I Heart Swimming


Yes, it might have slowed Londoners down slightly – or at least made them incorporate a bit more movement into their daily commute – but I am grateful to the tube strike. Why? Because London Underground’s bullheaded behaviour has catalysed a chance encounter that has made nightingales sing in Berkeley Square. Sing it, sisters: I’m in love!

As previously discussed, I was already in favour of the tube strike, chiefly from a political point of view (workers! Push back against employers! Collective bargaining! Etc) but also because it has applied a boot to the backside and got me into training for the long walk, which is only a little over a week away. 

But all that aside, public-transport disruption has set my heart going pitter-pat by getting me out and about at an ungodly hour. See, I wanted to fit in a swim as well as walking, but that meant getting up really REALLY early to go to the pool in order to be dry and on the road by 8. Without knowing that I was about to be struck by love’s thunderbolt, it took a stiff talking-to to get me out of bed as the alarm bellowed ‘Six o’ the clock and all’s well’ about eight inches from my ear. Groan. Out I tottered, blinkily dressing in the clothes left out ready, and bobbled up to the swimming pool.

Now, the pool has a unisex locker area with individual cubicles – not usually an issue. Apart from the time I was changing and turned to find the dodgy lock had given up and the door stood wide open. How long had it been like that? Not the faintest clue, but all my panicked memory could dredge up was the unconscionable amount of time I’d spent in the nip, humming to myself, laboriously and pointlessly repacking my bag and air-drying. Hey ho. Lucky Balham.

Anyway, back to the coup de foudre of yesterday. It was just a glimpse really, but that was all it took. In I walked, a full hour earlier than I would usually arrive, and spotted something I’d never seen before. This kind of vision may be afforded to everyone who goes to swim at 7am, but how would I know? No, it was not a handsome but shy stag in a sun-dappled clearing but – oh heart, be still – a very fat, astonishingly hairy man negotiating his way into a cubicle with his hands full of clothes and shoes and showery bottles. Time slowed as inexorably what was already a sketchily small towel loosened, sagged and came away entirely, revealing that the hair proceeded without check from nape to heels.

Now, who am I to critique the human body? L’homme sauvage, unprimped, unplucked, left to run riot, proud in its natural state is something we should celebrate. Yeah yeah, all that with knobs on. But what enslaved my heart was not the tufted curves so much as the magnificently vast belch he let rip as he closed the door on a dazzled world. Sensory overload! Look out ladies! My very own Barney Gumble from The Simpsons!

Thank you, RMT union’s steadfastness in the face of management pissing-about. Thank you, poorly designed changing ‘village’. And thank you, God. My alarm is set for 6am FOREVER.


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