Brewer's Droop #250

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I remember the day I developed a morbid fear of swimming in water with other people. It was at a hotel along the coast. We’d been driving most of the day with our two children in a car with no air conditioning and it was hot.

We checked into a hotel, I had a quick shower and then went down to the pool.

It was rather crowded and a little alarm bell began ringing in my head but, being brave and all, I took a running dive at the water.

That was the moment.

In that split second I caught the over-powering whiff of coconut suntan lotion mixed with strong body odours. At exactly the same moment I saw the purple-hued film covering the water. It looked oily. I saw there were more people in the pool than I’d thought and I was suddenly transported back to a seaside holiday at the age of about 6 when my Mum told me to go back into the sea because I needed to pee.

It was a ghastly moment, and then I hit the water.

I reached the other side without surfacing and, without breathing, immediately hauled myself out of the water and, resisting the urge to vomit, ran to a (mercifully provided) outside shower and scrubbed at myself as much as I could. Then I hurried back to our room and hit the shower again but this time I gave my entire body the full treatment of every shampoo, gel, soap and disinfectant I could find. All the while mumbling “ugh, ugh, urrrgh.”

And that was the last time I swam in a public pool.

My condition worsened and, quite quickly, I became nervous of swimming in the sea too. It brought back memories when, as a 17 year old, I went on a holiday to Rimini on the Italian Adriatic coast. One day I swam quite a long way out (I was always a strong swimmer) when I suddenly noticed I was more or less surrounded by human faecal matter. I struck out for shore as fast as possible but the little turds followed me! I later worked out that it must have been the furious wake I was creating.

I didn’t think too much about it again until one day I was diving off a friend’s yacht at 4th Beach Clifton and saw what detritus was lying on the ocean floor. It was quite disgusting and I thought that if humans are prepared to dump their chicken bones, empty beer tins and other unmentionable things (even a sewing machine – I mean, who goes to one of the prettiest beaches in the world to dump a sewing machine?) what else are they putting into the ocean?

All the memories of Rimini, the greasy swimming pool, and other incidents, including my neighbours in London discussing who’d like to re-use their filthy bathwater next, came flooding back and I climbed, shuddering, back onto the boat for the last time.

At various times I’ve been invited to join people in their jacuzzi or hot tub and, whilst my brain is screaming “WHAT? Share that disgusting, hairy, sweaty water with you!!!” I politely decline and say I have a mild skin infection I don’t wish to pass on to others.

That’s another thing about hot tubs. They’re exactly the right temperature for bacteria to open their own holiday camps and spread infection everywhere.

So I’m condemned to living an unsubmerged and lonely aquatic life – swimming only in deserted pools early in the morning after they’ve been thoroughly cleaned. And I will never, ever, ever share a jacuzzi with someone else.

Sadly there is no name I could find which describes my condition, and I think this is outrageously unfair. I mean, even a fear of doorknobs has one (it’s “Ostiumtractophobia” if you’re interested) and yet for people like me – and I suspect there may be millions of us, there is no hashtag, no support groups and no “phobia” to call our own.

It means that I, and my fellow squeamish swimming pool phobics, are doomed to spend all our holidays watching others frolicking in the surf or swimming pool whilst we idly sip on a drink with an umbrella in it, mentally checking we have sufficient Bactroban ointment with us and liberal amounts of Dettol in case an unfortunate splash of unspeakably foul water accidentally hits us.

But at least we’re clean and don’t have other people’s oily bodily fluids or pubic hairs sticking to us.


Something else has been bothering me for a while now. I was in the shower when a song popped into my head and started singing it – then I realised that Gene Pitney has been lying to generations of people (since 1963 in fact).

He cannot possibly have been 24 hours from Tulsa.

If he had been driving from, say, New York he would have been 19 hours and 48 minutes away. I appreciate that that the lyric wouldn’t scan very well but there’s only so much poetic licence anyone can get away with isn’t there?

