Thursday, 26 August 2010

The pool

From the safe distance of the "non-serious swimmers" section of our gym pool, I have, of late, been observing the behaviours of OH and others like him when it comes to lane-swimming. I feel a little bit like David Attenborough as I breast stroke along, sneaking sideways glances at those alpha males who will only swim in the lane designated 'fast' even if there's plenty of room in the rest of the pool. It's very amusing actually. And as it happens, very much like the behavioural patterns of chickens. I'm pretty certain that OH won't overly appreciate me referring to him as a chicken (or even the male 'cock') but having done my thorough - and I mean thorough - ten minute reseach stint on Wikipedia, I have concluded that those men in the 'fast lane of freestyle' are nothing but a bunch of henpecked chickens.

It might be worth quickly discussing the general rules of etiquette that apply at our pool. Despite there being nothing written down, or no signage, people just seem to know the rules. Perhaps when new members sign their free time away on their gym contracts, the pool rules are subliminally passed onto them along with their membership cards and direct debit forms. It sounds a little bit like Fight Club, but here are the rules:

  • in the non-lane swimming section, people should still form their own lanes. These are marked by their flip-flops or water bottles at either end of the pool

  • never swim in anyone else's lane

  • if you get the lane first, it is yours - do not move to accommodate anyone

  • if someone does get in your imaginary lane, you are allowed to swim straight at them. They are going to move first. Ironically it's a game of Chicken
  • if you happen to end up swimming directly next to someone, that is taken to be their consent to race you. It is imperative that you win these impromptu bouts

  • standing around at the end of the pool smooching with your girl/boy friend is frowned upon - think 'no petting' a la the Eighties

  • don't talk to anyone you don't know. Just keep your head down and get out of there as soon as possible

Is this the same for all swimming pools? I don't know. But re-reading this list, I am thinking it's no wonder I'm not that keen on swimming. And if it's like that in the non-serious swimming area, what must it be like in the "I'm here to train; I'm wearing Speedos" section?

Which leads me back round to my initial discussion point about the men swimmers who run the gauntlet of the fast lane. The normal rules don't apply. Whether you each go straight up and down, or swim in a mini rectangle is decided there and then; seemingly decided with no actual conversation taking place. It doesn't matter who was there first. It doesn't matter how many floats or other aqua-paraphernalia you bring with you. It's all about the creation of the pecking order. Once the king-pin bird has been decided, the others will make way for you and allow you to swim at your pace whilst they stop at each end to let you pass. The weaker birds (what are they even doing in the lane?) have to be prepared to take onslaughts from the poultry higher up in the pecking order than them. They may even be bullied into an early jacuzzi.

But how is the pecking order actually established? Like the chickens, there needs to be a bit of argy bargy early on to show true strength and colour. They swim a few lengths each in their best front crawl to see who is fastest (think qualification races in Formula 1). They try and out stare each other through their tinted goggles. Occasionally, there might be a of collision, a grab on the shoulder here, an accidental slap there. It's pretty much like the Next sale on Boxing Day. But like the chickens, once the pecking order is established, it works. Each man is permitted to swim and get on with whatever he needs to in peace.

Very infrequently, there are those people who put themselves in the fast lane when it would be clear to a blind man that they would be better suited to the children's pool. It is at this point that the lane rules go out of the window. I can think of one such incident. In question were a husband and wife tag team - probably off-peak joint members - who had baggsied the fast lane for themselves. They were spending more time gossiping than swimming. OH got in. Perhaps foolishly, it didn't occur to him that the rules might go out of the window with these infiltrators. He started to swim; fast and loud. They didn't move. In fact, they persisted with their slow backstroke ("backstroke! What a joke!" OH said, as he recounted the tale to me). The man ended up mashing into OH which basically was like a red rag to a bull. A full on shouting match ensured. Wifey tag-teamer ran down to the reception in her swimsuit (I know! Hilarious) to get the Manager. He came, calmed the situation down. OH was too enraged to finish the work out and so left. It's just what happens when the unwritten rules are broken. Needless to say, we've not seen the tag team again. I keep waiting for a letter to land on our hallway mat to say we're being sued for Swimming Pool Harrassment. Bring it on...

Friday, 13 August 2010

The drinkies

I know. I have shown myself to be a completely and utterly uncommitted blogger and deserve to be punished. I deserve to have the feather-lite pages of my dictionary torn out one by one infront of my eyes (and you know how much I love that damn book). I don't even have a valid reason why I haven't updated: things in the triathlon sphere of my life have not ground to a halt. My typing fingers have not fallen off in an unexplained and unseasonal attack of frostbite. I have not lost the ability to think. I just haven't done it. So I am a naughty school girl and I accept that - but it's enough, I have been castigated too much. No one can despise me as much as I despise myself. Let's just draw a line under the whole nasty episode and get on with our lives.

