Why are our pools empty?

22nd August 2003 at 01:00
WHAT do Anne Robinson and I have in common (except, of course, acerbic wit, bitchiness and a dissolute past)? We both swim alone in our respective pools. Her in her private one in her home, me in the local authority one at the local school where, for some reason, I am the only person who seems to want to swim before midday.

It could be, of course, that all teenagers are in bed when not in school.

It could also be that it costs pound;2.30 for an adult and more than a quid for each kid. Makes it a tad expensive if you have more than one child. Oh, except there is a new rule . . . you can only take in one child under four, and two under eight.

The local authorities should be encouraging us to take our children to the pool, so that they learn to swim and to enjoy the water. It did involve a lot of armbands, rubber rings and effort but it was good fun. It is humiliating for those children who reach secondary school wary of the water and who can't take part in school swimming sessions.

So if no one really wants to use the pools in the mornings, why not let teenagers in free? Or just charge for the adults who supervise their little ones? In fact, why not offer all the leisure centre facilities free to pupils in the mornings?

We have a population of unfit, malnourished children. Either they are overweight, or thin to the extent that doctors fear for their adult health.

One of the ways to deal with it is to encourage exercise and make healthy eating options readily available, cheap and tasty. Because the other reason we have malnourished (and often hyper) children is because of the vending machines which are usually strategically stationed near the door. In comes child, in goes dinner money . . .

The sugar rush doesn't help concentration and by 2pm, having forfeited lunch, they are grumpy and lethargic. The school creams off a healthy profit for school funds. But at what price?

Our children don't read Enid Blyton any more, so aren't in the habit of grabbing a bottle of weak orange squash and a packet of custard creams, leaping on their bikes and pedalling off in search of adventure. Now drinks come out of cans (the most popular with about seven teaspoons of sugar) and snacks are salty crisps or chocolate. They don't cycle to school anymore, and cadge lifts to ballet or football.

And the lifeguards sit idle by the empty local authority pools, the school nurse fills the vending machines (now there's an oxymoron for you) and our chubby kids get chubbier and the skinny ones get skinnier.

Here's to you, Mrs Robinson. But really, I wouldn't mind sharing.

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