The weather has picked up and my schedule has cooled down so I have managed to get in a couple of swims and they have been glorious! 21 and 22 degrees and the clear blue fractals on the surface of the water are just spell binding.
It seems someone has decided my locker is now their’s so I have shuffled my number along and there is no bolted down furniture this year that the regulars would normally roost on between swims, but they have already claimed benches and nice rattan chairs from elsewhere and the regular’s have their nest once again.
Yesterday I laughed for at least a quarter of a mile of my half mile swim, as there were two young men who were enjoying their swims and they would sing along to the songs that were playing over the Lido speakers and even break out into synchronized swimming. When the Carly Rae Jepsen song, ‘ Call Me Maybe’ came on the tannoy, I thought my heart might burst as they were singing in the pool and then a young life guard joined them! It was like watching your drunk uncles at a wedding. Its this feeling of ownership, comfort and acceptance that I think keeps me coming back year after year. The Lido is more than just a pool, its a place of hello’s, conversations and a sharing in something so transitory, that if your heart is inclined to it, makes you feel so grateful.
The following poem, is a poem I have been wanting to write for a while. Often when I explain my inexplicable love for the Lido, lots of ladies seem to be baffled at the fact that I am prepared to get my body out and swim. I explain to them that for the 30 seconds or so from the dressing room to the pool, I wear the most glamorous swim suit and this seems to dazzle people who might want to say stuff which is not nice to me into a submission.
Plus the actress/MP Glenda Jackson once said that I am not the most beautiful woman in the world but I believe I am and so others do too. So this is my poem, The Chubby Mermaid a little homage to self belief.
The Chubby Mermaid
In the water. I am the chubby mermaid, a floating deity rushing through water.
In the swimmers only lane, I am not the second glanced woman, sin-binned into the xtra large.
My curvy hydraulic hips, that squeeze past grumpy teens, at the corner shop-
My meaty love handles are swept away by the waves and I am ancient and I am beautiful.
Likely I will never be carried over the threshold in the dry world of gravity but in the pool.
I am a sailor’s dream and they raise the flag with the letters of BBW on it to find me.
Disney did not sell me the idea of being a water nymph, I never made a pact with Walt,
My super size could not be held by a cartoon and my mermaid shape is not sellable in Asda.
I found her in the Lido, which I discovered like a coral reef on a concrete side of a car park.
I am as lucky as a sandboy that this open sky of water has beached in my city for 80yrs.
Those walls of summer, call me into it’s tempting watery embrace from May to September.
Those dressing rooms where I get ready melt the shackles of dry dock & I feel ocean splendour.
The first time I brought that golden locker token, I was nervous that I would be stopped from-
Entering the pool, just in case, the other swimmers winced or drowned at the sight of my body.
If performing poetry in pubs, tea rooms and tents has taught me anything, it is to
Be what you seem to be and remember you have the microphone that makes you the loudest.
Use that turned- up voice to piss on the heckles, recite words in a confident hum in my head.
Wear costumes that show the real me, be a shieldmaiden using clothes to ward off soul eaters.
So, in a two fingered salute I wore the most glamourous swimsuit I could find, no black.
I would not be a bruise of a woman that should be hid away in colours that would rub me out.
Strings of sequins fell from my breasts and the necklace I wore absorbed and distracted. Strangers in swimming caps turned as I sparkled in a costume that ignited me with embers.
The possible insults were sunk before they could even be spoken.The cool aquamarine took over my breath and then I began to swim unaided.
When I swum under the surface, my eyes inhaled the hot diamonds of the sun, shimmering.On that first swim, I left the dirt of body regrets on the mainland and in that blue was bountiful.
The previous taunts of fi-fi-fo-thumb by the strangers, the insults in Wilkos were scrubbed away by the other mermen and maids that smiled at my happiness between their gasps and mine.
Not one swimmer mouthed fatso at me, in the deep end, we were all poseidons. I no longer had to reach for the rum & I halted the dreaming of pirate daggers, if I let them would-
Cut me a new shape, so I fitted in just for a moment, to give me a body that society deserves.
Now chop at my chunky thighs and there are scales, descended from Calypso’s bloodline.
Make- believing fills each stroke and every evil doubt is crushed by each length I create.
Maybe in this school of fish- people I can truly ignore what others think of me.
Cutlasses now trim me into the real, they shed the human for a while, reveal the mermaid.
Cuttlefish, seahorse, stickleback heart is what really lives in this plus sized chest of mine.
I had tried many earthly ways to change myself, I drank shakes, wobbled & ran
I was saved from being buried alive when I found water’s forgiveness and began to understand-
The tilting water, the quietness of swimming that washes my body into a angelic trident.
Till then my face burnt red & the dress size went high and low, it all disappeared as I understood.
In that art deco monument that my hollowed out shape that many can’t forgive or let be.
there it’s equal.
I wear goggles at whatever size I am and this tidal of acceptance.
Did lick me into better shape than I was before, both in my head and around my waist.
In this admission, I can swim a mile and I can be allowed to love my body when it does.
When I wax wet-lyrical about my swimming adventures, other ladies often shrink back-
They are too frightened to do the same, to show their bodies and swim unbound.
Media forces them into playdough shapes in their minds and it pushes out their angst too.
When I envy their 24,36 and 38 double D frame, they can’t see how incredible they are.
I pass them the microphone for a while, now they have the loudest voice. I never ridicule.
Lend them money for their gold token, pass the catalogue to search for their own costume.
Hoping they fall into the open air pool, where there are thin, medium, overweight skimmers, diving into the splash. When they come up for air they meet the cheery eyes of the chubby mermaid.
By Keely Mills
29th May 2016