“Choose your future” Renton, Trainspotting.
Hi there, girls and boys, or ladies and gentlemen, if the previous greeting offends your sensibilities.
My friends that have asked me this question over and over, to be answered with the same response. “But Anna, why are you wasting your life being a lifeguard?” I love the job. Jobs where you meet the public and they are semi undressed are few and far between. It’s a pervs heaven? Back in reality, being lead lifeguard I get to choose the hours to work, the people to recruit, and the rules of the pool of which I have many. Amongst these are.. no running, jumping, screaming, weeing, bombing, no food, no drink, no asking for my phone number, no asking if I can get the inflatables out when the pensioners are doing splashdancing, and no shagging in the changing cubicles.
But as to why I became a lifeguard is a little trickier. After I discovered that working in an office in London wasn’t for me, well the Londoners themselves to be fair, I came home. Both sets of foster parents have been supportive in anything I do, but I know at least one of them wanted me to become a teacher, another a nurse. The temptation to go into politics was there fo a while, but as but as Nick Spalding says in Logging Off.. “I generally ignore everything to do with politics, as in recent years it’s become abundantly clear that those who work in it roundly ignore everything to do with me.”
I don’t fully feel like I’ve let them down, but the nagging suspicion is always there. My local paramedic and I have chatted about the route into his job. Helping people is a nice feeling, and he tells me the job satisfaction can be immense.. but it would mean learning to drive and I’ve absolutely no interest in that. “But there are paramedics on bikes”. This is true and I do have a bike licence. Not squeamish about blood, check, patient, check (yes yes I know), caring, you’ve all the boxes ticked, he’ll say. At 31 I’m a little older than the usual candidates, though. I’ve a friend that was at one point paralysed from the waist down, due to an accident. Her husband had to go away for his job for two weeks so I volunteered to help her out. I learned that I wasn’t as easygoing with bodily stuff as I thought I was, having to help with the toilet and such. But, by the second week it was second nature, and only caused slight embarrassment. I’m pleased to say that now she has feeling in her legs again and is beginning to walk.
There will be many now shouting at their screens that whatever I do, I’m only playing at my job. I don’t need the money. I could retire and never work again, but I’ve an urge to get up in the morning and do something that has been with me since school. When Ellie and I are married that house in Northumberland beckons, but I doubt we will be doing nothing for the rest of our lives. We both need to be busy, so a couple of pigs and sheep may help that itch. Ah, see, playing at farming! Just call me Jenny Clarkson. Don’t.
Of course the lifeguard thing was perfect for me at that time of my life. I’m not lazy, girls and boys. My two places are spotless, I sweep my part of the street outside on a Saturday, can’t leave a room decorated the same for more than a year, my “research” of internet sites can last for hours.. I had been for a swim in a pool in Yorkshire. It’s still there, an outdoor pool that I’ve had the pleasure of guarding at a few times. It’s just a small place but so friendly. Some pools can be unfriendly. You’ll turn up for a swim and they act like you’ve asked to shag their cat. “But…but…you cant just turn up!”.. Public pools are ok, although the one in Dunston in Gateshead has the same attitude. I was asked for ID, actual ID, the first and only time I visited. “We don’t know you” Ooh, sorry I don’t fit into your clique. You’re a public pool! So to say I fell into guarding is perhaps correct, but it certainly wasn’t because it was the easy option as mentioned by a few.
The manager at the Yorkshire pool asked if I was a lifeguard, out of the blue. We got to chatting and he explained that he needed guards for the upcoming summer months. I went home and looked up the local RNLI folk. I completed the training but was drawn to the pool lifeguarding rather than the beach. My local pool, the one I work at nowadays, was advertising for lifeguards, I applied, and was offered the job. It was as simple as that. of course there were lots of courses to attend, qualifications to obtain, but learning has always been easy for me. Not so much now, it seems.
So a year later there I was, a fully qualified guard. I’d go out with friends and then get talking to others who would ask why would I want to be a lifeguard? 10 years later and I still have no real reply. I do training with the RNLI every year or so at Poole, and have been asked a few times to join lifeboat crews..not for me though. I’m not that brave. Paddle boarding to keep an eye on swimmers is all well and good, but going out in a force 10 at night? My seasickness is also a factor! I’ve been known to have to leave the paddle boats on Tynemouth boating lake.. not quite, but I can’t bear the motion of a boat at sea. Well that’s not strictly true. I’m great as long the boat is moving but once it stops and begins to wallow, oh dear… Now a flat calm sea or a very wavy one, no worries, the South African shark diving had that. It’s when there is a lazy roll.. prepare for a visit from Ruby Retch and her cousin, Susie Spew. I’m painting a lovely image, I know. If you’re ever in my area, take a look at the nice people at CBK for a paddle board or kayak lesson. Great fun.
Some may say it’s the uniform… hardly.. I’m a member of the Royal Lifesaving Society UK. RLSS UK sell some nice gear, most of which I have, from the yellow t-shirt to the whistle, oh I LOVE my whistle. I draw the line at this item though..
I can utterly swear by this jacket, mind you, as well as the hoodie. I’m not saying go and buy one, although it does help the charity.
There have been bad times doing the job as I’ve outlined previously, but these are very few and far between. Only with the recent gym bunny incident have I ever wanted to do something else. The after effects of that are still ongoing. He was arrested and bailed and hopefully won’t be darkening our doors ever again. My relationship with the manager has suffered. We’ve always got on well, even when there were stressful times for him like the place was about to close due to no cashflow, or during lockdown. Now though, I find that my trust in him has faded. What kind of person doubts their longest serving staff member when they say they’ve been sexually assaulted? His wife is very much the opposite and visited me a few times in the days following, offering support and tea-making, but mainly seeing to it that I returned, I suspect.
Only this evening I was having my run along the Wear when a bloke was pushed in by his friends. I’ve no hesitation when it comes to diving into water where I know the depth, but at that part of the river it isn’t very deep, so a quick jump and swim and he was back to the pathway. He wasn’t in any immediate danger, apart from cold water shock. I hear about students falling in whilst drunk and drowning here, as well as in York and Manchester. The bereaved parents petition for fences. What they don’t see is the drunken antics of their children, who climb on said fences. Short of employing the likes of me along the river, I don’t know what can be done. He wasn’t particularly grateful, but rather a pissed off student than a dead one. As usual the lifebelts that line the path were missing, their mysterious disappearance due to their habit of adorning student accommodation somewhere, no doubt. Ho fucking ho, what japes.
Will I be there or at least be a lifeguard for much longer? I cant say I will. Next year will be huge and then we’ll see what we want to do. Ellie would like to continue her physio and sports science work, I know. She has suggested I live with her for a year in LA. It’s possible, me playing the housewife to her hunter gatherer. Then she breaks down and wants her family close by. They in turn miss her terribly, the many cousins she grew up with, her aunts and uncles. Other jobs appeal, being more involved with charity work is always there, digging ditches and dry stone walling in Northumberland as well. A police officer was mooted. Me? Don’t give me that sort of power.
As I write this, I’ve had an email from the university in Vancouver, asking me if I would consider re-applying for the job I was about to start before the Covid crisis. I think I’ll politely decline. My lack of enthusiasm for that posting will probably tell you all you need to know as to which direction my life will be heading in, at least job wise.
As ever, thanks for reading.
10th August, 2021