Eight weeks of COVID-19 lockdown have passed. It is becoming a pain. Oh, I understand the reasons and support Jacinda’s handling of the problem. I’ll hang in there. But hurry up and get vaccinated you guys. We have to get back to the pool. There is training to be done. Swimmers need to swim. Eyad had the thought that maybe he could go south and find a pool that’s open. But, of course, no one is allowed to do that either. Lydiard told me we should do more training in lakes and the sea. A COVID-19 lockdown was perhaps the time to see whether that works. But at the end of winter not even I think two hours every day off Takapuna Beach is going to achieve much.

And I talk from personal experience. Most of my swimming career, right up to Open Nationals and winning Wellington and Auckland Championships was spent training in the Hangaroa River, 40 kilometers inland from Wairoa. The Hangaroa River becomes the Wairoa River shortly after the Hapua, our 25-meter-wide swimming pool. It probably sounds idyllic and in the middle of summer it was. When the water was crystal clear, there was no current, there were a dozen trees to dive off and my mates made mud slides to fly off a perfect greywacke cliff into the crisp pool I would not have swapped it for any Millennium posh concrete bath.

However not every day is the middle of an East Coast summer. Weeks and weeks went by when the Hapua was flooded. The water was freezing cold and laden with blinding mud silt. The swift current constantly pushed me towards the open mouth of the Te Reinga Falls. Training for the Auckland Championships was not helped by bumping into the carcasses of sheep, cows or goats. I’ve heard some complain about recreational swimmers in their Millennium lane. They should try a dead cow as their swimming companion. At least there was no lane rage. In fact, usually there was no one at all. Occasionally local farmer, “Old Man Spenser”, would stop his tractor and consider the sanity of the area’s lone Pakeha, swimming across and back, across and back, in the middle of winter.

On balance, we have got this far through lockdown. We will stick it out. But after eight weeks we have to get back to the pool soon. So please, have your shots, and get Eyad’s boring, clean, warm and friendly Millennium pool open as soon as possible.

So, what else has happened in the last eight weeks? There is the lingering suspicion that Swimming New Zealand are up to no good in learn to swim. That is not their job. They need to realize that competitive training and learn to swim are best done and are in the domain of private enterprise. Any infringement of that principle will be vigorously opposed in these pages. The best interests of the sport depend on Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) doing its job and not invading commercial activities. Competitive training and learn to swim are none of their business. SNZ has proven it is not anywhere near as good at competitive training and learn to swim as private enterprise. Good God, SNZ wasted $26 million trying to win an Olympic medal and failed. Imagine the good that could have been done with that money if SNZ had the self-control to focus on its core business. And New Zealand would have won medals. Anyway, we will be watching.

Apart from that, I see today the North Shore Hospital clinic I used to visit three times a week has reported a case of COVID-19. That’s a bit close for comfort. I am still a patient but attend a North Shore Hospital satellite clinic. Fortunately, we have escaped infection. Time to be careful though.

What else has happened? My daughter Jane and her husband, Stephen and son, Sam, have moved from Reading to Oxford. Reading and Oxford, in England, I’m talking about. I’m already jealous of the great British pubs they have on their doorstep. There are some lovely parts of England. Oxford is one of them. Many years ago, I was sent to Oxford University to do a course in accounting. I can hear you laughing already, but it is true. I used to practice golf chips across the River Thames close to my hostel. That really was idyllic right down to the ride home with a fellow student, Roderick, in his extremely fast, 1940s, Fraser Nash. Roderick used to race the car in events like Silverstone and the 24 hour Le Mans. I think he may have even placed in his section of Le Mans. Our ride home to Windsor was proof enough of his driving talent.

Anyway, that’s where we are tonight. It’s been fun. From the Hapua to the Thames to a New Zealand lockdown. Let’s see what Jacinda has in mind for us tomorrow. Fingers crossed.      

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