Embarrassment was certainly an adverb that would describe my demeanour this week. Having received two wetsuits, both at a size smaller than ordered, I finally took possession of the one that was a perfect fit. In my excitement, I ran into the restroom at the office, and worked my way into the one piece of interestingly engineered fabric, and stood with my back exposed in the locked cubicle. I did have my life saver with me, and sent Samantha an SOS. Within a few moments, I heard the outer door open, and a soft, inquiring, "Hello", come from the basin area. "I can't do this up", was met with slightly less than hysterical laughter, more along the lines of hearty to frenzied, but with a willingness to help me meet my goal. Hoping that the tornado warning that had kept many at home, had been heeded by everyone else that offices in our building, I bravely exited the cubicle and allowed my daughter to take care of the zip and 'Velcro' connections. After completing the task, she exited the restroom with the parting words, "I have to get Dana! He has to see this!" Much as I had no problem with my husband viewing the suit, I realised that I would have to enter into a more public area, as he would not enter the 'Ladies room', and I waited with my head peering out, ready to retreat behind a locked door, should anyone else come around either corner!
Dana's appearance was thankfully very quick. Despite my concerns, I walked out into the corridor, and performed a twirl and a couple of ballet movements, (which may not be construed as ballet movements by the Bolshoi!) as far as I remember them from when I was in Ballet School! My husband was unaware of my being a pupil at any ballet school, and was surprised I had not mentioned this before. Standing in an open corridor, in an office building, wearing nothing but a wet suit, I had to point out that perhaps 'school' was not the optimum word to describe the little class that took place in a room above the supermarket, and that I had only attended at the insistence of my mother, who presumed it might help my severe introvertness, by mixing with other children, at the age of four, but all it did was cause me to feel more alienated from those around me. Despite listening intently to my teacher as to how to place my feet in 'first position, second position', etc, I was more perturbed by the fact that the other girls always appeared to have the most varied dishes on their school lunch menu! Every week, the teacher would say, "Who had cake and ice-cream for pudding today?", and everyone, except me, would raise their hand! I didn't want to go to ballet school with these girls; I wanted to go to regular school with these girls! We had lumpy banana custard for pudding! I partook of the forced lessons for possibly two terms, and was allowed to quit, when my mother finally realised that this would not cure my shyness! However, despite not being able to twist myself into 'fourth position', let alone even try 'fifth position'. I have always maintained that I was trained in this most graceful art! As usual, I digress!
The wet suit was a perfect fit, and I looked forward to being able to take advantage of its protection during the winter months. Not having done a great deal of research, I was not prepared for how much it would not afford protection! Saturday was dry, but slightly blustery, and I was preparing dinner for our friends, Joe and Gail. The main course menu was simple, but I had, as is my folly, set myself a hefty task for dessert and nibbles! Plans, plans and more plans were set aside, as it was obvious that I was not going to have any time away from the kitchen to sit for five minutes, let alone relax in my wet suit in the cold water! After watching 'The Great British Bake Off', (apparently from one or two years ago,) and the challenge to make three different items from puff pastry, I was inspired. Perhaps I should have taken a leaf from my mother's book, and not chosen to use my friends as guinea pigs, but that never seems to happen! The wet suit's inaugural dip would have to wait!
Sunday was rather more sunny than the previous few days, and although I had not planned to swim, Dana suggested it would probably be a good time to 'break in' the new suit, as there would probably be a lack of people around! Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed, and heaved myself into the one-piece, before selecting an old denim dress from my wardrobe as suitable camouflage to walk down to the pool. I took my booties which had also been purchased for the winter's activities, and a towel. The gate nearest to my condo was stuck fast to its frame, and try as I might, I could not get it open. This meant walking along the road, passing several windows, and using the gate on the opposite side. Keeping my capped head down, I made the journey without being seen (I think) and walked down the steps to the pool area. As predicted, there were no sunbathers, nor swimmers! I removed the outer layer and proceeded to put on the boots. "Are you going swimming?", came the question from above! My neighbour was looking over her fence, wondering if I was going to brave the cold temperatures. My reply was that I was experimenting and I stood and modeled the new attire, much to her amusement. She returned to her video call with her daughter, who resides in Spain, and I could hear the laughter as she explained, "It's Tracie. She is going swimming! She is wearing a wet suit!" In my inflated embarrassment, I could imagine the whole Iberian Peninsular bowed over with laughter!
