Tuesday, October 15, 2013
The Giant Concrete Puddle
There is no steadfast shape to the art of swimming. From the traditional beach swim, to the romantic splash, to the quick afternoon paddle and the lazy river float, there is a style of swimming to suit every aquatically-included individual.
While quite impartial to both a warm spring soak, and an ocean wave dive, my personal favourite has to be ye ole swimming pool swimming.
Now, Merriam Webster defines a swimming pool to be: 'a pool suitable for swimming; especially : a tank (as of concrete or plastic) made for swimming.'
Here down under, The Macquarie Dictionary takes a simpler approach, defining the swimming pool to be: 'an artificial pool for swimming in.'
While these definitions are functional, they are colder than an outdoor pool in the middle of winter and drier than than the kid who forgot to pack their togs for the school swimming carnival.
A concrete or plastic tank? Yes. Made for swimming? Of course. An artificial pool for swimming in? Undoubtedly. But what about the rest? What transforms a swimming pool from being a giant concrete puddle to an enjoyable chlorinated playground?
For me, there's something intriguing about the cool blue rectangle of a swimming pool that drags me in and under and up and down, lap after rhythmic lap. I think it's a cumulative effect, built up on the flowing solidity of the lane markers and the silent metronome of the lap clock and the burbly, gurgly silence of immersion.
My love for the swimming pool is well entrenched, and that's a pretty good thing considering I live in Australia - because cooling off at the local swimming pool is part and parcel of every Australian summer. And spring, and autumn, and even winter, depending on your level of grit and fishy tendencies.
Like the Tim to the Tam, the Iced to the Vovo and the sausage to the roll, the swimming pool is an iconic and colourful thread running through the great Australian cultural towel.
Many Australian childhood memories have started, and will continue to start, at the bottom of the local swimming pool. My memories are populated with sizzling hot concrete, short-clipped lawns, faded beach towels, the unmistakable stink of sunscreen running with sweat and lemonade ice-block.
Long days running through cavernous change blocks and slipping down slides, eating meat pies and sopping bags of mix and match lollies - cobbers, pineapples, coke bottles, teeth and jelly snakes. Quivering climbs up to the top diving board, getting sandpaper feet on the blocks and spitting in goggles to stop the dreaded fog.
The cast is plentiful: girls in bikinis soaking up the sun when they shouldn't, men wearing budgie smugglers (also when they probably shouldn't) and Mums chasing toddlers with handfuls of hats and sandwiches and water wings. Lap swimmers avoiding the teenage dive bombing squad avoiding the kids fighting each other with kick boards and beach balls. All directed by the stern pool manager: loud-hailer keeper, filter fixer, fence protector.
Over the course of my lifetime, I have seen plenty of poolside changes. Zinc has fallen by the wayside, replaced by super-sized pump packs of SPF 30+ and protective rash vests. Beach balls have been replaced with foam pool noodles, water pistols have been banned and height restriction signs have been attached to the diving board ladders.
That said, swimming pools are still inherently the same. The water still splashes, the lap-swimmers still churn and the towels still fade. Bikinis are still on women and budgie smugglers are still on men, and jelly snakes still sell like cut-price-shapewear in a room of new mothers.
Last year, I adopted an indoor pool as my 'artificial tank' of choice. There is a little more steam and a lot more echo than the outdoor variety, but it's a worthy trade-off for protection against the temperamental Melbourne weather.
It is this indoor pool that will serve as the foundation of my daughter's lifelong relationship with the swimming pool and the water - a relationship that started yesterday, when we took our daughter to the pool for her very first swim.
(As a side note, the indoor part of the equation proved its salt when Melbourne decided to hurl an onslaught of diagonal hail from the sky without warning. Thanks for that, Melbourne, you're consistent weather inconsistency is impressively infallible.)
Our baby has been fascinated by water from her first top-and-tail, and as expected, she proved herself to be a true little fish in the pool. There was the obligatory two minutes of stunned-mullet staring (whoa, Mum, when did the bath get so big?) followed by thirteen minutes of kicking, splashing, smiling, water-gulping wonderment.
From the parental point of view, the experience also went swimmingly (pun entirely intended) - there was smiling where there could have been crying, giggling where there could have been screaming, and the cute purple swim nappy stayed cute and purple. We didn't drop the slippery baby (bonus points) and we now have one peg wedged in the large but essential water-safety board.
Of course, our daughter won't remember that first swim. She is too little and the world is too big for her to make sense of yet. So, as her parents, we will snap up our minds and remember it for her, until she is old enough to blow bubbles and inhale jelly snakes from the kiosk and swim her own memories up and down the pool.
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