After three and a half month’s work, the pool is clean. That’s all I’ve got to say on the matter. Time for a dip.
After three and a half month’s work, the pool is clean. That’s all I’ve got to say on the matter. Time for a dip.
The pool still isn’t clean. Despite weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks of hard work, it still looks like a silage pit. A deep green vat of algal snot covering every surface like discharge from a gigantic sneeze. The fabled natural swimming pool of the villa, no longer a clear blue green embodiment of ecological modern living, but a huge used Kleenex sunk into a hole in the ground.
However much I clean it, hoover it, deploy the pool robot, skim off leaves with the net. By the morning there’s always a thick layer of green algae creaming every surface like someone went nuts in the night with a Gloop Gun.
The main problem I’ve deduced is the wind. Which has been blowing all sorts of crap into it on which the algae feed off. The human equivalent of bringing a fresh barrel of beer into a student house every evening. Suddenly the music’s blaring, people are dancing and the neighbours are banging on the ceiling. It’s a total disaster. Yet however hard I try, the party just goes on and on.
Tomorrow is April. I should be practising my backstroke by now in the hot sun, not poncing about in my Peter Storm cagoule scraping slime off the sides of the pool like I’m cleaning a communal toilet. It’s really starting to get to me.
Every night I dream of gigantic life size algae with razor sharp teeth eating their way through a mountain of leftover kebabs that have blown in from nearby Arcachon. Gorging themselves on junk, growing bigger and bigger, spreading across the surface of the pool as I lie sleeping. Their horrible evil grins I can see in my nightmares as they destroy everything I’ve worked for over the past three months.
The word ‘Thankless’ often comes to mind. As do the words ‘Litre of bleach’. That would do the trick. That would bring their algal fiesta under control very quickly.
A controlled dose I’ve calculated – say half a litre – might actually work. Kill off the algal blooms but leave the plants intact. The only problem is, I can’t be sure it’ll work. If it went wrong, there would be some difficult questions to answer from my boss.
Namely. ‘Why is everything dead?’ Quickly followed by, ‘Why are you still here? You’re fired. Get out.’
I can’t risk losing my job at this critical stage. It’s not my accommodation or the money I’m bothered about. More my conscience.
I want to leave here on my last day looking at a pool so clean I could boil potatoes in it. Drink from it. Deliver babies in it. I want it to look as pristine as the photograph in the villa’s brochure. So that when people visit, they think it is a photograph.
‘My God,’ they’ll say. ‘It looks exactly as it does in the photograph. Must have a good Pool Boy.’
‘You betcha ass they do,’ the Ghosts of Algal Past will reply. ‘He’s the best!’
As discussed many many many times before on this blog, one of my jobs is to clear leaves and algae from the natural swimming pool where I work.
The pool net is the most traditional method at clearing leaves. But as it’s incredibly slow and tedious, I generally favour the pool robot. It’s effective at what it does but erratic in its methodology. Being a robot it lacks the basic intelligence to know what it’s cleaned and what it hasn’t. Like a human being painting a black wall with black paint. Where do you start and where do you finish?
Furthermore, the pool robot is only effective in the swimming pool. It moves on tiny plastic wheels propelled by a motor that creates propulsion by forcing water out of the sides. In short, it’s an underwater kid’s remote control car – a Bond car if you like – with a small hoover built in instead of a rocket launcher. Therefore on the stony and rocky surface of the regeneration and filtration beds, it’s pretty much useless. Like driving over a volcano in a golf cart.
It’s not really a hoover in the traditional sense, more an industrial water pump that leaves no stone unturned. Quite literally. Sucking everything up like a giant elephant’s trunk and regurgitating it either back into the pool through a mesh filter (a sock is actually the best thing I’ve found – see video), or by simply emptying it out on the grass.
In theory it should work well. But it doesn’t. Nothing is ever that simple, is it?
Why? Because as I’ve mentioned, the hoover not only sucks the leaves and algae up, but all the stones and rocks as well. Blocking everything up which means I have to switch it off and shake it violently to extract the stones. Once it’s done, it’s back to work. Until the next blockage five seconds later.
