The task for next week’s writing group is to write something in a different genre (which has given me problems thinking about and deciding on!) and something which includes ‘rope’. I’m not sure if what I’ve written is a different genre, however it’s written in the present tense, which is something which annoys me in books I read, but which I’ve not tried myself. This is my attempt:
She says to me, well why don’t you apply to university, and I reply, I’m not clever enough, and if I am I don’t want to go.
That’s supposed to be the end of it as far I’m concerned, but it isn’t and in the end she has me filling in the forms, endless reams of them and asking things I don’t know how to answer. I know what the questions mean, but what shall I answer? What are your favourite subjects, she asks, swimming and reading, and as far as I know, no university does swimming and reading.
I put down swimming and reading anyway, which she translates as teaching English and PE and says why don’t I go to teacher training college. I don’t want to be a teacher, but she insists. I like Mrs Johnson, she’s lovely, and it’s nice that she’s so interested in me, and wants me to continue my education and have a career, but I do not want to be a teacher, it’s the last thing I want to do.
Being born and brought up in Cambridge makes it an automatic thing to want to go to uni if you’re clever enough, but I don’t think I am.
I’m feeling doomy as I collect my bike from the cycle sheds and set off up Long Road. I get to the traffic lights and suddenly, instead of heading for home along the backs of the colleges, I turn left and head out of town towards Grantchester.
I’ll go for a walk by the river. I don’t know what to do, I know I don’t want to be a teacher, but what else? Being a swimming coach isn’t a paid job.
As usual being near, not even on or in the river, the Granta takes my mind away from worrying. No point in thinking about what to do when I leave school. I duck beneath the willows, breathing in the sweet, slightly rotten smell of the water, hearing without listening to the sounds of the river, the pops and bubbles, the ducks and moorhens, the flap of a swans’ wings, the plop of a water rat dropping into the stream.
I’ve gone beyond the last cottages of the village, followed the path through the meadow, no cows today, and back onto the path beside the water. I am heading towards Byron’s Pool and wish I had my costume with me, wondering if maybe, if there’s no-one about, I might strip off and dive in – as naked as Byron himself when he swam here.
Now the willows here are virtually in the water, and then I see the rope, the swing rope. I’d forgotten it was here, who knows who tied it, who knows how many people have jumped up, grabbed it, swung out over the river, maybe hands slipping, accidentally on purpose and launching themselves into the water. I feel tempted to do just that, but walk on.
What to do, what to do, I have to do something, I will get a job, but what job, what could I bear to do? Work in Heffers? The hours I have already spent in that book shop, imagine working there and being paid to be there! I stop and watch a family of swans, thinking that maybe working in Heffers would be a possibility. Maybe I should write to the manager…
My thoughts are interrupted by a shout, and I wonder whether to walk on or turn back. I become aware that there are more shouts and not of anyone mucking about, but yelling out more desperately – someone is shouting help help!
I run back, back towards the willows and there are two girls hugging each other and shrieking and looking at the river. At first all I see are the ripples as if one of the swans has run across the water flapping its wings to take off. But it’s not a swan, it’s a hand rising, a strand of bright waterweed round its wrist, and a head, mouth open to gargle a scream.
I’ve dived into water a million times, flung myself off the edge of a pool, stretched out across a chlorine surface, but now I throw my arms forwards and launch and fly and swoop and slide into my river.
There’s a thrashing struggling body which fights me but I’m stronger and grasp it, despite the skirt of my uniform winding about my legs and my blouse clinging to me. I break the surface and the body is hacking and coughing and I turn on my back, dragging her over, and begin to tow her to safety, and above me the sky is bisected by the swinging rope.
You saved her life!! They shriek as they hug their prostrate coughing friend. I leave them, squelch my way back to my bike, my mind is elsewhere.
I cycle soggily home, the image of the swinging rope accompanying me. Should I grab it and swing out? Even if I fall I can swim.
I will talk to Mrs Johnson again tomorrow.