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Friday, August 14, 2009

The obstacle of water

The poor old Pauls are stuck in Bristol airport, though now they should be in the air, scheduled to arrive in Barcelona two and a half hours late.

My response to their suffering was to go for a swim in the dark and to muse as I ploughed my way up and down was to wonder when I first used goggles.

A mask is easy. My first swimming mask was purchased for me in Tossa de Mar when I was seven on my first (and certainly one of my best) foreign holidays. The mask was one which covered virtually all of my face and allowed me to view with utter delight the fish which seemed to ignore humans and swim quite cheerfully close to the shore.

But that mask was not the sort of thing that one wore when swimming in a pool. Chorine reddened eyes was the natural gift of ‘safe’ public swimming pools as one happily cried one’s way back home!

I’m sure that goggles as opposed to masks were available when I was in school but I never had the courage to wear one in the good old Empire Pool of happy memory. It all looked too professional for anyone other than a ‘proper’ swimmer.

The first goggles that I used on a regular basis were in university. As I recall they were like two transparent thimbles with a hard plastic surround which dug into the skin around the eyes with a pressure that stopped the natural flow of the blood.

The straps were an even more problematic aspect of the goggles. They seemed to have been designed to dissolve on contact with chlorinated water; to perish if left in air and to break if tightened to stop water entering. At least it gave me an early and informative experience of planned obsolescence.

It was always a struggle to keep the water at bay. I often swam with goggles which gradually filled with water and seemed to sting the eyes even more viciously than if one had not been wearing goggles at all.

I eventually found a pair which suited my eyes which had a sort of foam surround which I used until they stopped making them. While other people managed to make a pair of goggles last virtually a lifetime I changed mine almost with the regularity of my socks. I think that I made them honorary gadgets and each new shape, shade and new material seemed to deserve my hard earned cash. Rather like the number of cameras that I had (pre move) with which I could easily have established a new gallery in the Victoria and Albert tracing the modern development of the camera from Kodak Brownie through disc and cassette via miniature and compact to early digital, I could have gifted a similar gallery on the development of the swimming goggle in the twentieth century.

Even after the winnowing of possessions that moving necessitates I am still finding goggles in unexpected places.

I do think it significant that I found my optically adjusted goggles in the chaos of boxes which characterized our early stay in the house before we found the phones! Somewhere I think there still exists a pair with my specific prescription. These were ridiculously expensive and I therefore mislaid them at the soonest opportunity! The next ‘prescription’ goggles were ‘off the shelf’ and approximated to my eyes, but were better than clear glass or plastic. The ones I use now are plastic lenses but they only stay clear for a matter of seconds before they cloud over. I might have to buy some new ones!

Talking of buying: Toni is attempting to replace his bike. The one that was stolen has been relegated to history and extensive use of the internet has produced results which mean that we now have to go to every Carrefour superstore in Catalonia to find the model on which he has decided. I must admit that, from the pictures of it, it looks a fearsome beast with aluminium frame and 21 gears. My bike has seven gears and that seems to me to be something of a genteel sufficiency. Bearing in mind my previous bikes had three it would appear to be more than enough for me to cope with!

I am ashamed (in so far as I understand that word at all) that one of the reasons that I bought an almost exact (apart from the colour) replacement of my bike was the saddle. Who can resist the appeal of naming a bike saddle ‘plush’? I for one certainly cannot.

My bike is specifically for short journeys and I hope that this aspect is reflected in the comfort of the ride. On my folding bike I only assayed one journey over a hill when I was getting the car after its service. I was emotionally and physically exhausted after the experience. Spanish drivers are not the most ‘giving’ of road users when confronted by an uncomfortable looking cyclist.

I intend to confine myself to stately progressions up and down the paseo which now graces the length of the beach in Castelldefels. I fully intend to ignore the prohibition on cyclists on the new part of the paseo; just like every other cyclist in Castelldefels!

Meanwhile the Pauls get ever nearer. Their plane, though late appears to be on time, even if the ‘time’ is delayed. We are prepared to feed them, but I am sure that the refreshment that they will ask for will be liquid!

Time to go.
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