BY SHEILA SMITH
She couldn’t forget how Reg in Human Resources had looked at her over his half moon glasses.
Poor Reg, she guessed was already wishing himself in the pub next door. Putting a human face on corporate decisions could be thirsty work. If he only realised that ‘early retirement’ were the two magic words Rosemary had been praying to hear. For her they were Paul McCartney and Leonard Cohen rolled into one. Sweet, sweet music.
At coffee break, everyone chipped in with well-meant suggestions. “You can take up an Open University course.” Her closest friend, Ruth said, “Maybe we can climb Kilimanjaro.” Later, in the local shop, she noticed an advertisement for swimming lessons. Maybe it was the fall out from the morning’s announcement but she immediately rang the number and booked herself in.
She doubted whether she was bathing belle material but facing her reflection in the changing room she sucked in her tummy, stretched herself tall and braced herself for the deep end. She could even hear her late mother prompting, “Go on my dear. It will do you good.” According to mother everything from a glass of sherry to climbing Kilimanjaro would do a body good.
She arrived at the pool with her hold all and was thrown to find she was the only woman in a class full of men. Apparently it was a transport workers social group. It was their club secretary’s bright idea to enrol them for swimming lessons. “Well at least they’re not wearing Speedos.” Paul the instructor assured her they were all beginners like herself.
She soon discovered there was no swan-like swimming here with heads held high. They were expected to immerse their heads. Maybe they were just showing solidarity but her class-mates were spluttering, coughing up water and struggling to catch their breath. “You’ll soon qualify for the Olympics”, Paul assured them “Just remember, push-kick-glide.” Somehow the splashing abated and they made it from side to side. “The breast stroke to-day, then the back stroke , next the over arm and maybe even the butterfly. Paul is right we will soon be world class.”
“Naturally you can avail of any holidays due to you.” Reg had said. Well that is exactly what she planned to do. She decided to return to the same Spanish resort to which she and her mother always went. Her mother had passed away the previous year. She needed space and time to map out her future.
Rosemary choose a spot in the hotel garden beside a giant cactus where a noisy family had acquired squatting rights. When she finally availed of a quiet moment to slip into the water she was practically knocked off her feet by a five-year-old masquerading as a deep-sea diver with snorkel, flippers and plastic harpoon. Defeated, Rosemary retreated to her sun lounge.
After dinner, she decided on her plan. It was close to mid- night when she made her way through the hotel grounds. The only light came from the lanterns around the pool area. Slipping off her towelling robe she eased herself into the water, barely disturbing the surface. In the shallow end, she swam from side to side repeating, ‘push, kick, glide’. She could feel herself gaining confidence she even stopped counting her breaths and found her own rhythm.
If she kept close to the side of the pool the ledge would always be within her grasp. It would be the first time in her life that she would complete a length of a pool. She made it to the deep end, kicked off the tiles and was already half-way on the return when she realised her achievement.
The shrill whistle cut through her reverie and she floundered under the bright light of the security man’s torch. Her command of Spanish was confined to wishing the man at reception Buenos Dias but this man’s message was clear as he waved his arms accompanied by a torrent of abuse. Another guard was coming to his assistance. If she didn’t emerge quickly by the look of the lights coming on in the various rooms, she might have a larger audience than the weekly flamenco show.
She mounted the steps calmly shaking the water from her ears. The security man was pointing to the sign displaying the rules. She smiled and shrugged but funnily enough never apologised. The two men exchanged a look that signified that only Spaniards were sane logical souls, and thank the lord they were Spanish. While they stared at her, she smiled back, tingling with pleasure, looking every inch the dim-witted senora they took her to be. To-morrow she would swim as the rest of mortals in day-light with snorkelers old and young. To-night she was more than happy to break the rules.
She walked back through the gardens drinking in the sharply scented night air as if her life depended on it. And right away she texted her friend Ruth, “Kilimanjaro here we come”,.