Thursday, 17 March 2011


On Sunday I went swimming.
I usually go with a friend,
but she was busy celebrating her father's birthday in Dortmund
on a tram!
So I went alone.

It's good to see youngsters enjoying themselves
and being confident in the water.
I didn't learn to swim until I was 18.
It's also interesting to see the difference in cultures when living abroad.
And I think I notice some interesting differences
between the English and German cultures during my swimming trips.
I've often commented to my friend
the casual approach to water safety that they seem to have at the pool.
For instance,
Not once did a pool attendant come onto the pool side.
There was one I noticed sat behind some glass, observing,
but often I don't even see that.
I don't think it's that they have a casual approach to safety,
more that the resposibility is given to the individual.
Parents are expected to be resposible for their children
and children learn that difficult concept of taking resposibility for themselves.

A child of maybe four years of age was enjoying jumping off a diving board.
It was about one metre above the water.
He was clearly enjoying it,
even jumping off backwards,
and doing it all in an orderly manner.
Not running,
not shouting,
or screaming,
and checking that no one was underneath him in the water.
His father was in the pool,
watching him closely and commenting from time to time.
I don't think the boy could swim.
He was wearing something to keep him afloat.
It's not unusual to see children wearing float belts,
swimming in the deep end,
and diving off the boards,
but always accompanied and supported
by a parent.
What I found more unusual on Sunday,
was when this boy's older brother,
maybe seven or eight years old,
took it upon himself to put the chain across the metre high board
and take down the notice on the 3.55 metre high board
and proceed to climb the steps,
followed by his younger brother.
At this point, the father came in close to where the boys were,
though he remained in the pool.
In fact he only got out and went to his son,
when the boy realised his mistake in taking on something so big.
His father went up the steps and carried him down,
The boy then reconsidered,
and decided he did want to try.
So the father went up with the boy,
and together they stood on the board,
and watched as the older brother jumped.
The father then waited while the younger boy eventually jumped off
this very high board,
then the father jumped, once his young son had got to the side of the pool.
The boy clearly enjoyed the experience
as he continued to climb up the steps and jump off by himself after that.

My experience of pools in England are generally that;
there are always,
always at least one pool attendant on duty
on the pool side, at all times.
Always ready to take charge,
stop any child wearing swimming aids,
who dares to go past the non-swimmers imaginery line,
with or without a responsible adult in attendance.
Diving boards are separate from the general swimming area.
On Sunday, it was the resposibility of the divers,
(and swimmers),
to make sure no one dived onto a swimmer.
In England the diving board would be regulated as to when it could be used.
Also pools are generally much noisier in England
in a negative way,
with a lot of shouting.

Having lived abroad now for a few years,
it's interesting to note these cultural differences.

I just wish I'd have the nerve
to make that leap into the water.


Anonymous said...

I never learned to swim. I was terrified of the water after a bad experience. My brother loves to swim, scuba dive etc. If I had it to do over, I would liked to have been patiently introduced to the water so that I do not fear it so.

Claus said...

Very detailed account of what you saw! Very interesting indeed! Here in Guatemala, there are swimming pools for swim learning, and those for recreational purposes. You are allowed to get into the "professional pools" only if you belong to a swimming club, you are a professional swimmer (for which you need to belong to the National Federation), or you are an adult (also belonging to the National Federation) and you wish to swim for healthy or sporty reasons. I don't know if there is always someone (a lifeguard) close by if an accident is to happen, but considering you are must likely surrounded by professionals, you can count on one another.
Now, in the recreational pools, you can find all sorts of people, but pools are not deep. There are signs of how deep they are, so that no one is jumping or causing trouble. For the little ones, there is a very low pool, where they can enjoy some water fun ALWAYS and only in the company of a grownup. Those pools have always someone in charge, and you are talked or reprimanded if you are doing something not within the rules. Interesting, huh?
Thanks for sharing your experience!

Daisy said...

That does sound unusual. Our local pool always has two and sometimes three lifeguards on duty watching over everyone.

Kath said...

I don't swimming, but I took my son swimming from about the age of 9 months. It has stood him in good stead. I always hated the chlorine, it made my skin itchy and blotchy.
I could quite fancy a clean water pool on a hot day. Maybe a natural pool, with willows dipping onto the surface of the water.

ADonald466 said...

Before we moved here, we were members of a gym, with a very good pool for swimming - very organised, swim up one side, then down the other, leaving the middle free for fast swimmers to get past. But here in Hawick it is an irregularly shaped 'leisure pool' with children playing and people pottering about, so no use if you simply want to swim for exercise.

Sarah said...

It is so interesting to read about the differences you have noticed. It made me think of Forest School and the ethos behind it and its origins-from Norway originally-it is not a big deal there I don't think-more just the way they do things. It is all about managing your own risk, and I am always impressed by the way that three year olds can quickly take on a basic set of rules and think about how what they do can impact on others. I think we are sometimes too quick to take away choice by simply telling children what to do, so they don't get the chance to develop that indipendence. It is obviously a difficult balancing act and I can only speak as a teacher rather than a parent, but giving them that responsibility within a safe framework really does work.

Ash said...

I too never learned how to swim! I wonder if it is too late at 26 :-)

Zuzana said...

As a true cosmopolitan I can surely relate to the cultural differences, that I too experienced after living in various places in my past.
I like how keen you are at observing these manifesting themselves at such an ordinary place as a swimming pool.;)
I learned to swim when I was about 8 on a vacation to the Mediterranean. I was a year prior attending swimming classes in a local pool, but never learned to swim there.;) In fact I was terrified of the place.
I guess the fact that I was relaxed on a vacation and that one floats easier in salt water helped and I learned to swim within days.;))
Have a lovely Friday,

Joanna Jenkins said...

That step off the high dive is a big one. I'm sure the young boy will remember it forever.

Your storytelling is grand. I felt like I was right there with you watching.

Have a fun weekend, jj

Margaret said...

I have two thoughts on this.
1. I think that it's wonderful that they seem instinctively brave and well-behaved at the pool. We Americans could use a little more of that poolside.

2. I don't think it's a good idea to leave responsibility up to parents who, more than likely, do not have CPR/lifesaving skills at hand.

Very interesting post!

Tracey said...

That's such an interesting account of different approaches to pool safety ... everything is so closely watched and regulated in Australia, I think sometimes people aren't given the opportunity to be responsible for their own and their children's actions.
Great read! :)

ben said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ben said...

I Never tried swimming..your blog look great with stunning photos!!Keep up the work n i followed you ..

VICKYFF said...

"Life is like riding a bike, in order to keep your balance you gotta keep moving!"
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