Exploring the real world… swimming

(James writes a monthly column for The Gudgeon. Each month, the previous month’s article is archived.)

March, 2018

It’s been a very good six months since Sally and I moved to Bradford on Avon. We love the cheesemonger and the bookmonger and all the beermongers. We’ve been for walks, met friends and entertained visitors. But most of the time it has been autumn and winter, the seasons when frankly my body tries to hibernate. I move less and eat more – a lot more. There’s just something about the nights drawing in that brings out the biscuits.

However, now that springtime is more than just a rumour I’m in the mood to shift some timber. So much so, that I’m contemplating regular exercise – and not just a daily stroll to the newspapermonger either. I mean actual exertion.

But what exercise? I’m not a natural runner – I shuffle along like a stiff-legged zombie – and I don’t want to pay for a gym when there are so many tow-paths and riverbanks and woodland trails to explore, and although I like cycling it’s not in the Lycra, time-trial kind of way.

And then, while leafing through the Gudgeon, I was reminded that BoA has a swimming pool. I love swimming. I used to go all the time until about three years ago when I stopped and took up lounging around in the house instead. But in my mind I have always been someone who swims regularly. For me, a well-run swimming pool is like a well-run library, a social necessity. And BoA has both. What was I waiting for? I grabbed my towel and trunks and hurried out.

Once the librarian had redirected me, I arrived at the swimming pool and was shown around by a friendly and helpful pool attendant. There is a Main Pool and a Teaching Pool. The Main Pool is 25 metres long, has a proper deep end, and a lifeguard. There is also a sauna. This was going to be great. My plan was to knock off a quick 40 lengths, bound lightly to the sauna and then cartwheel my way home. In my imagination I was already cleaving through the water like a shark.

However, three years is a long time out of the water.

First of all, I got in at the wrong end, the deep end – the very deep end.  So there was more thrashing my way to the surface than I had envisaged. And once I was afloat and able to launch myself in the right direction, I remembered that 25 metres can feel longer than it looks. About a mile. I don’t know how long I took to reach the shallow end but it was definitely darker outside than when I arrived.

Not that such things matter. Swimming is a democratic pastime. Whether you are the gasping, pop-eyed piece of driftwood that I had become; or a hazard to shipping who veers diagonally across the pool on your back; or a person who glides side by side with a friend and chats with effortless ease as if relaxing on a sofa; or a splash-machine who attacks the crawl like you’re burying a bone; or a torpedo in the fast lane who really does cleave through the water like a shark; the pool is there for everyone.

After half an hour, I hauled myself up the ladder and tottered back to the changing room. I felt inspired. So inspired that I went back to reception and signed up for a year. What a great place to live. I went home, hung out my towel and… tucked into a plate of biscuits.

There are still a few more days before springtime.

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About James Ellis

James is a freelance writer and editor. He is the author of two novels, The Wrong Story and An Other’s Look (which is in the process of being published). He is currently working on my third novel. In addition to his own creative writing, James provides one-on-one structural and developmental mentoring for fiction writers, and develops and facilitates creative writing workshops.
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