'Its all right, he can swim!'
Those were the last words that I heard my wife shout before I blacked out.
Many years ago, the 14-year-old son of a friend of mine drowned in Llangollen canal. I mantained that if his son was able to swim, even just a few strokes, he would have been able to save himself as the canal is only about 14 feet wide. I was determined that our five children must learn to swim, and they became quite good swimmers.
But I still cannot swim myself.
This is of course infuriating when our children say to me 'Look Dad, it's easy'. I can swim, and I can breathe, but am unable to do both. So I go into the shallow end, jump in, and get halfway across and then stand up like a demented whale for air, then swim to the other side.
On this particular occasion, we were all on holiday in Tunisia. Our hotel had a swimming pool, but out of habit Dad (me) has to jump into the pool first, which I did after checking the depth. A sign it read '3'. I assumed this meant '3 feet', which would be a piece of cake.
So my wheelchair was pushed to side of this pool, and I dived in, hoping of course that I would be able to stand up and breathe. But there was no bottom to stand on! The dratted sign meant '3 metres' It was as I was trying to swim nearer the edge that I heard my wife say those dreadful words 'he can swim' and I then blacked out.
But as I did so, I could feel another body next to mine, and my first instinct was to grab it. But as I went to do so, I remembered that a drowning person must never grab hold of their would-be rescurer, so I just let my body go limp, thinking my rescuer could more easily get me to the side of the pool. It was then I blacked out.
The next thing I remember, I was on my tummy and someone was giving me some sharp smacks on my back, which enabled me to spew out what seemed like a few gallons of swimming pool water.
Needless to say I am still not an enthusiastic swimmer. But in these days of more leisure time I still think it's essential for folk to learn to swim at an early age.