“Come swimming,” insists the LTLP.

The thought does not appeal. I make my ‘I do not want to come swimming’ face.

“Go on,” she says. “I always have to take the Toddler on my own. Come with us. You’ll enjoy it.”

“I will not enjoy it,” I reply. “I don’t enjoy swimming.”

“You enjoyed it at Centre Parcs.”

“I liked going to the pool at Centre Parcs,” I clarify. “But that was because it had loads of water slides and stuff, and you didn’t have to actually swim. You could just go down the slides, and that meant I could shut my eyes and hold my nose and still enjoy myself without any swimming being involved.”

“Well I thought you’d like to see how well she can swim,” she responds, waving at the Toddler whom she has previously bribed to look sad because I might not go swimming. “And perhaps look after her for a bit, and I can actually do a few lengths rather than just stand there holding her hand.”

“No – I really don’t want to go swimming,” I reply, closing the conversation.

I go swimming.

I do not understand why swimming is meant to be a thing that people universally like. If I were a keen bagpipe player, I would be very happy to invite my friends and family to share with me the enjoyment of playing the bagpipes, but I hope that I would understand if they didn’t share my enthusiasm for bagpiping and wanted to do something else, e.g. play the banjo. But if you turn down the offer of going to a swimming pool then you are suddenly looked upon with suspicion, like there is something wrong with you.

It is not as if I am a non-swimmer, as I can easily do a length before I get tired. It is the fact that swimming is very much like ice-skating – once you have been round one way, then been round the other way, there is really very little else to do except more of the same, unless you are really good and want to try all the dangerous twirly-whirly stuff.

“Take that expression off your face,” demands the LTLP, as I stand in the shallow end holding a long foam-rubber thing that may or may not be a buoyancy aid.

Going swimming with a small child is basically exactly the same as day-to-day childminding on land, with the added concern that somebody might drown on your watch. I try to explain that it is no good putting me in charge, as I would be unable to perform any heroic rescue acts as I don’t really like getting water in my nose. But I am looked upon as a contemptible non-aquanaut. There is a snort, as the LTLP zooms off doing 1000000mph freestyle.

I know people do not believe me – but there is no great hidden reason why I am a nervous swimmer; no huge trauma from my childhood etc etc etc. I just do not much like it, for no reason at all.

There are other people in the changing rooms as I exit the pool. I hold my towel round me tightly and try to get my pants back on without them seeing my thingy.

51 thoughts on “I am invited to come swimming.

  1. MB says:

    I could drown on a waterlogged football pitch I’m so bad a swimming. In fact my whole reason behind never learning to swim was literally blown out of the water when that plane landed on the Hudson in New York. Everyone was always “But what if your plane crashes on water and you can’t swim?” and I replied “I plan on being killed by the huge ball of flame as the plane broke up on hitting the water, thus not needing to swim.”

  2. Lola says:

    I don’t like swimming because everyone takes the piss if you swim with glasses on, but without them I bump into people and can’t find my way back to the correct changing rooms. I can do at least two lengths before I get tired though. I’m sure I could if I tried.

  3. Megan says:

    I like body surfing in the ocean and snorkeling so long as its the lazy kind where you can see loads of things without really going to much effort and I quite like the idea of scuba if it didn’t mean so much hard work, but swimming? Nope. Don’t like it. I’m perfectly willing to chalk it up to the time I went with my mother and her friend to a pool and was suddenly surrounded by wobbly, squishy middle aged women in the nuddy. Traumatic that was – didn’t know women that age even HAD bits.

  4. alan.sloman says:

    I’m with Ivan on this one, when he can be arsed to comment.

    It’s the ‘thingy’ thing then?

  5. Sheppitsgal says:

    I agree with Lola – can’t see the clock to find out how long I’ve been in there.

    Also, somebody needs to invent some sort of music player that I can wear in the pool, maybe listen to a talking book. Otherwise, it is soooo boring.

  6. The person most likely to drown on your watch would be you, Jonny, but only if the others in the pool obeyed their natural instinct to rise as one and hold you under the water until the thrashing stopped. Fortunately, we live in an age of civilized self-restraint unprecedented in human history. I give you the continued existence of Michael Winner, exempli gratis. He’s been doing restaurant reviews for years without being fed anything worse than what the kitchen staff could wank into his soup with five minutes notice, which given the ready availability of rat poison is pretty much conclusive in my book.

    So your safety is assured. As is the privacy of your thingy. It’s not as if anyone could see it, even if they wanted to look…

  7. JonnyB says:

    I am glad that there is near-universal agreement that swimming is a Bit Rubbish.

    Except for when you have friends with a private swimming pool. Then it is brilliant as you have the whole thing to yourself.

  8. ellie says:

    You need to move on to the twirly whirly stuff.

  9. Jayne says:

    Also, somebody needs to invent some sort of music player that I can wear in the pool, maybe listen to a talking book. Otherwise, it is soooo boring.

    Oh yes please.

