I’m pleased to say that I can deliver a cracking right hook whilst treading water.
The swimming pool has become a battle zone. It is not my intention to get all Ukip here, but there has been a sudden change in the demographic of where I live. The area has been swamped with the very worst kind of people – the young ‘entitled’ middle classes. Their ilk are the most likely to ‘race’ the local Parkrun; be training for their first triathlon and have a friend called Hugo that plays the French horn at ‘supper’ at their ‘edgy’ East End multi million pound flatshare.
My swimming pool used to be full of salt of the earth Eastenders. We did not look at each other in the eye and swimming was conducted in glorious silence interrupted only by the actions of the ocassional sex pest. No more. Now to even get in the pool you need to negotiate your way around fins, snorkels, water bottles, bags I can only assume hold the bodies of those they have shat all over to get ahead, gels, laminated swim routines and the overbearing fug of entitlement. The I Am Here And I Do As I Wish generation have turned up, jumped in and taken over.
I swim at 7am. My east end buddies and I get there at the opening time so we can claim the lanes in accordance with the Slow/Medium/Fast signs. Minimum fuss. Follow the directions. The IAHAIDAIW generation turn up at 7.30-8am. Jump in anywhere and swim aggressively until everyone alters their swimming for them.
On this particular day in June, his name, or, as I have named him, was Twatty. He wanted my lane. My lane is the only lane that you can swim up and down in solo. It is the most sought after lane. It is the reason I have the speed undressing record. I get up in the dark to claim that lane. It was my lane. Twatty wanted my lane. Twatty with his hand paddles and fins wanted my lane. Between strokes and as I began to sight him, Twatty looked directly at me. Twatty watched the pool. Twatty still jumped in. Twatty swam right into me. Not once, but three times. On the third, I monumentally lost my shit. “OIY, Twatty” was how it began.
I went to grab his swim hat – I don’t know why, it seemed appropriate, like unmasking the baddie in a Scoobie Doo cartoon. I missed and ended up punching him directly in the face. My immediate thought was to quickly follow this up with a goggle ping – reaching out to pull his googles from his face and let them slap back against his smug face. It was at this point I was removed from the pool.
I was escorted to the concrete block – one of many that line the pool side where swimmers dump their bags – and asked to ‘calm down, and consider an apology’ I interpreted this to mean – ‘get on twitter immediately to tell of this appalling travesty of justice.’
I refused to apologise. I was allowed to leave with a stern telling off. There had been collateral damage but the battle lines moved forward. We had gained ground.
Arriving at the pool the next morning, I was greeted by clapping and rejoiced as my hearty Eastenders retold the incident to one another – exaggerating my role into stuff of Legend. Children within the Bow Bells would be named after me and songs of my bravery would resonate late into the night in the public houses of Poplar.
But, in the midst of this jubilance, a darkness was falling. In the corner of my eye and with a growing sense of unease, I saw a gamine girl-child glaring at me. Her knuckles were white as so tightly she gripped her hand paddles, flippers and Swim for Tri bag. Her glare never dropped. My heart sank. The Bastards had sent in the Big Guns.
We got in the pool and began to swim. I was nervous. On tenderhooks. I couldn’t see her, but I knew she could see me. She emerged from the changing room and stood by the side of the pool. Shoulders and elbows as sharp as a swan’s wings. She observed the direction of travel in the lanes and then jumped in to do the exact opposite. Banging into everyone on her way, she resolutely refused to stop.
I could see the lifeguards twitching. They knew. We all did. A silence fell. She came charging toward me, I took a deep breath, balled up my fists. This was to be my Shock and Awe. I like to call this move the “monkey punch” – this is a move I perfected on my brother, and has stood me in good stead in most situations that call for casual violence. You basically flail your arms around in rapid threshing circles, flailing fists and hit everything indiscriminately within your arc.
She was smoted.
She crawled away and limped to the Slow Lane. Beaten. I got a mid stroke high five from Terry, and kept swimming.
Buoyed by my success and peaceful swim I went to dress and shower. As I put my clothes bundle to the side, the girl child, with the advantage of youth and speed – surged through the enemy lines and threw her entire soaking wet kit directly onto my dry clothes.
And so it is. There are no winners and losers here, only casualties. Whilst we may win some strategic battles, I know the war is lost. I will keep fighting though – better to go out on a scream than a whimper, even if it means strutting down the streets of Whitechapel at 7.30am wrapped in a SpongeBob Squarepants towel clutching my soaking pants and shorts.