Thursday, January 29, 2009

All going swimmingly

While we all sit here worrying about how this country is finished - and let's face it, it is - I'm minded to recall Saturday morning swimming lessons after seeing a new poster campaign for the new-look Times at the Tube station this morning.

I hated them.

We'd go to the very art deco, St Louis arch-shaped Southampton Central Baths at what seemed like the very crack of dawn. I must have been about six or seven. It required effort and I just wanted to stay in the warm.

The mornings were cold and dark, the pool was echo-y and smelt very strongly of chlorine. The main pool was 16ft deep at it's big end, with highest diving board in Western Europe (no, really) and was populated by big boys you didn't want to cross showing off to the girls, and quite possibly petting. In the diving area!

Over at the little pool, about 80 kids were crammed in. All the water was warm and everyone was pissing in it. One time, a crowd gathered and when I got there they were pointing at something below the surface. Sensing a opportunity to cover myself in glory, I dove down to see what it was. I came to the surface with a melting turd in my hand, as the crowd scattered. I was not covered in glory. It's enough to put you off for life. I could never really master anything but floating on my back. The instructor barked. I never properly learned to swim. My brother of course, learned to swim exclusively in someone's private indoor pool. Always got the easy option.

The only consolation was afterwards, when my grandma would come to meet us and we'd have Bovril crips and she'd give us Pop-a-Point pencils - sometimes colour ones! (Surely we can't have got them every week?) Anyway, for years, when I tasted a Bovril crisp I thought of swimming lessons. I liked Bovril crisps. They tasted of salvation.


Ishouldbeworking said...

The memory of chlorine burning the inside of my nose makes me shudder to this day. I learned to swim but never learned to enjoy it, so even now I hardly ever get in the pool.

But Bovril crisps were also an integral and vaguely redeeming part of the experience. Seems it was a universal phenomenon.There must be some chemical link between the taste of sodden corn plasters and that of Bovril.

Helen said...

I taught myself to swim, wearing flippers in a neighbour's pool that we helped build in about 1978. I hated swimming lessons too. I remember Aunty Marjorie used to take us to Penrith Swimming Baths every Sunday and we always had Monster Munch from the vending machine afterwards. Of course, they were miles bigger than nowadays!

TimT said...

With me it was Salt'n'Shake crisps. In the golden summer of 1975, between primary and secondary school, I went swimming at the open-air pool in the park in Bushey something like 50 days running, and I nearly always treated myself to a packet of Salt'n'Shake afterwards. Oh, and sometimes a Cresta, too.