Auf Wiedersehen, petting

It was 1972 when I first learned that heavy petting had nothing to do with animals.

Attending my school swimming gala at Clapham Manor Baths, on display, as a warning I now know, was a sign: “No Heavy Petting”.

My pets, prior to 1972, had been a mouse and a West Highland terrier; animals not renowned for their excessive weight.

As I looked at the sign I thought about animals I knew to be both heavy and aquatic; I began worrying that an alligator or Great White shark might suddenly appear during the 100-yard butterfly relay race.

Before this visit, to me the word “petting” meant a tiny zoo with goats, guinea pigs and gerbils (most small animals beginning with “G” basically).

Might very fat guinea pigs feature as floats for the participants who could not swim, perhaps?

My next worry was the potential disease one might get if a load of rodents were in the pool? Getting a verruca would have been the least of my worries.

After the swimming gala, whenever I was asked if I was interested in any heavy petting, my response was that I have a fear of water, and even greater fear of crocodiles.

A consequence of which was I attended my first date wearing water wings.

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