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A Day at the (Swimming) Races

31 Oct

The distant jetty and starting lane numbers

Pontoon and lane ropes

We Australians are a resourceful bunch.

Take this  example.

Mention competition lap swimming, and what venue springs to mind?

Hands up if you said:  Swimming Pools.

Sure, that’s what we routinely  see on television: and, equally certain, that’s precisely where  such competitions are generally run.  I can almost see the pristine water, the perfect tiles, the impressive starting-blocks.

However, the Club where I have swum for decades has a quite different domain: a river baths in suburban Sydney.

Close to fifty metres from the jetty at the far end of the promenade floats a slightly rusty pontoon. To it, our Swimming Club attaches unsophisticated lane ropes.

Bingo! Now we have the means to conduct in reasonable decorum a series of races, in length from twenty-five to two hundred metres. I admit the shortest races are liable to be approximate distances since their finishing line is not set in stone.

However, what we lack in exactitude is more than made up in atmosphere. For my money, its beautiful tree-studded setting wins, hands down!

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What’s Happened to Our Baths?

19 Apr

Just this morning, I took a stroll to my local swimming baths: the place I’ve chalked up about six thousand kilometres of freestyle in the past thirty years.

I can’t claim surprise at what I found; after all, yesterday’s rain pelted down hard on our rooftop, and we’re less than two kilometres away.

It was, in a word, disgusting. Sad to say, I’ve seen it even worse, but….

Instead of that strangely indescribable colour of clean river water, I saw dense, brownish stuff, splattered with debris.

The ‘Baths Closed Due to Health Risk’ sign was still in force, and to my knowledge, this is for a record period. Our Club last raced here in late February: every subsequent meeting had to be cancelled. What a disaster for our morale!

When will it ever return to normal? Will we swimmers ever think of it in the same way as B. F.: Before Flood?

Yes, it all went awry following the torrential rains that saw dams overflow! To think, it’s just a few years back that water restrictions were in force, and a desalination plant was constructed!

Clearly, things haven’t changed too much  from the days of poet Dorothea Mackellar, who wrote of ‘droughts and flooding rains’ in our country, Australia.

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A Tale of Time and Tide

27 Nov

For almost thirty years, I’ve swum with a rather unusual swimming club: unusual because it holds its meetings in a tidal river baths, rather than the usual man-made swimming pools, or sea-baths.

Today’s meeting, however, was more than a little different, for two reasons. Firstly, the tide was near its maximum ever, around two metres. The second: that a relay race was held.

King tides are always impressive, and sadly, few of them fall on those Sundays when our Club meets. Those massive tides that happen in winter are quite lost to us swimmers: after all, who’d chose to swim in water that is twelve degrees Centigrade,  and late in the evening to boot?

No. When they happen at convenient times, our club makes full use of them, and schedules as many events as possible. Today’s relay was, most likely, the one and only for the season. And what a tussle the fast heat became, with the winner separated by a whisker!

And what could be amiss, with all this water?

No beach to walk on!

Yes, our yellow sands were swallowed up by this rising tide, leaving us to ponder the miracle of the tides that come and go, transforming our world in a never-ending cycle.

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