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Here's Alison: The Water Ballet

When you're four foot eight inches tall and shaped like an elongated ball it's best not to try water ballet.

New Zealander Alison Ross tells a splendidly salty tale concerning an incident which happened during a childhood holiday.

Blossom was the shortest adult I can ever remember. I think she was about four foot eight inches and shaped like an elongated ball. She was wide in the middle, tapering at top and bottom. Never had my young eyes seen such a fat little lady in swimming togs. She was a lot of fun, and I remember her laughter echoing across the West Coast inlet.

We were staying at the beach that summer in a small whare built by our father. It was like a wooden tent with a malthoid roof to keep out the rain. It had built-in bunks along each side and the mattresses were made from ticking bags, stuffed with hay. Hardly the lap of luxury, but we children had no complaints. It was, after all, a holiday by the sea. Cooking was done outside, under a lean-to roof and the toilet was a long-drop, built way back in the ti-tree, complete with Chloride of Lime to sprinkle down the hole when necessary. Toilet paper was the last editions of our local paper, the Waikato Times, torn into small pieces by us children

It was high tide this day and Blossom was already swimming out towards the channel when we arrived. We were all good swimmers and we liked playing games in the water. My sister and I were enthusing about the water ballet we had seen at our swimming club. We were trying out various manoeuvres and doing hand-stands with our legs up out of the water while holding our breath, trying to maintain our pose as long as possible.

Blossom decided that if we children could do it, then so could she. Down she went, and up came her chubby legs. She floated perfectly, equally weighted, top and bottom like a ball floating in the tide. Unlike us she wasnít doing a handstand. She was just bobbing along in the water. It was only a minute or two later that her legs began to wave about, but she didnít come up for air. Suddenly it seemed dangerous and my brothers reacted to the scene, quickly pulling Blossomís legs down while pulling her head and shoulders up out of the water.

Blossom coughed and spluttered for ages after they had helped her up on to the grass. She said she just hadnít been able to get her body the right way up. It was a 'never to be a repeatedí performance, and in spite of her close call we children rated Blossomís water ballet an A Plus!


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