Middle of the night alarms are always so much louder than they are when the sun is up and people are moving around, don’t you find?
It certainly flung me out of my dreams and sent me on a trajectory towards the bathroom.
The journey to the pool was a dark one, early morning felt darker than late night, perhaps because there were so few vehicles on the road to light up the night. Except for the fire engine which flashed by, blue lights fading into the distance. A fox ran across the road in front of me and stopped to watch me drive by before nosing it’s way into the bushes.
I parked in the town centre and walked the quarter of a mile to the pool, the silence of the town surreal, dreamlike. The path leading to the pool itself was lit only by sparsely placed streetlights, trust in the path and where I placed my feet essential. Up ahead, light arose with the steam above the border fences, the smell of barbecue permeating the night.
I crossed the little bridge over the stream, went under the wrought iron archway and saw the fire pit, the group of people wrapped in sleeping bags, caressing their coffee mugs as they chattered. The night shift volunteers.
I was ready with five minutes to spare so I sat with them and waited for my time, watching sparks from the fire flitter into the sky like fireflies. I slipped into the water; the deep end. Goggles in place I pushed off from the wall, feeling the water hold me, seeing the light dance against the floor, led by the movement of the water as it reacted to our bodies cutting a path through.
We had to count our lengths in order to record the distance swum during the 24 hours. I don’t like to count my lengths as it takes away from the sensory enjoyment I get from swimming so I had to keep reminding myself, “one, this is the first length. This direction is odd numbers,”
The world quickly blurred as the goggles (an old pair of Talaia’s) misted over. After 15 lengths I checked the time: 17 minutes. That meant that I could make a full 30 lengths for 30 minutes if I just picked up the pace. I squeezed my legs together with more of a snap, pulled my arms backwards with more strength. At 24 lengths I checked again: 5 minutes. Those last few were harder but I was determined to make it to 30 so I just kept going for the last 6, not stopping to check the time or the movement of the other swimmers and as I hit the deep end wall at 30 lengths, the bloke in the next lane was climbing out of the ladder.
The air still felt warm even as I climbed out of the water, dripping into the paving flags, even as I searched for my towel which had become mixed up amongst other people’s bags, even as I gave my lap count to the Pool Angels.
For 20p I got a nice loooooong shower and, as I left for the dark path once more, I heard a call of thanks and looked up to see the guy in charge giving a wave. I waved back and took those silent, dark streets back to the car, driving the half hour back home as the Sunday morning long distance lorry drivers were starting their days, thundering along the road through the dark, their lights the only suggestion that anyone else existed.
Home; lemon and ginger tea along with a bar of Baileys chocolate and then back to bed where my legs weren’t quite ready to relax. But they soon did and I drifted off.
The time as I got dressed
Discarded Cossie and T’s old goggles
A very happy me, post swim
not what the pool looked like, it was dark, lit by a few lights and the fire pit. The buildings at the end are the changing rooms. The fire pit and benches were on the area on the bottom right of the photo and I was in the lane along that side.
Last updated September 05, 2021