The Godfather: Peter Corris on swimming pools
We’ve had four swimming pools and I think it’s fair to say that we shouldn’t have had any. In one way or another they were each doomed.
The first accompanied a house we rented for a year when we moved to Byron Bay. It was of a good size but it was old and had some operating problems. There I learned all the mechanics of pool maintenance – the care of the filter box, the suction cleaning with a Creepy Crawly, the monitoring of the chemical balance in the water.
We enjoyed the pool, but it was subject to invasion by various critters and to having foliage dropped into it from the nearby trees. The pH of the water was often out of whack. One day, towards the end of 1999, I fell into the pool while cleaning it, broke my ankle and incurred a tropical ulcer that was difficult to heal. The result was that I was unable to go up to the lighthouse with friends to greet the new millennium.
We stayed in Byron for a few years and, passing by the property after we had moved on, I noticed that the pool had been filled in, maintenance time and costs evidently out-weighing the pleasure. Where it had been was a sandy waste. I wasn’t sorry.
But having a pool spoils you for not having one. When we bought a house in Byron, space being available, nothing would do than we should have a pool built. Jean was lecturing at Southern Cross University, I was turning out several books a year and so we had the money. The pool was built but not without difficulty; rain delayed the operation and the work was slowed by the builder’s financial difficulties. But the outcome was a triumph.
Beautifully tiled and appointed, it was nine metres long and appropriately fenced in a garden setting. Given the weather there, it was in use for much of the year and we enjoyed the popularity and good fellowship pool ownership brings. As it was new, upkeep was easy and intruders – frill-necked lizards, small snakes and other creatures – were easily dealt with.
Byron Bay is subject to severe storms and one night a lightning strike split a tree near the edge of our property. Much of the tree fell our way, crushing sections of the pool fence and fouling the water with tree trash. Two friends with a chainsaw helped clear the major damage but it was many weeks before order was restored and, in some ways, the gilt was off the lily.
We left for the south coast and rented temporarily at Woonona in the Illawarra. By chance rather than planning, this house also had a swimming pool. But it was very old and showing the signs; tiles were cracked and the filtration system frequently broke down, causing visits from the landlord – never welcome to tenants – more than was comfortable.
We bought a house in Bellambi and learned that an in-ground pool was impermissible because the property was too close to a flood-prone creek. However, an above-ground pool was allowed to be set in a certain depth which, with decking, looked and felt pretty much like the real thing.
We contracted for this and endured weeks of back-hoe noise, soil removal and dust. When finished, fenced and decked, the thing served us well for a short time but problems arose. The land was spongy – at one point the creek rose, flooded the sewer and muck washed into the pool. The construction was of metal-braced heavy plastic but eventually the forces of nature prevailed. Pressure from the unstable sides and subsidence caused the walls to collapse and rendered the pool unusable. The inconvenience and cost of filling it in almost equalled that of its construction. There were to be no more pools.
When the Byron pool was in its glory I used to lie beside it, foolishly absorbing more UV sunlight than I should, like Ray Winstone in the great 2000 thriller film Sexy Beast, thinking What have I done to deserve this? As things turned out, it seems I hadn’t done enough.