Meet a member at a distance – Gavin

Oh, my goodness me!’ ‘Oh, my sainted pants! Oh, my painted ants! Oh my crawling cats! I hope never to see anything like that again!’ My reaction to COVID-19 and lockdown, and Willie Wonka’s to the Vermicious Knids* (making my 5 year old beside herself with the giggles).

Would you believe it?! I had just started to remember what sleep was after three children in three years, had rejoined Spencer and was enjoying the effervescent Mr.Baker’s sets again. I even lasted the session at one point.

I had ambitions, which were entirely delusional but I needed something to light the fire in my paunch. I last swam at the Swansea GBs in 2014, winning the 200fly and I reckoned I could take on the current crop of rivals.

Quick potted history for people that don’t know me. Was an age grouper with Nova Centurion, back in God’s own glorious county of Nottinghamshire (I’m in the south on missionary work). Have swum masters with City of Leeds and Swiss Cottage.

Joined Spencer in 2006 after a previous major hiatus. Continued where I left off as a mediocre sprinter until I realised I was better at distance events and open water, the longer the better. Did stints as team manager and newsletter editor (before it became a blog). Did the pool competition circuit for many years and latterly developed a real passion for open water events (and a dissatisfaction with the pool). Met my wife at Spencer, enchanting her with the promise of an ice cream, if she did a relay for me at Riccione. She’s still waiting.

I didn’t react well to lockdown initially. Three weeks of drinking wine, eating chocolate and watching box sets, before I pulled myself together and started running. I built up nicely with runs of 5k progressing to 10k, and totals of around 30k a week. Before injury struck. My lower leg is a very painful continuous impact injury of goodness knows what name. So I’ve stopped and switched to cycling. Either my (newly bought) turbo trainer or solo cycles, footling around the Kent lanes, close to where I live. ‘A little footling round about, will stop you going up the spout’ (Wonka again, sorry).

Chasing after the kids is another form of exercise. I’m teaching both girls to ride their bikes, which involves running alongside, letting go then catching hold of their seats, before they wrap themselves round a tree or a dog. And my two year old is a constant upper body conditioning exercise. “Pick my up Daddy.”

Then there have been the family bike rides. Me pulling two kids in the trailer and one on a podium seat, 3 children, 10 stone, plus the weight of a picnic and games for when we get there, while my wife tootles along behind, wondering aloud why I can’t go any faster.

Lockdown has been been anything but dull. Work have been really good in allowing me to care for and homeschool the kids for two days a week. This is seriously tiring but very rewarding. Helping one daughter to write her name for the first time and the other on to blue level reading books (which will mean nothing to most of you) is a nice feeling. And I have learnt loads about phonics. Ask me anything about graphemes, phonemes, digraphs and trigraphs (even split digraphs!!). Hats off to teachers everywhere. I could not do this full time with 30 kids. You should all be knighted.

We’re beginning to emerge as lockdown lessens. The kids have joined a tennis club again and had their first lesson last Sunday. But I long to swim. Water is my element. I think the next rule relaxation should be: pools can open with bubbles the size of swimming clubs.

I live in hope. Toodle-bye and see you soon.

* Roald Dahl’s, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

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