Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Use of the Ordinary

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Although I swim every day, I have never pretended that swimming is anything other than boring.  It is now like brushing my teeth, it is something that is necessary and you do regularly, but is not exactly pleasurable.  If I don’t have a swim, in the same way when I (rarely) forget to brush my teeth before I go to bed, I feel that there is something missing, something is not right.

I set myself a metric mile each day and up and down I go for sixty lengths in my local pool and at the end of it I feel that I have accomplished something and like ‘Doing a good turn to somebody every day’ my duty is done.

So swimming in our community pool attached to our house raises another problem motivation.  As our community pool is quite small, the last few meters separated form the main pool by an underwater wall to create a ‘kiddies’ splash around area, the actual straight swimming length is limited.  If the pool is empty I compensate by swimming in circles, but it is not entirely satisfactory.

I have, therefore, devised an approach that combines exercise with the law of the Wolf Cub Pack and make a virtue of necessity and swim around picking up and discarding the rogue pine needles that settle on the surface of the water.

I have discovered that reflection or refraction or possibly both, mean that it is easier to see the floating needles from under the water with a pair of goggles than searching the surface from above.  I therefore must look like a swimmer motivated by Brownian Motion as I jitter my way through the water seeking the double refraction of the needles before they are swept out of the pool and to the side - where I am sure that a gentle breeze will waft them back into the water.  But that is not the point: I swim and feel that I am exercising while performing community service.

From time to time I come across insects that are vainly wing-swimming their way through the water to a chlorinated death.  When I do spy the odd wasp or beetle or fly in their death throws, with a positively Franciscan magnanimity, I scoop them out and deposit them on the pool side and drift away on my hoovering duties feeling quasi angelic and somehow ‘justified’!

Today, I have to admit, I haven’t been to the pool for a swim (for lunch, yes, but not for a swim) instead we went to the beach.  We live one street away from the sea, and yet we rarely go to the beach.  I see it every day because I usually cycle down the paseo and drive past it, but we have suddenly become aware that it is already August and we haven’t really ‘done’ the beach.  So two hours was spent beside the waves.

And waves there certainly were.  People usually assume that the Med is a quiet and domestic body of water - and to be fair, it usually is.  Sometimes, however it can be a little spirited.  Today, for example, a yellow flag was flying which indicates that swimming is not recommended.  That could be for a number of reasons, ranging from the quality of the water, through an infestation of stinging jellyfish to adverse water conditions.

Today the water was rough.  Even the profile of the beach has altered, which certainly indicates the waves and currents have been in a terraforming and sand-sculpting mode.

Castelldefels is a generally safe swimming spot because although currents can be strong, they usually drag you back to shore and along the beach.  And that was true today, with the added excitement of tumbling waves strong enough to knock you over.  Which they did.  And strong enough to remove Toni’s bathing costume - though that was in the shallows and he was able to restore decency in the masking obscurity of sand heavy water!

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Most of my time was taken up, not with swimming in the sea, but reading on the beach.  I grabbed, at random, an unread Iain Banks novel called The Crow Road, which has (I am not surprised to find out) a place in the Daily Telegraph’s 30 best opening lines in literature ( ) I cannot say, by the way, that I agree with all the choices made there, but I made the mistake of looking through all thirty and for many I was half inclined to find the book in my library and start reading it again - which is always the danger when you have a snippet of something great to tempt you!

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Anyway, I have had this novel for some time and only read the first few pages (as who cannot given the opening line!) and for some reason had laid it aside.  This is not something that I usually do, except for Virgina Woolf’s To The Lighthouse that I did (and did with gusto) on many occasions before I finally bit the bullet and read the whole of the damn thing.  I have decided to keep the novel that I am now gripped by purely as beach reading as that gives me an incentive to engage in the futile and empty pastime of lazing in the sun and gives it a sort of purpose.

Tomorrow the first of our final tranches of summer visitors arrive and I am minded to write a series of poems suggested by visitors, their arrival, response etc.  I have made some preparatory notes and look forward to seek where such an enterprise takes me.  The time period is from tomorrow to the end of the month and into September and the three ‘groupings’ of visitors are very different.  I hope that this blog can also be part of the process either for ideas or responses. 

I can but try!

Though I also fear that such a task is merely displacement activity for the work on my Spanish grammar and vocabulary.  Are both possible?  Should be.

Now, having written it down, it seems like a sort of contract with the future!

A contract easily broken!

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