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  • I have been going to Sevenoaks Leisure centre all my life
    and I only realised this the other day.
    It was when I was walking through the automatic entrance doors
    and I passed a stubbly, late 30s man who's hair was wet from swimming.
    He was carrying a black, sports rucksack on his back,
    and in his hands, he was holding two tiny, brightly coloured swimming bags.
    One pink with glitter, and characterised with Barbie.
    Behind him trailed, who I presume were, the owners of the said swimming bags.
    It didn't call for a detective.
    A boy and a girl, of no more that six, with sodden, blonde hair sticking to their flushed foreheads,
    lollipop sticks poking out thier mouths,
    their eyes shining, feet stumbling.
    The man swept the swimming bags over his shoulder and, instinctively, let his arms fall down,
    turning his palms behind him,
    towards the children.
    They hopped, like spring lambs, and leapt up off the ground,
    grabbing their fathers hands.

    Every Saturday my brother and I would spend the day with my Dad.
    He was a weekend Dad, as most divorced ones are.
    He would take us to the same swimming pool that this family had surely dipped in.

    I remember being in the men's changing room.
    I remember trying not to giggle at all the private parts on show.
    I felt that clammy heat. The loud echo swirling through your ears as you entered the pool.
    We always went straight to the deep end. I never wore armbands.
    My Dad would take his copper band from his wrist and let it drop, slowly and heavily,
    to the gritty tiles at the bottom of the pool.
    "GO!" he would shout.
    "Huuurrrrp"; my brother and I lifted our heads, gulping up a big breath of air,
    and then would ferry, head first, legs wiggling like tadpoles, tornadoing towards the fallen bracelet.
    I would see it glimmer in front of my eyes and start rocketing to the surface as my brother's fingers squeezed around it.
    My fingertips would hit the tiles hard, grazing a vacant space. Too slow.
    My head would break the water's surface, noise filling my head as I looked for my Daddy.
    "I won again!" my brother would jibe. Yet, I felt safe when I heard is voice.
    We would also do treading-water.
    "GO!" He would shout.
    Watching the clock, our legs running until it hurt. Sometimes turning towards each other, eye-ing up our competitior. I would never give up. I would end up sinking further below the surface.
    I must win something once. I would always have hope. This was my time.
    "I'm winning, I'm winning" shrilled my brother.
    I could feel water in my ears, on my lip. I gradually descended. The clock was blurred as water lapped into my eyes. My legs moving through syrup.
    But still moving.
    Sturdy arms cradled me and pushed me up, up up through the water, above the water, I was flying.
    Caught in Daddy's arms and thrown up again to the sky.
    My brother instantly stopped running and shouted, "my turn my turn".

    It hurts to think of this as I walk home, in rain, again.
    The older I get, the more I lose.
    I lose to him at life's achievements, but mostly I lose him as a brother.
    We are lodgers not siblings. Soon we'll be strangers.
    We come and go in the house and barely a word is spoken when we cross paths.
    Its only when I remember what we had, that I become aware of how much we have lost.
    I don't think he realises this,
    for him, he is still the winner.
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