By LESLIE ADRIAN The chief source of trouble seems to be those all-in-one masks, with the breathing tube built into the facepiece and terminating in a valve in the form of a pivoted plastic or cork float or a ping-pong ball in a cage. All these complicated affairs should be avoided; they nearly always give trouble sooner or later, and on the whole they tend to cost more than a separate tube with a mouthpiece and a plain mask.
Briefly, this is what to go for both for economy and efficiency. The tube should be the simplest straight tube (metal or plastic) with a strong gum- shield type of mouthpiece. When diving hold your breath, instead of relying on a float valve to do it for you, and blow the tube clear when you sur- face. The mask should ideally be of toughened glass, with a ribbed headstrap and a metal band to hold the window in its frame. Plastic windows are cheaper but they scratch. Ordinary glass is dangerous, both to the wearer and to others if it breaks in shallow water or in a swimming pool. For children who only want a mask for a little surface sightseeing Woolworth's stock an 8s. model which is adequate. For an adult who intends to dive the price will need to be over £1 5s.
To check if a mask is likely to be water-tight, place it in position over the eyes and nose, with the headstrap loose, and breathe in. If the mask is held to the face by air pressure alone, it is almost certain to be reasonably leak-proof. Check the fit on the upper lip; this is where most leak- ages occur. Never buy goggles for use under- water. While they can keep salt out of the eyes during surface swimming, they can be dangerous underwater. When diving to any depth the pres- sure increases to a point where goggles will be pressed hard on the eyes, with painful conse- quences, while in a face mask it is possible to equalise the pressures by breathing through the lose into the mask.
Good swimfins tend to be costly, too. Ideally, they should float when they come off in the water, which saves diving to rescue them. If you cannot get the buoyant type (and they are still not in every shop that stocks this kind of gear), choose fins of a light colour, yellow for choice. Black is a common colour, but I know of several people who lost fins because they could not see them on the bottom in deep water after they had come off. Flexibility is important, but they should not be floppy, otherwise they are far less effective as propellers. Get them with heel coverings instead of straps if you can. Protection under the heel is essential among sharp rocks or where there may be sea-urchins. They should be a tight fit, and designed so that water flows through. Some are still moulded without outlet holes. When such fins fill with water they become heavy and awkward.
With all these demands to make you will now see why I say shop early for skin-diving. At the tail end of the holiday season pot-luck produces a motley collection of second-rate equipment even at the specialist sports stores. One of the best stores for underwater swimming kit is Lilly- white's. They have branches in -Bournemouth and Edinburgh, as well as in Piccadilly. London. Makes recommended to me by a veteran skin- diver include Cressi Rondine fins, and Cham- pion, Tarzan, Squale and Pinocchio masks. A compact little book which gives sound advice on all this and aqualung equipment too is Your Guide to Underwater Adventure, by Peter Small (Science Correspondent, News Chronicle), pub- lished by the Lutterworth Pres at 9s. 6d.
Towards the end of January I was writing about cleaners, and told the sickening story of a friend whose stiff coat had been reduced to a limp state by an inefficient cleaner. The whole point of the sad little tale was that the lining could have been cleaned perfectly satisfactorily by any cleaner who knew hiS job; but the makers of Vilene, with which I said it was lined, felt that at a casual reading people might have simply got the idea that Vilene was hard to clean— which is not, of course, the case: it cleans Per' fectly well. Distressed in any case by the ruination of the coat, they sent for it and examined it : and nc° it turns out that it was not lined with Vilene at all—but with a copy which looked and felt the same, but was in fact different. So now we have one more cleaning hazard to face: unreliable copies of reliable lining materials. The Vilene people mark their product along the selvedge. apparently, so in a garment where the lining is visible, that could be used as a check : °r one could ask for an assurance that the genuine article was being used, and so have some sort L', come-back if they were passing off a copy as the real thing.
A reader has urged me to try to 'demolish
facade of complaisant indifference' and describes his difficulties in getting a suction polisher made by Tricity Ltd., a part of the Thorn organisation. His wife answered an ad. and 'received a hand' some brochure describing the polisher a° stating that it was sold or obtainable from leading stores and domestic appliance retailers She then telephoned the five firms in Cambridge will' might be expected to fit this description in order to arrange for a trial or demonstration. None 14 the firmS stocked the machine. nor could they suggest how to obtain it.'
She then wrote to Tricity and was told that the sales department could not help her but would let her know if their representative, could provide the information. 'After an unproductive fortnight I wrote to the managing director of Tricity asking if they really wanted to sell these machines and if their silence meant that there was nowhere in East Anglia where they could be obtained. Their reply (from the sales department again) op' firmed this suspicion but they again promised (0 write if the information became available Three further weeks have now passed and I have lod neither information nor a visit from a repre- sentative.'