Pools and pickled onions

Recently, as well as editing my manuscript, I’ve been writing some short fiction and memoir, and all of these pieces have one thing in common.  Water.

As a child, my Nanna taught me to swim in her crystal blue pool.  She’d stand me on the edge, count one, two, three, then I’d jump into her arms.  It wasn’t long before I learnt to paddle, then form some kind of stroke.  I was never a great swimmer, but I loved those summer days, swimming and swirling with my sisters in Nanna’s pool.

With summer now gone, I’ve been thinking of those childhood days and thought I’d share this with you.

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Not my Nanna’s pool, but you get the idea.

Pools and pickled onions

My eyes burned as I stretched my arms out in front, pulled them around and back to my sides, coming up for a quick breath, before pushing back down, deep beneath the surface, almost to the bottom, racing my sisters to the end.

Mum stood by the edge, hands on hips, head shaking.  She always did this when she got stroppy.  ‘Time to get out!’ she’d call.  ‘Come on girls.’

I knew that’s what she was saying, even though I couldn’t really hear, because it’s what she always said at lunch time.  Nanna sat back in the shade of the patio, legs crossed, a wrinkled smile teasing her tanned face.

‘Out you get!’  Mum called again.  I heard it this time, as I panted, gripping the edge of the pool.

When I finally climbed out, my finger tips and toes were blanched white and almost as wrinkled as Nanna’s.  Then, wrapped in towels, we sat in the shade scoffing sandwiches of crumbly cheese and homemade pickled onions.  The onions masking the taste of salt and chlorine clinging to the back of my throat.  Even now, I can taste the sweetness.  Nanna made them herself, a dozen or more jars every year, sweetened with golden syrup and sharpened with peppercorns, and an extra jar just for me.  I’d eat the whole thing in a day if Mum let me.

‘They’ll make you sick if you eat them all at once,’ Mum would warn.  But I didn’t care.

After sandwiches, was rest time.  A whole hour to pass or else we’d drown.  I looked at the clock, resented the hands moving too slowly, then ran through the maze of Nanna’s garden, following my sisters, searching for the best hiding spot, then the brightest camellia.  When discovered, I’d marvel at its beauty and stroke the underside of the huge glossy leaves, hoping they’d grow stronger, prettier for the love I gave them.

When at last the time was up, Mum would stand at the back door and call out, ‘Alright, you can get back in!’

And we’d race, as fast as our skinny legs could run, to the pool shed, pull on our soggy bathers and dive back into the watery bliss.

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