31 MAY 1957, Page 12

Guilty Splendour


A WHIFF of guilty' splendour goes with the


possession of a swimming-pool. It is an un- English amenity. Though congruous to California, it has in these islands all the less pleasing attributes of a folly : ostentation without whimsicality, an air of purpose without the capacity to fulfil it, hideous expense without the addition of beauty to the landscape. A grotto or a ten-ton abstract by Mr. Henry Moore might be equally con- troversial; but neither would conjure up those visions of gooseflesh on starlets' thighs, of cigar- ash flaking down on to suede shoes after luncheon on Sunday, near Maidenhead, that a swimming- pool does.

I built mine seven years agb. It is 20 yards long and 10 yards wide, holds 70,000 gallons of water and cost £503. It was made by the workmen on my estate after some excavation had been done by a contractor with a huge, yellow machine which kept on breaking down. The first :10,000 gallons of water we put into it (through a garden hose attached to a tap in the pantry) leaked, almost imperceptibly, out, and when this hap- pened there was considerable chagrin.

We saw ourselves being left with a sort of concrete annexe to the lawn which, although a modified form of squash could be played in it, resembled nothing so much as the launching-site of a VI. But the walls were rendered again with a slightly different integument, and a week or so later {for it takes the pantry tap a long time to exgurgitate 70,000 gallons) the swimming-pool was full.

The following general observations may be of interest to any madcap who contemplates follow- ing my example ; SIZE. Experience suggests that I was wise to build a large pool. Apart from its obvious advan- tages to swimmers, children can, with the help of a small canvas dinghy or coracle, learn to row on a large pool; it is indeed surprising how much watermanship they acquire. And in a hard winter it is better to have a small skating rink than a microscopic one.

HYGIENE. For £503 you cannot build a propel modern swimming-pool into which fresh (and very cold) water is continually pumped through a filter. Mine is simply a huge, static tank. It is emptied once a year, in the spring, when the bottom is found to be coated with a sediment vaguely resembling gooseberry fool. This removed in buckets, and for perhaps a fortnight the refilled pool remains limpid. But, despite various patent chemicals which we throw ill whenever anyone thinks of it, the water graduall) becomes opaque and for the next eleven months its surface remains a sort of greenish khaki. This looks insalubrious but has not proved so.

SITE. Our swimming-pool is only a few feet from the front of the house. This propinquitY has many advantages. We can dive in whenever we feel like it, so that a swim does not involve a minor expedition and on a hot day can be repeated ad lib. in the intervals of doing somethin% else. But it has disadvantages, too, and this bring me to the question of : HONORARY MEMBERS. It would be worse lharl chuflish to restrict the use of one's swimming' pool by one's friends and neighbours and thP children; but there are inevitably times, in lot weather, when I find myself wishing that fro swimming-pool was less closely integrated to Ole house, that the continuous hullabaloo which rises from it did not rise directly below the will: 'dow of my study, and that the many delightful people who come to swim could somehow be persuaded all to come at the same time. But it 15 too late to do anything about this now. DANGER. A swimming-pool-owner with small children will find himself, soon after its construc- tion has been completed, faced with demands that the pool shall be surrounded with some form of child-proof fence. No such thing exists; ,if it did it would be unsightly as well as expensive. A policy of evasion and_ procrastination is recom- mended. Falling into a swimming-pool is a character-building experience for non-swimmers, and my youngest daughter, who did this at the age of three during a snowstorm, has never been any the worse for it.

WILD LIFE. Swimming-pools are much appre- ciated by pied wagtails and swallows, but for some mysterious reason exert on tame owls a fatal fascination. At the moment our pool is going through a spell of mallard-trouble. Two Years ago my keeper reared three broods of mal- lard on a pond half a mile from the house. In their first season they were so tame that I had not the heart to shoot them, in their second season they were still more confiding, and most of them, unaccountably preserved from the fpxes, are still with us. One of the.ducks, With anything up to four, passionate drakes in close attendance, has taken to -using the swimming-pool in the evenings, and elements of the garrison are con- tinually being committed to clamorous and inconvenient sorties in attempts to break her of this undesirable habit. She appears rather to enjoy this Cold War.

I think 1 have covered most of the major points which have arisen during the past seven years from my ownership of a swimming-pool, but it is perhaps worth mentioning, that a pool of the primitive type I have described costs virtually nothing to maintain. It is true that 70,000 gallons of water at 3s. 3d. a thousand gallons works out at over £10 a year; but the nearest decent bathing place (admission 2s.) is ten miles from my house, and you don't have to have many hot days in a summer before you have spent £10 taking three children and their friends to swim in a crowded reach of the river.