Shoalstone Sea Pool is open for the summer season and I imagine that the last 2 weeks with glorious sunshine coinciding with the short school mid-term holiday it has been packed. At 7:30 in the morning however, with grey clouds slowly lifting, but not giving up their supremacy without a final dash of rain, the story is rather different. I have the pool to myself.
Puddles cover the concrete in thin skeins of water, visible only because they are pockmarked by the dwindling rain. The pool has that newly renovated look, bright blue paint along the poolside with as yet unscuffed stencils in white spray paint, the ladders freshly whitened.
The main sign announces the opening times as 10am to 6pm right above another announcement to the effect of it being unsafe to swim at other times. Hmmm. The surface of the pool is slightly ruffled by the breeze near my feet but where it is sheltered at the shallow end it is quite still. The sea just the other side of the railing however is chopping and slapping against the barnacle clothed rocks and surging into the narrow gullies. The pool is labelled ‘deep end’, ‘shallow end’, ‘no diving’, whereas the sea does not come with any such helpful labels. ‘Safe’ therefore is of course a relative term and common sense dictates that the pool is safer, what they mean is ‘if you jump in a break your neck when no-one is on duty, that is your lookout’ and that makes perfect sense.
I have swum here before and I do not plan to dive in, I should be quite safe, though my idea of things that are ‘safe’ also includes swimming in the river at 11pm under a sky dotted with stars watching the planets Mars and Jupiter do their bright and colourful dance as I was 2 nights ago. It is not my intention to dive headlong into an early grave but equally I could be ultra safe all my life, never do anything and just as certainly there will be a grave awaiting me at the allotted moment. A dose of common sense goes a long way towards staying safe and this morning I’ll chance it.
Clearly however I am not the only one who has disregarded the notice. Two take out coffee cups litter one of the changing cubicles, the next has 3 cola cans and a paper wrapper, in the next a bottle of orange drink lies on the floor and half a portion of chips in a polystyrene tray rests on the seat, the wooden fork stabbed into the chips and in the next cubicle a pair of knickers is discarded on the floor. The youth of today can certainly party, chips are seriously hardcore!
Swimming provides moments in which to reflect on the mad, mad, mad world and seeing the fall out of that party puts me in mind of a little piece I saw yesterday about Jim Morrison and how his life had ended from an excess of alcohol and heroine. Yes, you read that right, ‘heroine’. As he died in Paris would it perhaps be fitting if his heroine of choice had been Joan of Arc? In which case the song ‘Light My Fire’; “come on baby light my fire” takes on a whole new significance. This keeps me amused as I scull gently up and down the pool with a gentle breast stroke.
The rain picks up and dots the water with dancing chess pieces, each like an ephemeral pawn tapering upwards with a full-stop head. This is turning into a full-on Through the Looking Glass / Fantasia moment and honest I never touched the chips. Maybe I should lay off the heroine.
It’s gone 8 o’clock and it’s about time I got going. Now at the railing again it is quite evident that the sea water is much clearer then the pool water. Maybe it wasn’t so safe after all?