It’s never too late to learn how to… SWIM!
Emma Badger is W&H’s Chief Sub Editor, is taking a course of one-to-one improver swimming lessons
Why did you want to learn how to swim better?
I’ve always loved swimming – the first thing I do on holiday is head for the pool. My front crawl is okay, but I never learned how to do it properly. I spend so much of my week slouched in front of my desk or slumped on a commuter train, I feel swimming offers me a full body workout, plus it’s non-impact, therapeutic… and fun!
Where I went…
I’m having a course of one-to-one lessons with Brian FitzGerald, in central London. He has previously competed at national level in the Republic of Ireland and is passionate about swimming and teaching swimming, at all levels, so I’m in competent hands.
What I did…
After an assessment of my front crawl, Brian said there was potential (hurray!) and began teaching me swimming “drills”, which means breaking down the stroke and focusing on one area (head, legs, arms). Brian says, “Bad habits are possible to change – it takes time, discipline and commitment.” Good to know. I keep my head under the water for too many strokes, and don’t lift my head correctly to breathe, ie wasting energy. I also thought you had to alternate breathing from side to side, but one side is fine. Brian patiently showed me how to do this, and it really made a difference. Luckily my legwork isn’t too dire, although 90% of front crawl is about upper body and arms. Brian told me people are usually naturally inclined either to front crawl or breaststroke, so as my breaststroke needs a lot of work, I’ll concentrate on front crawl for now. After the first lesson, Brian said, “You definitely have talent in the water,” which was very encouraging!
I loved it – even in the first hour, I really felt I’d improved my technique. I wish I’d done improver lessons years ago – what took me so long? I’m practising regularly now in my local pool, and will soon spend a week in a pool on holiday. A more efficient technique will encourage me to swim more, which can only benefit my physical health and wellbeing, and, to my surprise, I’ve really enjoyed learning something that takes me out of my day-to-day routine!
Private tuition starts from £45; swimming classes are cheaper. Emma is having lessons with Brian FitzGerald at swimmingclass.co.uk
It’s never to late to learn… how to COOK!
W&H Entertainment and Features Writer, Nathalie Whittle, took a Vietnamese street foo
Why did you want to learn how to cook better?
I’m not hopeless in the kitchen – but it’s well known among my family and friends that the best they can expect from dinner at my place is a (very) basic spaghetti Bolognese. My biggest problem? Confidence. Or rather, lack of it. So after years of putting up with their mocking, I wanted to put an end to it, and find my inner chef.
Where I went…
Having told my friends I’d throw a dinner party for them, Vietnamese street food sounded like just the thing to impress with. So I took a two-hour group class with one of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Champions’ at his very own cookery school, Recipease, in London’s Notting Hill.
What I did…
I arrived to a complimentary glass of Prosecco, before all 14 of us (it’s two people per workspace and you work in pairs) gathered round to watch our tutor prepare the first dish: pork balls. We were shown how to grind some spices – chilli, garlic, lemon grass – which we mixed together with minced pork before frying. At the same time, we created a dipping sauce, with fish oil, palm sugar, chilli and garlic. I always imagined people spent hours preparing this kind of thing – we were done in 20 minutes. Then it was onto the summer rolls – chopped vegetables, vermicelli noodles and fresh herbs rolled in Vietnamese rice paper, which was surprisingly easy to use. We were shown how to make a traditional beef pho (minced beef, vermicelli and vegetables in a beef stock) too – although we didn’t get to test it out ourselves, so I left with a niggling doubt about whether I’d be able to achieve it on my own.
The dinner party was a success! I recreated the pork balls, summer rolls and the beef pho – and when one of my friends said, “I didn’t know you could cook like this”, I have to admit, I felt a little bit smug. I’ve been inspired to try more oriental dishes since the class too, including a Malaysian chicken curry, with duck spring rolls to start. Next on my list? Beef Sui Mai! Now I just think, “How hard can it be?”
A two-hour group class starts from £50 per person. Private cooking events can be arranged on request. For more information, see jamieoliver.com/recipease
It’s never too late to learn how to… DANCE!
Wendy Salmon, Lifestyle Assistant on W&H, took a one-on-one dancing lesson.
Why did you want to learn how to dance better?
When I was about 13, I went to dancing school and I loved it. I learnt disco dancing but it was the old-fashioned ballroom I loved the most. Then I got to 15, become interested in other stuff, and gave it all up. But I love old films, I love watching Strictly, and I really wanted to start learning again.
Where I went…
I went to the City Academy in Farrington, London – a stone’s throw from Sadler’s Wells, no less, comprising of several dance studios complete with mirrors and bars – and was taught by Leo.
What I did…
I wanted to learn the foxtrot because you can add more steps to it – make it fast or slow – and, of course, I like the way it looks. I wore a long flowing, full skirt and shoes with a small heel and very much felt the part of a professional dancer. My 90-minute lesson went by in a flash I was enjoying it so much. Leo said I was a natural, which made me glow – I only had to learn a routine once or twice to remember it!
I absolutely loved it – and am booking some more dance lessons to learn more routines. I wish I’d never left dancing behind me; I should have carried it on. Next time, I’d love to rope my husband along – he’s a good dancer but there’s always room for improvement!
Classes range in price from £105 to £150 per course (six-eight weeks). Private lessons are priced on a case-by-case basis. For more information, visit city-academy.com