I recently introduced 11-year-old Jack Howson to one of the simplest of pleasures from my childhood: eating watermelon whilst bobbing about in the pool. We placed a quarter slice of melon on a boogie board. Then Jack and I, each armed with a spoon, attacked from either side! It’s our third summer living in a house with a pool and we love it. In winter, it takes much less work (for no reward) than I had feared. In summer, it’s the centre of our world. Hence my invitation in the last issue of bmag for you to share your swimming pool activities. Cut this out and stick it under a fridge magnet for next time someone’s looking bored. And yes, many of these can be played just as easily at a council pool.
The game most mentioned was Marco Polo. This is the classic swimming pool twist on Tiggy. The person who is “it” or “Marco” closes their eyes and calls out “Marco!” every 10 seconds or so. Everyone else in the pool responds “Polo!” whilst at the same time moving to avoid being caught. To add more fun, change the call and response. Borrowing the shopkeeper scenes from Little Britain, Jack and I will yell “Margaret!” to which the response is “Yee-eeeesss!” Even more obscure, is “Yerp” and “Nerp!” from the movie Hot Fuzz. But the Howsons’ favourite version is Silent Marco Polo. “Marco” must listen and feel for water movement. If you’re looking for fun with a pool full of adults who don’t want to be yelling at the top of their voices, Silent Marco Polo is a complete crack-up!
For pool cricket, Jack and I allocate scores to different parts of the garden and pool. A basic tap into the pool is one run, two in the middle third of the pool, four in the end third and so on. Jono Perry plays it this way: “The batsmen are the only people out of the water and have to swim a lap for a run. The dive makes all the difference. Good fun, seriously tiring”. For a co-operative, non-competitive ball game, throw the ball from one end of the pool to the other, adding a point to the total score with each catch. A one-handed catch is worth two. Drop the ball and the score returns to zero. Set a target, such as 20, and see how long it takes to reach.
Ann Orchard suggests racing on “doodles” (I suspect the foam tubes are more commonly known as “noodles”). Ann says she races against her dog, which runs alongside the pool! Amanda Dell says “go underwater then flick your hair to get the weirdest style possible!” Before I go on to somewhat riskier activities, I don’t need to remind you about having at least one sober adult supervising pool activities, right? Good.
Rebecca Shaw’s suggestion: “When I was younger, my brothers put a long wooden pole across our pool. We used to knock each other off with pillow cases”. Michelle Ransom-Hughes says “underwater Chinese whispers is fun”. That’s definitely on the list next time we have a few people over. Steve Molk says “see who can sit on the bottom of the pool the longest”.
Bronwyn of Bundaberg suggests throwing dollar coins into the pool and searching the bottom for them (make sure you count and retrieve them all before the pool cleaner does!) Then there’s that other classic Whirlpool, suggested by a number of readers including Heath Carney: “You walk or run around the edge until it creates a current strong enough to pull you round”. Bernadette Young likes to “see who can surf (aka stand) on a body board or surfboard for the longest”.
Jack Howson is a big fan of Charade Jumping, where one person jumps into the pool miming a task, occupation or sport. Everyone else then guesses what it was. Jason Eade says “line up floating toys across the pool then try to walk across”. And comedian Melinda Buttle goes even more daredevil with “put the trampoline by the pool, hold my body board and jump into the pool while holding my board”. She calls it Boogie Jump. Mel, I can’t compete with that! I think I’ll just get some more watermelon out and float around for a while!