In the Fast Lane … at Monbulk

I intensely disliked being rushed and yet … I seem always to be in a rush. How annoying! So recently I have been frequenting the pool at Monbulk, the glamorous new tiled and heated excitement in what could be an unexpected plane hanger. I like it, I like the vibe. I like the change rooms. They remind me a bit of the Spring Hill Baths in olde Brisbane town. They have that fun striped I-was-designed-and-built-in-the-late-1800’s vibe, as we know vibe is essential to getting over the inertia plaguing many of us when it comes to … engaging in that necessary un – comfortableness – exercise.

So I was not always a follower of the Monbulk ‘school of pool’ or as Clangers says “…ool”. Can’t think why. No, I was lured in to a flashier more expensive gym-with-pool situation further down the hill, past Knox City – don’t know what possessed me. They had a sauna, I think that was it – yes, that’s where it started. They had a sauna, a very warm pool (helpful), a spa and a lot of geriatric exercise fiends who are both intimidating and err navigationally challenged. Said another way, could not swim in lanes. Let me begin at the beginning …

I like swimming, I do. What I don’t like – is other swimmers in my lane. I likes to get in to the zen of it all, regular breathing, rhythmic strokes, enjoying the sunlight, quietly, unmolested by those who want to socialise – before you know what is happening I have been transported to the void and am experiencing a state of extreme bliss. Non-attachment. I won’t claim enlightenment. However the pool in question was frequented but chatty, deaf older persons who struggled with swimming in straight lines.

So I would arrive full of positive thinking and intent on exercise. I’d cap up, give it a bit of extroverted limbering up, arms stretches – didn’t want a cramp to interfere with my zen equilibrium. I’d assertively secure the ear plugs – several times, adjust the goggles – and submerge.

Friends, I am from Queensland. There are many differences between Victorians and Queenslanders in addition to the Victorian genetic predisposition to watch and or play AFL and the dispute about IQ points. In Queensland, you get chucked in the pool seconds after being born to give you a greater chance of survival in the surf and help you out swim sharks. Victorians are all a bit “it’s too cold” or “I need a rest” or ‘let’s stop and have a chat’ or go and watch some AFL, before they are ‘out of the water’ quicker than they got in.

So I start out, and just as I am approaching a stride, the rhythm, the zen like state of oblivion – I spot a friendly older person sort of walking down the pool, I am led to understand this is a form of resistance training for the older person. I may have this wrong, but I would have thought there were non-verbal cues a plenty signifying a preoccupation with serious swimming at the level of athlete training for the Olympics. However this did not stop multiple attempts at conversation. Previous strident maternal training in politeness with respect to dealing with older persons restricted my intense desire to be more assertive and after a brief-ish, friendly-ish exchange of “I love the pool. I taught myself to swim you know. I come here every day …” I began, hoping, praying, believing that would be the last of it … but not so.

I manage to execute a couple of laps and avoid the ‘friendly’ lady’s approaches before another swimmer enters my lane. He’s older. They seemed to be cut from the same ‘no boundaries’ block. No problem so far. He’s got a kick board. OK. Committed maybe? He starts out but he seems to be from the US! He’s driving on the wrong side of the lane! If I don’t watch him closely we are going to CRASH! I steer around him, the first time – but this breaks my focus.

The irritation of it! Serious swimmers ‘such as myself’, although out of practice, not happy in a 25m pool. Too many crashing opportunities! And struggling swimmers but 50m pools are hard to come by and even hard to heat. Hmmmmm. Cold water is not so inviting. The dilemma! Six of one, half a dozen of the other. On balance, in winter – in Melbourne, I will take the heat in a 25m pool. It is easy to say this out of the pool, it’s bit different when coping with the directionally challenged swimmer.

He doesn’t notice and blissfully ploughs forward in manner of wheat threshing machine zig zagging down the lane. All arms and not a lot of ‘outcome’. I continue on. Embrace surrendering the moment and as many attachments as I can whilst continuing to swim without incurring an accident. Execute a tumble turn in a thimble full of water, narrowly avoid sconing myself – proceed down the left side of the lane and encounter the age-ed road criminal, more confident now careening towards me – but this time – we connect, my palm to his pate – safely thanks to the seconds of warning given to me.

