(Or, the Sam Moorhouse Centre for Kids Who Can’t Swim Good and Wanna Learn to do other stuff good too)
There’s this joke in Catholic circles that Jesus changed water into wine, and the Methodists have spent two thousand years trying to change it back, and that’s a bit like how I feel about humanity’s departure from our watery beginnings in the first place.
Simply put, we’re not supposed to be in the water any more. We’ve moved past it. Drink it, bathe in it, look at oceans full of it, but for the same reason we don’t chase big cats around large fields, let’s agree to stay out of the wet stuff.
Because once some people start frolicking in the stuff it begets this social constriction, a stigma, a weight on ones shoulders. After some people learned to swim we all had to learn to swim, and if you can’t, or like me, you-can-kinda-but-you-recognise-the-folly-and-would-much-prefer-to-have-nothing-to-do-with-this-particular-circus-thanks, you’re looked down upon like a leper, an outcast, a… a brexit voter.
We’re clearly not supposed to be in the water. It’s dark, and cold, and… well, it’s wet. A badly timed mouthful can kill you. Waves are strong and they don’t care that you’ve got laundry to pick up. You’re not allowed to breathe through your nose – an organ designed just for breathing through. When you wear a regulator and go in the water you literally become a mouth-breather.
This morning I had to wake up at 6:30am because my mate Alex and his girlfriend wanted to watch fish. He dives because – as well as being my best mate – he’s an idiot with no self-regard, which you’d know if you ever met the man. We’re in Thailand, and apparently the water there is particularly blue, or wet, or whichever aspect of water it is that interests these people.
Our own tropical paradise isn’t good enough, so we speedboat off to a different tropical paradise with different fish in different water, which isn’t at all how it works. It’s two long bumpy hours away so I pass the time nervously eying the air canisters in the middle of the speedboat and wondering how often they’re tested for safety. I don’t get seasick because I’m not 8 any more but, hey, nerves are a perfectly rational limbic-system response to you being about to do something stupid, so perhaps I’m a little pale. The Korean girls next to me ask for skincare tips.
Alex dives and I don’t even swim that much. His girlfriend is somewhere in the middle but the only options are diving and snorkelling so she’s with me. The upside is that there’s much less gear to carry (does a full air canister weigh less than an empty one? No. What about helium? Do they have to tie them down in balloon shops?) but the downside is I don’t like new things very much and the shoes I’m wearing are now two feet long.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT SNORKELLING THAT NOBODY TELLS YOU BEFORE YOU START SNORKELLING
- If you’re nervous and like to be able to put your feet on the ground like a regular human being you just can’t do that because your feet are two feet long. You can’t move your legs underneath your body very quickly, so you’ll panic and tear off your mask and look silly in front of Chinese children. The Chinese children are wearing full-face masks and they think you look silly.
- You can’t breathe through your nose or you’ll literally die. You’ll definitely get water in the nose bit of the mask and you’ll want to breathe it in but you can’t. I mean you shouldn’t. You can but then you’ll have water in your actual nose and then you’ll want to come up for air, for which see (1)
- You have to actually put your face IN THE WATER. This was a revelation for me because when I swim . They all say you’re supposed to put your face in the water but the Egyptians used to lighten their skin with mercury and we all know where that got them. Don’t go with the crowd is what I’m saying.
So here’s what you do. Swallow your pride, ask for a lifevest, wear the lifevest, breathe through your mouth all the time (if you practice on the boat ride there, a Korean girl will let you sit next to the window), and don’t panic too much because you probably won’t die and if you do your mate has to get you back to your country.