Friday, June 06, 2008

Mao Tse Tung said

It’s not every day that you catch site of two llamas shagging as you drive to work is it?

I still haven’t fixed my car aerial so my "in car entertainment” options are extremely limited, but the weather was good this morning, which may account for the uninhibited behaviour of the llamas, but certainly enabled me to listen to Nicky Campbell on 5 live for a bit longer than I am used to. The theme of the morning seemed to be swimming. It seems that we are going to be turned into a nation of svelte, lissome, swimmers, courtesy of the Olympics. Swimming will be free, for the over 60’s and under 16’s.

Five live being what it is, they couldn’t just say thank you very much, they had to pick the bones out of it and me being me, I’m going to have a little moan too. The chap they interviewed about this commented that he recognized that it wasn’t just about providing free access; the environment would need to be pleasant before the great unwashed took to the water. This is an important point. My nippers go for swimming lessons every week at the brand spanking new Cwmbran stadium, and it is, not to put too fine a point on it, a stinking, shithole. I also take the kids swimming for fun on weekends, and despite swimming pools in our borough being free, I would sooner gnaw my own arm off than visit them.

The staff are surly and uninterested. The changing rooms dingy, ankle deep in water, with family changing areas that are beyond description. The toilets are dingy, dirty and dark. It is an unpleasant, unwholesome experience, so we drive over the county line for our fun. Until recently, we have been going to Newport, which is marginally better, although the water and changing areas are very cold and the chemicals in the water leave your eyes stinging for days. Again, the staff there, particularly at waterside, are rude and surly.

We are lucky though, a huge pool complex has opened in Cardiff, which, as well as having an enormous pool for serious swimmers, has a separate leisure type effort, with slides, a jacuzzi, a sort of trail thing with all sorts of surprises up it’s sleeve and all manner of water jets, showers and just plain daft stuff to boot. The changing areas are fantastic………………………warm, with loads of large cubicles, hundreds of lockers, plenty of space, spotlessly clean and, somehow, dry. The staff are ok too, no frowns, no huge beat boxes to keep them entertained as they work. The only downside is that you have no opportunity for an actual swim.

So that’s us, we have about 4 pools within ten minutes of the house which the kids could use for free, but we drive twenty odd miles and pay the entrance fee to go somewhere else, somewhere with good, clean facilities and pleasant staff. Throw all the pools open by all means, but if you can’t make the experience generally enjoyable, you may as well invite the good folk of Britain to go and have a dip in the nearest cut, which might be a bit less intimidating. I didn’t mention that did I? Our local leisure centres are really intimidating places to visit. Not pleasant at all.

I haven’t quite finished yet. On the radio they kept banging on about how we have the Olympics to thank for this initiative. How’s that then? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, how many beautiful pools, leisure centres, all weather pitches, fitness trails, sports academies etc, etc, etc could have been built with the money that has gone on the Olympics? How many more people could have access to good quality facilities, if all that money had been spent in every little community in the land?
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