Swimming in the sea


See those three ragamuffins ?

Great Yarmouth 1967, thats the sea wall we’re standing on and a couple of yards behind it was Ralphs caravan. The sea used to come right up to the wall when the tide was in and for the two weeks that we spent there that year the tide was “in” at around 7am every morning. Ralph had served in the Navy during the war and was a strong swimmer so was keen to get us all swimming like fishes on that holiday.

7am every morning we’d be lined up on that wall in our swimming trunks and inflatable armbands for the days swimming lesson during that time when the tide is at its highest and seems to run out of strength before withdrawing once again – one hour every day we’d fearlessly jump off that wall and dog-paddle around bobbing up and down like corks and unbeknown to us Ralph would inflate the arm bands slightly less each day until halfway through the second week he was saying “You don’t really need these now” and true enough we didn’t, we could swim, all of us.

And then as the tide turned and started to suck everything out to sea with it Ralph would call us all out and wrapped in beach towels we’d all troop the few yards to his caravan where he’d make us mugs of hot sweet tea and toast and we’d stand there dripping sea water and dropping sand all over his caravan floor so that when we left he’d have to sweep the floor clean before our Auntie Joyce got up.

That was my Uncle Ralphs’ legacy from that holiday, he taught us all to swim in the sea, he spent every day of his holiday getting up at the crack of dawn to teach five kids to swim long before anyone else was awake and probably despite some cracking hangovers too for my Uncle Ralph was licensed to sell beer and spirits in the real world and boy could he drink his beer on holiday.

I spoke to him just three weeks ago and as always we spoke of this holiday, I speaking of the year I learned to swim and he speaking of the ton of sand he swept out of his caravan.

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