There is no shortage of Piscine – swimming pools – in Paris ….. the French love to swim – in their fashion. We found two just around the corner from our apartment in the Marais : one opposite the Pompidou Centre and the other in the bowels of Les Halles. We decided to try the small – 20 metre pool – just around the corner, it was so shallow at one end both our knuckles scrapped the tiles ….. but I get ahead of myself.
First, we had to get into the pool. The timetable even set Anon’s …… numerical brain ….. spinning, there seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to small amounts of time allotted to public swimming. We jumped the first hurdle and bought a ticket …… went down stairs and handed the ticket to another attendant ……. Much arm waving by another attendant, when cluelessly, we went to walk into the unisex change room shod. So off came the shoes ….. Stood in front of the lockers trying to workout, with extremely limited French, how to open and then lock, luckily an ancient waif came to our aid …… she had no English and a frightening smokers cough but very kindly demonstrated the five steps to get into the locker …… The posters of dos and don’t made one’s head hurt. Must wear a rubber cap, Don’t wear anything but a speedo for boys. Douche, and then Douche again and then for good measure Douche the head.
We were heading up stairs to the Piscine when an attendant …… we are now up to four …… starts screaming at Anon like he is a suicide bomber hell bent on blowing up the Piscine …… he’s left his shorts on. He has to get down to his speedo the attendant still screaming and waving his arms takes over the closing of the locker and changes the code and walks off in a huff. After the re douche we finally make it to the pool deck, the sight is hilarious and daunting – the attendants seem to out number the swimmers – I use this term loosely – because wherever you looked the lanes were chaos. I think we may have stumbled onto the retired synchronised swimming team’s haunt along with the team for funny walks. But not a lot of swimming as we know it. We did what we could – dodged and weaved – in water that felt warmer than most baths. The process of getting out of the Piscine was a little easier until Anon had to find an attendant … not a problem given their number …. to de-code his locker.
We actually preserved and even started to get some welcome nods by the growing number of attendant’s – at least ten at last count -and growing friendship with chain smoking waif. Then – Saturday morning – got up at 7am the allotted time and stood outside the locked door ..… people came, looked at the door and left ….. at last a young woman who spoke English let us know the Attendants had called ‘social action’ – a collective action directed toward a societal end, or what we call a strike ! There was a move on to cut the number of Attendants!! We never really got our rhythm back after that, there was a kids holiday and the attendants just didn’t turn up. But by this time we were on shrugging terms with the other swimmers?
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