The pool’s open! I’ve been swimming! And it’s warm! Excuse the overuse of exclamation marks, but I’m very! excited! It’s been a loooong, cccccold winter here in Canbrrr. When I look back through this blog I see that the heating went on in May—or, rather, it would have done if it hadn’t been broken. And even when the heating wizard had fixed it the temperature indoors was never exactly balmy. It doesn’t seem many weeks ago that a friend from Sydney was here, sitting by the fire in his coat. He looked outside and said incredulously, “It’s snowing.” He couldn’t believe that it could be so cold here when his family were in t-shirts.
But all that’s forgotten now because the pool’s open! There was a slightly unnerving sign on the gate: “Lock is faulty! If locked in, try lifting gate. Good luck.” It’s a heavy metal gate with two-metre brush fencing attached, so I didn’t like my chances. I was on one of my marvellous days off and everyone else seemed to be at work, so I had the pool to myself. But the fact didn’t escape me that if the gate had slammed shut I would have been locked in the pool area until one of the neighbours got home. As I swam the first few laps I cased the perimeter for holes in the fence or places where I could possibly climb over if I piled all the outdoor chairs on top of each other. Luckily I didn’t have to do that, but I was in the Girl Guides so I know all about the importance of being prepared.
The water’s solar heated, so it was lovely and warm. The sun sparkled on the ripples as I swam, drawing beautiful turquoise patterns on the bottom of the pool. I wish I had an underwater camera so that I could show you those patterns. The jasmine and the westringia were flowering (another green and white garden!) and a noisy friarbird lived up to his name, chortling his leathery head off in the gum tree. I swam and swam and swam. It was blissful beyond words.
Whenever I go to the doctor or the dentist and they say something like “Go to your happy place” because they’re about to do something ghastly, in my mind I always go to a pool. It used to be Coogee women’s pool because I swam there for many years. It was like swimming in champagne, except with fish in it. There was a resident octopus, and once there was a baby Port Jackson shark, looking vaguely embarrassed. He wasn’t there the following day so I guess the tide took him out again. The pool’s at the bottom of steep steps cut into the rock. The view down the beach is spectacular. Even the changing room has a view. It’s very basic, but the glass-less window lines up perfectly with Wedding Cake Island.
A few years ago, on the way to Europe, a friend and I had a stopover in Dubai, where the hotel had a beautiful pool. It was indoors and warm as a bath and there was a garden planted around it. After a long flight with my knees pressed up against the seat in front, it was heavenly to swim and stretch out. Afterwards we had massages then drank tea in the hotel foyer, under an enormous chandelier in the shape of a pineapple. Then we went back to the pool. I’d be willing to spend 14 hours on a plane just to go back to that hotel. Whenever someone mentions Dubai now, my friend and I both sigh and say, “I love Dubai.” The truth is we’ve never really seen Dubai. We didn’t leave the hotel. Why would you?
I spent a summer swimming in Wollongong, which has sea pools strung along the length of it. Woonona pool (above) was the closest and most scenic but it wasn’t my favourite because it’s not tidal. The water gets pumped out once a week. Bulli pool was also close and better than Woonona for swimming because it didn’t get a layer of sunscreen on it on hot days, but some days it filled with fine weed, like swimming through underarm hair. My absolute favourite was Towradgi pool, a short drive away. It was tidal and clean. There were schools of little fish coasting around in the clear water and cormorants sitting on the rails watching. Some days the waves crashed all around it, outside the pool walls, but inside the water was calm. A group of mostly old men, grumpy and leathery skinned, with huge bellies, sat on the concrete steps all day like walruses. After a swim I would stroll up the path to find an excellent coffee in the unpretentious caff at the caravan park. I’ve gone to my happy place right now, just writing about it.
But the best pool of all, the one which will probably never be bettered, is this:
It’s at the Pita Maha in Ubud, Bali. I’d be surprised if there’s a happier happy place. I’d always wanted to swim in an infinity pool; I guess you could say it was on my pool bucket list. When I went to Ubud I’d had what the Queen would call an annus horribilis: a pretty crap year…or two. My relationship ended. My friend died. My dog died. My job ended and I was unemployed for six months. I got shingles. I had to sell my house. My car carked it. I got another job at half my previous salary, working for a terrible bully. So when I got an unexpectedly large tax return (unemployment has an up side after all) I went to Ubud, only for four days, but it was the best four days of my life.
I didn’t do much. I walked around a bit, looking at things. I ate amazing food. I sat in the garden of the hotel listening to the sounds of geckos and gamelan music and the wind in the trees every evening as the rain came in. And I swam in the infinity pool with swallows diving and frangipani blossoms falling around me and was absolutely enchanted.
I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. One day I didn’t have the pool to myself; a very loud woman got in with a group of friends. She splashed around noisily in the water and threw blossoms in the air and shrieked in a voice that echoed across the ravine: “THIS IS THE BEST FREAKIN’ POOL I’VE EVER BEEN IN IN MY LIFE.” To which I replied, “I completely agree, but please could you use your indoor voice?”
No, I didn’t, but I thought it.
She was right, though. It was the best freakin’ pool. No doubt, like me, she still thinks of that pool as her happy place. What about you? Where’s your happy place? I hope you have several. I’ve got another day off tomorrow. Can you guess where I’m going?