Saturday, 19 November 2011

Fluency and flow

When I was nine years old I swam in Lake Geneva with a German girl.  She couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak German, but we had fun splashing about nevertheless.  When it was time to leave, her father said to me “tomorrow, you will be a fish!”. 

Well I still haven’t grown fins and a tail, but my swimming is definitely coming on – and is feeling more flowing than drowning.  And as I’ve been wafting my way from one end of the pool to the other and back again (repeat 32 times) I’ve come to see swimming as a bit of a metaphor for life.  (Whether I can now remember any of my great, watery insights is a different matter, but here goes!)
  • You can spend a lot of time faffing about before you even get to the pool: where’s my swimsuit, oh no it doesn’t fit, have I taken my contact lenses out, where are my goggles, where’s my towel, have I got 20p for the locker, oh no look at the time I haven’t got time to do this I should just forget it for today and do something more constructive I’ll go another day….
  • Having shown up at the pool, there is still scope for faff – are my goggles too loose, too tight, have I got my shampoo, where shall I put my towel, how cold is the water – maybe I could just dip a toe in….
  • When you get in, you could just bob about in the shallow end for half an hour then get out and dry off.  But you won’t achieve anything or feel any better for it – you’ll just get out feeling cold.
  • To get that lovely warm and glowy feeling, you have to exert yourself – take your feet off the bottom and move.
  • Once moving, you have to keep going for a significant period of time to get any benefit – one lap isn’t going to do it.
  • You have to get your face wet.  In fact, to move smoothly through the water, you have to look straight down at the bottom of the pool, confront its watery depths, and lead with the top of your head.
  • The water gets deep.  You have to go to the deep end in order to stretch out, leave the bobbing old ladies behind, and get up some speed.  You can’t touch the bottom, it can be scary because you can’t put your feet down if you stop.
  • The more you struggle, the harder it is.  If you struggle, you sink more easily and all your effort goes into staying afloat instead of moving forwards.  The more relaxed you are, the more fluid your movements, the less you splash, the more you find you actually float and glide and moving forward becomes almost effortless.  You can go faster and further for the same level of exertion if you just learn to let go, relax, trust yourself and the water, stretch out, be completely in the moment.
  • Swimming then becomes about refinement and technique, not about avoiding drowning.  Lose yourself in thinking about your feet, your ankles, what your fingers are doing, the water flowing over your head, watching the tiles go past underneath you as you glide along.
So to put that in context with the past week:

"Faffing about looking for goggles" was not doing any of the grand plans I had for this week, but spending too much time noodling about on the internet...

“Bobbing about in the shallow end” was just finishing this piece from last weekend.  It’s quite simple, different to anything else I’ve done, unplanned, wrinkly…

“Trying not to struggle and be more relaxed and fluent” was French class on Wednesday.  Heck, it hurts my brain.

“Getting my face wet” was talking to a lady in a gallery about how to submit work and join.  It’s a cooperative gallery ie. you pay a small monthly fee, do a stint behind the desk every 3 weeks, produce lots of work which has to be changed every 6 weeks, pay a small commission on sales…that’s it.  The only catch is arranging to show them my front crawl or breaststroke whereupon I realise I’m still in armbands…

“Swimming in the deep end” was an impromptu chat with another lady in a local fabric shop/workshop venue about teaching machine embroidery classes there…the water’s so deep with that one, I can’t even see the tiles at the bottom.  And yes, the tendency is to panic and thrash my way back to the safety of the pool edge and hold on tight!


  1. love it true ....x

  2. Oh dear... not sure if I'm swimming, drowning or just avoiding getting into the water at the moment.

  3. Let us know if you go with that gallery (I want to see your work) and also that possible venue. I don't think I need to learn any more machine embroidery, but would be interested to learn more.


  4. I can relate to most of these, except for the French class! I think it's easier just to go swimming...

  5. I can relate to what you've said too! thanks for your suggestion on my blog I like the charity idea!

  6. The finished piece is lovely ........ calming colours too!


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