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Slipping into a faster lane at the pool is a rush that never gets old

Some readers may remember that when I started writing this column, one of my first tasks was to learn how to swim. I never learned as a child, because even though my mother was what the aunties would call “very modern” – and had no problem wearing a swimsuit or her daughters doing the same – she could only paddle. Add to that no money for holidays, lessons or regular leisure centre visits, and the conditions for swimming were not there.

So off I went, pushing 30, to join an adult swimming class at a nearby primary school. It was taught by a blond sixth former with a ponytail as high as her energy; her catchphrase for how our strokes should be was “long and strong”. I still hear her during my last exhausted laps.

It’s been four years. Four years of getting overtaken by 10-year-olds in the slow lane, or by graceful older women elegantly gliding, their heads held high, while I punch water in my goggles. But I have also swum in the sea, even when I am not sure if my feet can reach the bottom. And at the pool, I often find myself transferring up a lane.

Let me tell you: slipping under the floating lane divider to the middle, like a VIP hopping past the nightclub’s red velvet rope, is a rush that never gets old. I enjoy the moment so hard and so fully that it’s impossible to imagine anything better. Graduating to the fast lane after one year? Doing a triathlon after two? Sounds great, but have you tried inching along at a snail’s pace and reaching that first leaf? It cannot be beaten.

Slow progress is truly underrated. In our fast-paced world of same-day delivery and overnight fame, I’d do well to remember the wise words of someone I once knew: that the best endeavours are not about speed but simply about keeping it going, long and strong.