Friday, 12 March 2010


Swimming was the first formal activity I had undertaken since the last ill-fated attendance in my school days had crumbled under the guilty weight of apathy, and upon dipping my foot into this adult world of membership cards and communal nudity I had found the water to be thrilling.

In the fast lane lay the after-work crowd whom I mostly avoided. They retained the sharp lines of their suits in the lithe bodies they took into the water, darting back and forth until six thirty or seven, their humanity lost in the nose plugs and bathing caps of the professional amateur. It was after they had vanished that we emerged; we the overweight, we the elderly, we the time-killers, and we filled the slow lane with our ungainly strokes until the pool had shut.

I had been swimming for three or so months, three times a week, completing thirty lengths in thirty minutes, and exterior to the succinct mathematics, I had grown beyond the slow-coach or the incompetent bluffer to the blossoming glory of the average athlete, the man who waltzed into the changing rooms with his eye on his locker and his cubicle, the man with his eye on routine, the great believer in the amateur.

And yet sometimes routine could be interrupted, even in the twilight hours of the pool. Sometimes a romantic couple would choose it for their evening activity, select it from a long list of restaurants and rented films and sexual positions, and perform the most oblivious doggy paddle in the arena of the amateur athlete. Then as the amateur athlete strives to meet his thirty lengths in thirty minutes he must watch a couple side by side, barely swimming, merely stretching out limbs at intervals enough to stay afloat, self absorbed, chatting, saying, it seems to these lonely swimmers, nothing more than “Look how in love we are. Now we are in love in water!” Neither do the amateur athlete and his lonely swimmers need to watch the couple resting after their single length, nibbling at each other’s lips, feeling how different each other’s bodies feel under water, for we need nothing more than our feet pushing off the back wall or the ache of our shoulders as we near the home straight. “There is no sex or romance here!” we cry, “This is a place without longing!”

And yet once I betrayed the group. In the shallow end, I shared a wordless joke with a dark haired girl about a homosexual, the two of us leant against the side, exhaling heavily. Then for a moment the fluorescent strip lights flickered like gaudy candles, and as the figure of the joke splashed extravagantly again, covering her in his kickback, she laughed once more, longer than necessary, as if she was stretching the joke, as if it might last forever if we both kept laughing, if we both wanted it to never stop, if we were really looking at each other and deciding in the endless laughter to take a dawdling length together side by side in tribute to all the amateur athletes and lonely swimmers who remained lonely and amateur. I stopped laughing, mouthed wryly the exclamation “Jesus” in her direction, and kicked away from the wall in a way which I hoped had an amateur grace about it.

As I swam I thought of her and forgot for a moment how many lengths I had completed. I remembered her skin had been slightly olive and her costume khaki. To these extents she was exotic. I wondered what clothes she wore in the outside world, and I wondered why she swam. I wondered whether she would swim so much that she would lose her excess weight and her body would become lithe and perfect and we would become a mismatched couple in the eyes of the casual observer. I wondered whether she would leave me for one of the after work crowd and drive home in his modern silver hatchback while I retained my amateur status.

When I found myself swimming behind her, I betrayed the group again, I betrayed this girl’s calves and thighs, betrayed the beginning of her buttocks that could be seen in the loose trunks she wore. I thought about being inside her in the shower cubicle, and I wondered if we could do it undetected, and whether upon being caught, where the fate of swimming membership would lie. She took a rest after the next length and we were no longer following one another. At the deep end of the pool, I stood on the small ledge and took my own rest, which had fallen on an odd numbered length and thus showed poor commitment to the routine.

The water lapped at my pectorals, flabby and sagging, but slowly tensing with each successive length. Around me the lifeguards, all still teenagers, were engaged in some sort of signalling from either side of the pool, indulging the kind of work in-jokes which are useless to anyone else. Perhaps the boy on the left was making an ‘S’ with his hands; it was impossible to know. I glanced to the other end of the pool once more. The dark-haired girl was now making her way to the steps. I watched her climb out, walk cautiously along the wet tiles, before submerging myself again and completing the next seven lengths with a shamed efficiency.

I overtook the wheezing old man and succumbed to two superiorly efficient Asian sisters who were much too fast for our lane in the first place. I checked the digital clock face on the wall beyond the shallow end at regular intervals. I finished in twenty seven minutes. In the shower I thought of all the fleeting moments which are not really fleeting moments at all.


This story was written by our good friend Patrick Fisher. He was kind enough to read it for us and let us use it on the B-side of the demo tape. Along with Ollie Fisher & Dan Reeves, Patrick also "lays it down" on a regular basis with their power-trio Thee Cold Pumas. GOOD DUDES.

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