Archive | May, 2022

Swimming Against the Tide.

27 May

I went swimming today. Well, my version of it. That is a reasonable breast stroke with my arms and a sort of butterfly flipper action with my legs. The full frog’s legs rotating my knees makes patella dislocation a worrying possibility.

My local Fusion Lifestyle sports centre has red polo-shirted employees doing a good job while looking bored. I had to book my 9.15 am lane swim as there appear to be vast numbers of wet bobs desperate to plough the lengths. There are three lanes: slow, medium and fast. Naturally I choose the safety of the middle and find myself sharing the lane with eight others.

Before I break water, I have swiped my membership card at the reception desk and, barefooted ( a requirement) headed for the changing cubicles which, appropriately these days, are mostly singles, with the occasional door signed ’family change’ – an ironic instruction indeed. I wedge my pre millennium sports bag into a locker which no longer takes those old fashioned pound coins but requires swimmers, if they feel that their possessions are precious, to furnish themselves with a padlock. I take my chances that my needle cord jeans and Boots shower gel won’t get local petty thieves excited. I head for the pool.

About twenty assorted souls are waiting for a red polo shirt to appear, which it does on the stroke of 9.15. Goggles on – it’s a myth that a bit of spitttle clears the lenses – and I am locked into a tunnel world of clouded vision and chlorinated echo. The trick in the highly populous middle lane is to gauge the speed of the leader and maintain distance. It is useful that pool etiquette, despite the cultural zeitgeist, is pretty binary. There are women in one piece costumes and men in trunks. There are one or two males in groin-slice Speedos but they just look silly. The rest of us are in standard sexless boxers as befits the general maturity of the group. I’d say the age range this morning was twenty to seventy with the average around forty. This may not be very useful information but it made me stop and ponder awhile.

I am a length counter which is crushingly boring but it stops me thinking, a huge benefit. It helps that I am in a visual fog. A few swimmers vary pace: freestyle then breast stroke then back stroke. This isn’t good for lane management. I’m a steady Eddie and my pace is metronomic. I sense when a breast stroker wants to up the ante with a freestyle burst – it’s usually a man – and I edge towards the lane rope to give leeway, while cursing the selfishness of it all. Today, an elderly gent – well my age – managed to propel himself through the water far more slowly doing freestyle than with breast stroke. Arms and legs were flailing wildly and his bow wave was prodigious, but forward propulsion was negligible.

I occasionally stop for a breather but as my goggles have a disturbing mirror- reflection, my fellow flippers don’t much want to chat. So I get back to the task in hand:60 lengths. Oh God, how long will this take? I take care not to get too close to the backsides of women as I imagine it makes them uncomfortable – but I haven’t asked if this is the case. I suppose close proximity might be equally worrying for a male. Whatever, swimming in lanes is the most sexless activity imaginable. As I contemplate this I touch the foot of one of the speedo-groin brigade and he kicks ahead, rather like a road rager roaring away from traffic lights.

As I reach forty lengths I contemplate calling it a day but then a couple of my lane buddies get out and I have clear water, the traffic eases and my enthusiasm returns. With the excitement, I lose concentration and swallow a couple of mouthfuls of chlorinated H2O. I splutter and cough but have to quieten quickly; I don’t want to disturb the slumber of the red polo shirt. (Unfair – every time I gaze his way, he seems to be staring at the pool).

During a brief respite I check on the progress of the other lanes. For this I lift my goggles, forgetting that my earplugs are attached. The suction-release and the new wave of sound disconcert me briefly but I regather my thoughts and watch the slow lane. Here all is serenity. No one is bothered by pace. Four women are chatting in the shallow while another four slowies are serenely wafting up the pool. I spot a sidestroke which is pleasingly old school. My mother used to be an elegant exponent. An older gent is sculling on his back happily. I look forward to a demotion to the slow horses.

By contrast the fast lane is an erratic and competitive racetrack. One or two are ploughing up and down in a stamina-fest, while others race hard for a couple of lengths, check watches or the big speedo clock on the wall and make mental notes. There are more swimming caps in evidence with this fast track group and most have hydration (water) flasks (bottles) at the shallow end to indicate the seriousness of the training. There’s more tension in this lane because each individual has a more important agenda and the speed means a greater chance of bumping and being put off your stroke. They are all freestylers. Does anyone say crawl these days?

Sixty up. Enough. Goggles off. A feeling of relief and freedom. I wonder what it must be like to be hard of hearing and have limited vision because the clarity I now experience is such a contrast to the fog of the last hour or so. A hot shower – two of six cubicles not operating; Fusion take note. Barefooted I return to the foyer to recover my shoes. I smile at a couple of ladies who have clearly been in the pool with me. No sign of recognition either way. That’s what I like. Anonymity.

There are several analogies that I could make between my simple experience of a well regimented lane swim at the Fusion Lifestyle sports centre and much of the national and international chaos which seems to engulf us at the moment. But after my swim, I’m calmer, so I’ll just put the kettle on.

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