I have always had a thing for swim platforms. I think it’s because I grew up in England, where there aren’t any, and also because I watched the movie ‘On Golden Pond’ twice a day for the whole of 1985 when I was off school with Glandular Fever. Every other kid I knew was watching ’Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ but I was really square, if you can believe it. I had to come home from a sleepover at the age of 14 because the movie was too scary for me. I was that kid. I liked movies about loons. So, that said, this past weekend was my first lifetime experience of a real swim platform, and I could barely contain my excitement. At last, I could do backflips into the water like Jane Fonda. I knew my day would come.
It was a camping trip that brought me to my moment of Canadian destiny. I took Bill and Olive down the beach at dusk and it was completely empty. The campsite itself was jam-packed with Canada Day festivity, but everyone was busy cooking their bbq’s and drawing maple leaves on their cheeks. It was just me, the kids, the glass-smooth lake, evening golden dappliness, and the swim platform.
I thought, as I took my trousers off, that the platform itself was probably only anchored in thigh-deep water. This was my at-a-glance assessment, but I was confident. “Let’s go out and sit on it,” I said out loud to the kids, thinking what a great, fun parent I was. There was a momentary inward hesitation when I noticed that I was standing on a public beach in red spotted underwear, but I was committed – I had entered into a contract. Bill was already skipping happily into the water. I made a conscious decision not to be aware of the band of lily-white flesh above my short line that hasn’t seen sunshine since 2005. Let’s not dwell on that, I thought, forging into the absolutely baltic water.
I can’t believe that the lake water of Canada is any warmer in July than it is for those people who go swimming on New Year’s Day, like nutters. It cannot possibly be colder than what I was standing in. Within 2 seconds I had lost all feeling below the knee. Bill, meanwhile, was already climbing the ladder up onto the platform, so again, holding Olive in my arms, I bravely pushed forward, knocking the icebergs out of the way. The unfortunate fact of the matter was that in order to reach the ladder, I had to stand in waist-deep water, with my trusty underpants completely submerged. This was getting less and less Jane Fonda. I chose not to dwell on that, either.
It’s possible that Bill and Olive haven’t yet loved Norman and Ethel Thayer like I have, and so their appreciation of the swim-platform-Canadian-moment may have been less profound. I felt disgruntled that, having braved it out there in my undies, I got to sit down for about 1.75 seconds before we were off again. There was nothing golden about it, and those loons are fake. Once we got back to shore, I had the freshly interesting dilemma of whether to remove my wet undies in full view of the campsite, exposing buttocks that haven’t seen the sun since 1976; or of just walking home in the undies, carrying my dry trousers. I chose option 2. What I didn’t factor in, of course, were 2 vital things: a) the campsite was full of people I knew a little bit – Nelson faces who I’m certain knew me in the same way and b) Olive had ‘ridden’ to the beach on her tricycle. When Olive rides her tricycle, she pushes on the pedals with the strength of a day-old kitten, which means I must push her along or it’ll take a full day to get 100 metres.
It was a special kind of Canada Day parade I provided for the campsite this year. I pushed Olive on her tricycle, which is low to the ground, right through the main drag of the campsite, past 50 families eating their hotdogs. I was wearing wet, red, polka-dot underpants with my backside high up in the air. I tried to keep my head down and not make eye contact, but this only served to prolongue the journey because we travelled in zig-zags – not only does Olive not pedal, she doesn’t steer either. She’s really not much of a bike rider. On the few occasions where I had to look up to avoid running full-tilt into a tree, I’m pretty sure I noticed families stopping their chewing as I passed. It didn’t help that Bill was riding ahead of us ringing the bell on his bike, announcing the arrival of the Queen of Sheba. I could have done without that. I tried to emit pride and confidence but it was a shaky veneer. As soon as we were in the vicinity of home tent, I abandoned Olive to fend for herself, broke into a sprint past Frank and our 2 friends, and forbade them to speak of what they had seen. My Golden Pond needed more planning, and perhaps swimwear next time. They don’t tell you that in the movie.