I Wasn’t Naked I Just Didn’t Have Any Bathers On

The last few days in Omaha has seen the temperature pushing into the nineties, with the humidity matching the air temperature; and summer officially begins in a week. Maybe the corn sweat has launched early this year, or maybe global warming caused July and August to start in June. After heaving the lawn mower around the backyard, and oozing with sweat, I pushed back into the green resin stack-able patio dining chair that I had put in the garage; even with the door open it’s the coolest place in the house during summer mid mornings. My head lolled forward and the resin chair became a bold and beautiful folding deckchair. I didn’t try to interrupt my eyes closing and I was soon back playing a game of beach cricket and trying to eat a paddle pop before it melts.

image source:johnmcadam

Back when, my summers usually began in November; the temperature began creeping into the eighties as we sat in our winter uniforms, squashed two to a desk, in the hot classrooms at Williamstown Tech. On those hot days the teacher opened the windows but the cooling south breeze only arrived in the late afternoon; the air was stifling. We sat silent and unresponsive, glancing up at the large octangular speaker in the corner, waiting for the headmasters announcement to be broadcast into every room:

boys, you may remove your jumpers and loosen your ties

It was around late November when the summer uniform replaced the winter uniform. We were permitted to wear shorts, a short sleeve shirt without a tie, and summer socks.

image source:picturevictoria.vic.gov.au

When I was a young teenager drifting into adolescence it seemed as if I spent every day of the school holidays at Williamstown Beach. I would leave my bike resting against the chain link fence of the Life Saving Club with the towel that I always wrapped around my shirt and shorts lodged under the bike below the pedals. The Life Saving Club was at the end of the promenade that ran alongside the Esplanade; a low curving blue stone wall separated the sand and water from the promenade. Back then, the sand ended just before the Life Saving Club; a rock wall arched around past the club. There were two sets of steps inset into the wall that led into the water. Past the steps were the rockies. There were no steps down to the rockies. You clambered down the wall onto the rocks. At different places the rocks had formed openings and the waves and tidal water gushed into and out of these deep grottoes. Only the brave went there to swim; only those enduring a rite of passage, or answering a dare. The rockies were the first time I swam starkers.

image source:errantries.com

I don’t remember dad driving the family to the Gold Coast on holidays but I know that he did. I remember looking out over the Blue Mountains at the three sisters; I don’t remember Sydney. After leaving Sydney we would have driven up the two lane Pacific Highway to the New South Wales border town of Coolangatta. The thin strip of road connecting Coolangatta with Surfers Paradise snaked through the small sleepy, Gold Coast beach towns. I don’t remember Surfers Paradise. I think we stayed in the Tweed Heads caravan park. I would have gone swimming in the surf at the beach. Mum had a couple of strict swimming rules; we could only go as far out into the water where we could still touch the bottom, and the most enforced rule was we could only go into the water an hour after eating. After every meal, or snack, mum would hold court and warn us of the severe consequences of swimming immediately after eating:

your stomach will cramp up and you will sink to the bottom and drown

It took until young adulthood for me to go swimming straight after I had eaten; and I never once got stomach cramp.

image source:johnmcadam

My second visit to Surfers Paradise was in the late sixties; it was still the land of meter maids and Mini Mokes. The re-built Surfers Paradise Hotel anchored Cavill Avenue and it’s Birdwatcher’s Bar was crowded with males of all ages downing a few cold ones: you staked out a drinking spot by the glass windows to watch the girls in their bikinis saunter past. New motels and hotels, towering five stories into the blue sky, were carving out the new Surfers Paradise skyline. The beer gardens were a welcome retreat from the mid day sun for the holiday makers. Constant rounds of  beer and mixed drinks, and a good counter lunch were the norm. The Bee Gees grew up in Redcliffe, about 70miles from the Gold Coast. The holiday makers paid scant attention to the young boys when they sang their way through the beer gardens. One night I was putting away a few cold ones, and mum had never said anything about waiting an hour after your last drink before going swimming, so I decided I should be swimming at Surfers Paradise beach. I could just make out the breaking waves from where I was on the moonlit sand but I peeled off my clothes and ran towards the breaking waves. I swam starkers in the Surfers Paradise surf.

image source:pinterest

I was young; I didn’t know danger. It was only a couple of years since the Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt, mysteriously disappeared while swimming alone at a beach near the ocean-side town of Portsea. Maybe he went swimming without waiting for an hour after eating.

