LAST weekend was spent getting wet – yes this is a family column, so no, we did not go to an Ibiza foam party – and no again, it wasn't due to the incessant weather. It involved the whole family and it was spent at the home of the Hoe, the home of the Barbican, and the home of the nation's national treasure, and diving superstar, Tom Daley. Yes we visited Plymouth, in particular, and with Tom Daley in mind, we visited the Plymouth Life centre.
For all you football fans out there it is quite apt to be mentioning Plymouth, being as this weekend sees the big Westcountry derby take place between Exeter City and Plymouth Argyle. I will sit on the fence as far as that result is concerned, let's just say I think Plymouth have a real uphill task getting a result this weekend.
So on the Saturday before, I did a bit of scouting at the Plymouth v York game, and with my son in tow we decided before the game to take a quick look inside this mammoth building opposite Home Park.
It cost bundles of money, was as controversial as the Dome, and isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I think it is great for Plymouth and great for the South West, and I think everyone should take a look and try it out, even if you don't like getting wet.
What you may want to try out is another thing entirely. You may fancy a game of indoor bowls, a quick five-a-side, a game of badminton, you may even choose a climbing session, but as soon as the 'Boy' and I clapped eyes on the huge swimming pool we knew our destiny, we would be taking to the diving boards. We would be throwing ourselves off the top board with careless abandon for personal safety, relinquishing any style points on offer, instead choosing to 'bomb' our way to glory. I checked with one of the staff to see if we could just turn up the next day and dive, and, after getting the green light, 'Boy' and I returned home with mischievous smiles ready to break the news to our unsuspecting loved ones.
After a heady night of X-Factor, Peroni and Berocca, I was up bright and early the next morning ready to cook the pre-dive meal of eggs and bacon – what else would you want before somersaulting off a diving board? – and with the girls now informed and excited – barring my exasperated wife who had harboured optimistic visions of at least one Sunday in the last 20 years to be spent relaxing on the sofa – it was time to go though, time to wax up and master the pike and the tuck.
If I have built this up to a crescendo, a diving masterclass to be witnessed by the masses, please pull the stylus across the vinyl and relax, there were no perfect 10s in the Hargreaves clan.
Once you are up, even the 5m board, just getting to the ground again is an achievement – or should I say the bottom of the deep end. As my wife had given me the death stare when I suggested she try a dive, and my little girl Hattie had immediately weighed up the height to Hattie ratio of the diving boards, the older two and I were left to take the long walk past the swimming pools to the main arena, the place were Tom Daley is at home, where he makes it look easy, and the walk up the stairs began.
We chose to bypass the two springboards on offer and head for the first of the four 'big' diving platforms. A basic jump was the order of the day here, just to get the old muscles loosened up – for the old man anyway – and then it was up to the second highest, again a basic jump off the preferred option. This is when the trouble started, when the adrenaline starts flowing, when you remembered a time when your body could do the things your mind wanted. This was my first mistake, mistaking the thought with the action!
I looked over the edge of the 5m board and began instantly regretting my 'insistence' on showing the children my back- flip. I set off in an orderly fashion and really looked the part for the first few seconds, but half way through the dive I realised my timing was a smidgen off. I landed on my side to the chorus of 'Ooohhhhs' by the tribes of queuing teenagers, and smattering of dads – who should without doubt have known better. I rose from the water to shouts of 'Are you OK?' which indicated that the dive wasn't a straight 10. My children were now lemming-like, jumping off every and any board that they could get up the quickest. After recovering from my now famous 'side dive' I had again plucked up the courage/bravado to do the Ashton, to do the swan dive. Again I chose the 5m board, the board of choice for the diving connoisseur, and again the results were painful for onlookers and participant. I set off with great form, I felt my start and mid-section were the real deal, but the trouble really started on entrance to the water. I hadn't closed my arms to any degree worth talking about, my legs were rotating as if I were on an exercise bike, and my head was about to take the brunt of the fall. If I said my head was still hurting now, a full three days later, it may give you an indication that the swan dive is not recommended to all.
My final act of indignation was to follow in my son's footsteps and try a reverse flip, an act of stupidity which felt wrong even when saying it. Let's just say after the 'dive' I returned to the shallow pool to play with my little girl. It was really a brilliant day though, so many children and adults were jumping off boards, laughing, and no doubt gaining massive amounts of confidence along the way. I have to say diving is no easy activity.
Tom Daley is a really nice lad, I have met him a couple of times and he genuinely is a lovely young lad, but after seeing and trying out some of the boards he jumps off, and makes look totally effortless, it is a huge case of 'hats off' to you Tom, a nice lad, and also as mad as a brush to try the dives you do.
The highlight of the day was seeing my youngest firecracker Hattie pluck up the courage to jump off a springboard.
It was a sight to behold seeing her wobble to the end of the board and jump off, and it was definitely a board higher than her mum tried! Family of five, Plymouth Life Centre £13.10.
Next week I talk Christmas, I talk Buckfast Abbey, I talk food, and I talk doctors' surgeries, but before then I will leave you with some homework.
Please Google, iTunes, or podcast – technophobe here! – a man called Jimmy Higham, an emotive story, a brilliant man, and one heck of a song... Isn't she lovely.