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“Arrghh,” I groaned, as I tried to slap the alarm clock into

silence. ‘Oh great,’ I thought as I looked at my calendar.

Saturday: Swimming day.

“Come on, wake up,” my mum impatiently insisted. “We’ve

got to leave for your lesson in about an hour.” I scowled at her,

like I did every Saturday morning, and then reluctantly rose out

of bed and went downstairs for breakfast. I was an expert at

stalling, taking minutes between mouthfuls. But eventually, the

bowl was finished. Just before we got into our car, I attempted

the usual, ‘I’ve got a bad tummy ache’ routine however, my

embattled Mum did not fall for that nonsense. Slowly I got into

the car…

As my Mum started the engine, I had to kick a crisp packet

out of the way and move a mouldy banana skin off my seat,

before I could even secure my seatbelt. The car journey was

always horrible, not just because of the appalling state of

the car (definitely nothing to do with my car snack habit) but

because it allowed me time to dread. To dread meeting Karen.

My swimming tyrant of a teacher. Karen had a grotesque face

with skin that was a sickly, grey colour and hung in wrinkled

folds. She had false teeth (probably because of her ‘vending

machine Twix habit’) that clicked when she moved her lips.

Her eyes were flinty grey and like a hawk, never blinked -

constantly watching. Her mouth was in a permanent sneer, as

if she was waiting to cackle at your inevitable mistakes. I hated

my swimming teacher, she was hideous inside and out.

As we were driving my Mum switched the radio on: ‘A few

hours ago, in Florida, a menacing alligator was found in a

local swimming pool near the deep end and immediate help

was needed as –.’ Suddenly, the radio crackled and I couldn’t

make out the rest of the story. I gulped and my stomach

somersaulted. ‘Was that true?’ I wondered. ‘What happens

if there is an alligator in the deep end of my pool?’ I thought,

biting my nails.

The Swimming


As we approached the pool building, I glanced through the

steamed grubby windows, where I could see Karen was

having a row with one of the parents, whose child was in

tears. “Come on,” pleaded my Mum as she pointed to the

changing rooms. I rolled my eyes and then ventured, holding

my nose, into the world’s most disgusting set of changing


As I walked into the changing room, I saw two kids who had

snot running down their chins. I covered my eyes before I

saw any more, then slipped into the room. It smelt of sweat

and stained toilets. As I put my trunks on, I could see some

grubby toenail clippings scattered in the corner of the room

and clumps of brown hair lying on the benches.

I put my hand over my mouth, and retched slightly. I darted

out of the changing room. I saw Karen coming over to me

so I quickly slipped into the pool before she could remark on

how tiny I looked. I was only in the shallow end, but my ankles

were already freezing to death, my teeth were chattering

uncontrollably and the scent of the sickening chlorine made

my stomach churn. Karen saw me and gave me a half smile,

half ‘you’d better do what I tell you’ glare. I sweetly smiled

back and then she said, “Go get a woggle. We are practising

swimming in the deep end.” I nodded back nervously;

however, inside I was on the verge of a total breakdown, as

thoughts of the Florida alligator swirled round my mind.

When I got to the deep end Karen told me what to do, “Ok,

we’ve been practising front crawl in the shallow end for

long enough. So I’d like you to do me a whole width of front

crawl in the deep end.” She ended this with a thumbs up

and a winked eye like this was the easiest task ever. I was

dumbfounded and thought she was mad – I had practised

the stroke for barely a week, was terrible at it, and had never

swum in the deep end before.