Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Hippo And Me In Water Should Be

I'm built like a big Hippo but without her grace
I've a similar figure but a very different face.
The Hippo swims happily all day in the nude
But for me to do that would be rather rude
It'd make me all wrinkly and I'd look like a prune
It'd  get real chilly especially if it was  June.
The Limpopo and Zambezi are the Hippo's home
For me its got to be the Elizabeth Aquadome
Where the water is  clear and free of crocs.
They play good fast music and it really rocks
When the aqua-aerobics ladies strut their stuff
Its enough to make me feel I've had enough.
I don't have the energy to  nimbly leap and  dash
I mostly  just walk and float and splash
Unlike the Hippo I keep my head held  high
Which keeps my hair and spectacles nice and dry.
On land the Hippo's clumsy and  rather large
But in the river she's like a fast moving barge.
Along the lakes and rivers all day she'll roam
Making the most of her wet and watery home.
Using only the water to support her great weight
She collects tasty weeds for her dinner plate
As she munches quietly throughout the day
She takes some time out for a little fun and play.
So now like the Hippo I'll endeavour to be
At home when swimming in the pool or the sea,
I just won't worry about my rather large size
And think of the Hippo's grace when I exercise.  

I’ve just staggered in the door after visiting the swimming centre where, for about ¾ of an hour,  I did my best impersonation of a hippopotamus lurking in the Limpopo River.  I wonder where the word hippopotamus comes from – I am sure some brilliant student of latin out there will know the answer, but I have my own theory – someone like me with large hips and an ever increasing pot belly came to the river and saw an animal with similar characteristics to herself , whereupon she said it was “hippy with a pot like me”,  which over time was changed to hippypotame, then to hippopotami.  
Anyway, without my best friend Rosemary for company today at the Elizabeth Aquadome, I stayed wallowing  insecurely down the shallow end and tried to ignore the fit aqua-aerobics class fanatics dashing in and out the water like a school of acrobatic dolphins.  In a futile attempt to regain my former youth (that’s the period in my life when I was slender and did karate seven days a week)  I attempted to kick and punch the water with a degree of enthusiasm, until I was overtaken by the need for oxygen (must remember to breathe when I exercise).   Once upon a time (a very, very, long time) before menopause and 35 extra kilos set in,  I was fit and skinny and of tolerable appearance.   Now I desperately squeeze into a pair of bathers way too small for me and try not to think about how much my thighs  resemble a starving cannibal’s favourite fantasy (one thigh alone could keep a whole village going for at least a week (or as one of my friends put it - all that meat and no potatoes)). 
Before entering the safety of the water I had to run the gauntlet of  tanned, newly waxed, manicured,  pedicured, slender young things parading about in their barely there designer swimwear.  They were obviously the swimming pool equivalent of the pedometered, pink lycra clad gym dwellers.   Checking I had no koala ears and keeping my armpits carefully hidden I tried to slink unobtrusively around the outer edges of the pool, all the while frantically searching for the comfort of spotting someone else fatter than me.
I eventually  reached the sloping walkway which led gradually into the pool.  This walkway allows one to walk into the water gradually and gracefully and  was something I would have once scorned to use.  When you are young,  you run to the water and take a flying leap and dive bomb into the pool or you race down the ladder with the agility of  a spider monkey. It came as an unwelcome shock to to me to realize that I hadn’t a snowflake's chance in hell of negotiating the ladder and  as I ambled slowly down the ramp on my bone on bone knees I offered a silent blessing to the thoughtful designer who had provided such a feature.
When it comes to the water, I have always been a bit of a wus about getting into it (but once in I hate coming out).   The pool was supposed to be heated, but obviously my definition of “heated” and that of the person responsible for the theremostat appeared to be somewhat different.  The ramp, whilst great for the knees, was an excellent way to prolong the agony of getting wet.  The water inched its way up my body while I winced “oooo, aaaaa, ooo aaa, cold, ooooo aa....aa....aa...aa.....AA...AAA” (the dolphins looked on and smirked and my fellow hippos smiled sympathetically).   Finally with the water lapping around my ribs I got brave enough and ducked under far enough to cover my shoulders, which is as far as I will go.  I know I look a bit odd in the pool wearing my spectacles, but its better than bumping into everyone and everything. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having a personal conversation with someone you have mistaken for your friend or realizing you are walking off with someone else’s bag or towel (oops, sorry …. I thought you were….  blind as a bat without my specs…..).
Finally, I was in the water and standing next to a lady who was huddling under a patch of sunlight shining through the window.  We smiled and she asked how I was, so being polite I returned the enquiry.  It was at this point that I discovered how  amazingly chilly you can become in not very warm pool when you are standing still for an eternity listening to someone’s medical life story.  I work in a health shop, so I am used to listening to interesting medical histories – I just hadn’t expected to be doing it in cold water on my day off (ho hum….) nor had I realized a person could have so many diseases all at once and still be drawing breath (lots and lots of breath!).  Eventually I extricated myself and made yet another attempt to recapture my long lost youth by doing a few karate punches into water  for about 30 seconds (stupid shoulder – mutter, mutter) after which I decided to just sedately walk up and down the pool for a bit.    This kept me amused for about another 2 minutes and then I decided to lift up my feet and attempt to swim like the dolphins. 
It was at this point that I discovered a couple of other unwelcome facts about swimming.  If you want to swim properly like the aqua-aerobic dolphin people you have to put your face under the water.  This has a few drawbacks such as water in the ears, water in the nose,  water in the mouth,  water in the lungs and death by drowning.  You also have to open your eyes, therefore if you are going to have to submerge your face it is not good to be wearing your spectacles because they  can fall off or get water on them and then you can’t see again (which defeats the purpose of wearing them in the first place, drat it). 