In fact, the only place he could have started his journey from in order to be 24 hours away would have been Seattle but who would want to go from there to Tulsa? If he’d left from Sacramento he would have been 25 hours away – but only at the start of his journey, so why would he have stopped to rest for the night after being on the road for only an hour?

This sort of thing worries me.

Perhaps I’m not well.

Filed as:


  1. LOL!

    Thats me to a T! Haven’t been in a hot tub EVER for exactly that reason!

  2. You should be writing a weekly column for a newspaper Chris. More humour like yours would be such a change and so appreciated.

    (ps: you probably aren’t well at all!)

    • I tried that Stephen but no editor returned my calls. Sigh.

      Still, running my own blog means I can say what I like and when I like, so I guess that’s a big plus.

  3. Yet you’ll happily walk into an agency where toxic beings really exist? Hmm, I sometimes wonder about you Brews.

    • Ha Ha. Yes Ian, but it’s unlikely you’ll be exposed to anything really nasty in an agency’s reception. (I do take my own tea cup though).

  4. Gene Pitney was actually flying in to Tulsa from New Zealand via London!!!!
    I cannot believe you dont like swimming in shit ….most unlike you- I mean how long have you been in the media business for crying out loud

    • The lyrics clearly say “while I was driving home…” and “…she took me to a cafe…”

      In any case it takes several days to get anywhere from New Zealand.

      Am quite happy to debate the virtues/attributes of various kinds of excrement with you. Name the venue. Maybe we could charge for tickets?

  5. I took my boys to the Sea Point swimming pool once, we left when I saw a large turd float past us. People can be truly disgusting.

    • How many times did you go back after that? [shudder]

      • never.

  6. Do hope that you are not “not well” we all are odd in some way!!! Maybe too much time to ponder? Sorry to have missed you x

  7. Have never swum in Rimini, but Riccione nearby is similar. However, the water is warm, probably from all the wee!!!

  8. At least if you swim in the pool at the gym you’re more likely to be swimming in healthy bodily waste.

  9. This proves that all the fuss about gender-free toilets is pointless when we have actually had them for so long, disguised as swimming pools and Jacuzzis.

  10. yes that brings back memories of the Durban Beach paddling pools! the pools were like hot springs from all the kids pee!
    Im sure hepatitis was floating freely in them – wouldnt go near them! but Im a germaphobe & wont even put my toe in a communal hot tub!,,,maybe your’e a turdaphobe !!! oh and Gene must have been hitch hiking thats why it took so long!

    • I hadn’t thought of hitch-hiking. But he does say he was “driving”. Good thought though.

      • I knew you would say that! he was just helping out at the wheel while the driver caught a nap! hope you stop worrying now!

  11. OMW . . .the bit that freaks me out is that people breathe out through their noses when they swim. I can almost deal with the floating turds but the thought that I am splashing through human snot absolutely kills me. I don’t even own a swimming costume.

    • Vivienne you may just be in a worse state than me!

  12. Brilliant as always ….. I share your phobias of public swimming pools and communal Jacuzzis but now here is my dilemma …. I have always thought that the culprits of wee and turds in the pool were young children … I have recently started water aerobics in a pool with middle aged women – do you think I’m safe? And should I change my planned holiday to an Indian island later this year to one in the bush ? :)

    • Anne, you have to deal with your own fears but I will leave you with one thought – young children don’t have pubic hairs. Personally I’d rather take my chances in a bar somewhere (but never touching the peanuts of course!)

  13. Hot tubs or ‘spas’ as they are called here, are BIG in New Zealand’, I have had more than one Kiwi look at me ‘skeef’ when I decline their invitation to ‘relax in the spa with a glass of bubble’! I suffer from the same affliction as you Chris, avoiding pools. spas, the sea at all costs. However, since I do not have webbed feet, it has never caused me to enjoy life any less than those who spend their time wallowing in the pee … er sea!

    • Just to say hi and how are yoiu
      Call me to say hello – its certainly been a while!

      Glad to see yiu are as feisty as ever
      Best Regards
      Joanne Pollard
      072 4181829

      • Will do!


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