June 4th. 41°C, 106°F on the thermometer, in the South of France. Certainly the hottest weather I remember ever experiencing here, this early in the year. Thankfully, we have a pool.
Shadow selfie by the pool
Gentle ripples of pure white sunlight diffract in shifting diamond outlines against the pale blue background of 7 feet of refreshing water. The gentle clattering a bottle of Brangelina’s Miraval pulled out of the ice, shortly followed by the satisfying gurgling of the salmon beverage pouring into the glasses as the saussages finish sizzling on the barbecue, a couple of meters away. Beautiful like a hedonistic haiku.
Well, maybe at the neighbour’s it is. Here, the picture is quite different.
The pool is 18 years old and in some severe need of maintenance. My wife and I built this pool. With our bare little hands and naive inexperience. We relished the challenge. 2 weeks of patience and painstaking work later, we were swimming in our own work of art. That pool has figured in many photographs published on DS. So seeing it being ripped apart by a team of pros, to fix little cracks and prepare it for a couple more decades, brings mixed feelings.
It’s never pleasant to see something you value being torn down. Like when a kitten chooses your 2000 piece puzzle as her own private holliday on ice. Or when we watch our revered tech barons, and their armies of hoodied cronies, tear down society to pay for their superyachts and electric monster trucks, to the applause of mainstream media.
But there’s more than that.
The reality is I don’t want to rebuild it.
The giggles of our kids over more than a decade of summers still echo in my mind. I have no regrets. But how things have changed since the digger took the first bite out of our top soil, all those years ago.
As I type those words, the sound of choppers overhead is almost constant, with authorities trying to spot the first signs of smoke as our forests embark on their – now yearly – ritual of burning themselves to the ground. My little village was recently featured on national TV as local centenarians report never having seen our rivers so completely dry at this time of year, which they are now. Within a few months, millions of innocents may have lost their lives to famine, thanks to the combined humanitarian efforts of Vladimir Putin and – far more importantly – ordinary people, myself included, unwilling to change their ways enough to really curb the problem.
There are no two ways to put it: repairing and filling up this puppy is stepping firmly into the wrong side of history.
So, will I fill it up? Of course I will.
A quick glance at Google Earth soon reveals the foresight of the powers that be, in this neck of the woods. Almost every house has a pool. Very few have solar panels. It should so obviously be the other way round. A sad joke. One of the big surprises during my month in Phoenix AZ, a few years ago, was seeing communal pools everywhere. 10 houses, a large pool, a guard, neighbours having fun together. Not everywhere, but in the middle market areas where we lived, it was certainly the norm more than the exception. Such thinking has not yet reached our shores. Of its distant communist past, France has only retained crippling taxes and a knee-jerk reaction to personal freedom, but not the sharing of resources, not common infrastructure, not public transport, not …
So our sacrifice would change nothing to the equation, and what would I do with that large empty chunk of concrete? Open a communal skate park? 😉
Besides, my wife swims a lot. It’s how she unwinds after long and testing days at work (life ain’t easy for doctors at the moment, 75% of the healtcare sector is in burnout, over here). And I’m now a granddad, so this pool will host young giggling life again soon. Plus, we do a lot to preserve the environment in other areas of our lives, and we don’t use tap water for the pool, but a canal that is still flowing well. Still, though …
So yeah, mixed feelings.
The silver lining in this gloomy disassembly is the opportunity for photographs. The cracked concrete and surface repairs create endless patterns that awaken the inner Zao Wou-Ki in me. I really like the last photograph above, and might have that printed quite large. It highlights the role of chance in creating good work, and the necessity of change in any story. Visually, it works for me 🙂
The sidewalls and ripped out fittings lend themselves to a domestic urbex exploration in monochrome that the current brutal light complements well.
It doesn’t change the fact that something that felt like the right thing to do 20 years ago is coming back to haunt me now, but at least, photographing it it lets me express what I cannot settle in my mind or articulate. And that is also what photography it about.
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