    I can’t bear swimming pools – even private ones. So boring. I quite like bobbing around in the sea as long as it’s a. warm b. gentle lapping waves rather than rough surfy things and c. there’s nobody around to watch me walking to/from my towel and book. Basically I need a private island in the Maldives staffed by blind cocktail waiters

  10. Greenmantle says:

    I am crap at swimming, ergo I hate it. Ergo it is also a bit scary, and rather humiliating.

    Last time I went into a pool was to humour a girl I was on holiday with. I thrashed around desperately trying not to drown, whilst she swam around like a seal, and kept oggling some blond, german, uber-swimmer bloke. I would have punched him but I could never get near enough, boxing and drowing being mutually incompatible.

  11. Bob says:

    But I hear the water does wonders for athlete’s foot.

  12. James says:

    Wow. You really wouldn’t even attempt to save a drowning swimmer because you might get some water up your nose?

  13. Dave says:

    I hate swimming.

  14. JonnyB says:

    Absolutely, James. It is really unpleasant and makes your eyes water.

    It seems that we are all agreed. What I want to know then is this: why the inexplicable popularity of public swimming pools?!? They are always full of people. Who are these people?

  15. kermit says:

    these are people that enjoy swimming in other people’s pee, as well as their own. [much to what lola said above, “everyone takes the piss” – never mind if you swim with glasses or not]. i believe they may consider it a substitute to bathing.

    these are also the people that suspiciously show up at the grocer’s/butcher’s/fishmonger’s/general department store to create long lines at the register precisely when you’re in a hurry and would like to just get your stuff and leave.

    notice that when you’ve got all the time in the world to do your shopping they’re nowhere to be found.

  16. NickyB says:

    JonnyB, they are all blonde, German uber-swimmers, obviously. Some are in disguise, but when you rip off the body suits and wigs, Ta-daaaa!

  17. FJ says:

    I hate swimming for no reason too and I can do at least one length (or is it width?) before i get tired.

    I’m really good at floating though.

  18. James says:

    I’m not saying you’re wrong to dislike swimming, it’s a hobby like any other. However, all you guys who can’t understand why swimming pools are popular: it’s because not everyone is like you, and some people do like swimming. Me, for instance; I absolutely adore it. If I see a large enough body of water, every fibre of my being is screaming for me to jump into it.

    I do wear goggles in chlorinated water though, that stuff’s just not good for your eyes.

  19. Diana says:

    But Jonny, you had such a perfect excuse – your foot!!! Imagnine all the ghastly things you can catch around (and in!) a swimming pool. UGH!!

  20. JonnyB says:

    Essentially there is a strong argument for all public swimming pools to be shut down. I have not met my MP for a while – he may be able to table legislation.

    Actually I remember – I used to wear goggles as well. Lord knows where they’ve got to – but I remember not being able to be without them. Perhaps goggles are the solution.

  21. James says:

    “Essentially there is a strong argument for all public swimming pools to be shut down”.

    Yeah, we’re *constantly* hearing about the terrible things that happen to people at public swimming pools and the terrible long-term effects that doing a lot of swimming has.

    Oh wait.

  22. Margo says:

    I love swimming, too, but I kept quiet until now becasue clearly you needed the validation of other non-swimmers.

    Swimming is much more relaxing than most forms of exercise and it also has the huge advantage that if, like me, you have damaged your back or joints you can still do it, which isn’t true of lots of dry-lanf type sports.

    BTW, you *can* get music players etc which you could take swimming (or more accurately, you can get waterproof earphones and little waterproof cases to put your mp3 player in) – try visiting a Chandlers shop and you will see what I mean.

  23. JonnyB says:

    Thank you Margo – you are perceptive…

  24. You were worried about them seeing your ‘thing’?? Come on, a swollen foot is nothing to be ashamed of.

    I love swimming. I was going to say that I love water sports, but that would just invite an unnecessary response.

  25. Debster says:

    It’s the getting wet. If you could do it without getting wet it might not be so bad.

    And the p is silent as in swimming pool.

  26. Lisa says:

    I was a competitive swimmer and then lifeguard for many years and can attest to the detestability of swimming pools. All the things you imagine that people do in them are quite true. At least oceans and lakes are big enough to dissipate the body fluids and solids, infections and general dreck. Yuck.

  27. JoAnne says:

    I wonder if perhaps Jonny’s concern about his thingy is misplaced…I doubt anyone would put the effort into searching for it while confronted with the easy spectacle of his massive head – which I do think would look that much bigger without the added bulk of clothing on the body below.

  28. kermit says:

    JoAnne, a big head is necessary if you have a big brain, like JonnyB does.

  29. JonnyB says:

    Any ‘big helmet’ references will be immediately deleted…

  30. womaninblack says:

    Swimming in Norwich is as exciting as watching a Ferrari race a tractor: the equivalent of taking a chlorinated bath with a group of strangers.
    Forget flume rides, whirlpools and rapids, all we’ve got is a boring rectangle of water roped off for length-swimming dullards at Riverside and an equally boring rectangle of water marked out for length-swimming dullards at the Sportspark.
    My children love swimming, but they hate swimming in Norwich on the grounds that simply being wet isn’t really entertaining enough when you’ve tasted the exotic pleasures (literally in their cases) of a pool with waves, chutes and gimmicks.
    And people go wee-wee in the water.

