Liz Bentley wishes you a Happy New Year while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man

Happy newish year. Fenton was my first Tesco delivery man of 2010. In the photo I am holding my 2020 diary. I always buy a Redstone diary and this year, the theme is ‘Dreams of Europe’. The cover photo is a semi-naked Bridget Bardot sunbathing, on what looks like a Greek nudist beach in the ’70s. I used to hang out on Greek nudist beaches, it’s all so familiar to me, but I am in a dilemma that this years diary, may not be entirely appropriate to have on my table, when clients are booking appointments during therapy sessions.

Liz Bentley with Tesco delivery man and 2020 diary
 Liz Bentley with Fenton, first delivery man of the year

What’s new this year? I shall miss visits from the Thames Water and Eon man. Smart meters are the thing now, another meaningful exchange I will miss. More isolation.

But, I have started swimming lessons again and I’m going to Peckham Pulse. After my lesson, I sneak into the sauna by the side of the pool. There is always chit chatter in the sauna, it’s sociable and I like the cultural mix of people.

My friend Jolie Goodman has an art exhibition at JAG’s swimming pool, in Dulwich. It’s called ‘Swimming in the slow lane’. Jolie also has MS, and works for Mental Health Foundation, you may know of her work its fab. We’d met before, but our relationship developed since meeting her at East Dulwich swimming pool. Jolie asked me to speak at the launch of her exhibition before Christmas. I was delighted to talk about her art and I wrote and performed this poem.

Liz Bentley-on-Sea

With a hole in my heart I was born in Leigh on Sea

Learnt to swim in the Thames estuary

Great Ormond Street said to my mum and dad

“If she swims, things may not turn out that bad”

I did all the laps I was encouraged to do

And the hole in my heart closed too

With no-one to watch me at galas, I gave up

Switched my attention to boys

Written in my school autograph book, twice

“If all the boys lived over the sea

What a good swimmer Lizzy would be”

I travelled the world and swam in the seas

Moved to London, then the diagnoses

Multiple sclerosis

Just keep moving, reverse it, reverse it

I meditate up and down the ‘middle’ lane

In therapy and creativity

I focus on the body and brain

At home I gave birth in the birthing pool

I pulled out my own placenta, that was cool

As a performer, trying to find a venue for a show

Sweet Entertainment said ‘I’ve got the apex hotel pool’  Oh?

I wrote and performed in Camberwell on Sea, Edinburgh fringe on Sea, Hackney on Sea, in the pools with my boyfriend who wasn’t called Paul but was the lifeguard of these pool shows and we bought a house in Peckham-on-sea, in the Pioneer health centre and we swam around the embryonic sac of a dysfunctional rebound relationship

Then, I did a master’s degree on mind/body psychotherapy, got married to my husband who isn’t called Paul either and the Pioneer pool needed a new roof

So, I took to East Dulwich on sea and one Monday, I reconnected with Jolie

She swims in the slow lane, I am competitive, I swim in the middle lane and I’m having lessons

(I have 4 years to get up to speed to compete in the over 60’s Paralympics, I have a long way to go, my instructor is very positive, who knows?)