I sometimes look at people who are completely oblivious to the world around them and I am very very jealous. Take the swimming pool on Sunday morning for instance; our local pool is midway through upgrading the changing areas at the moment which means that there are no toilet facilities. Which means that on a Sunday morning……….well, have you ever got out of a pool rubbing your eyes and said “wow you can really smell the chlorine today?” or “the chlorine’s a lot stronger than usual”? – I don’t want to alarm you but that’s not chlorine, that’s wee. Yes you read that right – wee. Or more precisely it’s certain component parts of other people’s urine reacting with chlorine. Chlorine doesn’t actually smell of anything. So when we arrived at the pool my brain noted the lack of toilet facilities at the same time as that “chlorine” smell. Couldn’t help but make the connection really – because although I didn’t think want to think about it, there was one toilet facility and it had a flume and a wave machine.
The decline of ecclesial community and church attendance in general can probably be linked to the fact that parents, in some unspoken pact, now like to take their children swimming on a Sunday morning. It’s like a religion – only you get to see more nipples. Early sunday morning is toddler time in the pool and so it’s filled with people who have less control over their bladder than Paula Radcliffe. So it was with a sense of understandable trepidation that I entered the pool area. Why didn’t you turn back James? I hear you ask. Did you have a Jellyfish sting that needed treating? Well no. The truth, it seems, is I would rather bathe in piss for an hour than disappoint my three year old. If you don’t have kids you probably can’t conceive (pun intended) of caring about anyone enough to swim through other people’s discharge with a smile on your face on a cold winter’s morning – but there you go: that’s parenting. I even had to pay to do it. The difference between me and those already in the pool is that I knew what I was getting into. At the pool’s edge was a man inflating his son’s rubber ring through clenched teeth while his son did that shivery tap dance that some kids do when they’re excited.
“Chlorine’s strong this morning” he said with a smile, blissfully unaware of the bouquet’s components. To make matters slightly worse he had that particular brand of roquefort halitosis common amongst coffee drinking smokers, I smiled and backed away.
We did the usual, we went to the deep end and I showed him the dark bars where the “sharks live”, he jumped in from the side a hundred times, always bursting back up out of the water with wide open eyes and a big smile. We did a length together at child-wearing-arm-band-speed which is roughly the same speed at which hair grows. The wave machine came on and we bobbed up and down watching the mum’s trying not to get their hair wet. The usual. At 10.30am they (the unsmiling-lifeguard-children who seemed to be running the show) opened the flume and we all climbed the brightly lit “staircase of shame” (Dads holding in their stomachs, Mum’s realising a wax wouldn’t go a miss. Or maybe a nice plait.) Alex went first, waving the entire way down to the bottom; then I went, in patented “luge” style – only 3 points touching the flume: shoulder blades and one heel – I thought I looked like a human torpedo. That is until I saw another man in his thirties do the same thing and then I just felt like somebody who really shouldn’t be using this apparatus whilst there were witnesses. It reminded me of when you see a big fat clumsy pigeon at the bird table “trying to join in” but really just spoiling it for all the other birds. And then it was midday and we had to go.
When getting changed we always go to the open changing bit rather than the “cupboards of shame”, getting a 3 year old changed in one of those standard cubicles is logistically impossible and besides he would’ve missed out on watching that weird french guy “flossing” his bumcrack with a fluffy towel.
Bad breath man and little Fred Astaire came in and we left quickly – worried that he might be about to deflate the rubber ring and gas the room. We skip the vending machine ritual that a lot of parents go in for and head home for a Sunday lunch. My son glows for the rest of the day.
In case you’re wondering, he did and I didn’t – Even if I wanted to I drink far too much Berocca to get away with it.