Duck Diving lyrics
he Ponds are very big, so that at one end people bathe and at the other end they fish. Old chaps with bald heads sit on folding stools and fish with rods and lines, and little kids squeeze through the railings and wade out into the water to fish with nets. But the water's much deeper at our end of the Ponds, and that's where we bathe. You're not allowed to bathe there unless you can swim; but I've always been able to swim. They used to say that was because fat floats - well, I don't mind. They call me Sausage.
Only, I don't dive - not from any diving-board, thank you. I have to take my glasses off to go into the water, and I can't see without them, and I'm just not going to dive, even from the lowest diving-board, and that's that, and they stopped nagging about it long ago.
Then, this summer, they were all on to me to learn duck-diving. You're swimming on the surface of the water and suddenly you up-end yourself just like a duck and dive down deep into the water, and perhaps you swim about a bit underwater, and then come up again. I daresay ducks begin doing it soon after they're born. It's different for them.
So I was learning to duck-dive - to swim down to the bottom of the Ponds, and pick up a brick they'd thrown in, and bring it up again. You practise that in case you have to rescue anyone from drowning - say, they'd sunk for the third time and gone to the bottom. Of course, they'd be bigger and heavier than a brick, but I suppose you have to begin with bricks and work up gradually to people.
The swimming-instructor said, 'Sausage, I'm going to throw the brick in.' It was a brick with a bit of old white flannel round it, to make it show up under-water. 'Sausage, I'm going to throw it in, and you go after it - go after it, Sausage, and get it before it reaches the bottom and settles in the mud, or you'll never get it.'
He'd made everyone come out of the water to give me a chance, and they were standing watching. I could see them blurred along the bank, and I could hear them talking and laughing; but there wasn't a sound in the water except me just treading water gently, waiting. And then I saw the brick go over my head as the instructor threw it and there was a splash as it went into the water ahead of me; and I thought: I can't do it - my legs won't up-end this time - they feel just flabby - they'll float, but they won't up-end - they can't up-end - it's different for ducks... But while I was thinking all that, I'd taken a deep breath, and then my head really went down and my legs went up into the air - I could feel them there, just air around them, and then there was water round them, because I was going down into the water, after all. Right down into the water; straight down...
At first my eyes were shut, although I didn't know I'd shut them. When I did realize, I forced my eyelids up against the water to see. Because, although I can't see much without my glasses, as I've said, I don't believe anyone could see much under-water in those Ponds; so I could see as much as anyone.
The water was like a thick greeny-brown lemonade, with wispy little things moving very slowly about in it - or perhaps they were just movements of the water, not things at all; l couldn't tell. The brick had a few seconds' start of me, of course, but I could still see a whitish glimmer that must be the flannel round it: it was ahead of me, fading away into the lower water as I moved after it.
The funny thing about swimming under-water is its being so still and quiet and shady down there, after all the air and sunlight and splashing and shouting just up above. I was shut right in by the quiet, greeny-brown water, just me alone with the brick ahead of me, both of us making towards the bottom.
The Ponds are deep, but I knew they weren't too deep; and, of course, I knew I'd enough air in my lungs from the breath I'd taken. I knew all that. Down we went, and the lemonade-look quite went from the water, and it became just a dark blackish-brown, and you'd wonder you could see anything at all. Especially as the bit of white flannel seemed to have come off the brick by the time it reached the bottom and I'd caught up with it. The brick looked different down there, anyway, and it had already settled right into the mud - there was only one corner left sticking up. I dug into the mud with my fingers and got hold of the thing, and then I didn't think of anything except getting up again with it into the air.
Touching the bottom like that had stirred up the mud, so that I began going up through a thick cloud of it. I let myself go up - they say fat floats, you know - but I was shooting myself upwards, too. I was in a hurry. The funny thing was, I only began to be afraid when I was going back. I suddenly thought: perhaps I've swum under-water much too far - perhaps I'll come up at the far end of the Ponds among all the fishermen and foul their lines and perhaps get a fish-hook caught in the flesh of my cheek. And all the time I was going up quite quickly, and the water was changing from brown-black to green-brown and then to bright lemonade. I could almost see the sun shining through the water, I was so near the surface. It wasn't until then that I felt really frightened: I thought I was moving much too slowly and I'd never reach the air again in time.
Never the air again...
Then suddenly I was at the surface - I'd exploded back from the water into the air. For a while I couldn't think of anything, and I couldn't do anything except let out the old breath I'd been holding and take a couple of fresh, quick ones, and tread water - and hang on to that brick.
Pond water was trickling down inside my nose and into my mouth, which I hate. But there was air all round and above, for me to breathe, to live.
And then I noticed they were shouting from the bank. They were cheering and shouting, 'Sausage! Sausage!' and the instructor was hallooing with his hands round his mouth, and bellowing to me: 'What on earth have you got there, Sausage?'
So then I turned myself properly round - I'd come up almost facing the fishermen at the other end of the Pond, but otherwise only a few feet from where I'd gone down; so that was all right. I turned round and swam to the bank and they hauled me out and gave me my glasses to have a good look at what I'd brought up from the bottom.
Because it wasn't a brick. It was just about the size and shape of one, but it was a tin - an old tin box with no paint left on it and all brown-black slime from the bottom of the Ponds. It was heavy as a brick because it was full of mud. Don't get excited, as we did: there was nothing there but mud. We strained all the mud through our fingers, but there wasn't anything else there - not even a bit of old sandwich or the remains of bait. I thought there might have been, because the tin could have belonged to one of the old chaps that have always fished at the other end of the Ponds. They often bring their dinners with them in bags or tins, and they have tins for bait, too. It could have been dropped into the water at their end of the Ponds and got moved to our end with the movement of the water. Otherwise I don't know how that tin box can have got there. Anyway, it must have been there for years and years, by the look of it. When you think, it might have stayed there for years and years longer; perhaps stayed sunk under-water for ever.
I've cleaned the tin up and I keep it on the mantelpiece at home with my coin collection in it. I had to duck-dive later for another brick, and I got it all right, without being frightened at all; but it didn't seem to matter as much as coming up with the tin. I shall keep the tin as long as I live, and I might easily live to be a hundred.