Oz Tales .2. Swimming for Putney
Dr Johnson was more of a walker and talker than a swimmer. And he died before Australia was discovered, sorry invaded, oh for pity’s sake, discovered. But if he had been a swimmer in the modern era ( think Philip Roth as a triathlete) he would certainly have said, “ That when a swimmer is tired of Sydney he is tired of life.”
For where else has such pools, so large, so cool and empty. David Hockney may cream over the Los Angeles boys in blue and gold but if he swam rather than went to the baths it would be Sydney for him. But for Putney’s “have speedos will travel”, last year it was Bondi Iceberg and the Andrew Boy Charlton pool down on Woolloomooloo Bay. This year it was Wylies at Coogee and North Sydney’s Olympic Pool.
Wylies is on the edge of Coogee beach. Walled off but not separate from the sea , here the fish still swim and first timers are told that sharks have been known, salmon like to jump into the pool. But here half the pool is rocks and half is deep sea water. A big wave can out you off your stroke but you can do the lengths some days without so much as a ripple. Compared to Iceberg it has a rougher edge but a much better view.
Like all open air pools from Coogee to Brixton, Wylies has its social side. Walnut brown, mainly oldies who come and hang around shooting the breeze, making a coffee last a life time, and bemoaning the fate of their nation which has forgotten the need to swim everyday for its life. But here like everywhere else in Oz there is service with a seemingly genuine smile and they dont even expect a tip. What goes on.?
I bought some theatre tickets at the Rock, walked the Harbour Bridge and then descended to the shore line to North Sydney’s Olympic Pool. Here in the early 1960s Dawn Frazer and the Conrad kids made world records and did one armed press ups. Then Aussies ruled the lido waves And here I settled down to do my regulation 1000 meters.
One way you swim towards the noble arches of Harbour Bridge and the other you swim towards the foolery of Lunar Park. This is iconic swimming. No infinity pool has such heroic views, no millionaires pond has such history. To swim where champions have swum and world records were smashed. But you hit the spot and then, its just another pool and you are just in the semi conscious bubble that you must get to if you are to spend more than a few minutes doing lengths. And I have many lengths to go before I sleep.