Apparently it’s weird to get your first wetsuit for your forty-ninth birthday. But it’s weird good, right? Not weird as in whatever-you-do- don’t-look-her-in-the-eye kind of weird. I blame my brother. And my mum. Everything always come down to being the mother’s fault.
Despite being three years older than me, BigBro has been three inches shorter than me since I was about ten. He has olive skin, dark brown hair and a muscular shape. I burn easily, have fair hair, and muscular is definitely not an adjective anyone would ever choose to describe me. And we are as different in nature as we are in appearance. Where I am fussy, he is easy-going. Where I am willing to accommodate the needs and quirks of others (read ‘collect lame ducks and assorted hangers-on’), he loses patience and ruthlessly kills people off from his life. I am cautious where he is devil-may-care. I love entertaining and going to the theatre; he would rather be out surfing, sailing, snow skiing or motorbike riding.
Unlike me, BigBro was a severely premature and ill baby. He was often sick with croup and evil coughing nasties. So, in order to develop his physical strength and lung capacity, Mum had him learn to swim at an early age. Although a healthy large full-term infant, I suffered from an ugly skin infection on my feet that prevented going barefoot in summer and made going to the beach uncomfortable. My mother made me wear socks to swimming lessons. Hideous. Humiliating. White socks. With frills on them.
So it was that BigBro and I unconsciously split the roles between us: I am the academic one, he is the sporty one. BigBro thrives in water: I can barely swim.
Well, as I’ve said, there are some pretty sweet beaches here on The Rock. On countless glorious days I waded out thigh deep into the rolling surf to watch and worry as young Boychild and Girlchild whooped and shrieked in the white water, challenging each other to ride all the way to the sand on their Mickey-Mouse body boards, crashing and bumping and giggling all the while.
Yes, it was always me who fretted and waved, beckoning them closer to the shore, shooing them away from serious board riders, dragging them back out to an acceptable depth and reissuing the safety warnings that followed the safety warnings I’d just issued. Dr Dad was always way too busy whooping and shrieking and crashing and bumping to notice what the kids were doing.
Until one day, I could resist no more. Exhibiting all the key symptoms of if-you- can’t- beat-'em-join-'em-itis, I grabbed a hold of one of those floating Mickey boogie things and lunged out to where the water was waist deep. I know. Crazy daredevil stuff. It was bloody freezing. It was also the most I'd laughed since that time Father Christmas actually reclaimed my brother’s scooter because he’d left it out in the rain. Gold.
So, the kids gave me a wetsuit for my 49th birthday.
And yes, it really does stay warm after I pee in it.