the bath – you know, the ones whose arms spin round to propel him through the water. One of his arms would always stop spinning, so whenever you wound it up it would just swim in circles because only one arm worked. That’s what swimming would be like for me; just swimming around in circles.

Like I said, today was a frustrating lesson. I am being way too hard on myself – after all, this was only my third lesson. But I’m frustrated at the fear and the anxiety which still holds me in its grip. I am prising the fingers open gradually, but in the meantime, it makes learning to swim hard work – both physically, and mentally.

But, I will not give up. I will overcome my fear, and my anxiety. I will work hard on my breathing out under water (a good friend of mine swears by practising in the washing up bowl), and work hard to relax when I am in the pool.

I can’t do anything about today’s lesson now – it is gone. I look forward to next week – if nothing else, for the lottery that is finding out who my teacher will be!

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

Today was the second of my swimming lessons. This week I had a new teacher, Jo. And before you say it, my teacher last week has not resigned due to stress caused by my ineptitude in water. She is on holiday, and will return the next week.

I had to wait a few minutes to Jo to get to me for my lesson, so I had a quick go at “Sculling”. Sculling is where you lie on your back and control yourself in the water by moving your slightly cupped hands in the water in a motion that gently propels you (if both hands are moving in the same direction), or keeps you stationary (hands moving in different directions). Much to both my delight and equal frustration, I was happily able to Scull quite well this week – as opposed to last week, when for some unknown reason, despite my best efforts I was only able to propel myself in the opposite direction intended; if I tried to scull backwards, I ultimately would end up serenely moving forwards, which was very annoying.

It was good having a different teacher this week, because although Jo went over the technique just like last week’s teacher did (have you guessed yet that I can’t remember her name?), she also added some snippets of info that added to my learning. For example, I was taught last week that when kicking as I swim, my leg should be straight with the kick coming from my hips. There should be very little knee bend. This was echoed by Jo this week – but she also added that my feet should be floppy as if I was trying to shake off a sock. Nuggets like this will help my technique no end.

So, I did a few half lengths with the new and improved technique, and my swimming was indeed improved. I have purchased a pair of swimming goggles – at the exorbitant price of £20 (£20! For swimming goggles!) so I can now see clearer underwater. That is, of course, when my “anti-fog” goggles didn’t fog up. I have spoken to my partner about going back to the shop to complain, but she suggested rubbing my spit on them first. I’m not sure that is necessary; I’m quite capable of telling the shop manager how I feel without stooping to those depths.

Later in my lesson, we moved on to breathing – and when to breathe when doing front crawl. Jo told me that she has a way of remembering (apart from the feeling that your lungs are on fire) when to breathe, and that is ‘Bubble…Bubble…Breathe’. On the ‘Breathe’ is when to turn my head so my mouth is out of the water and take a breath. So it’s head facing downwards for the ‘Bubble..Bubble’, and then breathe. Now I’m sure that Jo is a very qualified teacher, but in my head, I did wonder if saying “Bubble” underwater was the best thing to do, as an open mouth lets in more water than a closed one does. In the end, I decided to think my bubbles.

I ended up swimming an entire length of the pool with my new technique. In fact, after a prolonged rest each time, I was able to swim a length back to the shallow end. But then the tiredness kicked in. I cannot tell you how exhausting swimming is when doing it properly (or as properly as an uncoordinated person can do). Remember that when I am swimming, I am trying to recall all the technique I have to do:

  • Stretch my body out to maintain a streamlined body position
  • Kick from the hips – maintain a straight leg, with minimal knee bend
  • Have floppy feet – like I’m trying to kick off a sock
  • Rotate my body as each arm stroke happens – but keep my head still, facing downwards
  • Keep my head on my arm when turning my head to breathe
  • Remember “Bubble…Bubble…Breathe”
  • Alternate my breathing from side to side each time

All of the above takes huge amounts of concentration and physical effort, and as I was pushed hard by Jo (I’m still the only one in my class, so no respite) I flagged – and flagged spectacularly. Twice!

The first flagging came as a result of my goggles. Wearing them, as I have mentioned before, gives me clearer vision under the water. So, as I approached the two-thirds mark of the pool, I saw that the bottom of the pool sloped away from a stand-uppable 1.5 metre depth, to a Jules Verne-esque 3 metre depth. Instantly, I was out of my depth – one of my biggest fears, and one of the reasons for taking up swimming lessons – to build my confidence in the water, and especially when out of my depth.But this was only my second lesson, so when I saw the bottom of the pool far below me, I panicked – and my tired body threw technique out of the window as I resorted to my default setting; head up, gasping for breath and thrashing about like a cat in a hot-tub.

