I’m a twin. My sister Julia, is six minutes younger than me; a fact that makes her the baby of the family and me, the middle child. Something I used against her many times when we were kids! We don’t know whether we are identical - the placenta was damaged - but we did used to confuse the patrons of the bar we worked in, when we worked the same shift! We both love the outdoors, including wild swimming and are creative, passionate and determined women. But we are also very different. For example, she’s a dab hand on a sewing machine and took that passion by going into television costume. I, on the other hand, am utterly useless at anything practical with my hands! Though I too did venture into television but on the post production project management side of things.
When I was younger, people used to ask me what it’s like to be a twin and I’d always quip: “Well, what’s it like being a single child?” My point was that being a twin is normal to me and that I didn’t define myself by it. However, as then, society still has a fascination with multiple births, obsessing over the idea that we might be telepathically linked and that we might have some special insight into each others feelings where single children do not. Personally, I don’t go in for that at all. The eeriest thing I can claim to have happened is that we’d often unknowingly buy exactly the same birthday presents for each other!
In Fig Swims the World - Fig is taken under the wing of an old lady called Sage who belongs to a swimming group called the Mermaids. Sage has a twin sister called Myrtle, something that Fig soon realises when she starts swimming with them, and both soon become a much needed support network for her New Year’s resolution of swimming the world. Being a twin meant that it was easy to write Sage and Myrtle’s relationship and which at times (no spoilers here) made me cry.
However, when I sat down to write this blog post a few months ago, all I could think about was the negatives. The fact that I somehow was deprived of my individuality by constantly being referred to as ‘the girls’ or ‘the twins’. The way friends couldn’t cope with our impenetrable friendship (and believe me they tried). The loneliness of not being in any of my sister’s classes at school (we were put on opposite sides of the year that made it impossible). But today, it suddenly hit me - I love being a twin!
So, here’s me shouting from the rooftops how good it is to be one. The companionship, the support, the best friend on tap. Someone I can bawl my eyes out to, rant down the phone to, and who won’t tell me to shut up or change or judge me. I love that we get to share the joy of our birthday together - Ju’s always the first person I will think of. She’s my best friend and we will always be there for each other. And those negatives? Well, they’ve shaped me. They helped me realise who my true friends were. They made me loyal to the friends I’ve made since. And in terms of my individuality, it’s something I constantly strive for. Question is, can you tell which one is me in the photo?
“Lemony, where are you…? Hello? Hello! Are you there?”
“Yes, Mubla,” I sigh. She still can’t get used to calling me Fig. I don’t know why. We had an agreement.
“What was that?” she asks. “Speak up. Why d’you sound so muffled?”
“Because I’m wearing a face mask,” I retort. “I’m out shopping for Myrtle.”
“Oh,” she says. “So, you’re not swimming in the sea pool then?”
Chance would be a fine thing! And in such perfect weather too. I dream of swimming in that water. It’ll be getting to a nice temperature soon, what with all this sunshine. But no, I’m landlocked and I hate it.
“Of course not, Mubla,” I say. “We’re on lockdown.”
“Yes, I’m well aware,” she retorts. “Come home soon. I have to go. I have a Zoomba call coming in.”
I resist the urge to laugh. “I think you mean Zoom, Mubla.” Zumba is something different entirely and definitely something I can’t imagine her doing…
“Yes well, remember to keep 2m apart,” she says. “Wash your hands when you get back. Oh, and don’t buy Dab Dabs any more cake. He’s been piling on the pounds since the start of all this.”
That’s because she doesn’t let him go out for his daily runs anymore. Not since she saw the images of crowded city parks. The fact that we live in a sleepy seaside town where you can easily jog for miles without seeing a soul was completely lost on her and I think Dab Dabs has lost the will to make her understand.
When I get home, I head straight for the basement, the smell of the disinfectant hitting me from the top step. Mubla has insisted that Dab Dabs thoroughly clean his workroom every day, just in case. Not that Old Mare has had any cases yet. Not officially anyway. But I’m not letting anything go to chance so Maud, Stella and I have all been shopping for the older members of the Old Mare Mermaids, much to Mubla’s chagrin. She’s worried I’m going to run off again. I’d hardly do that given the current situation. And besides, I have those swimming adventures alive in my memories and the Boss has been in touch more than is comfortable. I think she’s lonely.
