I haven't worn a swimming costume since an unfortunate event about three years ago - a story too long and painful to detail here, but it involved a badly tied sarong, a neighbourhood petition and an unprecedented spike in Immac share purchases in the south east. This week, however, a friend whose unswerving loyalty saw me through those dark days, especially when she let me cower in her coal shed to avoid the unleashed hounds, persuaded me that the time had come to dip my nether regions in depilatory liquid and brave the waters in Lycra once again. "Aqua aerobics," she nods sagely. "It's a brilliant thing."
It begins badly. I have put on so much weight since I last donned the wretched thing that I look like an ambulant blood pudding. Even more disturbingly, the tightness now causes me to jacknife to avoid bisection. I stagger sideways out to the pool. "Did you have a stroke in the changing room?" inquires my friend with some concern. "No," I reply faintly, distracted by the irony of embarking upon anything involving the word "aerobic" with a set of compressed lungs. By this time I am in the water and have no breath to reply.
Then the music starts and we're off. And let me say this now that I have been cut out of my swimsuit and can. Aqua aerobics is brilliant. You don't sweat like a pig. The water hides your disgusting body and your malcoordination. It's basically jumping about in the water for grownups.
Best of all, when everyone jog-wades round the pool, they generate enough centrifugal force to carry you round as if you're on a log flume. I'm telling you, exercise does not get much better than this. Until you get to work with massive yellow floaty dumbbells, that is! I know! And because this form of weight-supporting exercise is very popular with gestating ladies, there is the added excitement of the very real possibility that by the time you have finished sidekicking to Mighty Real, there could be half a dozen newborns bobbing about with surprised looks on their faces. Just don't mistake them for dumbbells - my friend, who is as blind as a bat without her glasses, speaks from experience when she tells me that post-partum women regard this as something of a faux pas.