For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with swimming pools. Whenever I am near one I have a terrible urge to dive in. After I have been in one, I have trouble tearing myself away from the comforting, womb-like, liquidy space.
As a child I spent hours poring over the designer pools in The House and Garden magazines my mother bought occasionally. Even better were the pictures in The Australian Women’s Weekly of the Grimaldi family luxuriating around their sparkling blue pool in Monaco. The Shah of Iran’s exotic pools with their ornate mosaic tiles would also draw me in. I would gaze at them longingly, wishing I could plunge in.
During my childhood I formed a close connection to two pools on Sydney’s lower north shore: Northbridge Baths and North Sydney Olympic Swimming Pool. Northbridge Baths were a 15-minute walk down the hill from our family home, which my parents bought just before they married in 1958. I learnt to swim at the baths, was a member of the swimming club and spent countless hours there after school and on weekends with my siblings and friends.
North Sydney Olympic Swimming Pool became a big part of my life when I went to high school in 1973. Our school was not far from the pool and so all our swimming sessions and carnivals were held there. Leading up to the swimming carnival, I spent many early mornings practising for the races or honing our syncronised swimming skills for our team’s water ballet – a highlight of the annual school swimming carnival.
For the past 20 years, Leichhardt Park Aquatic Centre in Sydney’s inner west has been my pool of choice. While planes heading south to Sydney Airport fly overhead, it’s a pretty relaxed spot overlooking Iron Cove and next-door to the rambling grounds of Callan Park, the former psychiatic hospital at Rozelle. Most mornings I swim 20 laps of the pool which is a great way to start each day. When I finish my session, I find myself hesitating, not wanting to leave the simple almost natural state I feel in the water. Eventually I draw myself away, knowing I will return the next day to enjoy the experience all over again.