At swim, one old bird

In my heart I’ve always loved swimming, but in public I’ve shied away from it. Extreme shortsightedness—and I do get discounts on my prescriptions—is a barrier in ways that I think most people don’t really think about: which end is the deep end? which way was the right changing-room? how do I find the people I came with, without staring at strangers in states of undress? Add to that a terrible body image and you can see why, in adulthood, I’ve usually avoided swimming pools.

Recently, though, K. convinced me to at least try the local municipal pool. It took some doing, but I can’t really remember in the end what her killer argument was. And like most Tory municipal things, it’s effectively privatized, of course, but I still had the worry that they’ll combine the extortion of the private sector with the dismalness of 1980s public-sector infrastructure (we are after all still using Victorian sewerage.)

It turns out—and this seemed to be the only way I could learn it—that one of the benefits of age is that your own body image simply becomes less of a concern, or that you become more aware of the irrelevance of strangers’ opinions at least. I’m not as thin as I was when I was 20 (although still slimmer than when I was 18) but somehow I’ve ceased to care either way; I’m also not as bothered about undressing in front of strangers, again maybe because I don’t care what they think.

In addition, experience has at least brought with it the mental wherewithal to come up with coping strategies for my disability, in advance. First I went into the pool room (if not the water) with my glasses on, and had a good look round, checking out signage and furniture; then I returned my glasses to my locker and blinked my way owlishly down the ladder and in I went.

Thirty-four lengths later, I had to concede I was probably back in love with swimming.

This week I was back again with K, for an early-morning swim. It turns out that, much as I’m slower at jogging at that time of day, I’m also slower at swimming. But I still thrilled to the feeling of moving through the water, and there was the added bonus of it being an adult swim, with no yabber of children and everyone reasonably focussed (or as focussed as my eyes would let me be) on actually swimming.

So I think I’ve found a new hobby, although it’s early days yet. The local pool is actually quite airy and clean, and chlorination has changed since I was younger; but let’s see how I feel about getting in the water when our local services no longer cater for the nesh and the southern.

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5 Responses to At swim, one old bird

  1. looby says:

    Cycling miles each day to a gentle swim … it’s downhill from here 🙂

    I know it’s not very mature or dispassionately careless of me but there is a competitiveness about getting undressed amongst others that incites me to keep in some sort of halfway decent shape — in as far as drinking like a Belarussian fish will allow.

    • smallbeds says:

      I think it’s a consequence of my shortsightedness and my own body image, but I’ve always shied away from making that kind of comparison. But I rather hope that being more comfortable in my slightly saggier skin is a step on the road towards it being less saggy, because I’ll actually enjoy exercise more: I’ve quite enjoyed jogging but it’s no good for my tendons and quite a stress on my body; if I can swap in swimming instead, with a genuinely glad heart, then hopefully I’ll do it more often and with more gusto.

  2. looby says:

    P.S. I’ve lost your email address but please let me know when you get to Sheffield and we can have a couple of drinks (without you having to go to the drinks cupboard)

    • smallbeds says:

      “smallbeds” at yon popular gmail.com provider will get me, and then we can strike up a conversation on less pseudonymous channels. I do rather hope we’ll be able to show the hospitality that a 1.5-bed place has prevented us from doing properly this past few years; we’ve also got vague plans to use our Hoghton-based family (their idea) as a springboard for the Lakes, which K has never really seen. So with any luck there’s some drinks in our future, all right!

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