219 – The Pool – Revisited (again)

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!’

pool perfect

206 – Pool Progress

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)

pool

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.