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The St George pool, oh cruel mistress, has turned on me. I have an outer ear infection, better known as “swimmer’s ear”. So until these drops from the doctor clear it up, no more swimming. I’m bussing out of the George tomorrow anyway, so that means no more arvos at the town pool – no more feral kids getting in my way, no more swallowing of sandflies, no more accidentally groping the bottoms of my childhood doctors.

Luckily that last one only happened once; as I neared the end of a backstroke lap I had my hand extended feeling for the wall. Instead it found a fleshy obstruction, the aforementioned buttocks of the medical practioner who delivered my sister, as she clambered out of the pool at exactly the worst possible moment. We used to call her “Doctor Deadly” due to her apparent pleasure in administering needles.

As ailments go, swimmer’s ear is one of the few I’ve ever felt good telling people about. After all, it makes one sound so athletic; as opposed to, say, athlete’s foot, which just makes one sound like a grot (is there a fungus among us?). Really, are there any medical conditions people happily brag about? I am reminded of Hyacinth Bucket of Keeping Up Appearances, who wanted her henpecked husband to tell people he had a nice upper class disease, like gout, which smacked of over-indulgence and therefore wealth. “Gout is an infliction acceptable in the very highest circles. It comes from an excess of good living. Gout is practically a pedigree.”

Much as I can’t hear anything properly right now, I’ll miss the sounds of the pool while I’m marooned on dry land for a few days. Roaring lawnmowers, bicycle bells, the squeals of kids and their bombastic illicit cannonballs. An invisible mute button clapped on/off each time you break the surface. The dreamy near-silence of being submerged. There’s something so cinematic about being underwater: the goggle-clad POV and slow-motion movement like those scenes in The Graduate, or imagining yourself on a Life Aquatic-type expedition spurred on by electronic muzak.

I’ll miss that, and the little girls who’d race me to the end of each lap, and the specifically St George sight of men swimming in footy shorts, the ghosts of work polo shirts haunting their pasty bare trunks. And overhearing rascally kids’ conversations like this one:

Boy 1: Is S your cousin?
Boy 2: I think so, why?
Boy 1: She’s got the hots for you bad.

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