Gone swimmingly


Oh there’s no stopping me now. But that’s only because I’ve just returned from the pool and that always makes me chatty – and heavens, did it afford some stuff to chat about. We are well into FunnyTime, where the guilty come to purge off their Christmas and lie to themselves about new exercise regimes. We regulars remain extremely mannerly, partly because we’re a bit messianic about Everyone Must Swim, but mostly because we know that roughly 100 per cent of them will have stopped coming by mid January – sooner if we get a big dump of snow. And that is a luxuriously large sweet spot for the regulars to occupy: yes, we welcome you, and thank God you won’t be back.

It’s easy to spot the newbies. Not because the regulars are honed and toned and glide through water like greased otters. No indeed, we’re a funny old mix of sporadically tufted misshapes and odd bods, a grab bag of fatties and thinnies and dunno-what-shape-you’d-call-that. You can’t even tell by muscle tone, although confidence in the water is unmistakable. Even the old ladies in full make-up and flowery caps have a steely air of competence about them. And the old gents who dodder about on the side are able to cut a comparative dash once waterborne.

To the initiated, the absolute dead giveaway is the togs. One word: beachwear. If it’s a funny colour, a silly shape, and unlikely to stay where it was put, then we know you won’t be back. Today’s harvest yielded some VAST surfing shorts that ballooned and dragged so much it must have been like swimming in a crinoline; a leopard-print side-tie bikini that marched north the minute it hit the water; some gosh-they’re-snug-aren’t-they Speedo briefs with a turquoise palm tree motif that were practically embedded in their owner; and a one-shoulder fuchsia number with a peculiar gold snaffle on the strap that Kate O’Mara might have borrowed off Stephanie Beacham. Bye bye everyone! Won’t be seeing you! Thanks for coming!

Mind you, dunno why I’m laughing. One year I thought I should take up running and the only things I could find in my under-appointed fitness wardrobe were kind of like pyjama bottoms (I think Messrs Marks and Spencer described them as ‘Pretty leisure pants’, which would account for the lace trim). I sneaked out – after dark – ran one and a half times round a football pitch in the park and felt so sick I swore I’d never go again. Saved myself a packet on kit I wouldn’t have used, and gave the local glue sniffers a laugh. Bargain.


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