A couple of things happened yesterday. Last night I played bridge. It’s a game I’ve played all my life, off and on, and although I enjoy the challenge of it and the interaction with other players, I’m simply not very good at it. Therefore, I’m not a regular player and my standard doesn’t improve. The people I played with contact me only when they have tried everyone else they know and failed to come up with enough people for the game. I’m their last resort.
The other thing that happened yesterday was that it snowed, quite heavily, during the morning. I drove to the swimming pool through a blizzard, arriving at about the same time as a young Australian student on his cycle. He looked like a snowman, his arms sticking out from his sides as though they would snap off if he bumped into anything. He left his bike by the wall and went inside. It was around seven degrees below zero out there.
The next time I saw him was in the sauna. His body glistened with sweat. The temperature in there around ninety degrees centigrade. ‘Did I see you outside?’ he asked. ‘Yes, you were on your bike.’ We didn’t have to say anything else. A smile each was enough.
But before going into the sauna I’d been swimming with a guy on either side of me, each of them with a version of front crawl, or freestyle swimming. There were only the three of us there because, well, it was snowing and sub zero temperatures outside and most people had decided to stay home.
The guy swimming to my right was concentrating on each stroke. His legs and hips were tight behind his shoulders and there was hardly any movement of the water around him. It was as if he was trying to swim through a narrow tube without touching the sides. His arms followed each other over his head and sliced into the water thumb first. There was a powerful silence around him. He was moving fast and easy and at the same time controlled and relaxed.
The guy swimming to my left was a splashing machine. He crashed through the water like a steam-roller. Although he put an enormous effort into the strokes he would never be able to keep up with the first swimmer. His arms came over his head and crashed into the skin of the surface. His hand, palm, forearm and biceps all hit the water at the same time. He was all sound and fury.
And it struck me this morning that as far as bridge is concerned, I’m that guy on the left. They only call me out as a last resort because they don’t like all the spray that comes along with me. They want to relax.
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