Notes on Swimming Home by Silvia Mercuriali

By Rebecca Lockwood

Rebecca Lockwood took a deep dive in Lancaster Arts’ online show for Silvia Mercuriali’s Swimming Home.

Lancaster Arts have opened up their season on Water with Silvia Mercuriali’s Swimming Home, a unique online aural show featuring you as the swimmer. Following interviews with swimmers, swimming coaches and water lovers from all over the UK, Swimming Home mixes the ordinary and  fictional worlds to  embellish, distort and merge your perception of time & space, all from the safety of your own bathtub.

Throughout lockdown three, I found that I developed a new yearning to get back to the swimming pool. I don’t mean yearning lightly by the way, the subject of swimming became the focus of most of my writing and I found that I had this new urge to be submerged somewhere beneath water every day.

So naturally, when I saw Mercuriali’s online show I grabbed myself a ticket.

Photo by Susanne Dietz

Revisiting my first swimming pool

I’m not going to fool anyone by saying I didn’t feel at all cynical about reimaging my small, student bathtub as a swimming pool. I did. As the speaker instructed me to look at myself in the mirror, goggles sticking to my skin like parcel tape, I felt a little odd. I thought about my flatmate next door who had just returned from a big day in the library, and thought one day I’m going to be asked ‘have you ever worn your swimming costume in the bath?’ and I will get to reply, yes! Yes I have! Oh my sweet my undergrad days!

But something changed after I was asked to recall the first swimming pool I could remember being in. The task seemed to take me out of my own head. Immediately I thought about the blue and yellow lines on the bed of the pool of my hometown swimming baths, the baths where I went for my weekly lessons and collected all my badges. But then I got a feeling of a pool before, somewhere darker, somewhere slightly underfunded perhaps. Maybe my brain placed me front crawling in the pool where Sherlock and Moriarty have their first in-person stand-off in the BBC series. But maybe, more likely, I’m remembering the feeling of being in the swimming baths in Northampton. A pool I would not have revisited physically or mentally, since age four.

It was remarkable to have someone unlock such a feeling for me. More remarkable though that that someone be through my own earphones, in my own bathroom.

Photo by Susanne Dietz

The Shallow End

I had ran my bath water *swimming pool water* ten minutes or so before the show started. I kept fighting the little voice in my head warning me that the warm water would go cold unless I got in it immediately. Following and focusing on the instructions given by the speaker, I was eventually allowed to lay my feet on the surface of the water and focus then on the difference between air and water.

When finally instructed to dunk my feet in, I was reintroduced to a feeling I haven’t felt in a long time. The Shallow End. The small pool I swam in as a child; I could feel it so vividly, stepping slowly down the steps with my goggles on, floats skimming towards me like paper boats, murmurs about verrucas, my parents on the viewing seats above watching me learn how to doggy paddle. I haven’t been in the shallow end in years, the closest I get now is when I stop for water at the shallow end of the big (adults) pool, and now, in my lukewarm bathwater I’m there again, water collecting around my ankles.

Are you ready to dive in? Swimming Home by Silvia Mercuriali is available for participation with Lancaster Arts from April 26th 2021 – May 6th 2021. Tickets cost £10.

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