But of course like most things in life there’s always a technique to avoid such occurrences. Namely, be careful where you put your hose. It’s true. If you keep the vacuum hose close enough to the pool surface to suck up the leaves, but far enough away to avoid sucking up the stones, you can hoover happily all day. Just like hoovering dust off a curtain at home. If you keep it at the right distance, the dust and fluff comes off easily. If you get it too close, you simply yank the entire curtain and rail down.
So there you go. Now you all know what to do if you by chance have to clean your pool with a hoover. Yet another genius instructional blog post from Blogley – The Home of Pointless Information.
Video included (needs sound):
Since I turned 16 in 1990 I’ve worked as a dustbin man, warehouse picker, call centre operative, musician, charity collector, sound engineer, postman, teacher, chef, waiter, small-ads editor, barman, scientist, van driver, Christmas tree seller, data entry clerk, writer, bookseller, gardener, nacho stall manager, and now pool boy.
If I had made a video of all of them, it would never end. Luckily, I’ve only made one.
(Needs sound. Otherwise it makes no sense – if it does at all)
It turned out my boss was joking. I wouldn’t have to clean the pool swimming naked underwater armed with only a garden brush and a snorkel as depicted in my last post (Blogley 207). I was to use the long handled pool broom instead.
Yesterday morning I got to work. Only to be faced with a big problem. The long handled pool broom was useless. It was too soft. Just pushed all the remaining algae to the edges of the pool as though sweeping up hair in a barber’s shop. Leaving the real dirt stuck to the floor like it was doubling up as a paintbrush.
After a two hour coffee break to think it over, à la Français, I found another brush in the shed that would have been perfect. Unfortunately, as it was the brush used for scrubbing the decking round the pool, it wasn’t long enough for the job.
Maybe I should get in and do it sous-marin – as my boss had originally suggested. Dive in and scrub it clean dressed in my Speedos?
I’m not adverse to swimming in cold waters – I used to swim in the sea in Cornwall in midwinter. But that was for leisure. Or when I was paralytic. To do it during the course of a day’s work, wading round a freezing cold swimming pool with a decking brush, wasn’t what I signed up for. It says so in my contract:
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MUST EMPLOYEES SWIM IN THE POOL
So that was out. As was draining the pool.
DO NOT DRAIN THE POOL UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES – I WILL KILL YOU!
The long and the short of it was I needed a longer handle to attach to the decking brush.
So I set off to Bricomarche 5 kms up the coast to buy a ten foot pole that I could fashion into a handle using my new Opinel knife I had bought from the Tabac last week. (The Tabac here is fascinating: you can buy fags, beer, wine, lotto tickets, crisps, knives, oysters, fishing rods, even logs.)
I’m glad I went for the walk though. As a kid I always wanted to go pole vaulting. But as it was always deemed too dangerous, or too stupid, I never got the chance. Until yesterday. Click on the picture below.
I got back in one piece, fitted the pole to the brush and started cleaning. By the end of the day, the pool was spotless, its bottom as sparkling as a brand new mirror.
All I need now is some sun to warm it up and I can go swimming…in the middle of the night when no one is looking. Get in!
I didn’t get fired. In fact, I got promoted. Hoisted up by my Speedos to the title of Pool Boy Extraordinaire – King of the Pool Boys.
‘C’est magnifique, Oggers,’ my boss said to me yesterday. ‘You’ll make a good Frenchman one day.’
‘In your dreams,’ I muttered under my breath as we took a weak tasteless coffee together on the veranda to toast my promotion.
It turned out that getting rid of the filthy fetid water from the filtration tank last week and replacing it with fresh tap water was the right thing to do. (See Blogley 206)
‘It’s incredible,’ he said. ‘I’d have never thought of that. You’re a genius.’
‘Well, you know,’ I replied smugly. ‘When you employ an Englishman, provided you feed him with enough bacon and eggs for breakfast, the job gets done.’
He smiled and seemed amused by the idea of feeding a man bacon and eggs to get him to work. Like putting petrol in a car to make it go.
‘The perplexing thing is,’ I continued, ‘that apart from the bacon, France has all the ingredients for a great English breakfast: tasty fresh eggs, meaty sausages, good fatty black pudding, creamy butter for frying the bread in. And yet you still insist on eating brioche and dry biscuits dipped in luke warm milky coffee.
‘Not that I’m complaining,’ I quickly added. ‘I love France.’
