‘Naenae’ is pronouced ‘Nigh-Nigh’ as in ‘The end is Nigh’ – I hope that helps!
When I was at swim squads this morning, pounding my way up and down the black line, (I do like to talk myself up), I was thinking about the swimming lessons I had when I was growing up. You may think I have exhausted this topic seeing as I’ve already told you about the lessons at Waiwhetu and the Riddiford Baths, but wait, there’s more; I also had lessons at the Naenae Olympic Swimming Centre.
I’m not sure why we had lessons at the Naenae Centre, perhaps we had these when the Riddiford Baths were closed for the winter. But don’t be fooled, the Naenae Pool wasn’t indoors either but apparently it was heated so this made all the difference? After school we would be bundled into the car and off we went to Upper Hutt where there was the infamous Naenae Centre.
It was perched on a piece of land that rose above the surrounding area just so it could be all the more exposed to the gale force winds and other harsh elements to make the experience all that more ‘character building’. There were three pools that I can recall. There was a toddler pool that was only a few inches deep and it had square tiles on the bottom that were plain light blue but every so often there was a tile with a nursery rhyme character on it like Snow White or Bambi and this was to encourage children to put their faces in the water and go look for their favourite story-book hero. I do remember the heating system worked well in this pool but probably because there wasn’t much water to heat.
A step-up from toddler pool was a square pool where the water was about four feet deep. Gone were the pretty pictures on the tiles and also gone was the effective heating. The third pool was an Olympic 50mtr pool with a diving section and very deep water and probably just one tiny heater so this pool was freezing.
I had my lessons in the middle pool. On my first lesson my older sister and I were introduced to a gruff male coach. He asked my sister to get into the pool and she was always well behaved so she did as she was told and jumped in and then he told her to start swimming up and down and so she did. He then asked me to get in and I was already freezing cold from shivering on the pool’s edge in a balmy 13C (55F) with gale force winds almost knocking me over and my feet were now numb from standing on the freezing wet concrete and I was having to stamp my feet to keep the circulation going. ‘Get in’, he roared and I slowly and reluctantly lowered myself into the water but it was so shockingly cold that I clung to the pool’s edge and didn’t move. ‘Start swimming’, the coach said. I just looked at him with my teeth chattering’.
‘Swim’, the man yelled. I couldn’t move. I was frozen. I had my hands holding on to the cold side and my chest up against my arms and if I moved even a millimetre cold water would race between my arms and my chest shocking me’.
‘Do you know how to swim?’ I just kept looking at him. I couldn’t move and now I couldn’t speak because I was even colder.
‘I need to see you swim. Move. Give me one lap. Freestyle. Any style. Give me any stroke you can do. Ten laps and you can hop out. What about backstroke? Do you like backstroke? How about you give me two laps of backstroke? All right we’ll start with freestyle. If you don’t get moving you’ll get cold’. That was the whole problem. I was already so cold I couldn’t move. And my never-can-do-wrong sister just kept swimming and swimming.
‘Move off from the wall. Put your face in the water and get going. You’ll love it once you get going. Give me two laps. Two laps of freestyle and you can get out’. This went on for half an hour. I never moved. In the end he yelled, ‘Just get out’, and off he stormed. The next week he wouldn’t let me have my lesson in the middle pool; he made me have my lesson in the toddler pool but I didn’t mind; it was so much warmer.
When I was allowed back in the ‘proper’ pool I did comply and unclasp my grip from the pool’s edge. We’d have our lessons in that pool and then we’d have to get out and run to the Olympic pool where we did laps like we were in a squad. I learned to do the distance from the square pool to the Olympic pool really quickly as the wind would whip around our wet bodies and in all likelihood it would be raining as well and the concrete would make your feet numb. We’d dive into the Olympic pool and start swimming to stimulate the circulation. The cold water give me brain freeze and cause a headache. ‘You’ll get used to it’, the coach would yell, or ‘If you swim fast you won’t notice it’. One week later I was so cold I vomited in the pool. Everyone had to get out.
Nothing was ever done about that freezing cold water. There was always an excuse; ‘Oh we’ve had such a cold spell it’s caused the temperature to drop’, or ‘We’re getting someone in to look at the heaters’, and the best one, ‘It’s not as cold as you think’.
Today you can still swim at Naenae Pool Centre but guess what…these days it’s an indoor centre with climate-controlled air-conditioning and effective pool heating. I wonder why they thought they needed a change.
Here’s a comforting sweet dessert that’s so lovely it will warm your insides. I made this for Alfie on his birthday. If you love Nutella and meringue you’ll love this recipe that combines the two.
Gluten-Free Nutella Slice
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: This is quite an affordable slice to make. Most items are pantry staples. I only needed to purchase the hazelnut meal.
- 125g butter, melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup gluten-free self-raising flour
- 3/4 cup hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
- 3/4 cup Nutella
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced.
Grease an 18cm x 28cm (base) slice pan. Line base and sides with baking paper, allowing 3cm overhang on all sides.
Combine butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, flour, hazelnut meal and cocoa powder in a bowl. Spread over base of prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is just firm to touch (base will sink slightly).
Spread with Nutella. Set aside to cool. Increase oven to 220°C/200°C fan-forced.
Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until dissolved. Spoon meringue onto Nutella. Using a spatula, swirl mixture to create small peaks. Bake for 5 minutes or until golden.
Cool. Cut into squares. Serve.
This recipe is from Taste.