What is the protocol when, on one’s fifteenth length of an early-morning swim at the gym, one sees, coming in the opposite direction down the parallel lane, one’s ex?
Your face is as bereft of make-up as the day you were born, you’re wearing your mother’s old baggy-bottomed swimsuit unearthed from the back of your drawer because your teenaged daughter has swanned off with your jaunty little number and, worst of all, you are wearing the compulsory blue baldy-rubber hat thingy that makes even Kate Moss look like Kojak or Duncan Goodhew.
a) Pretend you’re not you – you don’t look anything like you anyway in that hat?
b) Pretend you don’t recognize him in his compulsory blue-baldy rubber hat thingy.
c) Pretend you’re the next Olympic hopeful and, even though you’re doing breaststroke with your head and neck out of the water because you don’t know how to do any other stroke, set off down the pool faster than Rebecca Addlington?
d) Get out of the pool as quick as you can, go home and write a post on facebook asking what is the protocol when, in the pool, one see’s one’s ex coming towards one?
I plumped for d) which consequently elicited record likes on my facebook page and much speculation as to who the ex might be.
Swimming at the gym, most mornings, is akin to the rush hour on the M62 from Huddersfield to Leeds: if you want to do the trip in the twenty minutes it should take, you need to be up at sparrow fart to avoid congestion – or take the train, which I invariably do. And what should be a fast-paced thirty to forty lengths up and down the rather super Olympic-sized pool is fraught, like the M62, with impediments to my journey’s end. Now, I’m not a real swimmer. By that I mean I don’t don goggles, dive in and then front-crawl my way up and down the pool, face down apart from the occasional breath to prevent expiry as do real swimmers. I can swim for any length of time quite happily, but I can’t do any other stroke than breaststroke and can’t put my face in the water. It’s a fear, I reckon, carried over from junior school swimming lessons and a teacher called Mr Lodge. (Yes, you evil bastard, I am naming and shaming.) He was a tyrant and would finish every lesson by making us line up in the water and duck under a wooden pole on the surface of the water. My sister, a few years older than me and subjected to the same weekly torture, reckons we were so terrified because no one ever told us to hold our noses or that we shouldn’t actually breathe as we went under water. What should have been a two second duck from one side of the pole to the other morphed into a dangerous underwater journey that seemed to go on for ever and from which we emerged spluttering and frightened, convinced that death was imminent.
Anyway, I digress – it’s a few years since I was seven-years-old, I’m a big girl now and more than ready to stand up to the swimming pool bullies. What I want to know is why, when you are in a swimming pool do people insist on walking up and down? I try to be charitable, sympathetic even, and appreciate that maybe they simply can’t swim. So have to walk instead. So, if that is the case, why don’t they walk up and down the –empty – small pool and get out of my way? There is one elderly lady who is plugged into some sort of waterproof MP3 player who boogies her way down the pool, and I think fair play to her. She sticks in the slow-lane where she can be overtaken and moves pretty quickly anyway. What does turn me into a one-woman Loose Woman show is those who see these early-morning swims as a social occasion, meeting up with their chums, and talking as well as walking their way to some modicum of fitness. OK, so there are three lanes put aside for the real swimmers, but they really are real swimmers who thrash their way down the pool, goggles hiding their manic eyes, on a mission to do fifty-thousand lengths before breakfast. If I’ve ever dared to venture into the fast lane when one comes free, I’ve always abandoned it and slunk back to the main pool, if I’m joined by a real swimmer. I can hear them snorting and thrashing their way down the pool behind me, wanting me out of their way. This morning I started in the main pool, dodged the walkers and talkers, manoeuvred my way round Mrs Boogy Lady, swam to the slow real swimmers’ lane where I was forced out by a thrasher and snorter and ended up back in the main bit with the walkers. If everyone could just stick to their own lanes according to their speed and method of propulsion, life would be a lot easier. Just like the M62 really.
Talking of Duncan Goodhew, (see above) Janet, a lady I used to work with, tells a very funny story about the bald-headed one.
She and her daughter and five-year-old granddaughter are in some very posh hotel in London having breakfast.
Janet nudges her daughter and whispers, ‘Don’t look round, but Duncan Goodhew is sitting at the table behind us.’
‘Who’s Duncan Goodhew?’ five-year-old Charlotte lisps, craning her neck to get a good look.
‘Shh,’ her grandmother warns. ‘Don’t stare. He’s a very famous swimmer.’
‘You mean that man without any hair? Can I go and say hello?’ the little girl asks, still trying to get a good look at him.
‘No, absolutely not. He wants to have his breakfast in peace, not be stared at.’
Charlotte studies her own breakfast for a second or two and then asks, ‘Can I go and get some more orange juice?’
‘You may. But do not stop and say hello to the swimmer. And don’t stare at him or he’ll know we’ve been talking about him.’
‘I promise I won’t speak to him or stare at him.’
‘OK, but I’m watching you,’ Janet warns.
So, Charlotte makes her way across to the breakfast bar, keeping her eyes, as she’s been told, from Duncan Goodhew. As she walks towards him, she continues to keep her eyes firmly ahead but as she passes his table very nonchalantly executes a perfect breast-stroke movement and ‘swims’ past him and down to the orange juice!!