Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Swimming

Diary of a Swimming Snob – People Watching

I love a public swimming pool. It’s a great place to people watch. (just don’t be creepy about it or you’ll get yourself in trouble)

People from all walks of life go swimming and these are a couple of my favourite observations from my latest swims. The first three come with the subtitle “What were you thinking?” The last two “Ah, isn’t that nice?”.

  1. Swimwear. You see all kinds of swimwear, and most of it is unremarkable. Guys, thankfully, rarely wear Speedos these days, and the ladies almost always wear a full swimsuit. But there was a young lady recently in the pool who was wearing a bikini. Nothing unusual in that, you might think, except this particular garment consisted of a couple of triangles of camouflage printed fabric held together with shoelaces that criss-crossed over her hips. Nice for the beach in Benidorm perhaps, but for swimming? Really? Then again, I remember that going to the pool as a teenager was a great excuse to show off to the lads. In my case it was less about the body, (I am built more like a seal than your average Sharron Davies look-a-like) and more about how I could beat them all in a race.

    sea animal dog zoo

    Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

  2. Hygiene. There are signs around the sauna and steam room with instructions on not what to do. There’s the usual – don’t run, don’t go in the steam room if you have health issues, etc., then there are some I have never seen anywhere outside of Liverpool. ‘No shaving, no pumice stones, no food, no glass bottles containing oils’. Why do they need to put these signs up? Have I missed something? I’d have thought it’s pretty obvious that you don’t shave in a sauna, it’s not a Turkish bath, it’s a public swimming pool. Then this week as I sat in the sauna, a guy in the corner started shaving. He tapped the razor out on his leg, got up and left. Behind him another guy walked out carrying his glass bottle of Olbas Oil. When I saw them later they had carrier bags of ‘stuff’. There was another family having a picnic at the table, right underneath the ‘No Food‘ sign. Why are they allowed to bring in anything more than a swim cap, goggles, towel and a bottle of water? Shouldn’t the lifeguards be putting a stop to this at the door? So I am just waiting for someone to get the old pumice stone out and start scrubbing their feet. Urgh, my skin crawls just thinking about where those dead skin cells will end up. I think the signs must be giving people ideas.

    person swimming on pool with feet in the air
    Photo by Chee Zu on Pexels.com
  3. Then, there’s the lady with a couple of kids heading into the pool on a Sunday morning. She was shoving bags and clothes and general stuff into a locker and trying to corral the kids at the same time. She had her hands full, I’ve been there. Sometimes it seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Anyway, as they were finally leaving to go and get wet, she shouts “Hey Carol-Ann, take your IPad with you.” Carol-Ann asks why. “‘Cause yours is waterproof. The others aren’t.” The kid looks at the sign that says ‘Absolutely no phones, cameras, tablets or electronic equipment past this point’ and looks at her mum. “It’ll be fine” says mum. And they say kids spend too much time online.
  4. But to end on a couple of good notes. There was an elderly couple in the pool one day who must have been in their 80’s. He was helping her to swim. I don’t know if she was learning, or if she was exercising after a health issue, a stroke maybe. She wasn’t a good swimmer, she was slow and she kept veering off at an angle, she didn’t get her face wet, she was not confident, and she was unsteady on her legs when she stood up, but he was so patient and gentle with her, it was a joy to watch. That’s how I want to grow old. Of course I could have it all wrong and they can’t stand each other most days, but I am choosing my version.

    three boy s jumping into the water
    Photo by Marc Richards on Pexels.com
  5. At the other end of the age range, a mum was teaching her little girl to jump into the pool without arm bands. I was in the lane next to them and as I was about to push off, the girl said “Look mummy, that lady is going to go underwater.” As I pushed off I heard mum say, “Yes, look, there she goes.” I smile to myself as I glide underwater. Someone had noticed me, and she might have taken it as a sign of encouragement to jump in herself. I like that. It gives me a lovely warm feeling inside.

So despite all my moaning at the annoying stuff going on in the pool, there are bright spots of sunlight to brighten up my day too. I just need to train myself to pay attention to them.  But if I see a pumice stone I’m cancelling my membership and only swimming in the docks with the eels.

Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Writing

(Some) People are Tools

People are funny sometimes. Some are ‘Funny Ha-Ha’ and others are more ‘Funny Peculiar’. Lately I seem to be plagued by the funny peculiar type and, I believe, I am in fact a magnet for them. I don’t know if it’s to do with being a woman travelling alone, or if the whole world just went funny when I wasn’t looking.

Urban Dictionary definition of a Tool: Someone whose ego FAR exceeds his talent, intelligence, and likeability. But, of course, he is clueless regarding that fact. He erroneously thinks he is THE MAN!

Which tool are you?

The Monkey Wrench

person holding silver crescent wrench behind vehicle wheels
The Monkey Wrench

Well, this bloke really took the biscuit when it came to funny peculiar. I shared a table with two lads for 2 hours on a packed train. The longest 2 hours of my life and 2 hours I will never get back. They did tell me their names but for the life of me, I can’t remember them, so I’ll call them Bill and Ben. They were only in their early twenties, if not younger, and they had Cardiff accents, so I knew when they got on at Birmingham, I was stuck with them for the duration.

I was already seated as they made a spectacle of themselves just finding seats. Ben carried one holdall and was dressed in joggers, a sweatshirt and trainers.  Bill had more luggage than Imelda Marcos leaving a shoe sale, and he had to put some of it on an empty seat next to another stranger. Bill was a dandy. He wore big rings on his fingers, a gold necklace with a cross, shiny leather shoes and a suit reminiscent of Rupert Bear. He wore a colourful striped shirt and a poppy covered tie. Clash much? He had a green paracord bracelet on his right hand, which didn’t fit with the rest of the ensemble and he must have bathed in a vat of aftershave.

