A midlife crisis during 2008 resulted in me erecting a 24 foot by 12 foot 32,000 litres (7000 UK gallons) swimming pool in my back garden, causing endless expenditure of money and stress.
My obsession started in, I believe, 2006.
The summer was hot and dry and I longed to cool off in the sea or a pool.
We tried to go away to the coast at the weekends, but we were either busy, or the weather was happened to be bad the times we were free, or at the coast.
I sat in our spacious back garden sweltering in the sun one evening thinking that I just needed to dip my feet in some cool water. The idea of bringing out a washing up basin to put my feet into popped into my head. This brought back childhood memories of padding pools.
Why didn’t I buy a paddling pool?
Because they were for children… I need something bigger. I needed an adult sized paddling pool.
I then had a flashback of something I’d seen on one of the ‘toys for boys’ type websites I’d been looking at the previous Christmas to buy my brother and Dad something suitable; I’d seen an adult sized paddling pool.
I ran inside and checked the web; yes, you could buy a 10 foot diameter pool for your garden for only £50!
Said pool was duly ordered and delivered only a couple of days later.
I unpacked my Intex Easy Set 10 foot paddling pool and followed the instructions on how to inflate and fill. Ok, it needs to be on a flat surface… that’s fairly obvious I guess. I decided my lawn would do the job nicely. I found the flatest area, spread the pool out, inflated the sides and fetched the hose.
2 hours later it looked rather disappointing; I had a floppy looking vinyl ring with a small puddle in it. It seems that 2500 litres (550 UK gallons) of water is actually quite a lot of water, and my garden hose was failing to deliver it in a timely manner.
I did a quick calculation of how much time the hose had been running and how full it was so far and decided it was safe to leave on overnight.
The next morning I got up and got ready for work, and checked the pool before I left.
It was looking better… but rather lopsided. The inflatable top ring hadn’t taken much effect until more water had filled out the sides and was now taking on some shape, but at a sickening looking angle. One vinyl side looked quite solid and the other was still very floppy looking; it seems that my lawn wasn’t quite as flat as I had hoped.
I had to get to work though so I switched off the hose and headed off, eager for the day to pass quickly so I could play with my new toy.
As soon as I got home I took a better look at the pool.
It was decidedly wonky. The almost imperceptible slope of the garden was significantly visible when such volumes of water are involved. It didn’t look good. Still, it could be filled further, so I hoped it may straighten out a bit.
What worried me though was the wrinkles and creases on the base of the pool. You were supposed to keep straightening it out by pulling the sides and standing in the pool to smooth them out whilst filling. I’d been pulling the sides during the first few hours of filling but it had been a bit chilly that evening so I’d not fancied getting in it.
After the overnight filling, it was now too heavy to move the sides by pulling them, so I took of my shoes and socks, rolled up my jeans and jumped in.
Sheesh that was cold. Had I added ice or something?
I attempted to smooth out the creases – nothing happened. There was simply too much weight of the water preventing me from
straightening it. Oh well; it would be fine. I continued to fill it for a few more hours.
It looked rather poorly. The volume of water pushed against one side so much that it lifted the inflatable top ring from the other side at a drunken looking angle.
But that didn’t matter. I now had a pool!
I took a photo and showed my work colleagues who nicknamed her ‘The Beast‘.
I waited eagerly for the hot weekend.
Of course, that weekend wasn’t so hot.
It was pleasant enough, but hopping in the pool even with shorts and a t-shirt on was pretty cold.
A week passed, and the pool started to look rather dejected.
Leaves and dead flies floated in the cold waters. The weekend passed and we didn’t use it.
By the middle of the next week, the water was starting to go green.
I’d read about pool maintenance; the use of chlorine and ideally a pool pump. It seems I could skimp on all that and just use bleach; but I was a bit scared of getting it wrong.
I decided that the best option was to start again.
Using a patch of land we had dug up to one side with the original intention to grow plants, we straightened out the land as best
we could. Our neighbour was throwing away a huge amount of old magazines and we decided to use these to pad out and level the
land as best as we could.
As the pool was filled, we stretched and pulled and smoothed the bottom all weekend long.
The end result was much better; although admittedly the pool still had a distinct lean to one side.
A hot day came and we were just about able to bear sitting down in the pool; it was bloody freezing though.
I looked into pool heaters but the cost was to purchase and then run was beyond my pay packet. Trying to ‘top up’ the pool with a
kettle/saucepan was a joke; the volume of hot water to cold water was so insignificant as to have no effect whatsoever.
