I don’t know what it is about the Richmond swimming pool but it makes me think of you. I wrote to you about it recently with some shots in my grandson with his latest girlfriend.
And now I’m writing again, funny isn’t it, that my local swimming pool seems to have become a metaphor for everything that you and your xenophobic fellow travellers are getting so wrong.
I think Richmond is the best swimming pool that I’ve ever swum in during a lifetime as a serious swimmer and it is a metaphor because it sums up many of good things about living in Australia.
So there I was at the shallow end of the Richmond swimming pool sharing my lane with a large group of young Somalian kids, aged between about 9 and 14, who were running, jumping and skylarking in the pool. It was almost as if it was the first time they had been swimming pool.
It caught my attention because it’s rare to see large groups of kids in the pool. Well, at the times when I go there. Most of the local community to do serious swimming, either lessons for the kids or laps for the grown-ups. So it is rare to see kids coming simply for the pleasure of jumping in and out of the pool.
Then I remembered that when I was a kid, I would go to the Olympic pool and Newmarket in Auckland and spent my entire time jumping into the pool, climbing out jumping in again. Just like these kids were doing.
The other thing that was immediately noticeable about these kids, who were all very dark brown, is that when they get wet, they shine, in a way that white kids don’t. So what we had was this huge bundle of luminescent, exuberant energy careening around the pool.
And I thought to myself, “If you had come from war-torn Somalia as a child, a trip to the local swimming pool would be a joyous occasion.”
The other thing that struck me about this group of kids was there didn’t seem to be any parents around. And then I realised why. The parents knew her children would be safe swimming pool.
You see, Pauline, there is so much we take for granted if we spend all our life physically, politically or intellectually in a fish and chip shop in Ipswich.
The other thing about this exuberant group was that they took up quite a lot of space and I thought to myself “If more of them come, they will fill the whole swimming pool and then I might have to come at a different time.”
So there I was looking at this group of refugee children through the lens of my privileged slightly upper-middle-class life.
It’s a life where I have woken up every morning of my life not even thinking about the fact that I will have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. Where the countries I have lived have never experienced civil war or any violent insurrection.
Where my children and grandchildren have the benefit of possibly the best health and education systems in the world. Where my immediate family, extending to my nephews and nieces have 3 PhDs, 9 Masters degrees and 10 Bachelors degrees.
Where my grandson, Winton, thinks that the National Gallery of Victoria, the Melbourne Museum and the Melbourne Zoo are simply an extension of his own backyard.
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.
Well, no you probably don’t.
The point is that we can all probably afford to move over and make room for someone else at the shallow end of the Richmond swimming pool.