Life in the slow lane blighted by bozo brigade

5th September 2008 at 01:00

So, Effie it was wot won it! Or at least she played her part in helping to secure all those bits of Olympic bling carried back to Blighty aboard that golden-nosed jumbo a week or so back.

Let me explain. As reported in the pages of FE Focus, around half a dozen of our Beijing stars had been on sporting apprenticeships. Among them was the new golden girl of British sport, Rebecca Adlington, who laid the groundwork for her two gold medals with specialist trainers at the Institute of Swimming.

With four more years of Olympic-mania to come, can we now expect an influx of big bucks into the FE sector to ensure we win even bigger in 2012? Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has already been flashing the cash, though how much of it will end up in FE's coffers is another matter.

So when - or if - it comes, I want to get my claim in early for a modest slice of the action to spend on my particular hobby horse: swimming-pool etiquette. I know there is not yet an Olympic event that goes by this name, but if we get the details right, surely the bigger things will follow?

And, believe me, it is needed. Lane swimming - about the only fitness regime my ageing body will still tolerate - is a pretty simple business.

You swim up one side of the lane and back down the other. That's really all there is to it. But somehow the bozos at the pools I swim in seem not to have grasped it.

The first problem is the difference between clockwise and anti-clockwise. Most people learn to tell the time before they learn to swim, so why have they never noticed which way round the clock the hands go? Would Rebecca Adlington have won her gongs if every time she charged up the pool she met a paid-up member of the bozo brigade coming the other way?

The next group needing re-education are those who come to the pool for a chat. Gangs of them gather in the shallow end, getting in the way as the people who come to swim go by.

Don't they know about cafes? There's even one at the pool itself. But no. Their preferred style of social intercourse involves standing in tepid water up to their middles, rabbiting on. Presumably they then go home and extol the virtues of physical exercise.

Much worse than this lot, though, are those who like to play the "I'm-the- only-one-in-the-pool" game. These come in two varieties. First, there are the practitioners of what is known as the F-U manoeuvre. Few swimmers who are still living, sentient beings swim more slowly than me, but they do exist. It's among their number the "manoeuvre" specialists lurk.

Hiding among the gossipers, they watch you swim towards them. Then, just as you are about to turn and chug back, they push off ahead of you, performing that pathetically slow stroke that's only one step short of drowning. You can't go past. And much as you'd love to have a nibble at their toes, you like your teeth in your mouth, not half way down your throat.

I have it on good authority that when a swimming pool is allowed to settle, it separates into its constituent layers - only one of which is actually water. The top layer, of course, is scum, which aptly describes the final group of brainless bathers: the speed merchants.

Sleek yet massive, they take a line that is straight down the middle of the lane. This clears the wimps out of the way - particularly if they decide to limber up with a couple of lengths of that most anti-social of strokes: butterfly. And if there are two of them in the same lane, then it really is bad news. Invariably they will lock antlers and race one another.

At which point the rest of us might as well just pack up and go home.

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