this life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Una Mcevoy

I’VE had a deep af­fec­tion for swim­ming and swim­ming pools for as long as I can re­mem­ber. An out­door swim­ming pool is a beau­ti­ful thing. A clear, clean blue oasis set amid con­crete is a sight for sore eyes. The pleas­ing sounds of mirth and move­ment in the wa­ter are a tonic for a weary soul and there’s the im­me­di­ate re­lief and bliss of cool­ing down on a scorch­ing hot sum­mer day. On week­day morn­ings, it is of­ten empty but for a few reg­u­lars; on win­ter days, some­times with just a brave lone swim­mer, a life­guard and the steam ris­ing from the heated wa­ter as it meets the chilly air tem­per­a­tures.

Be­ing born and reared in cold, damp, dark Ire­land meant that most swim­ming was done in in­door heated pools — mostly noisy and choked with con­den­sa­tion. The best op­por­tu­ni­ties for swim­ming were else­where and so I was al­ways on the look­out for swim­ming pools as a young girl. Our swim­ming coach had an out­door pool — quite a rar­ity in Dublin — which we were al­lowed to use when­ever we wanted.

When we moved house, my sis­ter and I be­came friends with neigh­bours af­ter we dis­cov­ered they had an out­door pool in their gar­den. At the start of ev­ery sum­mer, we’d trot down and help clean out the pool and get it ready for the swim­ming sea­son. It was un­heated and must have been freez­ing, yet my mem­o­ries are not of shiv­er­ing but of long, happy days spent in that pool.

I mi­grated with my own fam­ily to Aus­tralia five years ago and now find my­self happily im­mersed in swim­ming pools here. This truly is the lucky coun­try when it comes to bathing op­tions. I am in awe of the great choice of in­door and out­door pools within a 30-minute ra­dius of my Melbourne home.

In those five years, I’ve skipped from one pool to an­other: the Beau­re­paire Swim­ming Pool at the Univer­sity of Melbourne is the lat­est and great­est in­door pool for me. The wa­ter is good, the acous­tics are won­der­ful; it’s full of nat­u­ral light and ded­i­cated to lap swim­mers. Our lo­cal out­door pool has been closed for the past 18 months for ren­o­va­tions. It’s due to re­open soon and we are, need­less to say, ea­ger with an­tic­i­pa­tion.

Noth­ing, how­ever, beats Syd­ney for out­door pools. The stun­ning North Syd­ney pool shines like a bea­con from the Har­bour Bridge. Walk around the Royal Botanic Gar­dens and past Mrs Mac­quarie’s Chair and the An­drew ‘‘Boy’’ Charlton Pool comes into view, just beck­on­ing to swim­mers to dive in.

I was blown away the first time I went to Syd­ney and dis­cov­ered the spec­tac­u­lar salt­wa­ter ocean pools along the shores of the eastern sub­urbs beaches. I’m so en­vi­ous of Syd­neysiders, who are lucky enough to be able to swim at any one of th­ese gems when­ever they fancy. To my mind th­ese ocean pools are one of the best rea­sons to visit the har­bour city.

But wher­ever I hap­pen to be, I find there’s noth­ing like a good swim to sort things out. Mov­ing through the wa­ter is lib­er­at­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing and I feel more en­er­gised with each stroke. Dur­ing the course of my trea­sured hour in the pool I get into a rhythm. Worries start to re­cede and things get put into per­spec­tive as I slowly but surely clock up the laps. Now and then I com­pletely zone out and for­get where I am. Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m swim­ming. Very of­ten I start out with some­thing weigh­ing on my mind. But I never end a swim that way.

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