Pooling our Resources


By Judith Stafford

When you glide in to land over any airport in the Languedoc, turquoise, sequins glint far below, sewn into the scratchy, ochre wool of the terrain, with its terracotta buttons.

To hurl oneself into a swimming pool after a trudge around a gritty vineyard is refreshing rapture. What bliss – tickly bubbles on your skin, cool rivulets in your hair, nose, ears.

When I’m hunched in my gravel courtyard with a bit of dry baguette and a fly studded melon, the chlorinated cacophony of all my neighbours, splashing and soaking in their refreshing oases is…..well, frankly it’s torture……because we haven’t got one.

This excruciating sense of injustice calcifies into bitter and twisted resentment like scale in a kettle. I have to go in and put the telly on, make tea and pretend it’s England.

If I had a pool I’d bask there first thing every morning with my coffee, feet dangling as a precursor to a bracing twenty lengths. Instant exercise routine. Sorted. I’d look like Esther Williams within days. Or maybe Kenneth Williams…..but anyway……

I’d dip in at frequent regular intervals before and after each chore or outing. A refreshing plonge would be a fitting incentive for a dusty spell of amenageries.

Each mealtime would be spent grazing and gazing at the glassy surface. Because even when you don’t swim in it you stare at it, you gather around it for drinks like wildebeest in the Serengeti. The ripples and swaying patterns are tick-tock-Hockney-hypnotic, inducing calm and well being. I can almost hear finger cymbals.


Ting tong.

I would surround it with huge candle-filled lanterns and, in the evenings float on my back under shooting stars.

In a cruel twist of the paddle blade, those who do have a pool only moan about it. It’s too expensive, too much trouble, it leaks, gets cloudy, nobody ever uses it, it entraps small bloated creatures, it turns green.

One word.


So the matter has to be addressed. We could move to a house with a pool. This would involve winning the Lottery, so is as likely as Kim Jong Bing Bonkers winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

We could drop massive hints to those around us who DO have a pool. But no one wants to be known as a sad hanger-on. And anyway, to be fair, I wouldn’t want any old Tom, Dick or Henri in there either, polluting my personal waters with their alien bodily fluid and seepage.

This obviously discounts immediately and emphatically the third option of a p….p….public pool. If I was texting this, I would now exercise my right to use the “screwed up in revulsion” emoji face.

Having said that, last Summer we discovered a lovely little village restaurant with a huge pool out the back. It was never too busy and it made the perfect outing to indulge in a carafe of rosé and some garlic-sharpened razor clams, followed by a few lazy hours, drenched by sun and water, at their splendid piscine.

This year we were desolated to discover that, although the restaurant is going strong, the pool is empty, arid and cracked with weeds. What a wasted resource!

Why doesn’t the Mairie fund it? Why doesn’t the village subsidise and help run it? Pool parties, BBQs, outdoor movie/swim evenings (“Jaws” obv.), swimming lessons, water polo contests, pool pétanque.

If they can make huge successes out of smog-soaked London lidos like Peckham, Hampstead and Hampton, well…..I’m just sayin’…..Those places are all abuzz with themed sessions and gastro cafes. Surely it could work here and in such a gorgeous, friendly village that runs a cracking Fete and produces an excellent Chardonnay.

“Dip & Degustation”
“Sauvignon & Splash”
“Paella, Pastis, Piscine!”

I do think it’s at least worth rolling the idea around the Argeliers pétanque pitch.

Anyhow, back to me. Obviously.

The only answer is an above ground pool of limited dimensions, but just deep enough for full immersion and wide enough for joining in with the communal splashy noisy thing, without cracking a funny bone.

There are many issues to be resolved – not least the aesthetics. Many of these items are extremely offensive to the eye and resemble a giant, blue incontinence pant held up with surgical steel crutches. The practical and fiscal hurdles of filling it, emptying it, maintaining it and mounting it in an elegant manner, are all “to be discussed”.

I’ll let you know how that goes, but in the meantime, to any of my marvellous pool owning chums who might be reading, can I assure you that I’ve always admired you immensely and that I am meticulously clean in my personal hygiene. I have no seepage. I’m only saying.