Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cool like a fool in a swimming pool

My history with swimming is, like Brentford leisure centre’s pool when the wave machine is turned on, somewhat turbulent. When I was a kid I *hated* it to the point that I would beg, plead, and lie to Sparky Ma in order to get her to write a letter excusing me from my junior school’s Tuesday afternoon swimming lessons. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. My reasons for hating swimming were, well, many and varied: I hated the smell of chlorine (to the point that for some reason it became a habit that I’d hold my breath whenever we drove past a leisure centre), and I hated the water because it was cold and I thought I’d sink and drown. Matters weren’t exactly helped by the fact that the old biddy who took the swimming lessons once threatened to electrify the rail around the edge of the pool because I had a habit of clinging on for dear life as I edged toward the deep end.

On one hand I can see her point, on the other doesn’t water conduct electrickery? I’d loved to have seen her explain a poolful of electrocuted children to the PTA.

From the age of about 11 until 20 I don’t think I went anywhere near a pool because of my odd childhood trauma/hang-ups. And anyway, I couldn’t swim so what was the point? But post-20 something strange happened. I started to think that I should give it another chance. So I did, and I taught myself how to swim. OK, I wasn’t exactly a pretty swimmer (think dog fetching stick in river), but I was pretty sure I could get myself out of difficulty if I found myself inexplicably adrift in a body of water (especially if it was only a metre or so deep). I even kinda enjoyed myself.

But then for some reason I gave up on the whole thing again about five years ago.

Over the last week or so several factors have conspired to change my opinion once again, though. I think we should probably call it the Phelps Factor, because I don’t care who you are or how good at swimming you are, but the way that fella motors through the water is both a) inspiring, and b) pretty darn awesome. And me being the energetic, sporty little bugger that I’ve become in recent years looked at those eight gold medals and thought “yeah, I can do that.”

(Um, yeah *right*)

Anyway, another factor is all the running I’ve been doing. I’m not afraid to say that running club is proving to be both a brilliant and worthwhile experience, and bloody knackering. We did well over 10k on Tuesday, and Sweatband (who did an easier session, I hasten to add!) thought I was going to pass out when I got back to the clubhouse. That being the case, I’ve found that I’m still recovering a little by Thursday evening and less inclined to head out for another run, even a short one. So I figured that swimming, being much less jarring on the joints, would be a good alternative to one of my thrice weekly runs.

The final factor is the fact that there’s a swimming pool just five minutes walk away, and I’ve been thinking about heading down there since I moved into Sparky Towers; sheer laziness just got in the way.

And so I talked best mate Jo into coming with me, because I know she’s an OK swimmer and at the very least could raise the alarm if I went under faster than the Red October.

So tonight we rocked up, paid our money, and hit the pool (after I’d bombarded Jo with a number of panicked texts quizzing her on the depth of the pool, like she’d gone at measured it at some point). I initially stayed down the shallow end getting the lay of the land (or rather pool), and acclimatising to the water. And then after a few minutes, and feeling a little bit like a baby giraffe trying to stand up for the first time, I kicked off. OK, so I’m not as good as I was back in the days after teaching myself, and I know I did look a bit like that dog fetching a stick in the river, but I think I did alright. I certainly improved with every length I swam - although when I say length I actually mean ‘two-thirds of a length’ because I was a little bit wary of swimming out of my depth; the one time I did Jo said something funny (I believe it was “if she comes near me I’ll bang her on the head with my float” in reference to another swimmer) and I lost my rhythm and, like Titanic, started taking water on.

There were, nevertheless, a number of minor negative points:

• A couple who insisted on making overt PDAs in the pool; get a room. (It was the lady of this couple who Jo threatened to bang on the head)
Some power-swimmer who insisted on being in the slow lane. She kept diving under for long periods of time, and I feared she was going to try dragging me, or my trunks, down.
The music. They played some tunes in the pool area, starting rather well with ‘More than Words’ by Extreme, but moving onto ‘Killing me Softly’ by the time we decided to head home. It’s a great song, but not exactly, um, motivating - unless you’re suicidal, perhaps.
I banged my leg on the stairs as I climbed out of the pool and I’ve got a proper massive lump on my leg.
Changing rooms. Chaps, seriously, there’s cubicles provided - I don’t need to see your janglies while I retrieve my bag!

Anyway, on the whole I enjoyed it. Phelps might not have anything to worry about just yet, but I’m definitely going to go again.


CyberPete said...

Ok Blogger just ate my comment. I'll try again.

I haven't gone swimming in about ten years or so. In school I secretly loved it, but I hated the changing rooms because of the smell and because I had to bare all in front of 30+ people (there were no cubicles). I still am quite shy about that.

However I was pretty good at it and I even learned to jump head first in the pool from the edge. Good times.

Tim said...

Stupid blogger! On the other hand - my broadband's behaving itself for the moment!

I don't do diving in, mostly because there's a sign up in the pool saying 'no diving,' but also because I can't and I'd probably do myself an injury.

CyberPete said...

In school our swim teacher (she was such a bitch) taught us how to do it. That's how I learned.