The second flagging came as a direct result of my swimming shorts. I was at the deep end, clinging to the side of the pool like a limpet with abandonment issues. I was still recovering from my first flagging episode, but wanted to keep trying as I knew what I was learning was good for me on so many levels. In my lessons I have started my length swimming with a “push and glide” – that is where I push-off from the wall of the pool with my feet and glide for as far as possible in the stretched out, streamlined body shape. In theory, being just under 2 metres tall means that a good push and glide could allow me to cover a considerable length of the pool before having to think about technique.

So, with grim determination and still slightly out of breath, I pushed off from the wall of the deep end. As you might expect, my swim shorts are not streamlined and so cause a little bit of drag (I’m not ready for speedos just yet – and I’m damn sure the young families at the pool will never be ready for that image! Or you, for that matter). My tired legs did not give me the greatest momentum, and yet I immediately felt the effect of the drag on my shorts and they slipped to just half-way down my bottom. In amongst the techniques that my brain was recalling every nano-second, a small voice chipped in, “Your shorts are falling down Larry – everyone can see your bum. Best pull them up”. So as my right arm moved forward to help propel me forwards, my left arm shot back and began tugging at my shorts to pull them up.

Of course, less than a second later, my left arm was meant to be moving forwards to continue the stroke – but it was still grappling with my shorts. My forward motion was maintaining the drag on the shorts and holding them back, fighting the efforts of my left arm to raise them back to decency. So I had both arms back along the sides of my body – the right, maintaining the streamlined body position I had been taught, and the left frantically pulling at my swim shorts like a fisherman trying to haul in a full net by hand. All this meant, that my head didn’t have an arm to rest on when I turned to breathe, so when I did open my mouth it was still below the surface of the water, and I gulped in water and then stopped abruptly coughing and spluttering – thankfully just inside the 1.5 metre mark so I could stand on the bottom.

Fortunately, at that point my lesson was up. I regained my breath, and swam on my back to the side of the pool, and got out.

Jo said I had worked hard and had made improvements since the beginning of the lesson. I don’t know about the improvements, but I know I worked hard: my body aches from my shoulders, to my core muscles, down to my quivering thighs – and even the soles of my feet. But I’m still glad I’m doing it – it is such a good work out, and as I get better technically, my confidence will grow. And that must be a good thing.

Pool

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

Today, I went back to school; Swimming school, to be precise.

I have decided that I want to have swimming lessons – not because I cannot swim; quite the opposite. Well, not exactly the opposite, because the opposite of me not being able to swim, is me being SO good at swimming, it would be as if the Man from Atlantis, and Michael Phelps had a ménage-a-trois with Flipper, and I was their streamlined bastard offspring. Sadly, this is not the case. I can swim, but my technique is poor. Don’t forget, that I was taught swimming when I was at school in the late seventies and early eighties, when I was literally thrown into the pool and forced to swim by my teacher. This was in the days when “Abuse” was pronounced “Character Building”.

But a desire to thrash about less as I move through the water was just one of the reasons for my resumption of aquatic academic activities. The other reasons were:

  1. To be more confident in the water, and especially when out of my depth.
  2. A recognition that I do not exercise anywhere near enough, am therefore overweight, and subsequently parts of me are now living in the shadow of my waistline – and as we all know, nothing grows in the shade.

So, at 11am this morning I started my first swimming lesson in about 38 years. I’m pleased to say that teaching methods have moved on considerably since the 70’s/80’s, as I could make my own way into the pool rather than be pushed in with a broom, which was then used to poke me as I attempted to swim. I was the only one in my class today. My teacher did consider putting me with a class of seven-year olds who were at the deep end of the pool, but then had doubts whether I would be able to keep up with them. Erring on the side of caution, I was directed to the shallow end where I had my lesson.

My lesson started with me swimming four widths in the swimming styles I knew. These were: Front Crawl, backstroke, and breast-stroke. My teacher watched me swim my three and a half widths (I am 47 you know), before I floundered breathlessly to the side of the pool, and she told me how appalling my technique was. I smiled inanely at her – which is my standard response to criticism of my technique – and then she began to teach me how to swim. She was very good in fact. She went through the mechanics, and I practised my body position, and using my body in a way which would help to improve my swimming, rather than my current technique of being rubbish. I did get to practise with some floats – but they didn’t have any armbands big enough for me.

