In years gone by when I wanted to have a swim I seem to remember that I went to the swimming pool and swam. It really wasn’t complicated!
In Cardiff in days of old there was the wonderful Empire Pool; built for the Empire Games when we still believed that we actually had an Empire. This 50 m pool was in the centre of the city just opposite the train and bus station. It was, therefore, simplicity itself to get to it.
You arrived, paid your entrance and were given a ticket that you later exchanged for a metal structure with a container at the bottom and a shirt hanger rising out of it with a rod for the trousers. It came with a tag that you placed around your wrist and then, with clothes assembled around the structure you gave the article to the man in the window and it was hung on a rail to be claimed later.
You splashed your way through an antiseptic footbath, braved the shower and there, in all its glory was the pool.
And you swam.
In those days eyes stinging from chlorine and hairs floating in the pool was all part of the experience. Later, skin wrinkled and soul exalted by having touched the bottom in the deep end you reclaimed your clothes dressed and took the trolley back home.
It was all so simple.
Nowadays I am still trying to come to terms with the most efficient way to have a swim in Castelldefels.
The wearing of flip-flops of some such shoe is mandatory as is the wearing of a bathing hat. I add to these the wearing of goggles and earplugs.
Leaving aside the problems of which lane to swim in I am still trying to work out how to get undressed in the changing room.
There are two and a half, or possibly two and three-quarter changing rooms in the swimming pool I use in Castelldefels. There is a room with benches and hooks on the wall when you get in; there is another room with benches and hooks just before the showers; there is a space like a corridor where the lockers are situated, and there are a series of odd cubicles with doors on two sides giving a sort of through passage. There is also a small space at the end of the locker corridor that had a couple of benches and some hooks.
There is no clear wet sports/dry sports area as, as far as I can tell there are only pools (two I think) and a gym. Changing in the corridor is clumsy and too tactile as people brush past. Changing in the small area seems reserved for muscled triangular people and in the other areas there seems no rhyme or reason to what people should be using them. The cubicles are virtually untouched and anyway the locks are broken.
The lockers are usually just rectangular spaces, some of which have a chandelier like quartet of hooks in the centre of the ceiling of the box: this is useless.
Before you get in to this questionable area you have to flash your membership card at an electronic reader to pass through the turnstile. So by the time I get to the selection of areas for changing I am clutching my wallet and trying to get the card back into its designated space.
Whatever method I have used in the past of getting changed it always seems to end up with me forcing an armful of clothing and an overstuffed swim bag into a space which is far too small and totally unfitted to be a receptacle for clothing and bag.
It has taken me until now to realize that the order in which things is done is of ultimate importance if the swim is to be achieve without stress levels above and beyond the acceptable.
First you put your wallet into the zipped pocket of your coat. You also take the mobile phone and two pens from the shirt pocket and place those in the coat pocket as well.
Next you choose a locker. These are in two rows one above the other. The lower lockers are simply too undignified to use so it is essential to be eagle eyed and find a higher-level locker. Once found (and the closing handle checked to see that it will take your lock) you lock the thing and then proceed to the chosen changing area.
The Spanish (just like the French) are totally paranoid about the dangers of letting your naked foot touch the polluted floor of a swimming pool. I have observed manoeuvres of balletic brilliance executed by swimmers dressing and undressing while keeping feet firmly in or on plastic slippers. I am still something of a neophyte in the art of divesting myself of clothing while perched stork like on a piece of plastic footwear. I am also conscious that for the last half century of my life I seem to have walked barefoot on the floors of swimming pools and changing rooms without my feet rotting away at the ankles! Still when in Spain etc.
Taking a collection of clothing to a locker invariably (invariably!) means that at least one, and more likely two or more pieces of clothing will fall to the floor –and always on a patch of damp dirt.
Shoes, therefore have to be placed in the swim bag; tie in trouser pocket; underpants ditto; vest in bag; shirt in bag. Coat weighed down with anything that could fall out of pockets and I am ready to move towards my already reserved locker.
Which of course does not have a hook in it. My swim bag with its multitude of pockets opens like an undersea anemone and fills all available space as I try and feed my coat and trousers into its maw.
Having pushed the clothes in and eventually locked the door I march confidently off to the pool.
And return because I am still wearing my glasses.
My glasses placed in their case I march confidently off to the pool.
And return because I have not put the ear plugs in.
By the time I get to the water I am almost too tired to raise one arm out of the pool to propel myself forwards.
But I do.
And I’m still working on the most time and space efficient way to get changed.
An on-going project.