Pooling Around

Beautiful Blackheath Pool

Beautiful Blackheath Pool

(Tune is Edelweiss)
Blackheath Pool, Blackheath Pool
Every season you greet me
Big and Blue, Wet and Cool
You look happy to meet me
Fog, wind and rain we will swim again
What ev-er the weather
Blackheath Pool, Blackheath Pool
Where we all swim together

Beautiful, beautiful Blackheath Pool is open again.

I only dropped in long enough to swim six laps of the Men’s Pool and sit drying in the sun lost in the joy of it. Over winter you forget how to be half naked in public. I’m always surprised, too, when my body remembers how to swim – I assume that skills left unpracticed for so many months will atrophy. Happily, it’s not true.

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect place. I’ve swum here in bushfire season and watched an ember hiss into the water next to me. I’ve swum here in the rain, all by myself, just me and the lifeguard and birds calling in the trees. I’ve swum here in hail – actually, we evacuated to the changing rooms that time, there was lightning and pain.

I’ve watched my son and all the kids in his peer group graduate from the Baby Pool to the Women’s Pool to the Men’s Pool.

One summer I was working on a building site and would leave work muddy and sweaty and dive straight in to the cool blue. Nowadays I’m more decorous and descend the ladder with what I like to imagine is grace.

Years ago, the lifeguard used to open up, unofficially, on Xmas Day and we’d barbecue and swim and lie under the trees yakking about nothing. None of us remember the Xmas presents from those years – just the sleepy satisfaction of a day in the outdoors.

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The Bad Mothers Club used to meet here. After an initial swim with the kids, the Bad Mothers gathered around the barbecues with wine, lots of wine, occasionally investigating the screaming coming from the rhododendron bushes. We kept the kids up much too late, drank far too much and straggled home in the moonlight full of sausages and memories.

The Pool and the Park are magical. It’s the Cradle of Blackheath where children and families are nurtured and grow strong. In the years when we were home-schooling Felix, he and I would spend chunks of our day here – swimming and then doing lessons. I remember lying on towels, Felix reading George Orwell and we writing one of the Blackheath Pantomimes, I think it was Poolerella.

Poolerella Programme Cover

Poolerella Programme Cover

In one of the many Pantomimes about the Pool, Lord of the Rhododendrons, I had gained access to secret blueprints showing the Pool’s construction and introduced the deeper philosophical meaning of The Balance Tank. Our Hero, Freddo, meets Biffy the Girl from Evans Lookout and Sam the Dragon, who guards the Sacred Balance Tank:

Freddo: What is this beautiful place?

Biffo, the Girl From Evans Lookout: This is Memorial Park. It’s a sacred place. There’s lots of old legends about it.

Sam the Dragon: Tell him about the Balance Tank!

F: Why are there so many rhododendrons?

B: Well, the legend says that the rhododendrons were planted over the graves of brave warriors who aren’t really dead, they’re just sleeping and in Blackheath’s hour of need, they’ll wake up and rise out of the grave to help us.

F: Yuck! I mean, oh good.

S: Tell him about the Balance Tank!

F: Who planted the rhododendrons?

B: Well, back in the mists of time when the Shire was free and Blackheath had its own City Council, the Forces of Good in the community agreed to plant the rhododendrons and build a pool to hold the sacred life-giving waters.


B: And THAT’S where the Balance Tank is.

F: Where?

B: Hidden away in the workings of the pool. In there Sam guards the Washer of Power which keeps Blackheath safe and keeps the whole world in balance. And once in every generation a Slayer is born to help Sam guard the Washer of Power from Corrupt Council Officals and Evil Rhododendrons and I’m this generation’s Slayer.

This mysterious underground construction contains Blackheath’s True Treasure: Balance. When the Balance Tank is cared for, then all is well in Blackheath.

The Council maintains that it is uneconomic to maintain a pool in a place that is widely known as Bleakheath and whose inhabitants may only access the Pool once or twice in a season. Blackheathens refute this – there may be no economic value in keeping the Pool open but the social value is immeasurable. With our Pool, we are in balance – without it, we wobble and we are lost.

Enter Govett the weak-willed Rhododendron

G: I used to live in Memorial Park. Every day the sun shone, the grass was green and me and my fellow rhododendrons grew taller and taller. Children played around us. Ducks swam by in carefree flocks. And I was close to the pool and to my precious.

Evil Rhododendron: Your precious? What’s that?

G: Oh nothing, never mind.

ER: Oh go on, you can tell me…I’ll be your friend.

G: Really?

ER: Yes, your BEST friend

G: I’ve never had a friend – do you think I should trust him? If I tell him about the precious and he turns out to be evil, it could upset the balance of civilization and destroy the world as we know it.

ER: (dreamily) Your bestest, bestest friend…

G: Should I tell him?

ER: (Picking petals off a flower – which says “ow”) I’m his best friend, I’m his worst enemy, I’m his bestest friend, I’m his worst nightmare…

G: Oh stuff it, it’s just a stupid Washer of Power

ER: (drops flower) Washer of Power? Did you say POWER? I was BORN, I was GERMINATED to wield power. Tell me your secret little shrub. C’mon over to the Park Side where the grass is always greener

G: No! Never! You maniac! It’s MY Precious Washer of Power and you will never find it hidden in the Balance Tank … oops.

ER: Aha!

G: Will you be my friend now?

ER: Of course I will. And as I grow ever more powerful, you will grow with me. You and all the other rhododendrons. We’ll be a company, a camaraderie, a coalition!

Song: In an English Country Garden (plus Young Rhododendrons morris dance)

How many powerful flowers can you grow in a rhododendron garden?
I’ll tell you now and here is how I know in my rhododendron garden
There’s one shrub to rule them all
There’s one shrub to fi-ind them
One shrub to bring them and
One shrub to bind them and
That shrub is me I’m as evil as can be
(In) Blackheath’s rhododendron garden
Poolerella Programme - Back Cover

Poolerella Programme – Back Cover