Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Another milestone passed (reluctantly)

Imagine I’d lost a little finger or the lobe of an ear. Given what I know of you all I’d be granted some sympathy. Imagine something worse but perhaps too esoteric for sympathy.

Twice a week I visit a private pool and swim a mile. Because I swim crawl my head is regularly underwater and my sense of direction is hampered. My windmilling hands could touch another swimmer, unforgivable since most are women. To halve the risks I try to ensure I swim adjacent to the poolside (There are two pools so I have four opportunities). Other serious swimmers favour this reduced-risk lane and there is competition.

Over the years I have adopted stratagems to obtain this lane but it’s becoming a lottery, especially with the onset of summer. There is something else. As I get older I am more susceptible to stress. And this situation – despite its apparent triviality – is stressful. On the night before my apprehensions grow, in bed my stomach churns. As I drive to the pool I feel sick, a sensation which continues as I swim. This morning I felt I might vomit as I swam. As I drove back I decided that this had been my last mile.

Simple. One must accept old age. Age ended my ski-ing for physical reasons. But here the restrictions are psychological and swimming is something I do reasonably well. It is halfway between the terrestrial and the celestial, translucent and remote. The exercise is good for me but not the rest. I’ll swim in the sea when I’m able and in the pool in France. But not twice a week.

Novel progress 26/3/10. Ch. 18: 773 words. Chs. 1 - 17: 77,929. Comments: Clare in all her glory.


The Crow said...

I think I understand what you are feeling.

I have given up climbing a ladder higher than four or five feet, because I don't land so well any more should the ladder tip. In a few more years, even a step stool might be too high. I have reached the point where I must have others do the climbing for me.

Another chipping away at my total independence.

I am sorry you have decided to give up your twice-weekly swimming, but I understand completely your decision to do so. Too bad your local pool doesn't hold Seniors Only hours, like our local YMCA does.

Barrett Bonden said...

In a sense I haven't given up swimming because of the swimming - only because of the awful anticipation. I sympathise with your disinclination to go high; this seems to be fairly common accompaniment to advancing age. The problem with a seniors only session is that the pool could still be crowded; in fact many of the women I share the pool with are well above the age of consent. Wearing goggles I am able to check out their technique - some hang vertically in the water a bit like manatees. Not a recipe for speed. In the end though - as you say - it is the loss of independence that one regrets most.

herhimnbryn said...

BB. Any chance you could go as soon as the pool opens? Less chance of collision?
Over here whatever lane we are in, we swim keeping to the left in the lane. I follow the lines on the bottom of the pool to keep me straight. Also the lanes are roped off for slow, medium and fast lap swimmers. I hope you don't give up, but understand the aprehension.

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: Going earlier was one of the stratagems; still iffy. Lines on the bottom of the pool would help keep me straight when I swim away from the poolside. Trouble is not enough people swim crawl (breast-strokers have no problem) to make it worth while installing them. Before using the present private pool I used the municipal where one lane was roped off for lengths. Trouble is there was no monitoring and it was occupied by a clique who never managed more than two consecutive lengths. In trying to swim round them I brushed against some of the slower porpoises and was attacked by the leader (a woman). The seeds of apprehension were probably sowed then.

Eleanor said...

I admire your honesty and wish I could transport you to some of the many Sydney pools which may suit you very well indeed.

On the subject of growing older...it might make a difference if I told you that I too (41) often feel that same apprehension when the pool is particularly crowded. In addition, my 18 year old daughter has told me on many occasions that she's not certain the relaxation of the swim quite balances out the terror of the lap placement.

Plutarch said...

Sharing has always put me off swimming pools. Unintentional collisions are one of the snags. Should they occur my preference is for a manatee rather than a sea lion. Another reason to avoid pools: I was at the edge of one in Spain once when a small boy, whose father was sitting beside him, but looking the other way, hoisted up the corner of his trunks and urinated into the water. Father and son were French. I remember the occasion because of a L'esprit de l'escalier, which has haunted me ever since. "Monsieur," I was on the point of saying "votre fils pisse sur la piscine." The alliteration pleased me, but I was not certain of the idiom. So I chickened out.

