Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday 16 October 2010

Welcome to the Middle End!

Once upon a time I hated Thursdays.

Thursday was the day when the PE teacher would mercilessly drive a horde of shivering children before her into the chilly horror of the school swimming pool, where we were assigned to groups according to ability.

Those who could not swim, or who lacked technique and stamina, were despatched to the Shallow End, where they could stand securely on the bottom or cluster round the railing at the edge of the pool while the teacher gave out floats and armbands.

The strongest swimmers went to the Deep End, where they could dive in freely and practise their strokes, or rest against the surrounding railing; from time to time, the teacher would visit them and make encouraging remarks.

And that left the third group – in what was traditionally (if somewhat illogically) known as the ‘Middle End’, squeezed into a narrow section delineated by ropes slung across the pool.

Crammed into this small area, unable to touch the bottom, the unhappy ‘Middle Enders’ splashed miserably back and forth from side to side of the pool for half an hour or frantically trod water waiting for a space to open up on the few feet of railing.

And to add to their misery, on her way to and from the deep end, the teacher would pause to order them back to swimming their relentless widths – and, on rare but unpleasant occasions, ‘accidentally’ tread on fingers clutching the side of the pool for support.

Coverage of the forthcoming cuts, for me at least, is inextricably linked to dripping pipes, peeling paint and an overpowering smell of chlorine.


  1. Good comparison! Hopefully, though, those in the middle will get something out of it. Even the middle-Enders got little coloured patches to sew on their costumes, denoting their prowess...

  2. If Obo can return (today) [thanks to some Sainsbury's provocation], there's optimism that Ms Raccoon may also resurrect her Blog.

  3. somewhat off topic but

    and an overpowering smell of chlorine.

    What you think is the smell of 'chlorine' is in fact the smell of chloramines. The stuff given off when chlorine reacts with sweat, poo, piss etc.

    a properly treated pool does not smell of 'chlorine' If it does it actually means the pool is not clean , not 'too clean'

    Chloramines: Understanding “Pool Smell”

    So if you are just about to dive into a pool and it smells of 'chlorine' for fucks sake don't open your mouth.

  4. *gags*

    I've gone right off swimming now....

  5. JuliaM, perhaps someone could design the equivalent - T-shirts, maybe: 'I survived the cuts of 2010' or 'No child benefit, 2 kids at uni and still alive'.

    JP, I sincerely hope so; that would make a lot of people very happy indeed.

    I was relieved to see Obo back again; without the blog to help him let off steam, I was worried he might have spontaneously combusted.

    PC - You've got me worried now - the tap water here has a distinct whiff of swimming-pool about it.

    Admittedly the pool water at my school was pretty horrible - rumour had it there were leeches lurking in the deep end - but much of the smell came from the industrial quantities of bleach the cleaners used to tackle the creeping mould on the walls.

    Health&Safety would have had a field day!

  6. Few pools are now reliable because of the effect of all the high impact and powerful chemicals in use in personal stuff. The pool manager at one place said they often sent the dials crazy and led to high chlorine levels. I had to give up swimming because the pools were causing very nasty skin problems.


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