On first glance, that glassy Mediterranean ocean looks inviting, meditative - bliss. But upon entering, it becomes apparent that it’s an obstacle course littered with people sedately pissing, couples clearly having sex, and idiots in a pedalo. Not to mention the jellyfish, the outside chance of shark (thanks, Steven Spielberg – Jaws really put my mind at ease re: the sea), and the scariest thing in the ocean – SEAWEED.
And as much as I love The Ladies Pond in Hampstead Heath - summer rains tinkling on the surface and ducklings merrily quacking alongside me, it’s just too frigging cold in there beyond September. All these octogenarians who jump in on Christmas Day once the ice has been broken have my undying respect, but I’m just not as hardy as them.
So a swimming pool should filter out a lot of these unwanted elements. Thanks to those fun posters, we all know there’s no heavy petting allowed. They’re heated, the chlorine will hopefully deal with any bodily fluids (gag) and the lanes mean it should be full of people swimming up and down in an orderly manner.
Sadly this is not to be, as my list of idiots who ruin it for everyone else attests...
1) Butterfly Wanker
You’ve come to the pool and – miracle of miracles – there’s only around 6 people, calmly doing their lengths. This is going to be super! 3 minutes into your swim, someone gets in the water to share your lane – fine, there’s room enough for two!....OH WAIT! THE AMOUNT OF WATER IN THE SWIMMING POOL HAS NOW HALVED! Butterfly Wanker has decided to ruin everybody else’s swim with his gasping, splashing, thunderously water-displacing spasming, taking over the lane, ruining your breaststroke and punching pensioners in the head. Butterfly Wanker also delights in mastering his stroke when the pool is completely chocablock.
This chap comes to the pool for one reason, and one reason only. To patrol around the swimming pool in a pair of tiny Speedos (accessorised with a gold chain), pausing every now and then to cross his arms over his once-pecs and thrust his eye-watering bulge forward for the goggled masses to see. Hirsute and mahogany-skinned, I’ve never observed one of these Bulge-Thrusters actually enter the water – possibly the cold temperature would make his package shrink drastically – or the toilet roll he’s stuffed it with dissolve.
These people fascinate me. They have come for a swim, but appear to be terrified of water. They walk in, their manner reluctant - arms crossed, brow furrowed. They then spend ten long minutes descending the steps into the pool, millimetre-by-millimetre, grimacing. This is followed to a plonky splash as they partially submerge, but for their head – which is kept afloat by a vigorous, panicked doggy paddle. These people then spend their uncoordinated swim diligently avoiding letting the water encroach their neck. I wouldn’t mind but they always swim in the middle lane and slow me down.
4) The Horrifying One
These people have not showered before entering the pool, so they bring with them the day’s dead skin and soured BO. You reluctantly swim behind them, quietly suffering their calloused feet rhythmically kicking into your face. They then spend half an hour standing at the end, panting their halitosis breath at you, blowing their nose straight into the water and rummaging around in their ears. The Horrifying Ones always have a plaster that eventually comes off, which you end up trying to dodge every time you get to the shallow end. They’ve probably pissed in a swimming pool a good few times, and thought nothing of it.
5) The Aqua Ladies
Having done aqua aerobics a few times myself, I can tell you - it’s terrific fun and a great workout. But it’s not ideal when swimming whilst a lesson’s going on. The people who do aqua often take part because it’s a low-impact exercise – ideal for a fuller framed person of mature years as it’s kinder on the knees and gravity is less of an issue. The gathering together of 25 or so ample women in a pool who are simultaneously bobbing, leaping and shrieking garners an effect on the water that would have had Archimedes baffled. Ursula from The Little Mermaid WISHES she could influence the sea this way. Lane swimming whilst an aqua aerobics class is on is akin to George Clooney manning the Andrea Gail in the film The Perfect Storm – it is not for the faint-hearted. I do love their flowery swimming caps though.
Add onto this the bored, passive aggressive lifeguards twirling their whistles, the disorientating echo of children’s high-pitched shrieks and having to run to reception in a swimming costume to change your shiny £2 coin for ten 20ps for the locker, swimming pools can be an unpleasant experience. However, until I win the lottery and can splash out on my very own Olympic-sized pool complete with waterslide from my bedroom window and a wave machine, it’s my only (verruca-ridden) option.