When I first went searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary in the early seventies I used London as my homeland. I worked as a life guard during a long hot summer at an outdoor swimming pool that was nestled in the corner of Brockwell Park. Brockwell Lido was a drop kick from the Herne Hill train station, or a short bus ride away from the Brixton tube station; sometimes I would endure the long walk across Tooting Bec Commons and through parts of Streatham. The Olympic size pool was surrounded by asphalt and concrete, and a ten foot high brick wall. On each side of the pool were the dank, dark, subterranean men’s and women’s changing rooms. A high diving platform was at the deep end of the pool and a large concrete water fountain towered over the shallow end. The life guard changing room was behind the fountain and the room shared a wall with the first aid room. The changing room and the first aid room had an outside door to the park.

The pool and it’s surrounding concrete provided a welcome respite from the sweltering summer heat to the people of Lambeth and South London. Five of us: Peter the university student, John the part time criminal from Herne Hill, Mick the Irishman sympathetic to the troubles and a supporter of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, The Young Londoner, and the Aussie searching for inspiration and idealism plucked quite a few little ones from the shallow three foot end of the pool, and were regarded as hero’s by their young mums; we also dragged a few teenagers and adults from the deep end after they jumped off the high diving board and discovered they couldn’t swim.

image source:johnmcadam

We often worked until after nine during the weekdays but finished earlier on Sunday evenings; sometimes different combinations of us would stroll over to one of the local Herne Hill pubs to sink a few pints after work. Last call was around eleven. A collection of uniformed first aid volunteers would show up on the weekends. It was an early Sunday evening and a couple of the young uniformed first aid lady volunteers agreed to join us for a few rounds at the local. It had to be after eleven when we; Peter the university student, John the part time criminal from Herne Hill, Mick the Irishman sympathetic to the troubles and a supporter of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and the young uniformed first aid lady volunteer lurched out of the pub and headed towards the Lido. We had decided to go swimming.

image source:heartsonfire.co

We lifted Mick the Irishman onto the top of the wall and he in turn hoisted John the part time criminal from Herne Hill onto the wall. They let themselves into the first aid room with the key the young uniformed first aid lady volunteer had given them and unlocked the outside door to the park. We all swam starkers, in the moonlight, at Brockwell Lido. As I think back it was fortunate that we had consumed only pints of warm English bitter and not snacked on any of the Scottish eggs available from the bar; waiting in the moonlight for an hour after eating may have proven to be a little tiresome.

The Thailand I remember was a county transitioning from a rest and recreational retreat from the Vietnam War into a tourism mecca. In the mid seventies Chiang Mai was a sleepy country town nestled among the forested foothills of northern Thailand close to Asia’s infamous Golden Triangle; the meeting of Thailand, Burma and Laos and the center of the infamous opium trade. Our back packers hostel was a collection of buildings surrounding by trees and foliage; they ringed a small delightful courtyard. Five of us intrepid travelers set off from our hostel on a two day hike into the mountains and villages of the Golden Triangle. A friend of our guide dropped us off at the entrance to a rough track into the mountains. We dragged ourselves along mud trails, skirted countless opium fields, and trekked through small villages and into and out of Laos and Burma.  I wondered if the opium farmers guided their donkey caravans along these old jungle trade paths. It was late afternoon when we arrived at our overnight mountain jungle village.

image source:sports.vice.com

Before eating and sleeping we were encouraged to cleanse the dried mud and sweat from ourselves in the nearby stream. I think the rivulet was the fresh water supply for the village. I wandered along the stream, downstream from the village. I sat naked in a cold mountain stream in Asia’s Golden Triangle.

