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MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND #11 (article first published : 2006-03-23)

When I was young, and my parents keen bowlers, I recall being dropped off with my sister Joan, seven years older, to spend whole Sundays at a swimming pool on Rand Leases Gold Mine where resident lifesaver, dear old Monty - already well into her Golden Years - would chug in before nine on her motor-bike.

We were not allowed to dive in until the mine’s hooter sounded at 9 am precisely. It sounded again at 1p.m., when all bathers HAD to get out of the water whilst Monty had her lunch-break. Joan and I would explore the picnic hamper Mom had packed for us, then chug it down with a refreshing Mountain Dew, purchased with our tuck money. Before lunchtime was up I would be back at the poolside, arms outstretched, awaiting the two o’clock hooter.

I would remain in the water till the parents arrived after their day on the bowling green - but there was no way I would emerge until the SIX o’clock hooter sounded! This pattern continued into my teen years, though the venue changed to the Durban Deep swimming pool. Here there was a trampoline (a fairly new invention – wow, that sure does date me!) and we’d all queue up for a turn in between swims, then I’d cycle home on my red bicycle, suntanned and healthily exhausted.

When I became a parent, my little daughter had no option but to accompany me to all the swimming spots in and around Durban. Some 50 years down the road, I now find myself a firm fixture at the pool half a kilometre from my home, which I visit daily for the exercise, the pleasure of the water and the keen social life!

After my routine of exercises in the water, and a couple of laps just for sheer pleasure, I sit in the shade with a good book on a favourite bench near the entrance. This is where I have made the acquaintance of a wide variety of personalities.

I chat to all ages. One particular favourite is a pretty little Russian girl with fine blonde hair, a wispy fringe and about 20 dainty long plaits, each finished off with a different coloured ribbon. Her mum speaks little English but Lily and I converse easily and she loves it when she spots me in my dolphin sundress. In turn, I compliment her on her cute hairstyles. Then there are the groups of schoolchildren who arrive for their lesson in the morning with teacher(s) in tow, and some of them enjoy a quick chat with me before they’re summoned to the water’s edge. One little girl in particular has noted that I am ALWAYS colour-coded, being especially taken with the days I’m in pink and have in my pink beach-bag, a pink hairbrush and pink lipstick and pink-coloured hand lotion. There’s also a pink pen for jotting down ideas and shopping lists!

Slightly older acquaintances recently were two delightful overseas students who were studying through SIT (School for International Training) based in Vermont. One was from Boston, the other a New Yorker of mixed heritage, and I found our conversations so fascinating that I invited them round to tea once or twice. I also invited them to dinner, going to a lot of trouble to plan and shop for a vegetarian meal, since they’d told me the other two in their group did not eat meat – only to have them all go down with some sort of ‘flu bug!

Then there are many folk around my own age, of all nationalities, some of them having had back ops, others working on overcoming depression, but for the most part just enjoying the fresh air and the delight of cool water on a hot Durban day. For many a long year I’ve enjoyed stimulating conversations with a fellow ten years my senior – the only male I’ve met who admits to watching (and enjoying) The Bold and the Beautiful. So we’ve had a great deal of fun sending up the scriptwriters who can’t seem to find the budget to employ any additional cast members to extend the range of the Forresters’ circle of acquaintances! We’ve also conversed widely on music, on movies, on magazines, and on marriage (which I informed John was a myth perpetrated by just those first three M’s!) and then he went and moved inland, to live with family, so now it’s as if a well-loved old tree is missing from the scenery!

More recently I’ve made the acquaintance of a Swiss Chef who JOGS in the water daily (he never seems to do any actual SWIMMING!) – but will he NEVER get the message that, not only am I diabetic, but I’m on a LIFESTYLE CHANGE PROGRAMME? He keeps telling me of wonderful new venues who serve THE most delicious cakes! He even brought back from his last holiday in Switzerland a whole slab of delicious choccie. I had to pretend I’d eaten and enjoyed it (since it obviously cost quite a bit) when I’d actually nibbled delicately at just one square and then virtuously passed on the rest to the window-cleaner at home!

Then there are the eccentric types. There’s the lifesaver who does a slow jog round and round the pool wearing a bright green municipal rubbish-bag to encourage sweating. There’s the guy who’s trying to land a job as a bartender, who spends hours and hours juggling bottles and shot-glasses on the lawn. There’s the yoga enthusiast, who feels not a jot of shyness at putting his body through all SORTS of postures, garbed in the skimpiest pair of swimming trucks I’ve ever seen. Then there’s the tall, bald guy who hardly ever enters the water but spends hours strutting round the pool for folks to admire his (admittedly worth admiring) physique.

There are ladies who do nothing but lie in the sun all day, never once having a swim but resorting to the occasional shower to cool down! Sunday mornings (really early, shortly after opening time in midsummer) brings an ex-lifesaver who starts his day by nimbly climbing up the grandstand to survey the park-life below as he raises his arms to the heavens and exclaims, ”Praise the universe!”. I’ve noted he also has his “off” days, when he strides across the tiles muttering: “Depression is the work of the Devil”!) This fellow insists on engaging anyone who’ll listen, in long, boring, philosophical discussions.

No walk of life is without its share of pervs, so there’s the wetsuit-clad feller who WILL insist on peering at the ladies’ legs (and possibly other body parts) from under the water, as his style of swimming has him putting his face deep down and his rear end high up in the air – the strangest method of ploughing through the water I have yet observed.

Then there are the Noodle Ladies who slowly make their way up and down the lanes, heads turban-clad so as not to ruin their hairstyles, talking nineteen-to-the-dozen. When I purchased a lovely cream-soda-coloured noodle last winter, I found I’d hardly cycled half a width - never mind a length - before my legs were totally tired out. So there’s yet another exercise to add to my regime – even if it IS minus the chatter!

But my favourite new friend is a lovely freckle-faced 77-year-old who used to sing at recitals at the SABC before I joined the staff back in 1977. I discovered her fine voice when we were in adjoining showers. I was heartily (and not that tunefully) belting out the new words that contemporary crooner heart-throb Patrizio Buanne has put to the old standard Funiculi Funicula. Joyce thought it great fun, and joined in (using the original words).

As it turns out, I’ve managed to find an ex-sound-engineer from my SABC days, now retired, who can magically transfer not only audio cassettes but also old vinyl LP records and even Seven Singles onto CD. Not being able to excavate any recordings of Joyce’s singing from the SABC archives, I instructed my new friend to search her entire home until she discovered some ancient cassettes. Now, I have in my hot little hand a CD of surprisingly good quality with her remarkably lovely voice in its heyday! I am SO delighted to have been instrumental in ensuring that her three daughters will have a record of their mother’s talent one day when she’s no longer here. Yup, pool friends make for wonderful pals. And on that aquatic and musical note I take my leave till next time, when no doubt I’ll be musing on some totally different topic. – Bev Pule




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