When I initially set out on this project, I was writing a film about the frustrations faced by the humble swimmer, simply wanting to use the local leisure facilities for the purpose of swimming.
But since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the many characters you find in a pool, and it’s struck me that the pool is a real hub of different communities. As universal as every school playground, whenever you visit, you will see the same characters each time.
There will be a well-turned out lady or two, beautifully made-up, with hair immaculately coiffured, performing a sedately paced breast-stroke, head above water, adamantly intended on swimming without getting a drop above the neck. Perhaps an elderly gentleman will drift by, enjoying the finely tuned version of backstroke reserved for this group, with gently moving arms outspread, seemingly floating backwards, perhaps in a straight line – but usually not.
Fast-forward to weekends and school holidays and there will be a gaggle of teenagers on heat. Boys trying out a few dives to impress girls that are pointedly looking distinctly unimpressed, young boys dive-bombing their big sisters when they think the life-guard isn’t watching – or maybe that was just my brother. Parents with chests puffed out with pride as their little ones master doggy paddle without the aid of arm bands. Little legs kicking madly to try and stay afloat and earnest faces peeping up through the water, smiling with anticipated achievement, but gasping for each breath, whilst that all important new distance, the 10m – or perhaps the mighty 25m, is completed.
And so there it is, an admission from a grumpy old swimmer that there is a certain charm to the slice of Great British life that comes together in a pool. Of course, when simply endeavouring to swim a few lengths, the frequent stopping and starting, head-on collisions and enforced zigzag route makes me a little less charitable, but sitting here now, away from the pool, I find myself almost smiling at the memory of the scene. All these communities make the local pool what it is, and without them, it just wouldn’t be the same…but you would be able to swim!