Water baby

With Isaac’s nursery closed this week for its annual repair and refurbishment, I’m taking a couple of random days off to help out (a bit) with childcare and so we can do some things together as a family without the hustle and bustle of the bank holiday weekend crowds. Today we all went to the pool at Tadley. For Toby, now seven months, it was his first proper swim.

He absolutely loved it, taking to the water like the proverbial duck. He splashed and kicked merrily, and generally enjoyed being pulled and pushed and bounced around in much the same way he has always treated bath-time as an opportunity to create a one-boy whirlpool of his own.

It is one of the clearest examples of how different he is to his brother in some respects, for Zac is largely indifferent about swimming, as he has often been about taking baths. It’s not that he dislikes the pool, but neither does he embrace it with the enthusiasm his brother displayed this morning. As Heather astutely puts it, it is like just another playground to him, rather than being somewhere he can swim and splash about. Our older boy is – much like his father – a bit of a land-lubber, whereas his brother looks like he is going to be the water baby of the family.

The pool at Tadley is, by the way, fantastic. It has a movable floor across half its area, so that for family sessions like this morning’s it can be raised to create a shallow end which is ideal for babies and toddlers, without having to have a separate paddling pool. I’ve never seen anything like that before; I suspect it’s a relatively rare facility in the UK, which is well-known for having notoriously poor swimming facilities.

At the time of writing, Wikipedia lists just five Olympic-sized (50-metre by 25-metre) pools – and only 26 others of 50-metre length – in the entire country, catering for a population of 62 million people. That’s one Olympic pool per 12.4 million people. Compare that to, say, Australia. WikiAnswers states there are 47 Olympic-sized pools in Australia – which has a population of 22 million, barely one-third of the UK – or one for every 0.5 million people. In other words, there are about 25 times as many Olympic-sized pools per capita in Australia as there currently are in the UK. (And people wonder why British swimming teams have historically struggled to punch their weight in international competition.)

Sadly, for reasons of privacy you can no longer take photographs at public pools (not even of your own child), so we don’t have a photographic record of our younger boy’s exploits today, which is sad. So he will never be immortalised on film the way the now 19-year old artist Spencer Elden was when, at the age of three months, he was used as the model for one of the most instantly recognisable album covers in history, Nirvana‘s Nevermind.

Mind you, fame has its downside, as Elden himself points out:

It’s kind of creepy that that many people have seen me naked. I feel like I’m the world’s biggest porn star.

Incidentally, Elden’s parents were paid just $200 for allowing their baby son to be photographed underwater. (The record company asked to shoot a live baby, as it was cheaper than using a stock photograph.)

Toby is somewhat older than Elden was at the time, but if he continues to enjoy swimming as much as he did today, this will have been just the first of many visits to the pool. We’ll preserve his modesty, though.