Paul Stronge



I think it was somewhere in East London, a dilapidated landscape of abandoned factories, scrubland and rusting tankers. I had to get a boat across the river to get to the swimming pool. I wanted to go there for a swim, I recall, because there was a group of young women who attracted me and I'd been informed that they were going there too. As we travelled however, I thought this less and less likely. The landscape was so desolate and lonely. I began to forget the lure of the women and became fascinated by the journey for its own sake.

The Swimming Pool was closed for the season but the Swimming Pool Master still lived in a little hut nearby, like a hermit. He was a young man and either mad or an idealist or both. How else could he have been possessed to winter in such a deserted spot, I asked myself. I may have spoken out loud, because by way of comparison, the Swimming Pool Master began telling me about an even more isolated and dedicated individual, the 'Ad Man', who lived even further from the shore and deeper into the heart of the wasteland.

I knew I wouldn't have the opportunity to visit the Ad Man this time round, but it was good to know that he was there. I gathered that here was a paradox: although the Ad Man was the most eccentric and obscure of them all, his place was near the 'escape route', the exit road back to civilisation.


An actor whom I was playing alongside in an amateur production of Great Expectations persuaded me to join him in jumping naked into a container full of water that resembled a child's blow-up paddling pool. This happened at a party at the house where I lived. It happened indoors, in the living room, and I had a great deal of encouragement from other party-goers.
Prior to the jump, we went upstairs to "prepare" in my bedroom, where I slept in one of two bunk beds. Well, the actor tried to persuade me that we were there to practice the dive: I strongly suspected him of having sexual motives. I felt rather freaked.
Eventually we came downstairs again and the actor disappeared. The chair, from which I was supposed to dive into the pool, was occupied by a stranger, a man in a black homburg who was playing patience. I wanted to turf him out so that I could get on with the act; there were, I noticed, fluffy white bath towels hanging ready for me. But when I tried to order him to move, I was set upon by several angry guests. An attractive, self-assured blonde woman was particularly vehement. "He's me hero!" she screamed at me, referring to the card-player. I tried to be reasonable. " But it's my house" I protested looking around me for allies, but if there had been any, they all had vanished. "All the more reason to let him play," somebody commented.

It eventually transpired that the dive would take place outside. The garden lay under several inches of snow.
Nevertheless, a girl called Max was already swimming out there, they told me.
At this moment I realised who the blonde was. She was a WPC I had already tangled with professionally. We'd met at a case conference where I had had the impression that she was opinionated, arrogant and unthinking. In a word I thought her a sham.

The child's play-pool had been placed close to the garden wall near a shabby outhouse. Max, pert, dark and fully naked, was lying in perhaps six inches of water, shivering. "It's so cold!" she was saying "my fingers, my toes". Of course she was surrounded by a swarm of admirers.
I felt attracted to Max and wanted to join her in the pool. Despite her discomfort I felt that she was inviting me to join her, and I was sure that if I took the plunge it could be the beginning of something very special.

Could I tolerate the temperature, however, without having a heart attack? Then again there was always the worry that despite the cold I'd find myself with an erection. On the other hand might the cold cause my penis to shrivel and people to laugh at me . . . ?

Still I was going to do it. I had slipped a towel round my waist and a rug over my shoulders before leaving the house. Now, having reached a decision, I let them fall to the ground.