A steel calypso band plays hark the herald angels sing as we disembark the ship…. A banner shouts its welcome to the Caribbean
. island of St Maarten
As the sun sinks its teeth into skin we head for the golden sands. Shaded eyes watch curiously as I wobble my way to the waters edge. I will only paddle I tell Mr H.
The sea has another plan. The waters edge approaches. Unable to step back quickly the waves claim my feet. As the tide heads backwards I grab at fresh air. My stick sinks into wet sand. In slow motion I join the sea.
The warm salty water teases, the strong current plays as it washes me forwards… shuffle backwards… wash me forwards… shuffle backwards…. A fellow traveller offers a hand and encourages me in.
I don’t know if I can swim now.
I'm a strong swimmer, you'll be safe; my wife has a bad leg too.
I edge my bum to the ledge in the sea and drop over. My lips tremble; my new friends frown, then their faces light up; happy tears; I am in the sea! Four years ago I was in a bed only able to move my left arm. I float on my back, my legs equal and light.
The kind man sets me a challenge
I think you could swim
I lift my legs and as my arms propel me forward my right leg flaps, like a water skier I pull the left leg along.
I wave frantically at Mr H, I am swimming!
Paralympics here I come…