There is something tremendously nostalgic about swimming.
Every summer, I remember my father took me and my little brother Jonathan to the beach; Shek O beach, that was. It was fairly close to where we lived. I remember we only liked having a bit of a dip in the water to cool down, making sand castles but never really keen on swimming. Dad liked swimming, he was very good at it.
He would put on these 80's style swimming trunks which he would never throw away. I seemed to recall that they were lilac with thin white strips, the fabric colour was a little bit blenched due to wear. The white drawstrings was slightly loosen, because it was slightly tight for him as he put on some weight.
He would normally leave two of us playing with the wet sand, said that he was going to swim as far afield to the floating platform, which was usually his finishing spot. So then off he went, I would see his head with black hair going in and out of the water, each time I saw him, his silhouette became smaller and smaller. I often wondered how can someone have the guts and stamina to swim for such a great distance without stopping or aid in the sea. It was rather daunting until I realised that he was safely landed in the floating platform. A very small shadow waved at us from far. It was my father.
I remembered I hate going through all the trouble to get changed at the end of the swim. Also because my dad would get changed with my brother in the gent's changing room. Leaving myself to get change in the ladies'. The floor was always slightly damp marked with dirty shoe footprints. Summer in Hong Kong was so humid so it wouldn't help. The cleaning lady in the changing room was often around and you felt like being watched. But I guess I was quite in awe with different types of women, in all different ages, body shapes, walking in and out, getting changed. Despite it was a little bit awkward and one didn't always know where one's eye contact should place, I supposed it was a moment of understanding female body in a sense how important to define myself as a subject and the other. (Certainly in later the years I saw how my physique changes and I will write more later.)
To begin with, I was really bad at swimming and scared of water. My mum tried to teach me to swim when I was little. Frankly, I don't think any parent/parents should teach their children to swim. It is a devil's work - and I hated every minute of it. She sort of gave up on us, and put me and Jonathan to swimming lessons when I was in primary school during summer holiday. So my mum would drop us off to the pool with other kids and we would learn in the pool together.
I followed all the kids to do warm-up exercise before the swim. I remembered I learnt the moves step by step and how I overcame the claustrophobic feeling of being underwater. The strokes and visualise the correct form and movement. I learnt breaststroke particularly well, whilst my brother had already excelled so much and moved to the advanced group swimming and mastered in four styles.
Sometimes, when my mother was at work. My grandmother (mum's mum) would pick us up at the end of the lesson. I always liked grandma picking us up, because she was a very generous lady and would normally spoiled us and took us to McDonald's (It was a big thing when we were little), followed by arcade game or playground after. She always gave us $5 or $10 and tell us to buy some sweets, ice-creams or treats.
Remembering the PVC tote bag with a monogram printed of Japanese cartoon character “Kogepan” (literally translated as 'Burnt Bread Man', inside the tote there were wet towels and swimming gears, sometimes it worried me because I was carrying a slightly damp bag with the scent of chlorine. I felt it often smelt a bit.
The Asian aesthetic for girls are: The more pale one's skin is, the prettier one is. I hated swimming because I was always brown because I spent all summers in the pool, my hair was always lighter than ink black because my hair was often bleached by chlorine. The school prefects always caught me and thought I dyed my hair light brown but it was only the 'work' of chemical water.
But in hindsight I was ever so lucky to be able to learn how to swim. Most importantly, simply being able to get over the fear of water. What I found very effective from my experience is that starting by taking a deep breathe, submerge yourself in the water, blow all of your bubbles out from your nose and mouth, then come back out of the water. Do it ten times until you are not scared.
I guess this might also apply to life, all you have to do is take a leap of faith and submerge yourself in the foreign realm of 'deep blue liquid', adjust yourself to a slightly alienated form of breathing as oppose to on the ground, reduced gravity and velocity of movement. It is an unknown yet familiar place and in aid to this is pace of breathing and balance. It took me a long time to realise that.
Swimming is one of the most inspiring activities that I discover in my twenties. The revisit of swimming pool is ever so reminiscing. Although English is not my first language, I wish to endeavour telling you all about swimming: From the manifestation of swimming, the poetry of the gesture, the swimmer fashion attire to the tongue-in-cheek 'five-stars-grading-system' review of all the swimming pool that I have taken an interest in and visit.
I apologise for not being 'word-perfect' in English. Yet here I am, taking a leap of faith, 'slowdiving' to the deep blue unknown. With uncertainty, with danger, with defeat. (One of my favourite phrases that I often borrowed from Borges.)
The black and white pictures were taken by a Pentax ME Super camera with Ilford 35mm film. The pictures captured my father and dog 'Ah Wing' in the middle of the open sea, swimming.
My dog hated swimming too. The only purpose she swam was because my father would carry her to the middle of the water. And she puddled ever so hard to swim back to me on shore, it was a summer that I returned back home from the UK, I thought the imagery was so sweet, so I pressed the shutter.
At that time, I was doing photography in Goldsmiths. I developed the film and printed them in the dark room. The light transfer image to the photographic paper. Another form of slow yet precise movement, a ritual of submerging the photographic paper from the developer, stop bath to fixer chemical.
In the dim and red dark room. Here we are:
My father and I once was so close. Now I don't think I speak to him as much as I wanted to since I moved to England.
Ah Wing used to be a lively and playful childhood friend. Now she's a seventeen-year-old dog. Last time I was home I saw that she was so frail. I am not sure if it was the last time I saw her.
Studying the past through photographs, a representation of the rejoice and bliss from the feeling when the first contact when the skin soaks into the water. It's all a blessing that I could still remember it, or at least a fragment of it.