19 November 2006

Auf wiederswim, pet

British swimming pools have come a long way in recent times. Nowadays at Leisure World, Colchester, you are treated to 30 degree water temperature and 28 degree air temperature (that's Celcius - about 85 and 82 Fahrenheit respectively for North Americans), not to mention wave machines, slides and water jets. You can take all your clobber to poolside - they even provide chairs to sit next to the pool - and allow the sort of inflatables that would have drawn a sharp blast of the whistle at Andover Swimming Pool in 1978.

But I was happy to see a remnant from those over-chlorinated days survives: the universal list of Things You Cannot Do At A Swimming Pool, c. 1973 in its original setting, with black and white cartoons of a sloe-eyed man misbehaving. This edition was chipped, ripped and battered, but still clung to the wall, entreating us to be ever vigilant of those who would run, swim, push, duck, bomb or even smoke, and Ruin Things For Everyone. Not to mention the most baffling swimcrime of all: petting.

As a child I never really understood its meaning - the illustration suggested that our cartoon chancer was giving unwanted attention to ladies in tight bikinis, sweating lovehearts into the air. I was never clear whether large-breasted women were not allowed to swim, whether leering at such females was the verboten part or if some kind of physical contact was required (or, rather, not required). The fact that it was a word that was never used outside of this context made it more mysterious - I do remember at one point concluding it must have something to do with not bringing your dog to the pool, and I had simply misinterpreted the visual. Probably this was reinforced when I finally found another use of the word, during a visit to a nearby petting zoo, where there didn't seem to be much inappropriate physical contact between the sexes. Or at least not between humans.

But it got me thinking about why the poster had never been updated, and if it were, what would be included in today's version. Given than public fornication seems more or less mandatory for the over 10's, I think the quaintness of "petting" means it would be consigned to the dustbin, along with the records of Alvin Stardust and the three day week. Probably replaced with: No happy-slapping.


PW said...

The signs on council estates are similarly odd. Ball games are always prohibited. But pi***ng in the lifts is ok.

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