Nowadays you can relax during a scenic drive through the countryside in air-conditioned comfort and stop off at attractions such as the Hall of Opium Museum and the Mae Ka Chan hot springs, where you can soak your sore muscles in three natural pools and let tiny fish nibble dead skin from your feet. Which makes me wonder if fish have to wait an hour after they eat before they can go swimming.

I haven’t been swimming for years; maybe I should go swimming in a sand pit. I will probably need to go out and buy a pair of bathers.

 

What In The World Is Corn Sweat

Brockwell Lido

History Of Surfers Paradise

These Malls Are Made For Walking And Swimming

At the start of April plantar fasciitis in my right foot and after surgery swelling of the macula, and a blocked vessel that carries fluids to lubricate the eye, thwarted my retirement plans and caused me to adopt blogging. After laser surgery and two months of dropping liquid gold eye drops into my left eye the swelling and the blurring retreated. The foot specialist that I went to had DPM listed after his name; my fervent hope was that it stood for Doctor of Pain Management. He did produce pain when he pushed the syringe into the heel of my foot and emptied a syringe of cortisone into my inflamed plantar fascia. I did learn after a couple of visits that DPM stood for doctor of podiatric medicine. He prescribed a dorsal night splint and a series of stretching exercises. I wore the splint to bed. After enduring about six months of misery in every step the pain mysteriously disappeared.

I think Westroads Mall is typical of the majority of suburban malls. It is anchored at each end by department stores, has a central atrium, is two stories of mostly national brand retailers, and has had a couple of department stores built on as side attachments

westroads first floor

Three weeks ago I returned to my old mall walking ground. I was somewhat excited: I now had some new walking socks and walking shows, instead of slip on crocs and ankle socks, recommended by my doctor of podiatric medicine, and an MP3 player with ear buds. I was also slightly nervous; I wondered if my old walking mates would still be there and if I could keep up with the walking pacesetters I admired. They weren’t really mates; I had never talked to any of them or know any of their names. It was just a slight head nod or an indiscernible move of the index finger as we passed that bonded us as a band of mall walkers.

I start my walking journey around 9:00am; twice around the lower level and twice around the upper level; it is close to .64 miles once around the interior perimeter. Some of my mates are still walking: And I can see their inner smile welcoming me back when we pass.

3 ladies walking

When mall walking you first notice the window displays but after a few weeks they become some sort of colourfull mosaic paneling; it must be your motion that creates the peripheral moving lava lamp pattern. The patterns are hypnotic and mesmerizing. One morning when walking, my mind went back to Form 5AB at Williamstown Technical School and I was reminded of when a few of us would go down to the beach after school. We wouldn’t do a lot of swimming but would romp around doing adolescent teenage boy stuff. The speedo’s would get wet because habitually someone would be ganged up on and launched into the salt water and shoulder fights, or a water modified round of British Bulldog would erupt.

I don’t remember John Colville or Robert Ballard kicking the sand at Williamstown Beach. I remember; John Savory, Kevin Thompson and Gunter Jergens. I wasn’t fat in my adolescence and I wasn’t thin. I thought I was just stocky around the waist: but maybe I shouldn’t have compared myself to John, Kevin or Gunter. Andrew Lambrianew had left Williamstown Tech in third form, to start a diesel mechanics apprenticeship, so I didn’t have him as my reassuring friend. Instead of cavorting on the sand I started swimming. About fifty yards or more offshore from the beach was a diving board platform on piles, and about fifty yards across from that the left over walkway and piles of a structure we called the racer.

water bw

Image: Pixabay

The water was usually cold because it was October or November; the start of spring. Some days there was a cold wind blowing off the water; enough of a wind to cause two foot waves and churn up the sand, enough of a wind to cause the water currents to carry the jelly fish and sea weed into the beach from the bay, enough of a wind to discourage the form 5AB lads from haunting the beach.

