I did the double today - an hour of Parkside Pool and twenty minutes at Emmanuel. I think something should be said about indoor swimming arrangements in Cambridge. Parkside is, as public swimming pools go, rather nice (though Jordan disagrees, her preferred adjective being, I believe, 'scummy'). It is always clean, and has Slow, Medium and Fast lanes (and I would just like to point out here that it isn't the speed, but the quality of the swimming which counts). I like the fact that it is public, and thus All Sorts of people swim there (Even people who aren't Cambridge students! How novel!), or don't swim there, as in the case of a Larger Lady last week who just stood at the shallow end of the slow lane, looking rather upset.
Ah, Parkside, full of the complex politics of overtaking, variable speeds and styles and accidental thigh-stroking. I have been going once a week with the superfit Chris, who does breaststroke like he's trying to outrun a torpedo, since October. Until about February, 7am means DARK. In deepest winter, 8am is still struggling. Swimming in what feels like the middle of the night, in a box of light and water and wood and splash, is not unpleasant, but does feel very artificial and therefore rather Wrong, and I am glad for the coming of British Summer Time and the edging of our tilt towards the sun.
It is, however, becoming something of a social hub. Today saw three friends, two acquaintances and one ex-supervisor. This is too much. There is something galling about being lapped by someone you love: even more galling is to be lapped by someone who taught you everything you know about French versification. It's also quite warm, giving people license to swim incredibly fast (there were some butterflyers this morning - something I very much frown upon.). Water should be COLD. It should be something to fight against, and then conquer, enjoying it softly yielding etc etc, but never quite yielding, always with some trick up its sleeve. You understand me.
To this end: Emmanuel. Pool opening times have been extended, and Eddy and I plopped in just after three, in light rain. Lucy, attendant beneath umbrella, read us Petrachian sonnets in the original. Roger Deakin writes well in 'Waterlog' about how every swimming experience is different, even down to the yield and texture of the water on different days. This was certainly the case today. Tickled by drizzle, the water felt less solid to get into, and looser. After a length of us whooping with cold, it was sure, steady breaststroke and backstroke for a good quarter of an hour. I cannot breaststroke in Parkside - it's boring - but in Emma pool you can see the waves your arms create breaking over and over into the pattern of back and forth peaks and troughs you set in motion when you jumped in. Steady beats in that unsteady surface. Arms smoothing. I became almost hypnotised.
Realising we were frighteningly warm, we got out and headed home for tea and baklava.
As I write, it is 6pm, the rain is pouring down and I'm rather tempted to go in again.
(Jordan has a cold, but will be fully operational, I trust, tomorrow).