I don’t call my son Bigfoot for nothing: his size 46 feet could easily qualify as flippers. He was spotted as potential competition material last year by the pool trainers, and I’ve been taxiing his Lordship and his collection of swimming paraphernalia back and forth to the local pool for training sessions three times per week ever since.
His two hours of training three times a week first appeared to be very good value, unbeatable at 130 euros for the year. However, I quickly discovered the hidden costs: the pool is 20 minutes’ drive from home, so I hang around whilst he trains to save on two return journeys.
That’s all very well and good, but the wait becomes expensive when the only available activity is to trail around the only other place that is open and has lighting: the nearby shopping mall. After cracking for overpriced imported ginger nuts, chutney and golden syrup once too often, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and brave the hazardous waters of exercise in the hope of investing less to achieve more.
Now that my cholesterol level is acceptable and I’ve cleaned up my nutritional act, it would be good to get the remaining carcass back into training and tone it up a bit. Regular readers may however remember that I am about as compatible with exercise as King Kong is with needlepoint embroidery. But in the current context of European crisis, there was a strong argument for reducing spending and increasing health. Could I reverse the trend and be slimmer than my bank account?
So on Friday I reluctantly towed my swimming gear to the pool for the sixth time in three weeks, and endeavoured to avoid swallowing the entire pool as I choked my way up and down it. Two muscley, streamlined poseidons strutted out of the changing rooms, whirled their arms around like windmills then slapped their upper arms in a strange pre-swim ritual before adjusting their googles and their surgically-applied Speedo trunks. Once they were certain that all female eyes within a 10km radius were riveted on them, they plummeted into the pool without a splash and effortlessly cut their way through the water like hot knives through butter, their triceps, biceps and other perfectly honed youth-ceps glistening as they torpedoed through 20 lengths of the pool in the same time I took to swim four.
My chin unhinged and dropped open, letting the chlorine flood in. A woman laughed as she saw me choking, and chuckled “Don’t worry, they’re just pretending they know how to swim!” over her shoulder as she swam past.
As I finished my tenth length of the pool, my low self-esteem was dragging me towards the bottom like a dragnet full of tuna. I was a 2CV who had been overtaken by a Ferrari on the motorway. A tug rather than a Queen Mary of the aquatic world. Hanging on to the side, I gasped like a grounded herring, drowning in self-pity as I tried to massage a cramp in my left calf….and then I saw Bigfoot ploughing his way down the other side of the pool, encouraged by a coach. His back arched out of the turquoise water, his head bobbed rhythmically in and out of the spray, and his arms churned in synchro as he swam the butterfly. His determination to succeed came over loud and clear on my mummy radar. Despite the pain in my leg, I felt the warmth of maternal pride spreading through me and decided to clean my act up.
My smug, self-congratulatory moment was interrupted by the conversation of two young women behind me, who were ruthlessly demolishing the reputation of an unknown victim. “He’s just not motivated, ya know?” complained one of them in a nasal whine. “Yeah, like your little Buddha’s gonna lose that pot belly of his without making an effort”, replied the nasty sidekick with a voice as smooth as a grater. “He just hangs on to the end of the pool and says he’s tired. What a wimp”. I turned around, and was greeted by the vision of two tatooed, bikini-clad wonders, hair neatly pinned up on their heads. There was so much waterproof mascara on those eyelashes that I was surprised they hadn’t got tangled up whilst they talked. I secretly hoped that neither of them would spit in the water before I got out of the pool: they were so full of venom, they’d cause serious burns to anyone who swam too close.
They pushed off (in both senses of the term) and paddled delicately towards the deep end, their necks craned high out of the water like submarine telescopes to keep their hair dry. Their victim was a young man who was hanging onto the pool steps, staring sadly at the nearby lifeguard’s perfect physique. He sighed as he saw his torturers approaching.
This is where doting Dad and his wailing offspring made things fun. As I already explained in “Beach Babes”, there are parents who never realise that their kids are growing up and bubblewrap them against the assaults of real life for years on end. At the other end of the scale, you have the parents who think their kids are capable of passing their driving test, getting into University then starting a business at the age of four. This guy was one of them. He marched down to the deep end with his tot in tow. A gaudy gold chain snaked through the thick, dark undergrowth sprouting all over his torso, and the smell of his cheap aftershave left people gasping for breath in his wake. This was the ultimate local silverback. He shoved his quivering offspring onto the platform just above the venomous pool princesses, and snapped “Off ya go!” His skinny, shivering child wavered, and looked back at his Dad, who yelled “Come on kid, give it some gumption! Look, Daddy’ll show you how”.
Without waiting, he grabbed the kid’s hand and threw himself into the pool. The impact was worthy of a meteorite hitting the Pacific, and the pool princesses’ hair was drenched in the ensuing nuclear mushroom of spray. His child broke surface beside them, hair plastered over his eyes, and screamed hysterically in their faces. The sad boyfriend’s face split into a huge grin. In the end, I quite enjoy going to the pool. Roll on tomorrow, I can’t wait!