Happy hump day, everyone! I'm here today with the ever so lovely Rachel Ward for my stop on the blog tour for Water Born, the sequel to The Drowning.
Water and Me - Rachel Ward
When I wrote The Drowning, my publisher Barry Cunningham of The Chicken House asked if I was scared of water. I said that I wasn’t, but that I had a healthy respect for it. And it’s true – I’m pretty scared of heights, I’m definitely scared of spiders and snakes but water isn’t one of the things that gives me nightmares or sets my heart racing in panic. In fact, I love swimming and one of the delights of this year has been discovering that there are river swims to be had only a mile or two from my home in Bath (and lovely literary folk to swim with).
His question did get me thinking about my relationship with water, though, and the more I think about it, the more I realise it’s played an important part in my life and in writing The Drowning and its sequel Water Born.
I didn’t have a water birth (if only my mum had thought ahead, it would have made the title of my new book oh so sweet). My first memory of water takes me to the back garden of my parents’ house, on a hot summer’s day, when I was three or four. I remember being alone and walking backwards (why? Just to see if I could do it, of course!) and I remember my legs bumping into the metal frame, the feeling of toppling, the shock of the cold water, the sound of it rushing in my ears. I remember not knowing which way was up and swallowing an awful lot of water. I can remember its taste. Writing this is making me shiver. Right now, even though I know it turned out okay, I’m scared for that little girl. I feel a bit sick about what might have happened. I managed to clamber out and trudge soggily into the kitchen, but how close did I come to drowning? Too close for comfort.
My other watery tales are happier. I learnt to swim during a glorious week at the end of the school holidays, when the new middle school building wasn’t ready and I had an extra few days off, while my older brother and sister had to go to their senior schools (result!). It was hot and sunny, and my mum and I went to Guildford Lido every day where we ate picnic lunches and I learnt to doggy paddle in a jerky, splashy sort of way. ‘Look! I’m not even touching the bottom!’
I met my best friend at secondary school in the first week of term in the swimming lesson. Rowena and I were both in the worst group, shivering miserably in the shallow end, while our more gifted classmates showed off their front crawl and did exciting things like diving for bean bags in the deep end. Or was it heavy rubber quoits? How would I know? I never got to dive for anything. I was still shivering in the shallow end after two years of futile lessons.
In my early twenties, one of my colleagues at Norfolk County Council taught me how to swim breaststroke and actually get my face in the water, during lunch hour jaunts from the Planning Department. Those were the days when long lunch breaks weren’t frowned upon. Friday lunchtimes would usually involve a stroll up to the on-site social club for a convivial drink. Times have changed. By the time I left local government a couple of years ago, most people just worked through lunch, nibbling their sandwiches at their desks, or taking a quick thirty minutes to catch up with errands. ‘Lunch is for wimps.’ Not in Norfolk, in the 1990s.
Through all this, front crawl eluded me, but when my son was little, fifteen years ago or so, I finally took swimming lessons. Turns out it’s all about the breathing. And it’s about trusting the water, lying flat, and learning to turn your head, find a rhythm and relax.
These days I rarely refuse the chance for a dip in the sea, I swim in the local pool, and am looking forward to discovering more of the local wild swimming haunts. I’m not frightened of water, but researching for The Drowning and Water Born I did discover how easy it is to drown and to miss the signs of drowning in those around you. Water should be respected. You disrespect it at your peril. And, looking back, I do wonder whether my first adventure, make that misadventure, with water – that backflip into the paddling pool – lies at the heart of these books.