I was reading a book when they sat down and started talking. Bill did not draw breath. He talked nonstop. I have never seen anything like it. He had an opinion and advice about absolutely everything you could think of, and he was as thick as your Nan’s doorstop cheese butty. I desperately kept trying to read and he kept interrupting me and the topics were completely random.

He couldn’t remember if people had 5 toes or 6 on each foot. I could see the cogs whirring as he was obviously trying to mentally count his toes from inside his shoes. He counted wrong. He didn’t know yoghurt was made from milk. He thinks he believes the Romans existed though he’s not sure Jerusalem is an actual place. He used his fingers to add 10 minutes to 58 minutes.

But the best thing was how he was trying to keep it quiet that they had just passed Army Selection (hence the paracord bracelet). He was so covert in hiding it that he kept calling me Ma’am, even after I told him my name, he answered “roger that” instead of a simple “yes” every single time, oh yes and he kept talking about it non-stop to a crowded train for 2 hours. He told me he didn’t want to advertise the fact that he was in the Army because it would, in effect, put a target on his forehead. He showed me his Facebook profile. His name was displayed as BILL TOOL (Soldier Boy) his profile pic was of him in uniform, and his cover photo was of his soon-to-be cap-badge. He may need extra lessons in camouflage class I think. SAS or Int Corps he most definitely is not.

They were perfectly lovely young men though (wow, how old do I sound?) obviously pleased as punch to have passed Selection, and rightly so.  I wish them both well. I am sure they will have a great future ahead of them and make their families and themselves proud. I don’t have a problem with people being factually challenged, it takes all sorts. People have different strengths and that is perfectly fine.

But oh my f god – he did not shut up for 2 hours straight. If you are going to talk incessantly, please try to make sure it’s not all total bo**ocks.

The Blunt Axe 

I took another train, this time to Southport. Just an hour each away so I took my knitting to keep busy. Nothing peculiar in that, right? The trip there was pretty uneventful. A little old gentleman sat opposite me reading his book, and he didn’t even raise his eyes to mine, let alone speak.

On the way back however, I was gifted with Derek (name changed to protect the peculiar) as a travelling companion. I know his name was Derek, because he introduced himself as he shook my hand and told me I have a very unique personality.

I knew I was in trouble when he interrupted a conversation across the carriage and told them they were wrong about water meters. They told him it was the best decision they had ever made and shut him down immediately. And so, he turned to me.

axe close up dark grass
The Blunt Axe

Derek was a nice enough chap. Reasonably well dressed in jeans with greying floppy hair, 50-ish I guess, a bit scruffy but not dirty. He had one of those softly spoken, gentle Liverpool accents, similar to Roger McGough the poet. The sort of voice you could listen to for hours if he were reading decent poetry. But Derek wasn’t reading poetry.

It was the knitting that gave him a conversation starter, although I’m sure he’d have found another ‘in’. But he soon lost interest in what I was doing and started banging on about all kinds of political stuff. I have no problem with people’s politics, each to their own, but if I wanted to hear some d*ck spouting nonsense I’d tune in to Question Time.

I learned that he sees himself as a traditional man, not one of these “new -fangled New Men” (his words). He is a hard-working labourer, a man’s man, with a woman at home looking after him. I know he moved to Southport because his girlfriend wanted him to, so he obviously wears the trousers in that household. He was on his way to his ailing mother’s house with not one but two Mother’s Day cards, because he couldn’t decide which he liked best. He showed them to me. They were pretty much identical. He had no idea what to buy her for a present. He was angry about where they had positioned her smoke alarm where she could see it blinking all day and all night, and that it showed a lack of empathy (fair point). He also hated that they had cut her carers down, in a subversive move to force her into a home so they could take all her money and her house. Something he vowed would never happen “as long as there is breath in my body”. He banged his fist on his thigh and pulled a face.

Derek was a very angry man and had many an axe to grind, he was anti-establishment, disliked ‘The Man’, but he was so softly spoken that I missed most of it. I smiled and nodded a bit, and generally tried to concentrate on what I was doing, hoping he’d get off the train soon. I resisted the urge to mention BREXIT or Thatcher. I think he may have quietly combusted.

There was plenty more, but I couldn’t hear a word. Regardless, he talked constantly for half an hour. But it all felt a bit wet. The fist punching was weak posturing for my benefit, and he had no idea that I wasn’t engaging in the conversation. How he knew what kind of personality I had is beyond me.

The Mallett

egg power fear hammer
The Mallett

And in case you think it’s all men – I am actually writing this on the Library computer and next to me a woman is gesticulating and bashing hell out of the keyboard and mouse in temper as she has a Facebook argument. She is swearing and arguing at the screen, flicking the v’s, and waving her arms in despair. I’m not sure she realises they can’t see or hear her. I’d love to have a nose and see what the argument is about, but I think I might get a punch in the face.

I am sure that these three are all very nice people, perhaps they just need someone to talk to, someone to listen. It’s a colourful world we live in, and these guys make life interesting. But Christ can they make a train journey drag.

Okay, so perhaps I am being a little judgemental, but hey, they invaded my space, I was quietly minding my own business when they interrupted, so that makes them fair game in my eyes.

I love people watching, all writers do I guess, but it’s almost as if these guys came out from the TV screen and sat on my sofa. Well, they will be characters in a book someday and revenge will be sweet.  This kind of Funny Peculiar is too good to waste.

Which Tool are You?