My lesson was only 30 minutes long, but by the end, I had already made some improvements. Although, it was hard to remember all new information; body position, full leg kicking, using my hips, stretching out, head down, turn my head to breathe. For most of the latter stages of the lesson, I managed one or two of these things. At one point, I was concentrating so much on trying to remember as much as possible that when I did remember to turn my head to the side to breath, I forgot to take a breath in – and then very quickly spluttered to a complete stop. But still, it was an enjoyable lesson.

And my body knows about it – my thighs and my shoulders, and my stomach muscles all ache for being called into action after effectively retiring 12 years ago when I stopped playing football. But I feel good – I’m pleased I have done this, and am looking forward to getting fitter, healthier, and more confident.

I’ll keep you informed of progress.

(Obviously, if there is not update next week – I drowned)

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

Well, today I was interviewed live on the Radio. In case you haven’t read any of my recent blogs or poems firstly, where on earth have you been? The Radio station was Abbey104fm, and the programme I was interviewed on was called “Folk Tales” and is hosted by Terry Bennett. Folk Tales is a bit like Desert Island Discs, where guests come on to talk about themselves, and bring with them five pieces of music or songs that they would take with them if they were marooned on a desert island. It has occurred to me that Desert Island Discs should really have been called “Desert Island Discs and a record player” because just taking five records with you to an island is pointless without something to play them on. Now I think about it, the proper title really should have been called “Desert Island Discs and a Record Player That Has Been Modified So That it can be powered by Either Solar Energy, Wind Power, or Energy from Waves” – because the record player would need to be powered. Although, many original record players were powered by a wind-up mechanism, and therefore would not need an alternative power source – thought it would be useful and a labour-saving device.

Anyway, back to what I was saying. Today I was interviewed on the Radio. I haven’t heard the broadcast myself, but I know I was terribly nervous, and hope this didn’t come across too much. I will shortly be getting a link to the broadcast and will share it on here with you all, so you can listen and decide for yourselves how I came across. I really enjoyed my time on the radio and would quite happily have had longer if possible. We spoke not just about my writing, my poetry and my blogging but also about my life and how I came to be where I am in life

Fortunately, I won’t have to wait too long before I get to back on the Radio again, because I’ve also been invited to be interviewed on BBC Radio Solent. BBC Radio Solent is available in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and East Dorset on 96.1FM and 999AM, and in West Dorset, tune into 103.8FM and 1359AM. You can also listen to it on the BBC iPlayer radio website. I’m going on BBC Radio Solent in the morning of Tuesday 17th April, on their “Breakfast in Dorset” show, and the ‘slot’ I am on is from 07:50am to 08:00am. This interview will purely be focusing on my poetry, and my poetry writing service – where I take commissions to write poetry for special occasions, or for special people. I will be reading a few examples of my poetry too whilst on air.

So that is all very exciting, and I’m hoping that it will raise my profile somewhat.

Now, Saucepans – potentially the perfect murder weapon.

My Fiancée has recently purchased some Le Creuset cast-iron saucepans (second hand – we’re not millionaires), and as I was washing one up the other day I was surprised at how heavy it was in comparison to our previous saucepans which must have been made from tin foil or cardboard. Whilst marvelling at the weight I was reminded of a scene in the film “Master and Commander – the Far Side of the World” in which one crew member commits suicide by jumping overboard whilst holding a cannonball. You can see the scene here: https://youtu.be/xbutW_ouy60.

Anyhow, I got thinking whether the weight of the smallest cast-iron pan in our household would be heavy enough to drown someone with if they were tethered to it. The pan weighs 1.2kg which I suppose would be heavy enough to pull a non-swimmer under, but a confident swimmer would be able to manage okay I think – provided they were close enough to shore, because being tethered to a saucepan would make it hard work. I checked my theory out with my Fiancée, who suggested a possible better solution; clunk your intended victim over the head with a saucepan, and then wedge the pan onto their head. Not only would this drag the body down head first into the water, it would also look quite funny, which could take the edge of an otherwise very serious moment. Plus, in the cold water, the victims head would shrink eventually just enough to release the pan ensuring that both murder victim and implement of death would remain hidden at the bottom of the body of water selected.

The conversation with my Fiancée took place during a romantic dinner we enjoyed last night – and just after I had asked her if she had life insurance…….

Incidentally – I have no idea why the font size changes halfway through this blog post.