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April’s My World First winner!

My World First

My World First Travel Writing Competition

Daniel O’Donnell? When we took the decision to start a monthly travel writing competition at the end of last year, we had no idea we’d be reading about him as we sifted through future entries.

Then again, we didn’t anticipate a lot of things. Like how good some of the writing would be. Or how spectacularly diverse people’s travel adventures are. Once again, the most recent entries did not disappoint.

So while Corinne Faulkner from Northants was getting carried away with her Danny Boy, Amanda Goldston from Staffordshire brought us to the edge of our seats with her recollection of a perilous cliff-top tantrum as a toddler. Denise Jones from Southport made us long for a visit to Holywell Bay, Rochdale’s Jennifer Guertin regretted dressing up as a geisha and Rhian Beth Taylor from Wrexham got more than she bargained for when she swam with dolphins...and lost her bikini bottoms. Crikey.

But there could only be one winner. And that was Richard Lakin from Stafford, whose tale had our judges rooting for him and his pool-based escapades.

Here’s the Kindle-winning entry, in all its glory.

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Short description:

After struggling all holiday this was the first time I managed to swim unaided. I was six years old and holidaying abroad for the first time (in Yugoslavia).

Long description:

The island is a sea of lavender, rippling in the faint breeze. White marble reflects the blazing sun. It is a little after four in the afternoon. Mum is taking tea at poolside and I’m thrashing around in my armbands, turning circles in the shallow end of the pool.

On the second day we went on a fish picnic led by a chuckling captain with a face lined like an old map. There was a window in the bottom of his boat and I sat mesmerized, watching lobsters and darting silver fish in the depths. The waters were deep but glassy, not the cold green murk of the sea at home.

The captain took us to a lagoon and we sat on bleached pebbles, sniffing lavender and grilling fish.

‘You swim?’ the captain said.

I shook my head. He’d seen me staring at the waters of the lagoon. It was a rocky crater shelving away steeply and brimming with fish.

Ever since, I’ve been desperate to swim, but I sink without armbands and rubber rings or a gentle steer from Dad. I spend so much energy thrashing and kicking the water, but never quite making the other side. People at poolside watch over their newspapers and pretend they haven’t seen when I don’t make it, again. Yesterday I was an arm’s length from the side when I sank.

On the last afternoon Mum tells me to get out. We’ve packing to do. I’m upset and she promises to take me to our local pool. I get out, moaning and dripping and sapped of energy, wrinkle-fingered.

‘One last go,’ I plead.

Mum shakes her head.

‘Oh, please,’ I say.

Dad glances at his watch. ‘Five minutes,’ he says.

I get back in the pool and tiptoe along the tiles. I pretend not to notice everyone watching me. I push out from the side, thrash and kick but sink spluttering. I try again this time kicking out hard and pumping every last bit of strength I’ve got into the water. I’m two-thirds of the way and gasping, the pool sloshing in my ears as I stare up at a perfect blue sky. I strain and stretch and touch the tiles, panting and exhausted. Cheers and claps ring out at poolside. I punch the air. A German family insists on buying me chocolate cake.

Next year I’ll swim with the fishes.

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Keep your eyes peeled for an important announcement about My World First soon. Going away? Remember to visit www.world-first.co.uk for cost-effective travel insurance.

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