When I was a child, the local swimming pool appeared to me much like a tropical paradise. Blue water, colourful floats and the strangely pleasant aroma of chlorine. The most memorable incident of my childhood swimming photo-book was the time a kid decided to poo in the pool and we had to evacuate (lest Poo Jaws would swallow us whole). This, however, was more entertaining than gross. The worst of part of swimming was getting out, and padding into the changing rooms shivering (I still hate this part).
Now, through adult eyes, the pleasant oasis of my childhood has melted away to reveal a giant tub of water, with an unknown estimate of human urine content and chewed up floats from the 90s. Kids screaming, diving, hairy men floating toward me like large, buoyant gorillas wearing speedos. Diving underwater with goggles is no longer the adventurous mission into the deep it once was; but instead a cinematic view of an octogenarian’s bristly bikini line. The idea of someone dropping the brown bomb in the pool no longer makes me laugh. Instead I feel that a floating mass of e-coli is the stuff of nightmares.
My local pool is far from the spa-like imaginings of my snobbiest self, and remains unchanged since the 80s. It’s so cold that my nipples could double up as a sushi knife. The communal hairdryer sounds like it’s about to explode every time I use it and I’ve lost countless 20p pieces in the rickety lockers (leaving my valuables unlocked every time).
Unfortunately, my children love it. So I squeeze into my tummy control swimsuit and dutifully take them swimming. Five minutes in and I see someone’s child SNOT into the water. Somehow this will end up in my mouth, I’m convinced of it.
I’ve stretched goggles over my children’s eyes so it looks like it’s squeezing their eyeballs and stuffed them in Peppa Pig arm bands. I hope the smaller one (who is being trained) doesn’t shit in the pool (because quite often he has a homemade Spag Bol explosion dribbling out his ass). The elder is terrified of the water to begin with and clings to me like a marmoset half the time. For some odd reason he is often stupidly excited about the pool until we actually get there and we have to go through the same process each time. By the time we are ready to leave he wants to stay in the water forever, it’s maddening.
An old man eyes me up, this is the first kind of male attention I’ve had in months (who needs Tinder when you have your local pool?). I pretend to be a whale until my younger son actually starts to get scared I’ve achieved metamorphosis and asks me to “be Mummy again.” After half an hour (and probably swallowing a plethora of verrucas) I’m ready to do the shiver walk to the changing rooms. The children haven’t had enough, I’m going to have to battle out the whole hour. At this point I’m considering chatting up the old man for entertainment. After an hour or so of bobbing up and down in the shallows my youngest son splashes the elder in the face and he cries fantastically. This is my cue for escape.
Shame as I was starting to enjoy myself ....