Taunton Swimming Club was a great baby sitter. Mum and Dad were always working late, teaching ballroom dancing at their dancing schools in Taunton and Bridgwater. I was sent off, rolled up towel in hand, paid my dues and learned to swim, competitively.
Galas were always the best . I loved racing but rarely won. Often I would race against
bigger boys, learning how to lose. Sometimes mum was there to cheer me on, dad was always working.
Then the day came. The race was held in Bristol and dad had to take me. I was eleven, and entered into the Somerset Age Group championships.
I can't remember swimming the heats but I made the final (6th slowest). Four lengths of the 25 yard pool and I was in lane 6. I raced my little heart out but knew it was not to be. Even in lane 6 you still get to know you are not ahead.
Then, it was the last length. Breathing to my right, (the other swimmers all to my left), I saw my friend Tony Donnan. He was trotting alongside the pool, a couple feet from my line of sight. He was yelling and waving with an urgency I had never seen. The noise was deafening, somehow I knew I had to work harder.
The one day when it mattered , the day my dad was watching. I won the biggest race of my life. No longer the fastest 11 year old in Taunton, I was the fastest in the County .
Somerset Age Group Champion.
Photo (left) shows Chambers and Howe trophies 1967........(I made the table)
Three or four years later, at Swanage, I met (below) Mervyn Sharpe (King of the Channel). He was about to swim across to Bournemouth and was getting people to guess the time it would take him. I got his autograph, but I really wanted to ask him if I could swim alongside him. I didn't quite have the nerve, so I just watched him go. I reckon I missed a life changing moment at that point. Looking back, I could have had a far earlier introduction to long distance swimming and maybe time to get across as the Worlds youngest Channel swimmer.