The other interesting fact I discovered was the relationship between fat and water.  When I was younger and thinner, swimming was difficult and I sank like a stone.  Now that my knees, arthritis and menopause have conspired together to give me a body ratio of 5 parts fat to 1 part muscle and bone, I am suddenly very buoyant – I float.  Yaaaaay I float – you couldn’t sink me if you tried – I just bob around like a cork.  At last it all makes sense - now I understand why the hippopotami have chosen to be fat!  Ha haaaaa – what do you think of that you skinny dolphin people,  “heh heh – I’d like to see you do that” I thought, as I confidently  struck out into the water ……..
It was at this point, just before my head was forced down under the water, that I realized that the area of my anatomy which harboured the most fat  was the area which would rise to the top and have the most buoyancy.   As my ample bottom rose ever higher above the water my face and feet were forced downwards,  it was only the frantic movement of my arms which prevented me from submerging.  Thus it was that I discovered the drawback of having a pear shaped figure – if only I’d had boobs big enough to match my bottom I could have kept  evenly afloat. 
I wallowed around for about half an hour trying to move the arthritic joints as per my doctor’s instructions (“you have to move the joint Heather, move, move, move the joint, move, move….. ad infinitum……”).  He has been telling me this for a while now but it wasn’t until after our last conversation,  which touched on one of my phobias, that I decided to get into the water at last (the  conversation in which he mentioned “needles into the knees to draw out the fluid”).  So, I lifted my knees and bounced up and down gracefully,  light as a feather in the water  just like something out of  Walt Disney’s “Fantasia”.    The one good thing about exercising in water is that you can have hot flushes and sweat like crazy and no-one notices!
It was while I was still experimenting with controlling the buoyancy of my bottom to the point  that I could swim and not drown,  that the music started up.  The dolphin people  formed themselves into a pack of synchronised movement and  I decided that in the interest of preserving some of my ever more fragile self esteem,  that I didn’t want to see a brilliant aqua-aerobics performance.  I fled the pool for the sanctuary of the change rooms. 
“Arctic “would be the word best used to describe the temperature within the change rooms.  For some reason the change rooms had air conditioning which was forcing air straight from the south pole into every nook and cranny – there was no escape – every part of that bleak, cheerless Siberian landscape was sub zero. Teeth chattering as I searched in vain for warmth, I noticed a sign about vandalism  not being tolerated.  I decided it would have had to be a  very tough vandal  indeed, who would be willing to brave the cold for long enough to get up to any sort of mischief.  Although it was officially summer,  the temperature was only 16 degrees outside and it was perfectly obvious to me that the person responsible for the temperature both in the pool and the change rooms was certainly demented (or very, very menopausal).  
The best aerobic workout I had for the day was when I speedily stripped off my bathers, hastily towelled myself half dry, quickly threw on some clothes and puffing and panting bolted for the door and  warmth.  Normally I would have put on my knickers, but I was so cold I just pulled on my tracky pants and left it at that, trying not to think about how embarrassed I would be if I had an accident.  When we were children we were always warned to have clean underwear every day and to never to go out with dirty knickers in case you had an accident.  I think the same principle applies to having no knickers, although I do  wonder if I was lying bleeding all over the ground whether I would really be worried about my lack of underwear (I'd be more concerned about how many needles they might stick into me).   I dashed across the carpark heading for  the warmth which I knew waited for me inside my  car (thank God for the sun, glass windows and trapped infra red radiation).   
When I arrived home I raced inside heading for the bathroom to wash off the chlorine, which is kind of silly really as I live in Adelaide (in summer you can smell the chlorine in the water when you turn on the taps).   But, oh the bliss of standing under the warm shower in my own   tinnitus free bathroom, the joy of  warmth, soft towels, my hair dryer and privacy.
Why can’t pool change rooms have doors or curtains – even though we are all the same sex what on earth makes architects think we all want to be herded together so we can see each others naughty bits….men may have to suffer from penis envy but I really don’t need to reminded that some women have boobs which manage to defy the relentless pull of gravity and catching sight of sensitive parts of someone’s anatomy pierced with bits of metal just makes me want to wince and feel faint.  
I know that exercise  is supposed to be good for me but as I now sit here too exhausted to do anything more than type, I am wondering if that is true.  The knees, ankles, hips, neck, back and shoulders are  all clamouring to remind me of their existence (as if I needed any reminding)  and I think I am fighting off a cold.  And I’m hungry!  Hungry, hungry, hungry!  I want to swim to help my knees but also to lose weight.  How can I lose weight if every time I go swimming I become ravenous immediately after!  On a day when I don’t swim I might not have lunch at all, or have a really late one at about 3.30pm, but on the days I go swimming I get home and collide with the furniture in my unseemly haste to get to the fridge  (even the chooks keep well away from me – they see the starved look in my eyes (and thank their lucky stars they are not  horses)). 
Well, today was my third time at the pool and now I have to psych myself up for my next visit.  I am praying it will get easier but darned if I know how I am going to do it when winter comes around (will I break a hip slipping on the ice on the change room floor……will they let me wear thermal underwear under my bathers……does chlorine kill the influenza virus …….if I have 2 lungs can I really get triple pneumonia……. ?)
Oh well, time to do some work.  Perhaps coffee and some food though first …..
Heather (the water nymph)

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