However, we then proceeded to have several hot days one after another.
The pool water began to warm up.
One balmy night, we invited our neighbours over to join us for a few drinks on our newly constructed patio (which also had a distinctive lean to one side… perhaps me and my mate shouldn’t have drank 20 cans of beer between us whilst building it…?). A few drinks quickly descended into, how would I put it, ‘a right royal piss up?‘.
My wife at the time, the neighbour, her daughter & her boyfriend, and I, all ended up in the pool.
It was great fun. It wasn’t so hot by that time of evening, but the alcohol had lowered our objection to the cool water and we
probably spent an hour or two in there.
That was the last time we’d use it.
The water went green a few days later and I emptied the pool ready for the next warm spell.
We didn’t have one that year.
By summer 2007 we had moved house and every spare moment at home was spent renovating our new house. The pace had to be picked up when we learned that a baby was on our way.
The old pool had become mouldy and spider infested over the autumn/winter and we had decided to throw it away during the house move. We were so busy that there would have been no time to use one anyway.
But the idea had not gone from my head.
In my spare time when I wasn’t decorating, I was on the internet, researching swimming pools.
My ideas were grander. I was earning good money at work. Could I fit a proper swimming pool in my back garden??
A ‘proper’ swimming pool was going to cost at least £25,000. I couldn’t afford that. Well, perhaps I could, if I saved hard… but a baby was on the way, and was a pool really practical in England, with all the rain and cold weather?
Yet I couldn’t shake the idea off. I wanted a pool. I didn’t want another ‘adult sized paddling pool’. I wanted a real pool; I
wanted to be able to swim!!
Through my entire childhood our family would go on caravanning holidays, many many times a year. If we weren’t at the seaside,
there was usually an indoor swimming pool, or even an outdoor one, should the weather permit. I loved swimming. My Dad had been
into scuba driving, and had been keen to get my brother and I into swimming at an early age.
I admit that I didn’t take to the water immediately; as a young child I was terrified and hated water in my eyes, whereas my younger brother took to it like a fish. Eventually I overcame my fears and genuinely thank my father for getting me into the joy of water. One of the most joyous moments in my life was this summer when I swam in the sea with my own daughter for the first time.
Since my teenage years, wherever I found water, I would swim in it: sea, lakes, rivers. Although I’m a bit put off rivers after the water snakes in Italy… but that’s other story.
I’d also got quite into my fitness and knew that swimming was excellent exercise. If I could wake up in the morning, have a swim
in my own back garden, every day, that would be worth it for the health benefit alone, right?
The wife wasn’t so convinced. We certainly couldn’t justify spending £25,000.
So I went back to the research.
It seemed you could buy bigger versions of the ‘adult sized padding pool’ in which I could potentially swim. They all looked ‘floppy’ or naff though and still weren’t ‘proper’ pools.
One of the main problems with ‘in ground pools’ is the sheer volume of earth that has to be dug up and removed. Apparently this is very time consuming and is one of the main expenses.
The pools that then took my attention were ‘above ground pools’ (AGPs). There were the inflatable/vinyl style pools, the big
brothers of my original ‘adult sized paddling pool’, but I fancied something a bit flasher. I found some plastic and wooden AGPs
that looked absolutely beautiful.
Problem was, they still cost around £10,000 – £15,000.
I eventually found some in the £5000 – £8000 range which I seriously considered.
The main issues were that these were round in shape.
This meant that unless I bought a significantly large one, I wouldn’t practically be able to swim in it. I needed a long, thin pool.
We were also planning the layout of our new garden and a round pool didn’t fit conveniently.
What if I could find a suitable vinyl sided pool (ugly) but build a wooden frame around it?
I eventually stumbled back across the 24ft x 12ft Intex Ultra Frame Pool.
I’d originally seen this baby when looking for an upgrade from the original 10 foot pool. It was a huge beast, and not particularly attractive with its grey vinyl sides and metal support bars, but with some fencing or decking panels around it could be made to look much more impressive…
It was a good size too: 24 foot (7.3m) long and 52 inches (1.3m) deep meant I could actually swim: once she was up and running I was able to do a good 7 breast strokes from one end to the other before having to turn around.
It was rectangular, thin and long, so could fit in the garden well – just.
And best of all? It was only £1200…
In March 2008 I made the purchase, having found it at a reduced price of £800.
Well… it wasn’t quite as cheap as that, as you’ll see in my next post…