Back in the 1970s, when my sister, brother and I were kids, we spent many years presenting compelling arguments to our parents why we needed a pool in our backyard. We were always hopeful but they never gave in. Their view was we didn’t need one as we had Northbridge Baths down the road. When we moved away from Northbridge and eventually bought our own homes, none of us acquired a pool – until my sister and her husband bought a farm near Wagga Wagga.
Far away from the coast and with a climate of hot, dry summers, they really needed a pool – and for the past 17 years or so, it’s been an oasis of cool on scorcher days.
It’s where children’s birthdays, family gatherings, cousins’ get-togethers, ladies’ lunches and post 21st party recoveries have been held.
It’s where my nephew Will and his sisters’ Rosie and Mary and their parents too, have done thousands of laps in the 12 x 4-metre pool.
Now, sadly the farm has been sold and so recently, family and friends gathered at Bilagal for a farewell party. The next morning, we congregated in the pool seeking relief from the 40-something degree heat and as we cooled off, I asked some of the family what they loved most about their pool.
Top of the list was the outlook over the paddocks and rolling Riverina hills.
“And in spring, you can see the lines of the crops that each farmer has put in that year and the yellow and green of the canola and wheat,” said Mary.
“I love the view when you’re lying down on the grass with the pear trees and the blue sky,” said Rosie.
From his base in London, Will messaged that as swimming has always helped him relax, it was great to have a pool literally in his backyard.
For Annette, the pool ‘room’ has been a favourite spot on the farm as it’s quiet and peaceful with the loveliest view.
“When I swim, especially in the evening, when the sun has gone down it’s serene,” she said.
“The plants around the pool – the star jasmine and the hedge of Portuguese laurel – are calming and in spring and summer exude a beautiful fragrance. And it’s lovely in winter as the sun pours in.”
As the temperature rose and we reached for hats, Rosie reminisced back to the days when the pool was being built, red dirt around the edges, and insisting on being the first one to swim when it was completed in late winter.
She remembered shearing during stinking hot summer days and always looking forward to coming back to the house for lunch and jumping in the pool.
Other fond memories were making up dances to songs with cousins’ Eimear and Orla and leaping in the pool at the end of the routine.
Running on the hot grey tiles, pool parties with friends, getting home, so sweaty from the day that you can’t be bothered putting your swimmers on, so skinny dipping, and drinks and cheese and crackers by the pool.
When everyone finally got out, I stayed in for a bit longer to savour my last swim. I looked out across the dry land, batted away a few flies and bugs, and thought about my favourite things about this pool.
Milly the sculptured figure who sits like a guardian angel by the pool.
Clouds reflecting in the water.
The emerald green tiles that turn blue in the sun.
Swimming in the rain after a stinking hot day.
And all the fun times we’ve had.
I did two final laps – counting the 8 or 9 strokes it takes me to reach the end, pulled the big green tortoise out of the water, picked up the towels, the sunscreen and goggles, took one last look at that magnificent view and walked up the stairs away from the pool.