Everyone knows the rules of the pool.
No running, ducking, bombing or heavy petting.
The latter might seem laughable to any younger readers, but before Easyjet flew you to Magaluf for a sleazy weekend, swimming pools were a hotbed of inappropriateness. A heady mix of plastic palm trees, wave machines, speedo’s and verruca socks.
By the mid-eighties, poolside petting had become an epidemic of amorousness.
But while the pool has hard and fast rules, there’s no such rule book for the changing rooms. They rely entirely on an unspoken etiquette.
An etiquette I’d assumed would be self-explanatory, even to a six and seven-year old, and yet week after week I find myself adding to the list of things that aren’t appropriate in public.
Now, I’ve no idea what goes on in the women’s changing rooms, the cease and desist order saw to that, but let me take you on a journey into the men’s. Walk with me through the mists of testosterone and Lynx Disappointment, through which you’ll find a pack of alpha males. Proud. Dominant. Their standard conversational pose being naked, hands on hips, one leg cocked on a bench; and I use the word ‘cocked’ deliberately.
As such, it’s no place for two feral children to be running around. Rolling over the benches like some 80’s cop show (yes, I said cop). Think Lethal Weapon in a chorizo factory.
Never has ‘you’ll have someone’s eye out with that’ been less of a euphemism.
But there’s clearly something liberating about a changing room that dispels any semblance of self-consciousness, because last week I had to ask them both to stop doing naked star jumps in front of the mirror. Not because someone might walk in, it was too late for that. This was the gym equivalent of rush hour!
A few weeks ago I heard,
“Sonny! It’s not just a hand-dryer, it’s a willy dryer too!”
Again, it wasn’t quiet. There was a queue, and he wasn’t last in it.
And then the other day we had this conversation,
Luca: “Can I wee in the shower?”
(I know, do as I say, not as I do)
Luca: “OK, I’ll not do it again … not even at home?”
WTF!? He was talking about the communal showers!
Sonny: “Euuugh, that’s disgusting! Couldn’t you just wait…”
At last, some unexpected wisdom from his older brother.
Sonny: “… until you’re in the pool, like I do!”
These are the same showers they turn on before trying to run through them all before they automatically switch off again. Ducking and dodging the people trying to mind their own business, washing their bits. Like It’s a Knock Out (yes, I said knock).
But at least I’m there to teach them the protocols of the pool. To coach them in the conventions of the changing room. I mean, imagine if they were let loose without my supervision?
‘Next week we’ll be providing all Year Three pupils with swimming lessons, as per the national curriculum…’
On which note I’d better go and remind them why tucking their willy between their legs and shouting ‘ta-daa’ is neither big, clever, nor in any way appropriate.