I have always had a craze for water. My grand-parents lived on sandy soil and I could watch forever at the floodscapes that rainwater cuts out in sand.
With my parents I went to the outer dyke at Spijk where we looked for periwinkles and dared to go off the shell banks. The assumed danger did not, like forewarned, come from the treacherous waves, but from the sun, as we were burned so bad, that we went in skin rags for nearly a week.
A little bit older we were allowed to come to a nearby lake. I never was that crazy about that. The buoy line was just over the knees and if you entered the ‘deep’ the bottom soon got slimy, slippery and sucking. The water was brown and not seldom you would happen upon a dead fish. Only the pavilion, a generous extension built over the water, was fun, as there we were allowed delicacies.
In the meadows around my place of birth, Appingedam, I not only leapt ditches, but also walked alongside them in thought, one eye looking out for salamanders and sticklebacks.
One day, I was six, I came from my cousin, Gerrie, and heading for home I saw that the pond before the Bank of Amsterdam, straight across from the police headquarters, was being dammed up to create room for a sidewalk. A small sandy strip had come into being with on it a plank. I laid the plank in such a way upon the sand that part of it stuck out upon the water and walked towards the end.
As the plank did not move I shoved it a little farther out and tiptoed out towards its end. Again the plank did not move. Another little length and the inevitable happened. The plank gave way from under me, I fell forward in the water and saw razor sharp the leaves lying on the bottom. When I came home I was punished by being sent to bed without food. Later my mother came to bring me a slice of current bread with full-cream butter and told me that my father and she had decided to let me have swimming lessons. In Norg was a beautiful pool and I could stay with my grand parents.
My first memories are far from heart warming. It rained nearly all the time and the only shelter were the draughty, chilly changing cubicles. We got lessons in the ‘first’ pool that was not much deeper than your navel. With a white painted board in the hands and ditto box on the back I chill shivered through the water, gasping for breath.
In the second bath, that also measured 25 meters square one could just touch bottom and the deep bath was of the same width, but 50 meters long and three meters under the diving board. All around the pool was sand but a few pine trees at the candy shop. The water for the pool was pumped up night and day and fell like a curtain, clear, clean and freezing cold from the roof of the pumping-station in a basin of boulders and next flowed under a small bridge towards the pool.
The second bath only was a half-hearted passage-phase. In the deep on the very first time I got definitively cured from my water anxiety. For the first time I was going to cross the deep along the landing. Swimming instructor Jansen was going to walk along with a long pole with a cross length of plastic tube on it. And all went in perfect harmony, the still, light brown water that hardly rippled over my sure strokes and my breathing plenty above, meticulous and secure, the triumph of a born winner.
‘Salutations, o far side, in thy sand I will abide.’
‘Right and now right back, Jan’, the instructor said. That took me by surprise. I had invested all my courage to get across. With a heavy head I commenced the return.
When, underway, I searched instructor Jansen with my eyes he called right back: ‘Keep on swimming!’
That looked like good.
Ach, actually it was not bad at all, if only the waves won’t, ay, choke, darn it, and with unexpected ease I went head under. Right after my eyes looked in the eyes of the instructor. He doubled up with laughter on the landing, pointing at me.
‘This is a conspiracy, a trap’, flashed through my head that went under again, ‘this is how they want to get rid of me.’
Condemned by myself to worse than fate I began to kick my legs. To my surprise I touched ground right away, pushed myself off and surfaced promptly. Then all the pieces fitted: the water was just navel deep.
Although there always seemed to be someone around who could swim faster for many years I trained myself in swimming to and back. I was to fast for touch and run, but loved to swallow- and hook dive from the high board and under the bath towel saw Eefjes cunty, which was not impressive.
Until my thirteenth I kept visiting the swimming pool in Norg, but also in the much smaller saltwater pool in Delfzijl I was the first one at seven in the morning and often left last by the end of the day.
There I discovered the girls, secretive and exiting. The tuft of pubic hair that peeked from Yvonne’s crotch when she stepped across the railing at the Ladies has somehow never left my fantasy.
Then 23 years long we camped on Vlieland, one of the Dutch Isles. In spite of all the surrounding water I ran dry. The sand was just monotonous and I could not stand the salt water. On that very same island I got inspired by a whale’s fluke and that has never passed.