For some reason I started swimming lessons for Archie and Arabella when they were just babies. By the time they were five and six they had progressed from the baby pool at a private swim centre to a swim school held at the local council pool.
We loved the lessons at the baby pool and had no issues during our time there but the new place was very different. It was big business, very impersonal and we felt like a number. Living in a big city, that was all very understandable and I felt if the lessons were of a good standard it didn’t really matter that there were no personal touches.
Archie and Arabella were assessed and put into Seal and Tadpole levels. The lessons were strictly half an hour. Right on cue they had to jump into the cold water. The classes were crowded with too many in each group and the allocated space, minimal.
Arabella adjusted quickly to her new lessons but Archie (being Archie), was a different story.
There were six to eight swimmers in his group in a space less than a lane-width wide and just half the length of a 25mtr pool. The swimmers had to stand at one end of the pool and the teacher would set them a task then one by one she would send them off to demonstrate what she had just explained. For the swimmers this meant a lot of waiting around for their turn to swim.
Waiting around with nothing to do wasn’t easy for Archie so he would find things to do. There would be milk crates at the ends of the lanes filled with flotation devices and pool toys and swimming aids and Archie was curious and while waiting for his turn he would jump up and rifle through the crates. That wasn’t appreciated. He would talk to the others in his group and start up a friendship but this would distract them from what they were supposed to be doing. That wasn’t tolerated. He also used to like holding his breath and sitting on the bottom of the pool and would do this to amuse himself and occasionally he would still be on the bottom of the pool when it would be his turn to swim. That wasn’t appreciated.
The teacher had no patience and couldn’t understand why Archie wouldn’t stand still in the cold water and just wait his turn like everyone else and she used to become enraged, especially if she called his name and he was on the bottom of the pool unable to hear her.
When he finally needed to take a breath and come to the surface the teacher would be livid and yell at him to get out of the pool. Archie would be confused because he just couldn’t work out what it was he had done wrong. She would make him sit on a milk crate on the side of the pool and he’d be there for 10 minutes, dripping wet with cold air whipping around him causing him to visibly shiver, before he was allowed back in the pool.
This went on week after week until half a term had passed and I was not only feeling sorry for Archie who was humiliated every time he had to sit on a milk crate with everyone staring at him but because I was paying for lessons where my son didn’t swim but shivered on the side of the pool while sitting on a milk crate.
I went to see the swim school’s manager and acknowledged that Archie’s behaviour wasn’t the best but that perhaps if the lessons weren’t so crowded and perhaps if they did more swimming instead of standing around with nothing to do, then perhaps he wouldn’t have time to be bored and therefore wouldn’t do things he ought not to be doing. Well the swim school manager looked at me like I was barking mad and became very defensive about the instructor’s teaching methods and said it was perfectly reasonable to give children who were not co-operating some time out of the pool on a milk crate.
I told her that as I was the person paying for the lessons I didn’t appreciate him spending one-third of each lesson on a milk crate and another third of the lesson standing around waiting for his turn to swim and that I thought ‘swimming’ meant actually ‘swimming’.
It all escalated from there with her criticising Archie and saying he was unmanageable and that I would have to accept the teaching methods given by the teachers and by the way, it’s now time to pay for next term so would I like to settle the account now.
Ahhh, let me think. That would be, ‘No, no I do not want to settle the account. We won’t be back next term’.
And I found a new swim centre where the owner of the pool realised Archie was not the type of child to be left idle and she had him moving and moving quickly through all of his lessons. And he wasn’t a problem. Not once.
I used to pack treats to take to swimming that Archie and Arabella could have as soon as they had finished their lessons. These Afghan biscuits originate from New Zealand and are the perfect after-swimming treat. No one knows how the biscuits came to be called Afghans but it is thought they resemble the Afghan male – the biscuit resembles the colour of their skin, the icing the colour of their hair and the walnut the colour of their hat. Who knows if there’s any truth to that tale!
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Next to nothing
- 200g (7 oz) butter
- 75g (3 oz) sugar
- 175g (6 oz) flour
- 25g (1 oz) cocoa
- 50g (2 oz) cornflakes
Pre-heat oven to 180C (375F)
Soften butter, add sugar and beat to a cream; add flour, cocoa and lastly cornflakes. Put spoonfuls on an oven tray lined with baking paper and bake for around 15 minutes. When cold, ice with chocolate icing and put walnuts on top.
- 200g dark cooking chocolate
- 30g butter
- 24 walnut halves
Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the water touch the bowl). Stir until melted then when cool and slightly thickened, spoon over biscuits and top with a walnut.
This recipe has been adapted from the Edmonds Cookery Book.