COLUMN: October 11, 2012

I DO not know who invented the changing facilities in swimming baths but I hope he is sitting in a little cubicle in Hell, next to the people who let their dogs defecate in parks and the people who design the treads of trainers.

It is not actually the changing cubicles to which I object. Yes, they are too small for a man in his early forties who cannot remove a pair of trousers without tipping over and kissing the partition, but I accept that people of that sort are not the norm.

It is more the humiliating arrangement which places the clothing of the swimmer too far away from the cubicle.

For semi-nudity is a strange and mysterious thing. It is acceptable – even desirable – in a swimming pool, unless one is wearing pyjamas and retrieving a rubber brick. It is not acceptable in Tesco. (Incidentally, neither is wearing pyjamas, and the line there needs to be re-drawn.)

But in the gap between changing cubicle and swimming pool, semi-nudity falls into the category of “understandable, but difficult.” I am uncomfortable enough showering on my own. It is even worse in the midst of a group of strangers, all trying to work out where they can legitimately lather without ending up on some sort of register.

And standing by lockers is just as bad. Nobody looks good wet and shivering. You will note that when Daniel Craig steps out of the sea as James Bond, it is in Caribbean or Mediterranean waters, not New Brighton. That wet, shivery look is even worse combined with the myopic squint of somebody searching for the correct locker while carrying a rubber ring.

I never swim alone. It is always a family “treat.” For reasons with which I will not bore you, we need two cubicles and a family locker.

It is not so bad when one is changing for the pool, because one can secure two adjoining cubicles, before finding a locker close by.

But when one returns to the changing facilities, the only available cubicles are rarely situated close to one’s locker. You might be surprised to hear that I recently came to grief as a result of this.

It was while I was on holiday at a maximum-security forest facility. I won’t name it, but if you can imagine a sort of Boden Butlin’s, you won’t go far wrong. My family found a couple of cubicles in a different postcode to the locker, and I began the first of three journeys to retrieve the contents.

The key fitted and I pulled open the door. Then I went to find the pound coin which had flown out of the lock. I stood up, and took the first pile of clothes back to the cubicles, leaving the door open for easy reference.

I returned for the second pile of clothes, and a man appeared next to me. He was shaped like a Buddha statue, with hairy shoulders, and a pair of Speedos.

I realised that he was trying to gain access to the locker below mine, so I closed the door over and walked back to the cubicle again, reasoning that a cross between Tom Daley and Danny DeVito would make a useful landmark.

He was still at his locker when I returned for the final time. But I could not open the door as he was in the way. Patiently, I stood there, and was joined by a youngish woman of Carry On film proportions, wearing a bikini. I grimaced awkwardly, and waited for the dawdling hairball to just bloody hurry up. Finally he scuttled off, and I yanked my door open.

It wasn’t my locker. I knew that because I don’t own a handbag. I knew where this was going.

“Can you get out of my locker, please?” said the Carry On woman, with the cross face of a woman watching a strange man fiddling with her personal effects. Presumably, Daley DeVito had picked the wrong locker initially, and rectified his error while I was slipping away with the second pile of clothes.

And I hope, as the flames of Hades lick at the feet of the man who invented swimming pool changing facilities, and the sound of two Janet Street-Porters singing Delibes’ Flower Duet ravages his ears, he will spend eternity thinking about what he did to me.

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