  31. notedscholar says:

    There are simple cures for you based on cognitive psychology. Gradual exposure especially.

    Start out with drinking water. Then use it to brush your hair. Then poor drop by drop on yourself, eventually being baptized. Then you can start to take showers and baths, then swim in kiddie pools. After that you will have developed an immunity to water-based anxiety phobia.

    Let me know how it works!


  32. James says:

    Yes, people wee in it, but the dilution is CRAZY. A 25x15m pool with an average depth of 1.5m contains 562,500 litres of water! Even if 100 people do a one-litre wee (that’s a lot of wee) in it, the water would be about 0.02% wee. So, in order to manage to swallow a harmless amount -say one teaspoon (5ml) of wee – in a pool like that, you’d have to swallow 25 litres of water. Assuming you spend an hour in the water, that’s 0.42 litres per minute, or a pint every 1 minute and 21 seconds.

    Of course, I realise that’s all far too sensible and logical when you could just scream “aaaaargh, there’s *wee*o in it!”.

  33. Andria says:

    Thanks you, James, you have put my mind at rest. I like swimming, on the the grounds that it is the only sport I am any good at, being on the large size, and I can do 25 lengths without getting tired (but a bit bored). Plus, you don’t get sweaty.

  34. kermit says:

    while i’m sure we all appreciate james’s sensible take on things, i submit this for your consideration and/or disgust: http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/2009/08/18/on-second-thought-maybe-ill-go-home-and-take-a-bath/

    p.s. while the volume calculations are slightly amiss. given the size of your pool, if indeed 100 litres of pee are in there, then some of it along, with water would overflow. secondly, you assume that pee mixes in with the water uniformly instantly. since it doesn’t happen instantly, i think that that’s what most people are afraid of (at least i am) when swimming beside strangers.

    in conclusion, we should all go swimming in the ocean and or lake because fish pee and crap is more palatable.

  35. James says:

    Haha, good point about the dilution. However, adding 100 litres of water (or wee) to a 15m x 25m pool will raise the level by three tenths of a millimetre, which probably isn’t enough to cause any overflow.

  36. JonnyB says:

    This is honestly the most intelligent and learned conversation we have had here for years. I may write to New Scientist.

    I am no good at the maths and stuff, but wouldn’t it depend also on how fat the swimmers in there were?

  37. Paul says:

    I’m sure you can get mp3 players you can wear while swimming. I seme to recall Suzie Perry testing one on the Gadget Show fairly recently.

  38. James says:

    Yeah, obviously the depth of the water is affected by the volume of bodies in the water as well. It won’t affect the dilution particularly much, as the actual amount of water isn’t changing.

    It seems from some rather unscientific googling that the average human adult body is about 85 litres. So putting 100 of these people into a pool of the size we’ve been talking about would raise the water level by about 2.3cm. Even if that displaced water did all overflow and disappear somewhere, we’re only talking about 1.5% of it.

  39. Z says:

    However diluted it is, I don’t want to drink anyone else’s pee at all, let alone hundreds of different people’s, all mixed together. How often do they completely change the water anyway? Might not be for months. Years. Ever. And think of all that sluiced off skin.

  40. Blazing says:

    I don’t want to drink anyone else’s pee at all, let alone hundreds of different people’s, all mixed together.




  41. JoAnne says:

    James’ dilution theory was comforting, but I’m WAY more grossed out by the thought of the little bits of skin than I ever was about the pee. I’d never thought of that before. Now I’m shuddering.

  42. James says:

    Yay, back to hysterical scaremongering and allowing our sense of repulsion to overrule any rational view of the facts! That’s more like it!

  43. James says:

    Our sense of repulsion evolved as a way to avoid infection. When you don’t fancy swimming because you don’t like the idea of it, you can either let it go at that – letting your “inner caveman” decide that there is a health risk, effectivley.

    Or you can take a look at *why* you don’t like the idea of it. I genuinely feel sorry for someone that can’t do that, and allows irrational, primitive instinct to overrule the vast power of their rational, educated brain.

  44. Lola Blogger says:

    When I have a moment to spare, I genuinely feel sorry for people who do sums involving swimming pools and wee. Hang on, my brain is telling me something… no, it’s gone.

  45. grimbletweets says:

    I luv swmn, me. Im goin swmn today. bring on the piss and skin, i dont care!

  46. James says:

    Lola: you feel sorry for something who have a rational way of evaluating risk? Well, OK. I’m afraid your attempt at making me feel silly for that hasn’t worked. Never mind, let’s not make this personal OK?

  47. James says:

    Something? I meant “people”, obviously. Worst typo ever.

  48. James says:

    I just remembered to add: people have kept themselves alive by drinking their own urine. Nobody has kept themselves alive by drinking chlorine (it would kill you), but there seems to be no problem with drinking a far less dilute solution of it!

  49. mac says:

    Never mind pee and bits of skin….

    It’s Len Fairclough you need to watch out for!

  50. I only like swimming in warm indoor pools! No nasty bugs floating around!

Comments are closed.