Paul Fairclough recently got in touch with RLSS UK to tell his story about his involvement with lifesaving and how his journey gave him the inspiration to write poetry.

Early memories

“My earliest memory of swimming was a shallow outdoor pool in the early 70’s, which was attached to our nursery in Hertfordshire. The pool seemed pretty deep at the time, but I suppose it would come up to my ankles now. Our class would have fun splashing around on sunny days in warm sunshine supervised by the teachers.

Roll forward a few years into junior school age, still not able to swim, I am at the local swimming pool with my older brother and sisters and their friends. They have obviously got bored of looking after me and gone off to the deep end and the diving boards. I thought, not to worry, what I’ll do is shimmy my way round the edge of the pool to the deep end where they were now playing, which was fine, until I met another little boy coming in the opposite direction.

I thought to myself I’ll just swim around him, it’s only a short distance. I then let go of the side and promptly sank in a hail of splashes. It was a strange feeling thinking I was going to die. I am sure what little life I had led was quickly flashing before my eyes. I felt a strange calm as I was almost accepting my fate, when I felt a tight grip on my right wrist as I was hoisted out of the pool by a lifeguard who was obviously watching what I was up to. I cried, he gave me a ticking off and kicked me out of the pool. I never did tell my brother or sisters but never went to the pool with them again.

We had swimming lesson in junior school, going to that same pool where I learnt to swim.

In my early twenties, I was on holiday with my now wife and her friends and family in Devon. One of the people we were with took a small boat out, I can’t remember how far out it was, but I thought I could swim out to it. After a short while I thought ‘nah it’s too far’ and turned round to swim back. I was swimming and not going anywhere, in fact I was going backwards slowly but surely. Slight panic set in and I swam as hard as I could eventually getting back to land."

Lifeguard training

"2013, I started work at a special educational needs (SEN) school for moderate learning difficulties and complex needs as an afterschool and holiday club co-ordinator. To cut a long story short I heard there was a local outdoor pool the school could take children to, if they supplied their own lifeguard, so that was it I signed up for the NPLQ training. The only problem was I hadn’t swum for nearly 13 years and was completely swim unfit. 

I had about a month before the course started, so spoke with the pool offering the training and started to go swimming as often as I could to build stamina which was difficult at first. My now wife would come with me and berate me saying that I would never be a lifeguard which just spurred me on to achieve the qualification, which I did!

After all that though, it turns out the information we were given about the pool was incorrect so I couldn’t take the school children there anyway.

The qualification was not wasted though as I worked part-time at the pool as a lifeguard and operations assistant for just over a year and only left because of the birth of our first child and spending more time at home."

Present day

"Over 10 years later, two more children, different careers, covid, and struggles with mental health, I found myself taking swimming lessons again as an adult, aged 52, to help get me swim fit again. Although the lessons have stopped, I take my children swimming regularly and always encourage them to take lessons offered by their school and externally when they are ready, right now they just want to splash about. 

I recently heard on the radio about a children’s writing competition and thought about stuff I might write about if I were that way inclined. One of the judges being interviewed gave this piece of advice to the children entering the competition about how to get started... “just start writing” he said, so I did.”

Paul created the poem, The Lifeguard Brick, which Paul says is about diversity, inclusion, and participation. The poem is also about taking yourself out of your comfort zone and being excited to try something new, and most of all, it’s about believing in yourself and never giving up on your dreams.

Read Paul's poem

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