Going swimmingly

    Colin Beaven vor britischer Flagge
    Von Colin Beaven

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    Britain’s population is getting bigger — and not just because there are more of us. We’re also getting fatter. This is a trend that’s expected to continue as well. There are two sorts of Britons: those who are obesefettleibig, adipösobese, and those who soon will be. There are even reports that we’ve overtaken the US, if you compare the proportion of 11-year-olds classedeingestuft, klassifiziertclassed as overweight. Our children need to be more active.

    This seemed hard to believe when I recently went to a swimming gala. One of my grandsons was among the dozens of young people taking part. They all swam like fish. I was impressed, because I don’t.

    When, many years ago, I told German friends I couldn’t really swim, they were horrifiedentsetzthorrified. They looked as if I should be given different parents and taken into care.

    School did its best to teach me. We had to practise until we could pass three basic tests: swimming a widthBreitewidth of the pool, diving in and to tread waterWasser tretentreading water for a minute. It was like The Magic Flute, where Tamino and Papageno face three tests before they can call themselves men and marry the girls of their dreams.

    They go through fire and water. They also have to stay silent. That’s the test my grandsons and their friends would find hardest. They’re more like Papageno than Tamino and enjoy a chat, especially in the changing rooms, which are such a good place to compare teachers, cars and broadband speeds.

    They’d all find the water test easy, though, even the little girl who needed help to finish the six-year-olds’ butterfly at the gala. Butterfly is difficult for youngsterJugendlicheyoungsters; at one point, she was actually swimming backwards. The spectators to cheer sb.jmdn. anfeuern, jmdm. zujubelncheered her all the more.

    Learning to swim is so very important. But for Colin Beaven, whether he’s aged six or 66 (and that’s well on its way), if there’s a choice between the pool and the opera house, the opera house wins.

    A couple recently told me they’d taken their daughter to her first opera when she was six. As it happens, it was The Magic Flute, with Sir Bryn Terfel, the great WelshwalisischWelsh bass-baritone, as Papageno. At the point when he’s about to hang himself in despairVerzweiflungdespair because he’s still single, Papageno asks if one of the ladies in the audience would have him.

    “I’ll marry you,” called a kind-hearted six-year-old watching her first opera. “But you’re too young!” said Sir Bryn, who ended up with Papagena as scheduledwie geplantas scheduled.

    As it happens, the first opera I ever saw must have been... Madam Butterfly. It was a film shown at the cinema and made in the days when opera singers were not as slim as they are now. Somehow they seem to have to break the linkden Zusammenhang aufhebenbroken the link between ValkyriesWalkürenValkyries and calories.

    Maybe they all go swimming. Not only does it help control weight. It saves lives. Imagine taking the little girl who struggled at the gala to see The Flying Dutchman. She’d perhaps call out advice to Senta as she goes down in the waves: “Try doing backstrokeRückenschwimmenbackstroke! It’s a lot easier than butterfly.”

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