I’ve grown up with a Pavlovian connection between swimming pools and chocolate bars. When I was a kid I was often taken to the local swimming baths and would stage a successful whinging campaign afterwards to be given 50p for a chocolate bar from the vending machine in the lobby of the baths. Now when I go swimming as an adult, something about climbing out of the chlorinated water in the echoey tiled hall, yanking on socks and jeans to my still-damp body, it makes me crave a chocolate bar from the machine on my way out.
I don’t know what kind of old person I’ll be. I hope I’ll be the sort that I see swimming incredibly slowly but with impressive determination and poise around the pool. Imagine they live locally and come here with plodding regularity to get in a bit of low-impact cardio, using it so as not to lose it. I hope I’m the kind of old man who dresses himself with a bit of dignity, in slacks and a jumper every day. I hope I smell like something other than old people, one of those nice old people smells like butterscotch or faint tobacco smoke and moisturiser, with only a hint of moth balls and medicine. I hope I’m one of those old people who says sad and inappropriate things to the children. “I’m well beyond my busy years now, but that’s alright. It’s like life is a big party and now it’s winding down. Only a few of the original lot are left and we’re sitting around with some nightcaps, quietly appreciating the night that’s come before and getting ready to turn in.”
I don’t really know if that’s the sort of old person I want to be. It’s more like the kind of old age I see for posh grandparents, living in their nice “downsized” retirement homes that are still in the suburbs of a city. That person is certainly inside me somewhere making the claim, though.