In at the deep end

I always wanted Jacques Cousteau to visit Balham Baths.

I watched his documentaries with interest and knew there must be something of aquatic attraction lurking in the chlorine of SW17?

I wanted him to transport Calypso all the way from the south of France to the mysterious depths of the deep end of my local swimming baths.

What would Jacques (and Phillippe) expect to find at the bottom of the baths?  A discarded pair of pyjamas?  A coelacanth?  An unreliable set of water-wings?

At secondary school we had to travel a million miles to Latchmere Baths.  It always worried me that the next door building was the Battersea Coroner’s Court.  This didn’t encourage you to want to be the next Johnny Weissmüller; they might as well have named it “The Dr Crippen Swimming Baths”.

Until I discovered that telling the teacher you had a verruca would get you out of swimming, I had visions of my trunks laying on a ceramic slab with giant Victorian lights looking down and the only thing on the wall being a 1969 Mark Spitz calendar.

I’d have made my own version of the TV series and named it “The Undersea World of Mike Richards”, except we were too poor to own a float and I was always worried I’d develop webbed feet.

Joyeuses vacances

Overcoming the first hurdle

I’ve been inspired with the recent Olympics.  However, I’ve never threatened to get a place on the GB Olympic team.

At our Tooting secondary school, we had a term of athletics which would eventually lead to finals day.  There was no podium as the woodwork teacher was rubbish.

I tried the shot put and discus, but struggled to pick the things up, let alone throw it halfway to Tooting Broadway Station.  Had even less luck with the javelin as I nearly created the climax of the Battle of Hastings with my poor aim.

The hurdles were tricky if you wore glasses, as you’d approach the actual hurdle and, with NHS ill-fitting glasses wobbling all over the shop, you’d see several hurdles and invariably hit the wrong one.  David Hemery I was not.

I tried to introduce a note from my Mum, but such was the ferocity of the PE master, it’d have been less painful impaling myself with one of my more errant javelins.

I could run about 100-yards (these were the days before metres were invented) – but anything more was torture; the cross-country run we’d be sent on was like me taking an urgent message to Marathon.

We had no swimming pool and boxing only occurred when the comprehensive school opposite invaded the rugby pitch separating our two schools.  Our school caps offered little protection.

I’ve had liked to have done Taekwondo but have never been any good at foreign languages.

On your marks…