Rouchswalwe said...

See, this is why I prefer hot springs. No movement is key. (Okay, okay so I cannot swim to save my life; the Japanese call people like me hammers ~ because we sink). In a hot spring, you can also drink Sake from cups which sit on floating wooden trays.

Occasional Speeder said...

Ok - I am very sad about this but you're stubborn and won't chnge your mind so we need to think of an alternative. Stephen Fry was on a programme you don't approve of the other day - he seems to have lost weight and was asked how. His reply - "Books you can download". Basically - he sets himself a challenge to walk a number of chapters while shuffling along somewhere in Suffolk (or Norfolk - can't remember which and as I'm pretty certain you have any followers from either, I don't worry about offending anyone) How about it? You just need a flat, safe route?

Sir Hugh said...

Goodness me – this has generated many comments very quickly. I like to get in first if I’m going to comment, but I’ve been well beaten this time!

I concur with Occasional Speeder – a splendid solution.

I can recommend walking - this is better with an objective. I have visited all the triangulation points on my local Ordnance Survey map – you may try this, or perhaps Geocaching, but in any case have a good look at your local OS sheet and devise some good circular routes on footpaths and lanes (not on roads). Don’t forget you can always take the car to a starting point. I know you always took pleasure in recording your times for The Mile – you can do similar things with walks. You can get loads of exercise in a one hour walk if you power walk it. Be positive about the future not negative about the past. I think you would get pleasure from the anticipation walks rather than the current issue of stress. Why not try "ozoting" ie the word verification needed for this comment?

Barrett Bonden said...

All: (inc The Crow and HHB) Your sympathy is appreciated and necessary. Length swimming has been part of my life for six and seven years because (until recently) it suited me temperamentally. Also I've improved and this year I broke 51 min for the first time. I even turned out some verse a year ago:

But pools – all pools – enclose an inner space
That holds the swimmer like an ambered fly.
Seen from within the water’s silvered face
Casts back a diamond’s faceted reply.

Finding some replacement exercise that is also congenial but not time-consuming will be difficult. Individual responses:

Eleanor: I'm surprised and touched to find we suffer this same defect. It seems more of a curse for someone living in Australia where swimming is even more popular. There's a further irony in that the husband of my joint central character has just left her and I find there's a shared vocabulary between her and me - a sense of being "broken" which is more physical than mental.

Plutarch: You have put it more concisely than I did. Sharing a pool is not pleasurable, and becomes even less so under the circumstance you recount.

Rw (zS): I fear that passing through the water (especially doing crawl, the most efficient stroke) is the attraction. The water just happens to be the medium. I'd do it in air if I could.

OS: Not a bad idea. For the moment I'll be using the stationary bike and the MP3 player. However, I may well try reading rather than listening. There are flat places around here but alas most of them are narrow and confined by hedges. I doubt that most Herefordian car drivers are sufficiently literary to give way to a book-reading pedestrian.

Sir Hugh: I enjoy walking but it takes up too much time. Also it is only supposed to be beneficial when you sweat. Much of my working day is spent writing; this is the priority and will become even more important as I get older, assuming, as Grannie S used to say "I'm spared."

herhimnbryn said...

ipod+ A history of the world in a 100 objects or Melvyn Bragg on r4 (In our time?). 30-60 minutes of walking (fast enough to get your heart rate up). It will go quickly because you will have Radio 4 to entertain you. Find something BB, find something and start tomorrow.
I will shut up now!

Hattie said...

I have noticed that men of my age have more trouble than women in the water. I think part of it might have to do with body mass index: whether you are a floater or a sinker! What I am saying is that part of the problem is that the exertion is greater for men, whereas we fraus can loll about quite comfortably, getting in the way of the hard charging guys who are trying not to sink.
I love ocean swimming and do water aerobics,the latter not a favorite of men, although we do have men in our class now and then. They tend not to stick with it. It seems to them like wimpy stuff, and yet they struggle with it. And of course we do have our chatters, who irritate me, unless I happen to be chatting myself, that is.
One thing about a lot of us women is that we are perfectly willing to go to something called exercise and just take it easy! Not men.

