No one dives in me

Seven things I’ve learned from 20 years as a community swimming pool.

As told to Kit Caless.

When I’m cold I’m lonely.
When I’m cold, the black brick sat on my bottom has no person to pick it up.
They put a sign outside that says, “The pool is currently at 26 degrees, we apologise for any inconvenience”.
I have to be apologised for.
I’m like that socialist friend you invite round for dinner who ruins everything.

There are different strokes for different folks.

No swimmer does it the same.
Wednesday evening is water aerobics. Large ladies stand in me and lift their legs.
Thursday morning is only men and boys. Too many cocks spoiling the broth.
Friday evening is empty. Everyone is in the pub, swimming in booze and friendship.

No one dives when there’s a shallow end.

They all slide in. Sidle down the steps into my wet embrace.

But it’s all the same in the deep end.

I get the dreadlocked, the bald, the fat, the thin, the good, the bad and the smugly.
The smug ones are the worst. With earplugs and latex hats, they overtake the meandering amateurs with a splash and a sly goggled side-eye. They tumble turn wearing nose pegs.
I’m a community pool: even if you swim faster than everyone else; you’re still swallowing the same water.

Every pool has its problems.

Last year a man got cryptosporidiosis.
Last month a woman got a fungal infection.
Last week a child vomited at my side.
I’ve got enough lithium hypochlorite and cyanuric acid to sanitise the Somme trenches.
Occasionally, someone gets ill. There’s no need to go over the top.

Clean swimming is about good timing.

I’m cleanest at 7am. The sunrise swimmers find solace in the painted lines on my bottom. They start their day with me sloshing in and out their ears, instead of a young disc jockey making jokes they no longer understand.
By 9pm there’s hair everywhere. Filthy clumps of the stuff: knotted together, floating about, attaching themselves to swimmers toes, acting like naval mines and causing flailing limbs of panic.

My changing room floor has a unique micro-culture.

Don’t think about the number of shoes that come in from the outside world. Don’t think about the life of lower Clapton mixing with water and sweat and chemicals.
We’ll leave it there shall we?


Image credit: Anne

The Learned Pig

Kit Caless

Kit is a writer, editor and broadcaster. He co-founded and co-runs Influx Press, a small indie that publishes ‘site-specific’ literature. He hosts Mapping the Metropolis, a literature and urbanism show on London’s Resonance 104.4FM and used to host the breakfast show on cult underground station NTS. Kit helps run the Hackney branch of Hammer and Tongue, a spoken word collective known for its national slam competition. He studied at the London College of Printing but nothing he learned there has come in useful. Yet.