Every day I swam alone between the diver and the racer; counting off the laps until fifty. I had developed this slightly modified Australian crawl stroke and I only turned my head to one side every second stroke for a new breath.

video: Australia’s audiovisual heritage online. http://aso.gov.au

It was also an opportunity to open my eyes to orientate myself and to realign my bearings. I didn’t have swimming goggles and because I was in salt water most of the fifty laps were done with eyes closed and head down in the water. I never did see the jelly fish or clumps of sea weed. At times the jelly fish were in swarms or smacks of large morphing, transforming, gelatinous blobs that I hit with my head or arms; resulting in painful jelly fish stings to the arms and legs. Most of the time I swam peacefully, without ear buds and with my eyes closed. I think the rhythmic breathing caused me to hallucinate and fantasize that I was the next Murray Rose. Murray Rose was an Australian swimmer who at seventeen won three gold medals at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and the gold in the 400 freestyle again at the 1960 Rome Games. He also won a silver and bronze medal.

Every Wednesday afternoon at Williamstown Technical School was sports afternoon; usually football in the winter and cricket in summer: There was also bat tennis, handball, tennis, and maybe lacrosse. The school was divided into four houses, Gellibrand, Nelson, Hobson, and Kororoit to manufacture teams to play against each other. There were several teams for each house cobbled together from different combinations of forms. Once a year the houses would play off against each other. I was in Kororoit house. It was the start of summer and just before the end of the school year. The houses were competing against each other in the annual swimming carnival at Footscray Baths. Overcome with my Murray Rose fantasy I singled out swimming; one hundred yards breast stroke in chlorinated water; twice the length of the pool. I was still blundering in the pool as the swimmers for the next event were taking their place at the end of the pool.

Footscray Baths

Image: State Library Victoria

Image: State Library Victoria

I stopped swimming between the diver and racer but I did try to conquer swimming in chlorinated water. I would take the train into the city usually on weekends and count off breast stroke laps in the indoor poll of the Melbourne City Baths; but that didn’t last. And I didn’t swim in front of people again until I got a summer job as a life guard in the early seventies in London at an outdoor swimming pool.

I stopped thinking about my swimming exploits when the colourfull mosaic paneling at Westroads retreated; caused by the window display at the glamorous and cool H&M store changing to what the fashionable and chic would be wearing in fall. I mused about mall walking.

I wear Hawaiian shirts, plaid shorts, and usually lime green walking socks for my mall walking; the lion’s share of walkers combine velcro fastening athletic shoes, or Hush Puppy Mall Walkers, with variations of relaxed, full fit elastic waist, chino pants. No one wears dedicated walking apparel or attire. Some mall walkers have walkers, rollators or canes: And some carry oxygen tanks or small portable oxygen concentrators. I walk alone, just as I swam alone between the diver and racer, but others walk in pairs or in groups of three or more. I think the only thing common amongst mall walkers are Toyota Camry’s.

I think there should be mall walking competitions. It wouldn’t be about the fastest mall walkers but would have different categories such as; apparel and attire, poise and grace, individual style, coordinated group walking, and apparatus integration. Points would be awarded for; foot and leg action, posture, control of your rollator or concentrator, flexibility, and uniqueness of the walking routine.

man lady walking man cane walkin g

I think it would be agreeable to have gift, novelty, and souvenir booths at the competitions selling souvenir Tee shirts, shaker balls, fridge magnets, and coasters. Maybe mall walking could become an Olympic event. There is a precedent for unique Olympic activities; the biathlon, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming. But the avant-garde do take time to evolve and mature into a spectator obsessed sport.

I wonder how many laps of Westroads is equivalent to swimming fifty times between the diver and racer.

Westroads Mall

Zombies!!! 3: Mall Walkers Expansion 2nd Ed

British man making a film about the mall walkers of Westroads