Ok, so we’ve already established that basically, I am rubbish at sports. Always was, no doubt always will be. My sad little attempt to master the art of horse-riding many moons ago left no illusions on that score.
But despite the humiliation of that hapless endeavour, I still wasn’t quite ready to give up and just a few months later had persuaded my partner-in-crime (a.k.a. long-suffering-hubby) to join me on one more ‘fun’ sporting adventure. Scuba diving. In the city of Amsterdam.
I know, I know, perhaps a tad unrealistic given my lifelong fear of water smothering my face – but somehow, it seemed vaguely achievable. For a while.
So where to get lessons… well in those days (we’re talking 20 years ago!) it was a case of browsing telephone books and ‘asking around’. No internet, no Google! Someone, somewhere recommended a ‘PADI’ diving course to me. It sounded good. Professional. Manageable. We hopped along to an introduction day, and by the time the woman-in-charge had assured me I could always buddy-up with hubby and would be allowed to go-slow in the early weeks, we’d signed on the dotted line for their 12-week course.
Five weeks later, we headed off to the first session: theory. By now my Dutch was reasonable if not fluent, so I struggled a bit but left feeling quietly confident, this time I would not be bested! Lesson two however, the start of the ‘practicals’ was a different kettle of fish. Entirely.
In the bright lights of the swimming pool’s changing room, I glanced around at the other women, noting the athleticism of their bodies. Hmm. Slightly intimidating. Skinny (then), with muscles that knew best how to drag me out of bed and into a car, I slithered into my bikini with no small amount of trepidation.
Reminding myself that I could start slowly, I headed towards the pool, my newly purchased goggles hanging around my neck, my flippers clutched in a nervous fist, my oxygen tank strapped to my back. The whole group was waiting for me in the water, standing in a circle. No one spoke. I sat down heavily on the edge of a small wall, and tried to put on my flippers.
For some reason, the damn things refused to fit onto my feet. Shoving my toes in got me nowhere and after five failed attempts I was in danger of becoming upended from the tank on my back and my feet seemed to be doubling in size even as I watched them. I heard a shout, ‘wet your flipper, then your foot slides in!’. The group was becoming impatient. Two minutes later I was all flippered up, feeling more frog-like than any woman ever should but – hey – I was on my feet! My rubber feet. God they were huge! how the hell was I to walk into the pool??!
With all eyes on me, I took a step forwards. The flipper swayed, I wobbled precariously, took a step backwards. Fervently wished for the tiled floor to swallow me whole, then tried again. No dice. Suddenly, hubby was beside me, ‘it’s ok, just turn around and walk backwards’ he whispered. Minutes later we were in the water. Glares of irritation floated my way, I ignored them and focused on the instructor,
“we’re all going to float to the bottom now” she said, expertly popping in her mouthpiece and vanishing into the water in one smooth action. The rest followed suit. I popped in my mouthpiece but when I tried to sink to the bottom of the pool, discovered that I couldn’t. My legs kept rising to the surface and my flippers looked like shark fins, floating wildly above the waves.
Hubby was struggling equally. We thrashed around for a full minute, legs going in all directions, and I could feel the giggles rising as a realisation of what we must look like to the waiting would-be divers down below, hit me.
Suddenly, the instructor resurfaced, her eyes flashing furiously, “what’s wrong now?” she gurgled, “did you two not put on your weight belts?”. Damn, no we hadn’t. I caught his eye, and laughter burst forth. It was more than she could take, “I hope you’re going to work very hard here” she barked, making me laugh all the more, “this is a serious sport!”.
Oh Gawd. Now I knew I was in trouble!