When I say Gala I don’t mean Gala Bingo, that isn’t the bingo company I worked for, this is a story about a swimming gala I participated in when I was either 8 or 10 I can’t remember which.
Swimming has never been my strongest skill or even my 10th best skill, to be fair i’m quite weak at it, I can swim but I am not fast or comfortable with the idea of drowning. I will give some examples.
I went to a high school that had its own swimming pool, so swimming was a big part of PE, We used to have to do the normal 5 metre, 10 metre certificates ( passed both) but we also did swimming competitions, I always came last (along way behind, most of the kids where in English by the time I had finished).
One very nice summer (1994 I think) me and my girlfriend and a group of friends went to a local beauty spot, Hollingworth Lake. It was a very hot day so we decided to take a dip, now Hollingworth lake is a manmade lake and is known to be very very cold. We were sat on a little beach (near the pub also named the beach) it was a very hot day and not far out in the lake was a little wooden platform, We thought if we could swim to that we could have fun diving in so we ventured in, It didn’t go well. The platform was maybe 10 metres from the shore (I had my 10 metres certificate so it was within range) the difference is that in a pool there is a floor,no fish and a man in an orange vest and Speedos up on a large childs high chair ready to save you. I did maybe 3 metres and realised my feet couldn’t touch the floor. I freaked out, I grabbed at my friend to save myself, nearly drowning him, He then freaked screaming at me to get off, we made it it back to shore and I’ve never swam in a lake since. so yes I’m not a strong swimmer or a good friend.
On to the main story now, The Gala.
When I was a young lad I was firstly in the Cubs then when I was old enough on to the Scouts, The Scouts use to have competitions against other Scout troops across the area. One year it was a swimming gala and the Scout leaders decided to enter me into one of the races. The swimming gala was to take place in Rochdale swimming baths (The old baths I must add, before they knocked it down and built the new place). It was an olympic size pool which had seating galleries on both sides so spectators could watch the many competitions that went on there, It was a huge place. Not only was it an olympic length pool, It was nine foot deep at the deep end.
On the night the place was full, every scout group in the town had entered a team, My older brother was on my team and my parents where in the audience. Lots of races went before mine, I have no idea if we won any, my thought was on one thing and one thing only and that was “Nine foot deep” I was maybe 3 foot nothing at the time. It came to my race, I lined up ready to dive in nine foot of water in front of half of the parents of Rochdale and swim like a mad man to win for my Scout friends. we waited bent double like the olympic stars. The air horn blew for the start. Five kids set off swimming for their bragging rights. Shame is, six kids lined up on the starting blocks. I was that sixth child, I immediately started crying and my Dad had to come out of the crowd and run round the pool to come and get me. That was my swimming career over.
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