“Fig,” says Dab Dabs. He’s looking tired and pale. Hasn’t seen much daylight since this all began. I think Mubla’s taking the social distancing thing too far and hasn’t let him, or me, anywhere near her because we have contact with the outside world. She tried it with Jago, but he was having none of it. He’s a cuddly sort of boy.
“I bought you the cake you asked for,” I say. “Was the last one on the shelf, so it’s not your favourite, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, thanks,” he replies, grabbing a slice and wolfing it down, sending a shower of crumbs over his latest client. Not that they’ll mind. They’re dead. “Don’t tell Mubla will you,” he says.
“What on earth’s that noise?” I ask, as clomping sounds threaten to bring down the ceiling above us.
We rush upstairs when there’s a massive thud followed by a low moaning and I’m shocked to see Mubla in a sweaty mess on the floor, clutching at her ankle.
“Mubla,” I gasp. “What on earth are you doing?”
“Zumba, Lemony. Zumba!”
Dab Dabs and I exchange looks. Oh god, I really hope things get back to normal soon…
The mother of all resolutions…
New Year’s Resolutions sit at the heart of Fig Swims the World. By having Fig’s mother choose her resolutions for her, it was an easy way to create the rift that I wanted, with Fig growing ever more frustrated that she’s being controlled and for this to be the drive as to why she takes on something so big.
Now that it’s June and halfway through the year, it’s perhaps the perfect time to revisit our resolutions. Research shows that around 25% of us will fail after just one week while only one in ten make it to the end of the year. In fact, it’s got to the point where many people vow not to make them at all. The fear of failure being too much of an unnecessary burden. But we really shouldn’t think that just because we haven’t started them yet, that it’s all over. We do have until the end of the year after all! And by revisiting them, we can amend them to be more achievable and perhaps more indoor based, in light of the current Coronavirus situation.
I like setting goals for myself. It gives me purpose and I like the feeling of challenging myself. So, here’s a few ideas on how to succeed in your resolution:
1. Start with what you enjoy
I’ve always been a swimmer, albeit a pool one, so when I saw a photo of a massive swimming event in a warm country with deep blue sea, it naturally spoke to me. I gave myself a year to train toward it, found myself a swimming coach and used the opportunity to swim more. And it being something I already did it didn’t feel like an insurmountable challenge.
2. Make sure you’ve got someone to support you
I wrote my first book because a good friend in publishing encouraged me to do so. I wrote a chapter and asked for her honest opinion: Could I write? Fortunately, her answer was yes! She even gave me a few pointers on how to change it and what I might do differently, offering me support throughout, and before I knew it, I’d written an entire book!
3. Write a list
I love writing lists. It’s my only way of staying on top of everything I’ve got to get done. From to-do lists to birthday present ideas, book titles I’d like to write to wish lists of places I’d like to swim. It’s a good way of breaking down a challenge into smaller more manageable pieces and it’s deeply satisfying when you get to cross something off.
4. Take on a challenge with someone
When I found out about a trip to Lundy Island where you can actually swim with seals, I knew I wanted to do it. The fact that my sister wanted to go too, made it doubly fun. It took us over a year to do it, thanks to bad weather, but together we persisted and eventually got to swim, snorkel and paddle-board among the seals, and even sailed alongside a huge pod of dolphins.
5. Don’t worry if you fail, you’ve still learnt something
A few years ago, I decided to learn to free dive. Mainly because I wanted to be photographed as a mermaid underwater. I thought that because I was good at swimming, I’d automatically enjoy free diving. Oh, how wrong I was! My ears hurt, I couldn’t hold my breath for long and I hated it. Even had watery nightmares for months after. And in the photos, I look cross eyed and strange and definitely not mermaid-like. However, all that knowledge didn’t go to waste. I can now happily dive down in my local quarry and when I next get to go to a tropical beach, I’ll definitely be there with my snorkel.