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I may be swimming against the tide, but kids today don't know how easy they have it

By Kerry McLean

I love a bargain. I'm a great one for end of season sales, picking up pieces for the house or clothes and toys the children will need over the coming year at a knockdown price. Last autumn, as all the summer bits and bobs were going on offer in the shops, I had a moment of fantastic forward thinking and picked up a couple of small plastic paddling pools for the kids.

Why a couple? Well, my lot seem to have toenails forged from steel, and we've yet to make it through a week of sunshine without them bursting the plastic with their antics.

This week, during a particularly sunny spell and while under the influence of Wham!'s Club Tropicana blasting out of the radio, I decided it was time to break out one of the pools.

The first problem was finding where I'd stored them away. I drive myself bananas in this way all the time, buying things in advance and then putting them "somewhere safe" - somewhere where even Sherlock Holmes himself would have problems tracking down.

It's only when I don't need things that I uncover them again - drawers full of Valentine's cards, Easter eggs hidden at the bottom of wardrobes and, one year, all the Christmas presents I had bought in the January sales in a big box in the attic, weeks after I had given up hope of finding them and had panic-bought everything all over again. Talk about an expensive Christmas.

I finally found the paddling pool in the cupboard under the stairs , then set about inflating the thing. I have one of those brilliant electric blower-uppers (I'm sure that's the technical term), but it's another inanimate object that seems to play hide and seek with me, just when I need it most. So, I resorted to my own two inbuilt bellows and huffed and puffed as hard as I could into the little nozzle.

By the time I'd finished, I was red in the face and feeling more than a little dizzy, but it seemed well worth it when, filled with water, the kids and their wee pals plunged in, screaming with joy... only to emerge minutes later, claiming they were too cold, it was full of grass and they couldn't use it anymore. You've no idea how hard I had to bite my lip.

We were a much hardier bunch when I was a kid in the Seventies and Eighties. We'd have sat in that pool until our teeth chattered and our lips turned purple without complaining, but then we had been well trained in endurance by trips to the seaside, swimming in the North Atlantic when the temperature was barely in double figures. Why? Because it was July, it was summer, and that's what you did, no matter what the thermometer said.

There were no wetsuits to keep us warm either. Instead my sister and I had matching swimsuits our mum had bought for us. They were made out of a strange towelling fabric, inordinately itchy to wear and, as they got wet, they would stretch out of shape, with the crotch eventually hanging attractively somewhere near your kneecaps.

We'd spend hours in the water, hauled out only when we looked near to developing full-blown hypothermia, and given a bracing rub-down with a towel that had been washed so many times it was as thick as a piece of paper.

Then it was into the back of the car for a picnic as my sister and I would take it in turns to cuddle our dog, Boris, attempting to absorb some of his heat.

Today's generation would be horrified by such harsh holiday conditions, but we loved every minute of it.

So, will I go through the palaver of pulling out the other pool during out next hot spell? Of course I will, because it's worth that look of pure excitement on the kids' faces, even if it is fleeting. But this time, when they've finished, I might just climb in myself, drink in hand, stick on a bit of Wham! and have my own Club Tropicana moment.

After all, 'Fun and sunshine, there's enough for everyone… '

Belfast Telegraph

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