He slowly nodded. ‘Then you’ll be interested to find out what your next job is?’ he said smiling. A wide, drawn out smile that made the Cheshire Cat’s grin look like a halfarsed smirk.
I gulped. ‘What is it?’ I asked, feeling like a cigarette for the first time in years.
‘Ever been scuba diving?’
I said I had in the tropical waters of northern Australia. Lovely warm seas followed by a crate of Fosters and a bottle of vodka on the diving boat afterwards.
He looked confused but nodded all the same.
‘How about in the ice cold waters of Arcachon?’ he asked.
My eyes narrowed. ‘I’m sorry?’
‘The Pool,’ he said gesturing towards the freezing mass of water in front of us.
‘You’re shitting me!’ I said jumping out of my wicker chair. ‘I’m not cleaning the bottom of the swimming pool with a garden brush dressed in a wetsuit and snorkel. The water is 4 degrees for God’s sake, I measured it yesterday. I’d die. Especially after the kind of breakfasts I eat.’
The lines on his forehead that had been massaged and relaxed by our polite conversation suddenly creased up into a deep frown that looked like the four-day old croissants I eat on a Sunday when I’ve run out of lard.
‘Monsieur Oggers. King of the Pool Boys. I’m not sure you understand me,’ he said stroking a grey fluffy cat that had suddenly appeared on his lap. ‘Who said anything about a wetsuit,’ he stated and handed me a piece of paper before disappearing through a trap door in the veranda floor like all good Bond villains do.
(Artwork copyright 2015 © My French Boss. Courtesy of Le Louvre, Paris.)
In case you haven’t been reading this. Here’s a quick recap.
My name is Philip ‘Oggers’ Ogley and I’m looking after a villa for the winter on the Arcachon basin in France. One of my main tasks, among many, concerns cleaning and maintaining the natural swimming pool.
There are actually three pools here that make up the swimming pool unit. A filtration bed that looks like a giant sandpit filled with gravel. The swimming pool itself, which for some bizarre reason, is in the shape of a coffin. And a regeneration reservoir.
This is how it all works. After the water has trickled down through the filtration bed, it’s pumped into the swimming pool and then left to trickle over its walls into the regeneration reservoir where plants such as sedge and water hyacinth filter it and the microbes feed on the algae.
(Artwork copyright Philip Ogley 2015. Courtesy of the Tate Gallery London)
Getting rid of the algae is why you go to all this trouble. Algae is what makes swimming pools go green. In a perfect environment the whole system should clean itself. The perfect environment being a place with no trees or shrubs – a hill top or a desert for example.
Unless you live in these places, leaves are going to get into your pool whether you like it or not. Leaves are bad. They introduce nutrients into the pool which encourage the growth of algae. And remember algae is bad.
I removed the leaves last week. They’re gone. Dead in the water as it were (or not). This week my task was to remove the two inch thick layer of algal scum covering the filtration bed.
So enter Oggers once again with his pool hoover sucking the scum off the top of the filtration bed and letting it flow back in to clog it all up again. Problem.
So I found a fine mesh to filter it through. This half worked. It took the larger sediment out, but still allowed the fine algae to pollute the system. Like hoovering your carpet and then emptying the dirty bag over the floor.
The only sensible solution was to let the dirty water go free. Flush it over the side. Rid the system of this filth once and for all. So I did. And within a few days the water looked sparkling. That is, what water was left…
Oops. I’d forgotten the principle of the whole system. It’s contained. The water goes round and round. Just like the water cycle you learn about in geography at school. Nothing is added and nothing is taken away. Unless some buffoon empties half of it into the sea.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, I hadn’t changed a thing – the water would one day find its way into the sea. But on the smaller scheme of things, I might lose my job.
It was time for some Oggers quick thinking while my boss was out for lunch. And like cooling down on a hot summer’s day, there’s nothing a hosepipe can’t fix. I quickly hooked it up and turned it on full, hoping the boss was on a long lunch. About 4 hours I was thinking – the time it would take to refill it.
By a stroke of luck he was out for the entire afternoon. Incroyable! By the time he got back the filtration bed was brimming with fresh water.
Now I just have to see what happens over the weekend. Hope the tap water I used from the hose wasn’t full of chlorine. Then I’ll be Oggers The Pool Boy no more.