Thursday, March 06, 2008

Not waving but drowning

I made a flying visit Up North this week -- I thought my mum might like to see me on Mothers Day, and I was right. It was lovely, and while I was up there I dropped in on Mick the Builder.

Mick the Builder is an old friend, and in a never-did-much-about-it-and-never-will sort of way, an old flame. At the moment he's in a bad way: he met an arty native American woman on the internet (I believe they StumbledUpon each other, rather than doing an online dating thing, but the end result was the same), she moved to Lancashire, lived with him for a year and then fucked off with his best mate. His proper, since primary school, carried his dad's coffin with him best mate. I think it is no exaggeration to say that the bottom has fallen out of his world.

He's signed off building at the moment, and I woke him up by leaning heavily on his doorbell at midday. He has the Prozac shakes so bad that the tea was only just staying in the cup. We'd arranged over IM to go swimming. The shakes explained why his typing's got so bad.

I don't think I'm going to make it swimming, he said.

I left it five minutes, then said, sorry, but you're coming with me. Get your trunks. No arguments.

Like hundreds of other children, we both learnt to swim at Lytham Baths in the 1970s. The clanking of the turnstile, the Junior Swim tickets, the chilly tiles, my dad coaxing me onto (and then off) the diving boards, turning somersaults, hot chocolate afterwards and a go on the Space Invaders machine. I can remember it like it was yesterday, but it's gone now -- they turned it into offices in the brave new 1980s.

St Annes Baths was built around the same time they knocked Lytham Baths down. We went there on the bus. I'd been there once, but Mick hadn't been swimming for the intervening 20 years. We got changed and met in the pool. It was clear and clean with a glimpse of the big Lancashire sky out of the high windows.

This, he said five minutes later, is ace. This was a brilliant idea. I did 20 lengths, he did 2, but you have to start somewhere, and watching him float around peacefully made me very happy.

Is that you done? he asked when I came up for air after number 20, and I suddenly realised that he was the only man left in the pool and I was the only woman under 60, possibly 70. We were surrounded by blue rinses and verruca socks. We legged it, and back in the changing room I heard the opening strains of 'Car Wash'. We'd narrowly missed the Aquarobics.

By the time we got to the pub, Mick had decided he was going to go twice a week. It was, he said, the most positive thing he'd done in months. I believed him. I offered him some Frankincense Nourishing Cream, but he gave me a 'don't push your luck' look.

The day after, they decided to close the baths to save money.

Imagine. In a seaside town, in a country where nobody gets enough exercise, the Conservative Borough Council decide to close one of only two public swimming pools in the borough -- a facility that has an appeal stretching from children to heartbroken builders to little old ladies.

Here in Oxford we have five public swimming pools, six in the summer. Most of them are free to anyone under 17 and subsidised for people on low incomes. There are no elected Conservative councillors here*.

Be careful what you vote for.

joella

*There are two Conservative councillors, but they were both elected as Lib Dems.

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5 Comments:

Blogger nuttycow said...

It's a shame the baths closed... but it's nice that you managed to get your friend out of his despair, if only for a bit. Hope he starts on the mend soon.

9:36 am  
Blogger Beth said...

I can't believe they're doing it - I said exactly the same thing "a seaside town with no swimming baths??"

Although, I also feel guilty. We used to be regulars, but they messed about with the opening hours so much (and started filling the evenings with Aquarobics (sp?)) that we've hardly been at all for the last couple of years.

But I would rather blame the Tory councillors, if that's OK?

1:37 pm  
Blogger Beth said...

Oh, and, poor old Mick!

1:58 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

Yes, it's fine to blame the Tory councillors. As a senior manager once said to me, "there's no such thing as 'too expensive', there's only 'not a priority'."

The council said "we will be undertaking a study... to look at the provision of a leisure facility which can support itself financially". Or in other words, there's a list of things we will subsidise with your council tax, but open-to-all swimming isn't one of them.

Mick will be fine I think, given time. He's got tough genes.

4:30 pm  
OpenID crinklebee said...

Those fucking Tories. I am pleased however by the image of a 'don't push your luck look'. At least avaricious right-wing councillors can never slash the funding for those...

1:51 am  

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