I’ve been swimming three times this week. I have a bad back so it’s all I can do to help it. People have suggested yoga but I would only be able to do pose of a cat, dog or cobra if they were all roadkill. I have even been getting round my flat on all fours cos it’s easier than straightening up. My neighbours opposite can see inside my flat and possibly suspect I have taken my yearning to own a dog a step too far (Or they’ll assume I’m a sexual sub!)
The only ‘drawback’ of swimming is that I can’t get the smell of chlorine off my skin. Despite slathering myself in orange citrus shower gel and moisturising with cocoa butter oil (net result: craving Jaffa Cakes) it’s still there, but I’m Ok with that.
The hint of bleachiness on my arms reminds me of clean floors in libraries and childhood swimming trips ending in vending machine Quavers., And due to all of this Proustian involuntary memory stuff, the whiff of chlorine on a man is kind of sexy to me despite the fact he could have been disposing of women’s bodies all day.
It was a big day for some fish when they sprung legs like dachshunds and could cope on land. I feel the same about my first pair of goggles that don’t leak in the water. I can stay in for longer (wondering if I would have been able to survive The Titanic) and swim much better underwater, often pretending to be a manatee or some other creature from the deep as Attenborough narrates, commenting on my size to gracefulness ratio.
I love the sound of my own exhaling underwater and of course the main is joy of having my eyes open is looking at the bit of the pool where is it slopes down massively from shallow to deep. I like to glide over that bit with one arm straight ahead so I can pretend to be Superwoman.
Late night visits to a pool is a filthier habit than smoking when you consider the large area of human skin to have been dipped in it throughout the day but it’s the best time to go because there are so few people and they conveniently divide the pool into three. Like the frigging Goldilocks of swimming, I’m not too fast or too slow - I am very much a middle lane swimmer.
But some people don’t respect what lane they should be swimming in. It’s like when someone uses their phone in the quiet carriage – everyone else has agreed on the main condition of being there, but that particular person thinks it doesn’t apply to them. I recently muttered, ‘For fuck’s sake!’ as the guy sat next to me went to make his third call about how he must be allergic to tequila. He got upset and said there was no need to swear. I explained there was and that it wasn’t the no-swearing carriage. Motorway drivers often speak about people driving ‘up their arse’. In a swimming pool, that phrase is less figurative. Some people swim so slowly in the medium lane that they create a human centipede behind them.
But yesterday I witnessed a new kind of ‘pool rage’. The centrifugal dryer spinning thing that gets the water out of swimwear was broken for the second day running. It’s a good little machine. It makes a satisfyingly loud noise and does sterling work and I like that in a thing. When I first owned a liquidiser, I don’t think I ate solids for weeks, only soups and smoothies cos the power of pressing the squish button was so immense.
The pool is at the gym and when a machine isn’t working there, they put a sign on it that says something like ‘I’m under the weather. Please use an alternative.’ or ‘I’m poorly. Come back and use me another day’ or ‘Boohoo, I’m injured. My ickle pulley system is all ouchy. Don’t let them melt me down like they did to the rowing machine. I’ve never met my real dad.’ The worst of these anthrofuckingmorphising notices is on a toilet somewhere in Soho begging people not to put hand towels or feminine hygiene down it; It starts “Hello, my name’s Lou..”. I’d prefer the more upfront ‘It’s broken because some clueless idiot broke it.”
The dryer at the pool had a sign apologising for not working just above the instructions for use which were of course written in the first person. It’s simple, just put one costume in at a time, not twelve of them. I don’t know if that’s how it broke, I wasn’t there, but I was there when a German-sounding woman in the changing rooms dressed in just a towel, read the notice (at the same time as me, also only wearing a towel), lost her shit, grabbed my arm and said, ‘Come on, we are going to the men’s to use theirs.’ I exclaimed ‘No. I don’t wanna go, I only live round the corner. I can dry it at home. No, I don’t need to see what’s in there.’
She let me off and strode off towards the men’s. She didn’t get as far as actually going in but stood outside while some bemused bloke she had collared did it for her. She came back in and showed me her dry costume triumphantly. I recognised it from the front of the centipede.