Bathers of the World Unite!

If you are my age - late 30-something - I am sure you will remember standing in the playground at secondary school watching some lad pulling back his hair to reveal an horrendous scar reconfiguring the geometry of his head, and at least two cases that I can recall, boys unfeasibly tall and hairy with broken noses they wore with pride. In the absence of National Service their noses had the same notoriety as George Medals. How - or why, more to the point - would young men wear these talismans with such pride? Well, 'off the top board of the pools', was the 70s equivalent of surviving a 48 hour rave on bad acid, it was the pinnacle of macho achievement. You would frequently hear it in the same breath as 'up the Terres, no lid, no bull'. This was a similar challenge to the teenage mortality figures, but it did require the funding of a huge motorcycle. The Terres was for the older boys with apprentice wages in their back pockets as they 'snaked it through the esses', waking up under hire cars with fire crews attempting to cut them out. Oh those were the days.

Personally, I never had the guts to go off the top board. What I do remember is gingerly climbing to the top, knowing that my bathers were clean on before I got there. My humiliation was compounded by having to be talked down by a concerned Northern visitor, I remember she gave the whole thing the feel of a failed suicide attempt.

Like many other Townies, I did a lot of growing up down the pools, before the Dip 'N' Dine culture took hold, and I suppose before joint salaries could stretch to a swimming pool. No chlorine, plastic chairs, no uniform sky blue tiles giving way to larch-lap fences, with signs reading 'No Bombshelling', not like at the pools: children sitting sheepishly in the shallow end in curious pools of warm yellow, with icecream running between their fingers, shaven-headed already-dangerous young boys throwing stones at coke cans jammed in rocks, only to ricochet and bounce off the then already declining number of visitors. And, as the sun moved west over the aquarium, we would all stand together in our wraps, shivering like penguins on an ice floe.

The bathing pools belong to the people of Guernsey. It's every Guernseyman's right to have the skin taken off their feet by limpets. To wring out their bathers watching the ferries arrive. To learn how to snorkel, half choke and have a near-death experience! In short, Leave Our Pools Alone. We do not want tinted panes of glass with stainless steel and the obligatory decking, with suits swigging gin or Perrier to the accompaniment of mobiles and pagers. Let's not have the Dix-Neufication of our bathing pools. Let us not allow the harsh winds of Finance to erode a unique part of our Island's culture. BATHERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!

JLN


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