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: Please don't shut up; like you I accept all offerings. I had intended to get on my captive bike this morning and plug my ears into Cosi but there are logistical problems concerning support hose (Some day, when I'm feeling really frank I'll explain this). I shall bike this evening, instead. I only have an MP3 player, not an iPod, and thus am limited to recorded sound. However, during the small hours, I had a brilliant idea. Some years ago Naxos recorded the whole of Ulysses (22 CDs, £85) and I have ordered that. I've read it three times and will be interested to see how having it read to me differs. By the time I'm finished I'll perhaps have something different figured out. Again, I'm grateful for your interest and can only apologise for my feet-dragging stupidity (see your blog).

Hattie: Swimming (as opposed to splashing about) is simply locomotion and men have turned most forms of locomotion into competition. No surprise there. The most efficient way to swim is crawl but the majority cannot keep up crawl for more than fifty yards because they have not learned the breathing side. Once this is learnt, the swimmer is taken into a different frictionless world where the only limit on one's operational radius is individual stamina. In the warm Mediterranean waters off the island of Karpathos in the Dodecanese I used to swim a mile down the coast to a small bay, sit on the beach for ten minutes and then swim back. I could have swum further which, considering my age, isn't bad. Because swimming is solitary it offers opportunities for reflection and, at sea, this is stimulated by what's beneath the surface. I must stress, however, that distance swimming is much more rewarding than simply going round in circles 50 m from the shore where a sense of futility is ever-present.

herhimnbryn said...

BB. Radio4 website. I think you can use your mp3 player (I may be wrong, being a 20C woman, struggling in the 21C!).


Copy and paste. I still haven't worked out how to put a live link in a comment box.

herhimnbryn said...

BB. Oh there you go, I didn't get the whole link down!


Julia said...

Is the side stroke at all attractive?

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: I'll look into this. Just at the moment I'm on a roll with the novel, coming up with all sorts of dirty-minded sub-plots. Also, the end is in sight - perhaps two more chapters.

Julia: Odd you should mention side-stroke. The first time I ever swam a mile was in the swimming pool at school, aged about 12. This was before I'd learnt how to breathe properly for crawl and I used every different stroke I knew, including back-stroke and - at times of exhaustion - just floating. Side-stroke probably represented the majority of lengths but it isn't terribly efficient mainly - not surprisingly - because one is tilted to one side or the other. Once you've learned crawl you never swim anything else; what's more crawl is far easier to perfect than breast-stroke and that's something else to concentrate on.

Julia said...

That makes sense. I've never learned to breathe properly but would like to one day. Growing up on the coast, we swam side stroke if we swam any stroke, as we always liked to keep our heads above water. When you have alligators in the pond and sharks in the river, you take a bright eyed approach to a summer day dip ;-).

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: Apart from the breathing routine there is one other point that I haven't stressed. Goggles are essential (especially at sea) because the head is submerged for such a large part of one complete cycle (ie, left-arm stroke, right-arm stroke) and the eyes otherwise become sore. Another point: proper crawl is rare among men and even rarer among women. Women seem disinclined to immerse their head though I don't think anyone would quarrel with the reasons you give for your reluctance.

Avus said...

I have come late to this discussion. You have my sympathy (and empathy) BB. It is especially sad for you since it seems the psychological has got in the way of the physical and excercise is so important to us old fogies (use it or lose it). So it is the mindset that has to be overcome so that you can swim once more. How that is effected I am not qualified to say, but I am sure one of your "correspondents" could point you in the right direction.
I do hope you find a way.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: I appreciate your sympathy. As I say above, it isn't the swimming that's the barrier, rather the need to arrange optimum conditions for it. I queried at the beginning whether my blog friends would understand what this has meant; it's akin to losing a part of my personality. I'm sure when you are cycling, there are times when the sense of "oneness" takes over and you become the action. Same with swimming for me. One bonus - the proof of friendship this has engendered.