Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Gone swimming

There's a particular sound about the place. The splash of limbs on water, the slap of waves against tiles, the  creaking of the diving board.
There's a certain atmosphere. Steamy, damp air, the hiss of showers, like snakes in the background; a chill breeze from an open door; hard, gleaming walkways, great glass windows.
There's probably a unique, remembered fragrance. I can't be sure. My sense of smell vanished years ago, but I still recall the chemical, eye-stinging aroma of my childhood, so I guess it lingers here.
It's 7.30 in the morning. In homes across the country people are waking, showering, eating breakfast; slowly dragging their unwilling bodies into the day. Here, under the high vaulted ceiling of the Riverside Leisure Centre, I've discovered a different world; a place of energy and effort. People counting, rhythmically beating time, striving against the clock, as they thrash their way backwards and forwards, length after length.
To the uninitiated, it seems a solitary space, a cathedral to the personalised pursuit of individual outcomes.
But in each marked lane, with its self-selected group of 'slow' 'medium' or 'fast' swimmers, the singular people watch and respond. They measure the pace of other swimmers, before deciding whether to follow or overtake. They check their own space, the angle and length of strokes, to avoid any ignominious collision. They glance almost shyly at the faces of swimmers coming towards them. If eye-contact isn't forthcoming, they drop their gaze, knowing better than to force any unwanted interaction.
Without sound, or physical contact, there is a whole system of communication here. It's an arrangement where nobody dominates the discussion, where no-one forces an opinion on you, or from you. There's no petty disagreement, or sycophantic flattery and no-one is excluded or misunderstood.
It's a simple structure, and it's effective.
But oh, what sort of a world would it be if we were always without the variety, nuance, tension and excitement of words? Wonderful, thought-provoking, empathy-inducing, laughter-raising words.


swedishouse said...

Thanks for following and your kind comments over at Swedish House. I responded there, but then realised I should do it here lol!

ME TOO! Sharon...Little House on the Prarie and The Waltons, my childhood favs. If only real life were like that!
Thanks for following
Julie x

Charlie said...

"...a cathedral to the personalised pursuit of individual outcomes."

A beautiful phrase, Sharon.

Pat said...

I tried it. I admire the people who do it but it so wasn't my scene and life's too short to pursue a hobby which sets your teeth on edge.

Miss Whistle said...

This is some wonderful writing. I am so happy to have found you, after laughing about pork crackling and applesauce. Adding you to my blog roll immediately.

And lovely to meet you.

Miss W

Anonymous said...

This took me back to when I belonged to a gym with an Olympic-sized pool and was diligent about doing laps. If you're there at 7:30 a.m., you have a lot of motivation! Nice imagery.

Bobby Stevenson said...

What a lovely evocative piece of writing Sharon. It made me think of the old days when we'd go to the cafe after a swimming session and that peculiar taste of salt and vinegar crisps and cola with just a hint of chlorine.

Smashing stuff!

Sharon Longworth said...

Julie - I love the look, feel and sound of your blog, thank you for stopping by.

Charlie - thank you!

Pat - I'm sure there are other nicer ways of getting a level of fitness - but until I learn to ride a pushbike, this might have to do.

Miss W - I loved your post about the pig. Thank you for visiting - and for leaving such very kind comments.

the stuff in between - gosh that feels like a long name - less a question of motivation, more 'if I don't go now, I'll never do it'.

Bobby - thank you! It's good to think I prompted some memories. Haven't seen you for a bit - how's things?

Bobby Stevenson said...

Hi Sharon,
things are good - but as you know, this writing thing means being locked up in rooms.So there's alot of sitting facing a computer. Doing a bit of acting to break things up. There's a short film on

Keep on with the excellent writing.

Take care,