Rules and Regulations

Still enjoying myself in England, although I have had two contrasting experiences over the past couple of days. Yesterday it was a bit grey and drizzly so we decided to go to the swimming pool here in Keswick. I had peeped through the window a day earlier and seen that they had a curly slide so I knew the kids would be in their element running up the stairs and flying down the slide until they were worn out. I volunteered to go to the pool with the kids and the Ladies walked to Keswick Art Gallery. In retrospect they got the better deal.

The pool was OK – for kids. It has one long curly slide and every half an hour they turn on the wave machine for five minutes. There is no room for proper swimming which explains why all the other adults in the queue to pay disappeared before we reached the changing rooms. They had wisely decided to go to cafe and watch their kids splashing around. I had mistakenly thought I might have a bit of swim, so I went to get changed.

I emerged from the changing room, to be greeted by that special children’s shouting and screaming you only get in an indoor pool. It’s as if all the kids thinks “OK, here we are in a large high-ceilinged room which really echoes well so I am going to shout loudly only pausing to emit a high-pitched scream every few seconds.” Oh well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I looked for a suitable place to bomb in from the side while shouting the customary “Arschbombe!” which always seems to please my kids. Unfortunately, no jumping was allowed, so I had to wade in from the artificial beach end. After I had waded almost to the “deep end” I was still in water only up to my shorts. In fact, because the kids had already joined the queue for the slide, I was probably the only unaccompanied adult in the wave pool and started feeling a little silly. Some of the adults from the cafe seemed to be giving me a critical looking over.

I waded over to the little exit-pool for the slide and struck up a conversation with my daughters just to assure everyone that I was there with my kids. We had plenty of time for a chat, because this was an English pool. The disinterested-looking life guard was only letting people start to climb the steps when the previous bather had emerged from the slide. This made the risk of bumping into someone on the way down very small, but it made the wait very long. Eventually it was my girls’ turn and I was pleased to see them race up the steps together. They wanted to come down together like they usually do. I looked forward to them getting a ticking-off when the life guard saw that they had raced down together, so I could join them in a conspiratorial condemning of the over-zealous safety regulations, but it was not to be. He wasn’t as disinterested as I thought and shouted to the girls that it was only to be one at a time before they got up the stairs. Shame.

I decided to leave, get changed and have a coffee in the pool cafe. The kids were enjoying themselves anyway. The wave machine was pretty good and as there were five “life guards” on duty I took the opportunity to nip next door for a sandwich with Ariane, Mum and Christa in the Art Gallery. I was grateful for the life guards on this occasion and knew that my kids were at no risk, but it does seem like overkill. I don’t know where this extreme risk-aversity comes from. The pools we visit on holiday or here usually have one life-guard and are much more lax about how many people go on the slide. The standard argument is to blame silly regulations on the EU, but in this case that won’t wash. I don’t know why “Elf ‘n Safety” has gone so crazy in such a short space of time – probably only about 20 years – but within Europe it’s very much a British thing.

It sounds strange, but I was looking forward to getting back to Germany and not having to follow so many rules. Who would have thought that? I am exaggerating a little of course. Regular readers know about all the rules we have regarding recycling, sweeping the pavement, mowing the lawn and so on. Yes, the Germans love their rules too. I think the main difference is that here (and in any other European country) the individual is given more leeway (and therefore responsibility) to take care of himself. If we slip on a wet floor, or hurt ourselves by doing silly things on a pool slide, then tough. It was our fault. Perhaps Brexit will have a positive knock-on effect – after all, if a country can look after itself on its own can’t its citizens look after themselves a bit more?

Before this blog turns into even more of a “post-three-pints-in-the-pub polemic”, or even worse a Telegraph Opinion I had better sign off and get some work done.

Bis morgen-ish!

P.S. I am actually back from England and acutely aware that there is some catching up to be done. Not to worry – I’m on it.


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