Slipping into the cold water, I felt the chill through the suit and all the positive thoughts of swimming through the winter months suddenly rather negative. As mentioned, I had not really conducted a great deal of research into the 'wet suit' and naively assumed that it would keep me dry! Admittedly, the initial brush with ice was not as long lasting as if I had not been wearing the protective gear! I had failed to secure the boots and they appeared to take in more water than the suit. I swam for my obligatory twenty two minutes and emerged from the water feeling quite refreshed! I put my dress back on and walked around to the far gate and looked right, then left, before making my way back, quickly, to my house! "How was it?" shouted Dorothy, my neighbour, from her gate, having relieved Spain of any more frivolity. It appeared that her dog had managed to escape the confines of their rather well secured garden area, and was taking advantage of her freedom! "I was waiting by the gate for the dog, and to catch you when you came up from the pool", she continued! I gave her a twirl and said that it was not everything I had expected it to be, but it would be good for late autumn and early spring. The look on her face indicated that she could not decide whether I was a genius, completely mad, or just misguided!
Researching the wet suit was relatively easy. The first website that I encountered had a 'question and answer' section. Posing the question that I would have asked, another took the brunt of an expert, as he replied, "Of course you are going to get wet!" That was all I really needed to see, so that I knew that my suit was not a 'fake', but I did read on. The main purpose of the suit is to keep the diver warm in very cold water. It did make perfect sense. The thought of swimming in the colder temperatures was not so daunting, but the thought of getting out of the water, and having to walk home in the wind and rain was not so inviting!
I told Dana of my findings, and he was rather surprised. He, too, thought it would keep me dry!
I decided to go swimming on Monday, and Samantha came with me. She helped me secure the back of the suit, and then took photos to send to her friends! Wearing the dress appeared to make her laugh more than merely adorning the suit! The initial blast of cold again did not last for very long. The main difficulty was attempting to maintain a fluent stroke. My feet were not communicating with my legs, and splashed around above the water, while my body appeared to float due to the rubbery sections on my legs and waist. I felt as if I was working harder at trying to swim than actually exercising! Eventually, I managed to co-ordinate and fell into a rhythm that proved to be even! Samantha fell asleep in the warm sunshine! My relief at not being spotted was short lived, as when we exited, and walked around the long way, I noticed another neighbour, with her dog, talking with the chairman of our residents' association, and our on site maintenance man. I felt as if I were walking through the streets as the Emperor in Hans Christian Andersen's tale, as none but the dog appeared to notice. The dog was barking furiously, and growling at the strange site that he beheld. The humans merely looked on. "Did you have any water come in through the roof during the rain?" asked the maintenance man. I replied in the negative. "Good, good", said the chairman, averting his eyes from mine. I waited for the dog to talk, or for the young child to emerge from somewhere and shout, "What are you wearing?", but of course, it did not happen. After standing for a few seconds, I decided to put the trio out of their misery, and bid them a good day! The relief was apparent, which was rather odd, as it was me who was the one in the wet suit, and they had no reason to be embarrassed!
The sun shone on Tuesday, and I took my chances again, walking to the pool, un-spotted! The beautiful sunshine had encouraged others to take advantage, and another neighbour was by the water. "Hello", I said, as I walked past their chairs, and nonchalantly put my towel on the sunbed that was at the far end. We exchanged pleasantries, and I slipped on my booties, and then slid into the water. Swimming, once again, did not come easily. I could not get my feet to co-ordinate, and splashed furiously for the first couple of laps. My daughter was waiting at the edge upon my first turn to reprimand me, and let me know that I was making everything, and possibly everyone, very wet. My initial thought was that they were sitting by a pool, so they are in danger of getting wet! However, as the temperature was not really conducive to going for a dip, that was a little selfish on my part! I promised to do better next time! Upon completion of the exercise, I got out of the pool and apologised for any inconvenience or unpleasantness caused by my splashing like a whale, but it appeared that no harm was done, and the water had not reached the top of the chairs, despite flooding the surrounding areas!
Wednesday was perfect. The sun was shining, the weather warm, and no one was around, apart from one of the on-site maintenance men, who thinks I am a little loopy in the course of normal events, so he did not pay much attention to my peculiar attire!
Rain stopped play on Thursday and Friday, and the second best option of a walk took place. The embarrassment factor was all Samantha's as I donned my red plastic poncho and cap! I consider it a privilege, at my age, to still be able to embarrass one's child!
On Friday, the gloves arrived! I have not had a chance to use them as of yet, but the weather looks like it will hold for the ensuing week. As long a the sun shines and the overnight temperature does not drop too drastically, the water should not be too cold. The balaclava, which Dana decided would be a necessity, was also sent back, as I could not force it over my head! Yes, I did understand that it had to be reasonably tight, but I also understood that if it was going to cause whiplash every time I put it on and took it off, my injuries may prevent me from using the rest of the kit! A new hat should be arriving sometime next week!
As several of my immediate neighbours have now viewed the Englishwoman behaving in another strange way, I feel as if I have conquered all. I do not hibernate when the temperature dips below perfect, in fact, I revel in the opportunity to do something outrageous! Swimming will continue to be an enjoyable past time thanks to the new and improved costume, and I shall continue to be the source of entertainment, no doubt, for a little while longer. Each time I cause a ripple, I feel satisfied that I will never want for enough to put into ........ another story!