It was a good night to get into the water. By 5 o'clock the pool was almost deserted. It had been a bleak afternoon. Now the sky was a bruise and a storm threatened.
The outdoor pool at Brunswick is not cold enough to give you a heart attack when you jump in, but not hot enough to choke you with evaporating chlorine, like at some indoor swimming places.
If it wasn't for the lack of scenery, water-running is a fine alternative to running in the park or on the road. Certainly gets the pulse going. It's a good alternative to actual swimming, for that matter.
Outside the pool's walls, a few metres down Dawson Street, is the art deco part of the town hall built in 1926. It is Brunswick Library now, but in the late 1960s and early '70s it was still a hall. My older brother's speech nights were held here; tedious affairs that went close to midnight and featured dramatic and musical items; groups of combed and ironed boys standing on tiered dais singing Westering Home and a Song in the Air and others that harked back to a time of the mother country and Baden Powell and imperialism and two wars not too long gone. I got to watch my brother for years, but by the time I reached secondary school speech nights were no more. Try getting boys to do group singing now, let alone combed and ironed.
The first fifteen minutes are the worst. Then you stop looking at the clock and concentrate on paddling north and then south without going under.
The sky, a roof over the pool's four walls, was a swirling mess of stormcloud buffeted by a fierce westerly. For a second, I thought the pool was moving beneath it: that sensation you get on a stationary train when the next one - the train through the window - starts to move.
The rain started, drops hitting and bubbling and rippling. Heading south now, looking towards the aerobics room at the bottom end of the pool. The wind couldn't quite obliterate the disco beat. Thump, thump, thump. Through the glass, the flick of twenty arms one way, twenty ponytails the other. Thump, thump, flick.
We were married in the old part of the town hall, the Victorian building, shortly after it was refurbished in the mid-1990s. We filled it with potted trees and white-clothed tables and a jazz band in the corner and the food and drink came out all night and what else do you need?
Now north again. The gum trees to the east of the toddlers' pool were doing their own kind of flickering, wildly, to the roar of the wind. The rain was harder now, drumming on the iron roof of the old indoor pool and lashing the water. The veteran swimmers ploughed past in the next lane, arms slapping out another hundred laps. Now it was dark. Above the western wall of the pool, the electric wires on the Upfield line were buzzing in the rain. Every twenty minutes a pantograph slashed past under the wires. That was all you could see of the peak hour trains carrying hundreds of city workers to Brunswick, Jewell, Anstey, Moreland, Coburg stations and beyond. Home to a warm house on a cold, bleak night.