Shocked, we both jump up out of the water. I stand up. He stands up. The water comes up to his waist and my mid thigh. I am taller. He apologises profusely. We have a moment of lane rage. He says, “I am training for …” – I don’t hear the rest. I say, “Watch where you are going! You need to pass on the right, steer to the left – just like driving.” He apologises, he says, “I thought you were training for …” I goggle up, inhale and begin – again. And then … tumble turn, re-draw. It happens again! More apologies. That’s it! The experience is now ruined! I’m out. I swim down the lane and resolve to attempt the sauna.

As I lithely slither up and out, she says, “I come here every day. It is such a wonderful pool …” – so these events led to inertia getting a grip upon me but the cold of Winter gets old, and the body longs to get out but it is not yet warm enough. So, brain generates Idea No. 1 – go at a different time. I do. I consult the timetable and just do it.

I arrive at the pool and glance at it on my way down to the change room. Pool empty. Coast clear, Looking good. I strip off at record speed a leap back up to the pool only to discover the Country Women’s Association has gathered magically and mysteriously in the interim (I didn’t take that long) and is preparing for an Aqua Aerobics Class. ‘Can’t be’, I reassure myself, ‘I checked the timetable’ but then a confirming sort of personage with a head set in situ rocks up with sound system, enthusiasm and is in exercise gear.

Not happy! I make this known and refer to the timetable. I am corrected. I am plus not happy. Then in the spirit of friendship and fun both Instructor and Class all invite me to join. I survey the scene, briefly grieve the loss of my agenda and expectations, and decide ‘I’m here anyway, may as well’. So I do. And it was fun but not the same as the bliss of a solitary swim. I am clearly developing Anti-Social tendencies but on the other hand it may be more about ‘standards’. Truth be told, I need to swim. It is both exercise and meditation. So as fun as Aqua was – tis not the same. Challenge remained.

I was complaining about the competition I faced for Pool space up at Oscar’s ‘recently’ when it was suggested by those gathered, or rather an inquiry was presented that was along the lines of, “Why don’t you just go to Monbulk?” Good Question. No ready answer. So, I went.

The first thing I discovered is that we are ‘aware’ up here in The Hills, let me explain. So I arrive and survey the situation. There are – more lanes. Good sign. Older pools are shallow and have less lanes, therefore more opportunities for fatalities. There are – also – self aware swimmers. So I exit the change rooms armed with a ridiculous cap that makes my head look long and thin in manner of alien genes, chlorine scourged goggles and those crazy ear plugs that need water before suction takes. I begin suiting up and perform the pre-swim bowed arms and legs limbering routine swagger.

There is another geriatric swimmer. I am on guard for unexpected swerving however the lovely lady pipes up, whips out the ear plugs and says with impressive lucidity, “I have just two lengths to go and I’m out”. OMG! I liked this new approach to getting older. Self Awareness! I would have taken this kindly swimmer’s lane but I espied the more desirable highly covetted middle lane was free, less wave resistance. The Monbulk Pool has a kind of undertow. If you are not careful you’ll get caught in the rip and end up in New Zealand with shark bite. Don’t believe me? No? It’s a bit like the ocean. So I slip in to the luxury of the uninhabited lane and begin beating out breast strokes as if I was listening to Beethoven.

After I found my rhythm and stride, I risked taking a short rest to catch the old breath. Check the pulse. I do this but have no idea what I am doing. I confirmed my heart was still beating and concluded I was therefore still alive. My banged up goggles render my radar a bit murky so I was not absolutely sure of what they were showing me. I noticed an interesting development which left me shocked, awestruck and with an increase in both PRESSURE on myself and expectation of those gathered. A sign had appeared at the end of the lane, my lane. It was a magical talisman warding off the smaller people from tripping in to the swimmer’s lane. It said, “MEMBERS SWIM LANE” with an additional startling adjective – “FAST”.

Yes friends. Monbulk has spoken. I am allegedly a FAST SWIMMER. I know this because on the three subsequent occasions I fronted up at the Monbulk Ool, I was thus classified. So my Gym Membership is shortly to become – extinct! I am now in the FAST LANE. We will see how long this lasts.

Get along to the Monbulk Pool if you can. The first day I went, we had Pool Meditation to Tibetan Singing Bowls. Basically you hop on a noodle and chill out to singing bowls. Good Times. Dig The Hills.

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