Claude Bobbin’s lucky break came, he realised looking back, on one gruesomely chilly June Thursday in year five. His class were on a field trip to Westwitheral and as part of the ‘fun’ the whole year group were to be taught bodyboarding.
Claude’s experiences of full body immersion in water to that point had been during the weekly humiliation of a swimming class when he and Repson St Mewl -a weedy boy with an already highly developed hypochondria – were bombarded with abuse as they cowered in the shallow end while the teacher, Miss Tansy checked her makeup and bellowed at them to behave. His parents were part of a small, some might say exclusive sect of hydrophobic Zoroastrians and discouraged any unnecessary contact with water – what passed for bath-time comprised a prayer for drought and a swift scouring with a dry flannel. Claude’s parents fought the requirement for him to undertake swimming lessons with a diminishing enthusiasm and finally decided to allow it when they were promised he would never be expected to actually swim but could stand in the knee deep water for the forty minutes of the class. Only once did that agreement falter, when Claude slipped on an abandoned sheet of dinosaur knee plasters that Repson had been using as a germ shield, but everyone agreed that no harm had been done and the incident was forgotten
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