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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Taking tea with dolphins



Queens Drive baths was a lovely building but weirdly inefficient inside. It had no changing room, no lockers. Instead there were individual cubicles. These were small with flimsy doors, and they lined two sides of the pool. The result was, that when these individual cubicles were full, no one else could swim. As a result each swimmer was rationed (a mind-set from the war). We wore coloured wrist bands and a voice called us out when our  time was up.

Until then we went mad, random and loud, like excitable quarks. Water was magic but invariably cold. A favourite game involved the expulsion of air, which allowed us to sink like stones. Once assembled at the bottom of the pool we assembled in grave circles and drank imaginary tea, until somebody dived on top of us, or we ran out air.

Once there were dolphins – and one grim future day, someone may say that for real. But I’m talking here about dolphins in swimming pools. No one could ever accuse Liverpool City Council of not being…weird.

I thought of all this on Wednesday morning at 7.30 am, swimming one of my 45 lengths. Monmouth Leisure Centre is far more sedate, especially at 7.30 am. We swim our respective lengths in silence, but make a point of saying ‘Good morning’ or similar pleasantries to every new swimmer. This is accompanied by a chin-above-water smile. Monmouth Leisure Centre unfortunately lacks dolphins, and no one takes tea underwater. Instead we just swim, minds in free fall and thinking all manner of things. 

  It is not all plain swimming though. There are the occasional distractions. Until recently we had ‘bouncing woman’. This was a lady who bounced on the spot. She spends half the year in Monmouth, the other half in Australia. I suspect she bounces her way through like some elderly Persephone. She may be bouncing her way back to us even now.

Then there is the ‘Thresher’ though some call her ‘combined harvester’. She resembles a plump beetle and takes no prisoners. Her limbs are hard and bony, unpredictable. She decapitates the unwary with a grunt. Sometimes a ‘professional’ swimmer invades our territory. Even the ‘Thresher’ is wary of them. They have heads like cannonballs, and snarl for air as their heads briefly surface.

 I’ve probably left it too late to be a professional swimmer, but I could probably teach them a thing or two about taking tea six feet below. But I wish there were dolphins. Sharks for the 'Thresher'.

11 comments:

Maria Zannini said...

You remind me of Greg. He often regales me with stories about the antics they'd pull underwater. Meanwhile my eyes widen, incredulous that you two ever made it to adulthood. LOL.

I often wish I could swim--or at least not be afraid of the water.

Did you really have dolphins in the pool? Why? What happened to them?

Mike Keyton said...

I owe my guardian angel a lot. I'm sure Greg does too - his not mine.

Ref Dolphins. They weren't a regular feature. Random acts on the part of our municipal council. But never forgotten.

Then there was the one-legged diver in New Brighton. But that's a different story

Shirley Wells said...

I love being beside or on water but not 'in' it. Like Maria, I often wish I wasn't afraid of it.

I'm fascinated by the dolphins though. How did they get them there? And where did they stay when they weren't in the pool?

I sincerely hope no one ever says "once there were dolphins" for real.

Mike Keyton said...

How did they get them there? I'm visualising a corporation lorry with a big tank on the back - but special changing rooms. Those cubicles would have been too small for them. There'd be a coloured wrist band on one of the fins.

And Amen to your last comment.

Jay Paoloni said...

Water is fascinating. I love being in it, although I'm not too fond of depths. I'd never venture into an underwater cave.
I hope I can have the chance to stroke a dolphin once, but only if he gets any closer to my boat. I can't tolerate dolphins kept in captivity for entertainment purposes.

Misha Gericke said...

I've always found water fascinating and scary at the same time. Pretty much the same way I feel about fire. :-)

LD Masterson said...

I have this lovely image in my mind now of taking tea with dolphins somewhere far under the water.

Mike Keyton said...

Jay, Misha, It's amazing how many people have ambivalent feelings ref water. I absolutely love being in it. I've told my children to put me down when I'm too old to dive into the sea! (Perhaps not)

LD Thank you. You're right. It is a wonderful image. I wonder if they take sugar...cucumber sandwiches perhaps

Kerri Cuev said...

I love swimming, and having tea with dolphins would be fun, although I do imagine the tricks they would play.

Mike Keyton said...

Messy eaters, dolphins.

Kerri, It would be nice to look at one in the eye. I wonder if it has a similar resonance to looking into the eyes of a gorilla.

soo said...

I remember the dolphins!! My other half has just looked at me like I was a mad woman when Mentioned the dolphins in the baths.