Edinburgh has many shops that claim to be Purveyors of Sporting Goods, but not many of them contain items suited for actual sporting purposes. There's football strips (soccer shirts) galore, endless tracksuits in unnatural fibres plus all manner of shiny white trainers. The sort of things people wear when sitting on their arses to watch other people do sporty things. Or this sort of thing:
Granted, it's the end of August and so it was quite possibly THE WORST time of year for me to go looking for swimwear. But I swear, it's not just pool gear! You rarely see actual rackets or balls or bats or goggles in these so-called sporty shops. Last year I was desperate for a new pair of cross-trainer shoes for the gym, and every sales assistant I asked didn't know what a cross trainer was, or why a running shoe wasn't the same thing. Instead they offered me the latest trendy white trainer, saying there was a variety of coloured stripes to choose from. I ended up lugging back a new pair from our honeymoon in San Francisco. Americans! You know your sporty shoes.
Since then I have found some great specialist shops like Run And Become, but I had no idea where to go for a cossie. I tried three big department stores, but only found flimsy bikinis that are fine if you're just planning to lay very still for two weeks on a Spanish sunlounge with a Jilly Cooper novel. But no good if you actually need to MOVE.
By the time I'd been to seven different shops I was getting cranky. All I wanted was a plain, utilitarian swimsuit suitable for actual swimming. It made me think of Gareth's fantasy of living in a communist country so he'd never have to worry about what to wear. He could just rock up to the People's Warehouse once a year and say, "One set of Clothes please, size Medium". He'd be quite happy to don the same sombre uniform every day. I imagine the People's Swimsuit would look a lot like this:
My last resort was Marks and Spencer. That's where I'd bought my last swimsuit way back in 2003, a boring old size 20 tank, so I could go wallow in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. I've since become such a penny-pinching Scot that I considered dusting them off for my Learn To Swim campaign. After all, I'd only worn them once!
But that was many kilos ago. Now the shoulder straps slip down and there's massive gaps at the hip/thigh intersection where blubber used to be. And the fabric stretches comically across the blank space between boobs and pubes, where my tummy rolls once protruded much further. I wondered in a particularly frugal moment, Maybe I could get them taken in? But what tailor would touch such a skanky, faintly sulphurous garment?
So I pressed on with the search.
Most of the summer stock was gone at M&S. There were a few stray bikinis with loud patterns, like they'd been used to mop up parrot roadkill. I found a single one-piece and tried it on out of desperation. What the bloody hell was I thinking? THE HORROR! Check out this picture – see how that models boobs just sit up perkily, beaming out at the world? When I put on that suit, there was a an unflattering flattening effect. My boobs were reduced to two wee deflated balloons, making my stomach look enormous by contrast.
The only good thing about that moment was that I could laugh at my ridiculous reflection, as opposed to bawling. I've finally matured enough to realise that some styles just don't suit ya, so there's no need to plunge into weeks of self-loathing.
In the end I turned to my old friend The Internet. There's some brilliant online retailers in the UK. I ended up getting this plain and sporty number from Wiggle. I ordered it at lunchtime yesterday and it arrived this morning! Ziiing! The size 14 fit like a charm. I wished I'd asked the internet in the first place and saved the trauma. The internet always knows best.
So now I've got the gear I've got no excuses. We're away for the next couple of days but I've spoken to the Swimming Teacher Lady and she is going to get back to me with a time and date for Lesson One. Eeeeeeek!