So I thought I ought to begin with some general housekeeping. Plans are progressing well vis-a-vis our sojourn to Budapest. My in-laws have signed up for the 5 day city break extravaganza: flights are booked; hotel is booked; specialist insurance has been taken out. OH decided that he didn't want to stay in the GB team hotel (did I mention that his nickname for himself is Lone Wolf?) - that would have involved talking and interacting with other people - God forbid. So we have booked a centrally located hotel which pleased me muchly - this is turning into more of a holiday-holiday (as opposed to a 'sports' holiday) than I thought it would. I have also booked tickets to the opera which will be just fabulous. Not 100% clear on what language it's going to be in and if they'll have that little LED screen thing scrolling across the top of the stage with translations either - but I guess that might well be in Hungarian anyway - in which case I'm as lost as I was before. Will just need to swot up on Wikipedia the night before to memorise the plot - then astound my in-laws with my very detailed operatic knowledge.

We've also been in the North (well, north of Birmingham) for another preparatory triathlon. I am now more convinced than ever that we should buy a caravanette to facilitate our attendance of triathlons. At the moment, OH is certain that he knows how to show a lady a good time by repeatedly booking us into the local Travelodge the night before a race. Really; we should have a loyalty card. And it's not that I actually have an issue with Travelodges per se, it's more that I don't really sleep that well in an alien bed and when coupled with the fact that it's normally a very early start on race day, I tend to be a bit grumpy (which is not what the finely tuned OH needs from his support car at such times). So I figure that if we get a caravanette it will be like a home from home. We can take our own duvet and cook our own carb-based meals and watch our own tele - brilliant. And hopefully we could park up in a place which wasn't next to the meeting place for a big and loud group of chavs (as per our last Travelodge experience). Or near a bunch of very vociferous ducks (from the time before).

OH not yet convinced on the caravanette front. I'm not sure where we would park it during the off season either - not overly sure the residents of our street would like it blocking up the roadway. Bear in mind that the last correspondence which popped through our letterbox from the street committee was asking us to "adopt our street" by keeping the areas outside of our houses clean and tidy (I know, don't ask, we don't even have time to keep our own garden tidy). Not sure the modern day Steptoe & Son style caravanette would be overly welcome. But. I will persist with my quest to get one (along with getting a cleaner and a gardener and a cook and me giving up work - and all of the other things OH rules out).

But. Onto the main event. I thought it might be mildy amusing to consider the area of drink and triathlon. I'm not talking the Um Bongo variety (although some very cool cocktails do make me mindful of UB). There are no two ways about it - OH is a total and utter lightweight. When in training, he won't pick up a drink which means that for about seven eighths of the year, OH is sober - and honestly, just a teensy little bit square. This is why it's all the more hilarious that on those rare occasions when he does go out for a few, he's anybody's after half a pint.

We had an example just this week. I had forgotten what it was like. In the BC Triathlon era, OH used to be a bit of a city-socialiser and would often go out for 'just one drink' after work and then stumble home 7 hours later thoroughly pickled. In those days I was less tolerant. Many a night did I laugh to myself as I locked the bedroom door and left the sleeping bag in the hallway. Let's just say the poor dog had become homeless with the amount of time that OH spent in its kennel. But ironically, triathlon has been my saviour in this respect, and the nights that OH goes out for drinkies are now few and far between.

I knew that this week OH's night out would develop into a large one. As I packed him off to work in the morning, he was still blissfully unaware of what was going to happen. Be home by midnight! he shouted as he ran out of the front door. I knew that this was never a realistic assessment. He was meeting his oldest school friend (OSF) for some mano-a-mano time and they are just bad influences on each other. It was inevitable that it was going to get messy. OSF has just recently got engaged and so these drinks were celebratory as well as to partake in their usual debates of art v science (OH being a physics graduate; OSF, English).

Sure enough, at 10, I got a text. OSF had asked OH to be his best man! Fabulous news! Although by the time OSF asked the question, OH had already imbibed a pint and a half and so was pretty wasted (honestly). The panic he felt at having to do a speech infront of a congregation of wedding goers made him drink more. And more. A call at ten thirty confirmed he was totally and utterly sozzled. Giggle giggle, we are going for curry now, giggle, giggle. Won't be long after that, he assured me.

So when I wake up at 2am the next morning with the big OH shaped hole still in the bed next to me, I start to panic. I always assume that he's in a ditch somewhere. My heart is going like a pair of bongos. I text him. Finally I get a reply: "fell asleep on train. Successfully avoided casino temptation in [town near where we live] - in taxi now". Joy. Falling asleep on the train is one of OH's best skills. I remember him calling me on another occasion asking me to drive to pick him up from Didcot Parkway at 3am in the morning. You can imagine what response he got (it was no, in case you thought I would actually go and get him).

So he was homeward bound. I was more concerned with the fact that he had considered going to a casino on his own. What a loser. The next morning he looked hideous. As I got the peas out of the freezer so as to try and reduce the swelling around his eyes (caused from lack of sleep, not me hitting him when he got home) he muttered he was getting too old for all this. Me too, I thought.