Not the one I made the cape for, that was last week. My daughter’s swimming carnival was a high school one, all girls, so the swimming was well organised, the cheering was shrill and the costumes were elaborate. The one I’m telling you about today was the Horror’s one, full of primary school boys and therefore much more dramatic.
One starts off the day of a swimming carnival by dropping the swimming child at school so he can get the bus to the pool with his friends. This leaves me time to go and get a reliably good coffee from the local coffee wranglers for me to consume while I spend an hour being grateful that I never usually need to deal with this kind of traffic. This morning’s half hour snarl up Lyons Road appeared to have been caused by an elderly man attempting to reverse park in front of a school, ignoring the execrations of the commuters whose road he was blocking. He wanted to get in perfectly parallel and he had all the time in the world.
Upon arriving at the pool and parking some blocks away I went to locate my last born. All the kids sit in their colour coded houses on concrete steps, and the parents squeeze in with them. I could feel my hair curling into a perfectly spherical pom pom around my head in the humidity even before I’d squashed in between the new Irish kid and the Horror and some of his wrigglier friends. I thought he was bad enough, but one of his mates managed to kick me in the shin, the foot, both elbows and numerous times in the back by the end of the day. Perhaps next time I should bring a sharp stick.
My favourite bit of the primary school swimming carnival is watching the eight and nine year olds swim. It’s usually their first ever carnival and they’re full of excitement and a can do attitude. A highlight came early on in the freestyle when a little one started struggling at the twenty five metre mark, causing a strapping young student teacher to strip off his shirt and dive in to the rescue. Most of the potential rescues were identified before the kids jumped in, they were put in lane one so they could be hauled out at the side. One little kid leapt in for the start of the breaststroke only to immediately realise he couldn’t swim at all, he was gaffed and pulled in within seconds. Another little champ managed to swim the twenty five metre breaststroke entirely in butterfly. I don’t think I could swim twenty five metres of butterfly.
Girls schools do elaborate chants to support their houses, with melodies and verse and one that springs from house to house like a musical Mexican wave. Boys shout their double syllable house name (if it’s a single syllable they stick in a diphthong) followed by three claps. My ears are still ringing. They don’t sit still and watch their colleagues swim, they wrestle and draw on each other and play scissors paper rock and drum on the garbage bins and make hats out of their towels and stand and sit and lie down and head butt each other. No wonder the teachers in charge of the audience not falling in the pool (almost a continuous line of them) looked filleted by the end of the last relay.
The once a year swimmers like the Horror only get to go in their age races for freestyle and breaststroke. He managed to come third out of five in the freestyle (the last two hauled themselves to the finish line on the lane ropes) and fifth out of eight in the breaststroke. He did point out that that heat was won by the under ten overall champion, so good on him. He’s starting squads this very Thursday morning, so next year I can do a lot more cheering.