I’ve been spending a lot of time in the pool, a great arena to observe the natives at play. My theory is that Germans love nothing better than a controlled situation where they can rampage. There are the rules, which they observe, but every other possible human nicety is ignored and/or flouted wilfully, carelessly and joyously.
The rules of the pool are thus:
1. Take a shed-load of stuff: a blanket to lie towels upon, second swimming-costumes, towelling dressing gowns, tents, inflatable items, drinks, food, chairs.
2. Find a place to sit as close to another family as possible that you can tell what they had for breakfast.
3. Undress your children, place them in their swimming-gear and cover them in cream.
4. Head for the pool together, bearing your inflatables.
5. When children are tired/wet, remove them from the pool, strip them and place them either in the dry replacement costume which you brought along for this very purpose, or in their towelling dressing-gowns and order them to lie in the sun and warm up.
6. Purchase vast amounts of fried protein and carbs from the restaurant and eat these sitting in the sun.
7. Repeat from point 3.
You will note that the pool rules only cover extra-pool activities. It’s what goes on in the pool that constitutes the wild, where Germans unleash their inner iconoclasts.
Today, we got to the pool early, found a precious place in the shade under the conifers, not too close to anyone else, and went for a swim. There are three pools here in the Burg: the baby pool, the non-swimmers’ pool and the swimmers’ pool. Knowing that the two former would be heaving with children, I headed for the latter to do some laps.
Unfortunately, there was anarchy in the water. You’d think with the way this society embraces rules, the concept of the up lane and the down lane would be firmly in its grasp. You’d be wrong. The swimmers’ pool has ten lanes, which the swimmers gamely ignore. It’s a swim-where-you-will, any-direction, any-speed, random free-for-all. The serious swimmers, and I don’t include myself here, have to overtake embracing couples practising positions best kept for the bedroom, German grannies swimming three abreast and chatting, wild children leaping from the sides onto their heads and clumps of middle-aged people socialising in gangs.
Leaving the herds of swimming-caps dominating the middle lanes, I headed for the outer lanes. Here children plunged and reared and leapt onto my head and teenage boys made no pretence about ducking under the water in their goggles as I swam past to check out my bikini form.
Now that I think about it, those two large, tattooed, muscled creatures who took breaths and headed under to ogle me submarinely weren’t exactly teenagers. Age aside, it was the blatancy of it, the shamelessness. They could not have been more obvious if they’d tried.
The pool was a great heaving mass of happy German flesh, bounding, leaping, diving, ducking, swimming, chatting, ogling, gossiping, screaming, yelling, and generally having the time of its life. Within the accepted boundaries, there is complete and joyous anarchy.
My children adore the chaos. I’m going to have to find another time to do my laps.