The cadence is familiar. We’re edging into summer. The days are long. The sun is shining. Another month has passed. It is time for another magazine article from Cranleigh Swimming Club. Unfortunately, for our swimming club, normality ends there.
It is fair to say that these last four months have not been beset by good news. Lives and livelihoods have been significantly affected by the coronavirus. Rarely for the better. As the country eases out of lockdown, the new normality will take some adjusting to, whatever it finally looks like.
At the swimming club, as I write, the pools where we train remain shut. Although this is frustrating, it is sensible. Everyone understands the need to avoid creating environments where the virus can thrive. The hope is that by the time you read this, the pools will be re-opened. And we are planning for that time. Everyone involved in amateur swimming is keen to get swimmers back doing what they love.
In more typical times, as we edge into July, we would be coming to the end of the swimming season. It is a time to reflect on the hard work and successes. A chance for our swimmers and coaches to look forward to a break over August. June is a month busy with galas. These include the Surrey County Summer Age Group Championships, a highlight for our club.
On top of the normal competitions, 2020 was supposed to be a celebratory year for our club. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the club’s existence. To celebrate this milestone we had planned a modest anniversary party for late June. Past members had been invited to join our existing swimmers. Our aim was to get together to celebrate the positive impact that our club has made on so many lives. We have had no choice but to cancel the event. Reflecting on the anniversary party, one of the coaches shared an old scrapbook from the club’s history with me. The scrapbook covers the period from 1976 to 1980. It is a fascinating archive of times gone by. A record from a time where life was less busy.
In the scrapbook, there are a variety of things that in modern times have all moved online. There are cuttings from newspapers of the club’s performance at various galas. Headlines such as “Tough training pays dividends” or “Kids break pool full of records” seem remarkably similar to words I have written in past issues of this magazine.
The scrapbook also contains written records of swimmers’ event times. There are reports of the club’s involvement in village life. Contributions to the carnival and the Cranleigh Show. There are minutes from the AGMs. Goodness knows what they would have made of the club’s plan to hold its first-ever virtual AGM by Zoom video call next week.
However, what brings it to life are the short snippets of commentary from the contributors. Take for example this report from the 1978 Cranleigh Show: “This year’s float was a ship…The ship had a tall mast and sail, and when we were going round the cricket pitch we did not see a low telephone wire and so we hit it. The same thing happened again in Knowle Park but this time the mast broke off. However, we had been judged before the break and were very pleased with second again.”
Another favourite is this insight into “George – The New Coach”: “George is a very fit man for his age (not surprising for an ex-boxer). As he is a bit deaf he shouts a lot at all of us, but really has a heart of gold.”
These quotes show that whilst lots has changed, many things have remained constant. In particular, the club has always been about much more than swimming. It is a community where members build friendships and memories around a shared interest. Nothing has highlighted this more to me than seeing the way my daughter has dealt with the current situation. Together with her squad-mates, and helped by coaches, they have come up with a way to train together. Using paddling pools, bungee cords, wetsuits and stopwatches they are managing to swim. And using video call technology they are managing to do it as a group.
These are indeed strange times, but the will to succeed drives innovative solutions and brings hope. Let’s hope that by the time I write next, things are a little bit better and we are edging back to the best parts of life as we knew it.