Saturday, 25 April 2009

Two recent pieces from newspapers

First, from the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader on Thursday April 9, 2009:

"The Sunrise Jellybean Mermaids are a happy bunch of early-morning swimmers, aged from 55 to 86, who have been meeting for more than 40 years at Oak park Pool for a traditional sunrise start to the day. The name Jellybeans stems from the colours of their bathing caps resembling jellybeans bobbing in the pool. The group is known to belt out a song or two to the amusement of passers-by.

In this picture “King Neptune” appeared with the mermaids to mark the change of daylight saving. "

Long may you swim, Jellybeans!


The following humorous piece is by Mark Dapin, a regular columnist in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend Magazine.

It made me laugh.

Pool Resources by Mark Dapin.
Good Weekend April 18, 2009

"I come from a land up over, where swimming in the sea is an eccentric minority pastime and most of the beaches could double as roughcast plasterwork.

I learned to swim when I was about nine years old at the “municipal baths”, which was every bit as glamorous and modern as it sounds. In England, all the swimming pools used to be called “baths”, which served to remind people not to go there too often or stay in too long.

I could not see the point of swimming. I lived in the north of England, where nobody ever swam anywhere. Public-service announcements on TV warned that a child could drown in two inches of water, so what sort of nutter would jump into a whole metre of liquid death?

When I was 12, I moved to the south of England, where water sports are slightly more popular. At school, they asked if I could swim, and I told them I could not, so I was consigned to the shallow beginners’ pool and ignored by the PE “teachers”, who had a furious contempt for anyone who might need to be taught PE.

The other kids in the non-swimmers’ group were not the brightest nor the most robust boys in the school, and I started surreptitiously swimming, out of boredom. A PE teacher spotted me, and that was the end of that. I had to move up to the swimmers’ group.

But I was useless. I never managed to progress further than 25 metres, or master a style more complicated than breaststroke.

I had barely ever swum in open water until I went travelling to South-East Asia and discovered snorkelling. To my mild surprise, I noticed the seabed was not sealed with neatly grouted tiling, and was home to various forms of life apart from other boys’ feet.

In fact, it was a teeming dream world of brightly coloured domestic refuse, including plastic bags, Singha beer bottles and car tyres. Among the cheerful detritus of Thailand’s modernisation, I saw poised, gaudy fish and outrageous ears of coral, and these combined to awaken in me the swimmer who had been asleep since cheesecloth shirts were fashionable (or, at least, my mum told me they were fashionable).

When I arrived in Australia, 20 years ago, I began to visit the coast, but my beach-going – like my hair – dropped off with the years. I became a naturalised Australian, but felt slightly fraudulent, since I had rarely even owned a pair of Speedos.

Then a swimming pool opened in my apartment complex. One day, out of curiosity, I climbed into the pool and decided to test how far I could swim. After a couple of attempts, I discovered I could swim any distance at all. As long as I stuck to breaststroke (which is easy, because I still can’t do any other stroke), I never got tired.

Everyone else who swam in the pool wore goggles to keep water out of their eyes, so I went and bought some, too. I immediately lost them, and bought some more, but this did not satisfy my sudden desire for swimming equipment, so I purchased putty plugs to keep water out of my ears, and considered shelling out for a special peg to keep water out of my nose, but worried it might make me look like a gimp from a bondage and discipline show. Many pool users also wore caps to keep the water off their heads, but if you’re that wary of getting wet, you should probably stay out of the pool.

I abandoned the goggles and the plugs, but I have stuck with the swimming. It is relaxing and rewarding, if a bit boring. The natural-born swimmers in the lanes on either side of me go much faster, and I won’t even try to go into my ridiculous attempts to master freestyle (there is a reason it is not called the “Pommy crawl”), but the whole pool experience makes me feel strangely and satisfyingly Australia, as if I do belong in a land down under after all. "


Winifred said...

I love this posting, both parts are great.

Those Jellybeans remind me of my younger days when we went swimming every morning at 7am from May 1st until September 30th. But we were swimming in the North Sea. Cold!!!! Sadly, it all stopped when I started work.

Mark Dapin made me laugh. But it's not true about people in the North not swimming. We had open air pools and swimming clubs on the coast where we swam in the North Sea! He must have been a softie from further south like Yorkshire or somewhere.

Sally said...

Glad you enjoyed it Winifred.

There's nothing like hyperbole employed by a humourist/columnist, eh!

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