Then a friend and I used to spend all summer, every summer by the lake not very far from where I grew up swimming and diving in. We had so much fun. More often than not my parents didn't know we were there because they would have never allowed it. Which made it better.

Once we swam across the lake and back. Which was pretty damn far. When we got back the lifeguard tore os a new one. I guess that wasn't allowed. You missed a lot.

Tim said...

I don't think I did - there were no picturesque lakes near my house, just a skanky shallow river full of rusty shopping trollies. I'd probably have needed a tetanus jab if I banged into one of them…

CyberPete said...

Hehehe, I grew up next to the second cleanest lake in Denmark. It was quite lovely, used to also walk and well not jog but something in between around it (4 km) from time to time.

I'd rather put pins in my eyes than swim in the Thames.

Tara said...

Hey, that's awesome of you for starting up swimming again! I was kicked out of my first swimming class when I was a little kid, because I was so fearful of the water that all I did was thrash around and scream. They told me mom to not bring me back until I've overcome my fear of water...Um...okay, that makes sense in opposite world.

I finally took lessons when I was 19, and the only thing I couldn't pass was the part where we had to go down the ten foot pole under the water. No thanks.

Now you'll have to look for a swimming club to join! :)

eroswings said...

Glad to see you getting your feet wet. Swimming is fun, be it open water or pool. It's a fun workout, and you don't feel it at first, but afterwards, your exhausted.

I hate mofos who do PDAs at the pool. If I can taste the chlorine, that means the germs are dead...and god knows what kind of filthy bastards swim in the pool.

Dinah said...

I looooove swimming. I haven't been in over a year. When I was little we went to the town beach, until it was closed due to dumped garbage from the marina, and we also went to a community indoor pool. My mom has a cottage on a lake and when we were there for the summer we just about lived in the water. I miss it now.

Tim said...

Cyberpete - Good god, I would *never* swim in the Thames, although a lot of people claim it's very clean these days and the fish have come back.

Tara - Oh blimey, I don't think I'll be joining a swimming club - running club and fight club are enough for me!

Eroswings - Yeah, I definitely feel it (in a good way) today! And I agree with you on the chlorine - I hate the smell of it, but at least you know the water is reasonably clean!

Dinah - Is the cottage on the lake the same one that was in the photo you posted where you were diving in but had the sort of look on your face that made it look like you were leaping off the edge of the grand canyon or something?

I love the idea of having a lake to swim in (without the garbage, though).

Inexplicable DeVice said...

An intriguing post, Mr Leng, but there appears to be something missing. Didn't Jo bring her waterproof camera? Or are the photos not developed yet, hence the lack of Tim-in-Trunks?

P.S. I for one think that you're a VERY pretty swimmer, even if you do thrash around somewhat.

k_sra said...

I think "inexplicable device" just hit on you, Tim!

Hi, I'm a friend of Tara's and I stumbled across this way because of her blog.

My father wasa swim instructor and I think he "taught" us to swim with the old pitch-them-in-the-pool method. Tried and true.

I wouldn't swim in the Thames, either. But that's mostly because it's too cold nine months of the year. And it's a thousand miles away...

As everyone already said, bravo for trying. you're never to old to be a dog that learned a new trick... or something.

Dinah said...

Hee. I think "I think "inexplicable device" just hit on you, Tim!" is the new "You're a trekkie?!" which was the new "IDV's gay?!"

Todd said...

We love swimming! Great exercise and a great way to cool off. Before getting into the swimming pool business, I would play nice with the people whose parents had a pool. Now as an adult, I have my own pool i can party in! Check out Swimming Pool Contractor for more information about swimming pools in general. We have some great articles there.

CyberPete said...

Oi Dinah!

How was I suppose to know Tim was a trekkie?

IDV being gay came as a shock to us all

Tim said...

Inexplicable Device - Um, aren't you the only person left on the planet that needs to develop photographs? Oh yes I know you *say* you've got a digital camera, but we all know what you really mean…

Sadly for you there are no Gratton's catalogue pictures.

And I'm only thrashing because I had a flashback to a nightmare that was just like the movie Jaws but instead of a shark there was a hideous witch…

K_sra - Welcome! And don't mind IDV, he's always saying those sort of things - we just look at him and roll our eyes.

It's surprising how many people have told me over the last couple of days that they learnt to swim because they were thrown into a pool. That's just a little bit scary…

Dinah - It did make me laugh! But seriously - IDV's gay!? Am I his unobtainable straight fantasy?

Todd - Hello! I really enjoyed it!! I'd love my own pool … any chance of a free sample?

Cyberpete - I'm sorry you were startled by me beaming out of the metaphorical Star Trek closet.

Dinah said...

Sorry, Cyberpete, I keep forgetting you weren't here when Tim looked like Little Clint Howard. I think that sort of gave him away.

Tim said...

Aaaah, the blessed days of Little Clint Howard…

Tim said...

Hang on! Doesn't my latest pic also give away the fact that I like Star Trek?! I'm dressed like Captain Kirk clasped in Apollo's big green hand!