Saturday, 19 February 2011

Swimming in the Rain

Well, what a morning I’ve had! I’m not sure any close friends of mine who are reading this – or, indeed, anyone who has spoken to me for more than about 15 minutes – will quite believe that this blog is based in reality rather than being a slightly damp fairy tale, but let me assure you… every word is true. Well, actually, I can’t make that assurance as this is the first paragraph and I’ve not written every word yet – I may edit some bits out or exaggerate others for effect, a skill I have honed finely over 34 years on this planet and don’t see why I should give up now – but the bare bones of the story, at least, are true.

Last weekend my DJ life partner and I had a gig. As is my wont in these nunnery-like days, I left at around 1am as was way too tired to keep my eyes open much longer. However, in the brief time that I was there between finishing DJing and hurrying off home, I got chatting to a friend of mine – a guy I have known and thought very well of for some years, but never got to know that well. He happened to mention to me that he goes swimming in a lido near where we both live, and that it's heated.

I love swimming, and I love swimming outside, and I love heated things - and the all-new teetotal Johanna is all about the exercise, so I decided I wanted some of that action and messaged said fella to see if I could come with him some time. I was suggesting after work on a Saturday but, alas, due to the shortness of the days, the pool closes before I finish. So he suggested BEFORE work, and I figured, what the hell, I get up at 6.30 for yoga once a week, I'm good at getting up... why not?

However, last night was the worst night's sleep I've had in months, the worst I've had since I joined the Great Cult of McKenna. I listened to the CD one and a half times (I reached my hand out to get my drink half way through the first time and, in the newly pitch black bedroom, did what I keep doing now and knocked something off the bedside table onto the CD player, stopping the CD in its tracks... and so back to the beginning, sigh), read the book for a bit, tried to sleep some more and must eventually have succeeded, but woke up (by my calculations) about 4 hours later and didn't get back to sleep at all, but instead was afforded the joy of lying awake being unable to get the image of my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend, currently on a charming little screensaver in my brain, out of my mind (you know the kind of thing... oh look, here they are, laughing at the things you two used to laugh at! Remember that cafe you thought was yours and his? Oh, it's theirs now. That look he used to give you? Yup, hers now... I'm not sure he could even pick you out of a line-up any more, etc etc, add your own little twist, they're endless, as I'm sure you well know). So that was a delightful way to pass a few hours. I kept trying to turn my brain to higher thoughts, but it turned out there aren't any higher thoughts at 4am and I just gave in in the end.

So I got up at 6.45 and went into the bathroom. Hmm, I thought to myself. What could that noise be? Sounds like loads of rifles going off... or loads of tap dancers... or someone popping a never-ending roll of bubble wrap... OH! It's armageddon, in the form of rain. Awesome!

I had a shower and got dressed, thinking perhaps it wasn't as bad as it sounded... but then after getting dressed stood, looking out the window, for really quite a while, as if hoping that the rain would respond to my Devil Stare and go away.

I'm not sure if I've ever explained my deep down, gut wrenching, misery inducing hatred - it's the only word that will do - of rain. I loathe it with a deadly loathing, and I think anyone who says they think otherwise needs their head examined. It makes everything soggy! And grey! And cold! And muddy! And SOGGY! It ruins festivals! And holidays! And otherwise perfectly decent Mondays! What other reasons do you need? Why on earth would you want to be wet and cold when you could be hot and dry? It's logic!

Of course, I know that, on an intellectual, Al Gore kinda level, the world needs rain, but if it could just always rain while I'm asleep and, since that's usually by about 9.30 these days, all the crazy people who say they like it can go jump in puddles all night long if they like, and then the sun can come back out when I wake up again. Sound good? Yes, thank you please!

Anyway, sorry, got distracted there for a moment. Of course, every logical fibre of my being was telling me to get back into bed and forget this crazy, madcap plan - after all, why go and swim in the rain when I could lie and torture myself with crazy jealous thoughts in my nice warm bed for hours instead? But... I didn't have the phone number of the lovely guy I was meeting. And to stand someone up at an ordinary time of day isn't something I could ever conceive of doing. To do so at 7.46am (the time we were meeting) would be unconscionable. So I girded my loins and set out in the rain.

Sadly, it turned out I had spent too long gazing out the window trying to commune with the sky through the power of my mind (oh, and posting on Facebook before I left the house, natch), and I missed the train by about 2 seconds. I must confess - standing on that train platform in the downpour, realising I was going to be late (which I hate nearly as much as rain) to go and swim in the rain, and that I had to sit in the rain, reading soggy PhD related papers cos I'm busy at the moment to observe my 'fun books are allowed at the weekend' plan, at 7.30am on a Saturday morning, when... well, I think I've made my point about this already, but when other people were in places I would much rather be... I did experience a bit of a low point. I said 'fuck' quite a bit and kicked things. Being a nice kind of person, I didn't want the rain to feel left out, so my face joined in.

However, time passed, as it inevitably does, and I got on the train and met my friend, who was fortunately still waiting for me and didn't mind me being late. Are we really doing this? I asked, indicating the rain. Of course, he said... it hadn't occured to him that we wouldn't.

And so, off we set, walking across the green towards the pool. I told him about how the last time I had gone swimming, there had been a fire alarm and I was made to go and stand outside on the street in my pants. He told me about a comedy night he had been to the night before in which one of the audience members delivered the ultimate heckle by attempting to start a fight with a comedian.

We arrived. I got changed, a little unable to believe I was really doing this. And then I went outside, and got into the pool... and do you know what...

It was pretty nice.

I've not gone completely crazy, don't worry - it would have been a hell of a lot nicer in the blazing sunshine, as every single thing in the world is... but it wasn't half bad. The water was heated, which helped a lot. But there was something so surreal about being outside, in hot water, with loads of other people, on such a cold and rainy morning, it felt like it must have been a dream. All the steam rising off the water helped with that - you literally couldn't see one end of the pool from the other.

I couldn't really feel the rain. At times I thought it must have stopped, but I could still see drops of it hitting the water and making those little circles in the water, like the rings of clay on a pottery wheel that are so innately pleasing.

The pool itself was charming. More of an actual swimming pool than the lake I was picturing, Hamsptead Heath style - and with pictures at either end of crazy English people standing in the snow, in their swimmers, which struck me as so fitting that I giggled each time I reached the end of the pool, usually meaning I inhaled a bunch of chlorinated water and ended up choking. Mmm, graceful.

There was something about being in that water while the rest of London slept all around us. No-one said much to each other, but it felt like we were all in a secret club. I will definitely be going back.

However, the rainy fun had to end some time, and eventually, I had to get out of the pool so that I wouldn't be late for work. You really are going to think I'm making this bit up, but I'm not... as I was getting out of the pool, a fire alarm started. I kid you not. Having learnt last time about hanging around hoping it wasn't real (and hence getting ushered out in my pants instead of having time to grab a towel), I made an immeadiate bolt for the changing rooms, where I managed to get dressed without burning to death. However, I apparently did miss a fight between a swimmer and a lifeguard, which I can't help feeling a little sad about. Clearly, though, fire alarms and fights follow me and my new friend around, so hopefully I'll get to watch the next one. Maybe if I'm lucky it'll be raining.

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