Masters of Reality

By David

Twenty-nine masters swimmers take part in our program. What an interesting crew they are. Two are US National Masters Swimming Champions. Swimwatch has already posted an article on Darcy; how her love of swimming began on a Greek isle in the late 1960s. Darcy won the National Open Water Championship this summer in her age group. In Seattle, Bob won the National 100 breaststroke title. His wife Bonny isn’t too bad either. She got a bronze medal in all three backstroke events at the same meet. Bob’s a retired Doctor.

In fact, the program has more than its fair share of doctors. There’s another Bob who spent twenty-five years in charge of a local emergency department. He gives the impression of quiet authority. I would imagine that’s pretty important as another gunshot victim is wheeled in. I sometimes see him wander into the pool and wonder what incredible things he must have seen.

At the other end of his career, there’s tri-athlete John. He works at the local hospital. We’ve occasionally discussed the administration of health in the US. Coming from a state health care system I’m still getting used to the idea of hospitals being profit centers. For fifty years, I’ve thought of them as cost centers that society pays for in order to care for its sick people. It seems strange to think of them as factories that turn out well people in return for a profit. What the US insurance companies rake off in the middle seems obscene. Whoever wins the next election here needs to do something about that. There is one other doctor, Allan, who’s a General Practitioner and I have to thank him for suggesting a guy of my age should take half an aspirin each day. I think it’s made quite a difference. Note from Editor: it was one of your doctor-masters swimmers who advised you to go to that checkup in 2000 that… well… prevented that blood pressure from getting any higher, wasn’t it? Thanks, Brian!

We have a lawyer. I have mentioned him in Swimwatch before. He’s really, really bright. He insists on calling me his socialist friend; a grossly unfair accusation considering that in 1979 I voted for Margaret Thatcher in the British general election. I watch the Super Bowl around at Brendan’s place each year. On that one afternoon we become NASCAR, pizza and Budweiser red necks. In case you’re wondering, the Dallas Cowboys will win this year. I asked Brendan what he thought of some of the comments posted on Swimwatch demanding we stop writing on various issues. His reply, without comment, was that we post copy of the First Amendment.

Manuel is our fastest master. He swims to keep fit now, but in his, he day swam for Bolles, the University of Florida and MSU. He comes from Suriname and was friends with Olympic 100 fly champion, Anthony Nesty. He did a 50 yard time-trial the other morning and produced a 24.50 second swim. Not too bad, I thought.

And then there’s Alan. I feel a bit of a bond with Alan. He was wounded in Italy during the Second World War. My Dad was wounded in Italy as well. In fact, my father lost an arm and an eye when his tank was blown to bits half way up the hill they call Monte Cassino. He was lucky; the rest of the crew all died. Alan is a retired spy. Or, at least, he worked for the CIA. He doesn’t say much about what he did, preferring to pass everything off as, “shifting paper from one desk to another.” He saw the world in his CIA days. I have managed to find out that he worked in France, the UK, Thailand and, I think, in the Middle East somewhere. He probably won’t read this as he tells me he prefers “real” encyclopedias to that internet thing.

His partner Mary is a really interesting person. She’s a class act, generous and kind; clearly from a background where good manners are valued and dignity and honor are taught from a young age. She also owns an interesting swimming story. In her early twenties, she was flying in a twin engine Barron from her home on the mainland to a holiday island off the coast. Mary was the only passenger. As they headed out to sea both engines spluttered and died. It turns out the pilot had forgotten to check the gas. There was none. They had no option but to ditch in the sea. Mary says the landing was very gentle. The pilot did a great job. Mind you, after not checking the gas he had a bit to make up for.

The Barron ended up half a mile from shore and slowly sinking. Mary and the pilot set off swimming. Eventually they reached the beach and walked up onto the airport runway. As chance would have, it a Cessna was waiting to take off. The pilot knew Mary and got the two survivors on board and taxied them back to the terminal. Mary says the press chased her for days wanting to hear her story. She refused to answer the door. “I got one of the maids to do it instead,” she says.

The whole masters swimming thing is entirely positive. It’s good for physical fitness and mental health and its bloody good for the coach as well. I’m very grateful for our fantastic masters team. As you can see, they’re quite a bunch.