This being the third year that we have't gone skiing, I decided that it was time to shake off the apathy of winter and the Christmas excesses and go to the new swimming pool in a small town about twenty minutes away.
Some friends, who had been to the pool in Nîmes the week before had some fairly precise instructions. Firstly, swimming trunks of the 'budgie smuggler' variety are compulsory, as for some reason shorts are not allowed. The logic behind this seems to be that you could secretly stow some of the pool equipment in a pair of voluminous shorts........ well, what else could the reason be?
Secondly, it is obligatory to wear a bathing cap, available in the slot machines in situ. Being a bit of a slap-head, this seemed to be a rather unnecessary demand, but heh, it's for the sake of my general wellbeing, so OK.
We arrived at the rather magnificent pool, which only opened in January. It turned out that the Nîmois seem to have their own rules. I didn't see anyone in shorts admittedly, but the silly hat rule didn't apply.
The water was a perfect temperature, even for me, who normally takes an age to get submerged, even in high summer. They had those floating lane markers strung the length of the pool which we dived under to get to the least occupied lane.
After a few minutes, the lifeguard approached: 'Would you mind going in another lane, as we're just about to start a class?' No problem. He then started loading about fifteen wheel-less bicycle type things into the shallow end, so that just the handlebars protruded above the water. A group of women suddenly appeared and installed themselves on these strange machines and started pedalling along to some 'relaxing' music.
It seems that they are all the rage at present, presumably as a means to getting rid of excess weight put on over the festivities. In a couple of years time, when the fad has passed, I'm sure we'll see huge piles of them rusting away in the car parks of swimming pools across the country.
The general mores of swimming seem to vary from country to country. A few years ago, we visited the in-laws, who have a holiday home at Cape Cod. We were on a beach not very far from where the Pilgrim Fathers arrived. The puritan legacy manifested itself when I approached the sea. 'MY GOD, HE'S WEARING NUT-HUGGERS!'
'I'm doing what?'
It was then that I became aware that every other male on the beach was wearing the very shorts which are frowned upon here in France and this was in liberal Massachusetts. In less enlightened areas of the US, they would have probably started plucking fowl and boiling up the tar.
One can't imagine the scene if the same people were to go to a beach here, or in Spain, where topless bathing for women has been the norm for decades, (although now considered a bit passé). As for the nudist beaches scattered around the Mediterranean, it would be interesting to see apoplectic American parents shielding their children's eyes from the outrageous behaviour of us decadent Europeans.