Before moving here, my impression of Scotland, was that it was a nation of deeply eccentric characters. This opinion was formed by years of watching British television and film, where, let's face it, the Scot is usually the weird uncle. Trainspotting and Billy Connolly did nothing to dispel the myth.
Well, unfortunately, Scottish eccentrics are not to be found on every corner, under every bush, or even loitering along every train line. Rather they are to be found at the Dollan Baths.
Twice a week (more if I can manage) I go to the Dollan olympic pool. There I spend about an hour covering a distance of around 2 kms. In swimming parlance, this is considered long distance. Now you may have heard of the loneliness of the long distance runner. The good man is just such a runner and he combats his loneliness by counting things - lampposts, stripes on the road, trees... you name it he'll know how many. There's not much to count in a pool so I prefer to people-watch.
For some reason people in public pools think that anything under the water is not visible. This is particularly true of those who insist on keeping their hair dry while in the pool. But most serious swimmers wear anti -mist goggles and can actually see better in the water than out. Old Mac in his 1920s full body stocking doing bunny hops across the lanes - crystal clear. And what precisely are Mr. Flarrety and Mrs Cameron doing playing footsie by the step ladder?
On a Friday there is an aqua-robics class - average age 83, entirely female A lithe young bird stands outside the pool bopping away with a pool noodle to 1960's remixes while her octogenarian charges bop away in the pool. I am now under no illusions as to where this ageing malarkey is taking me. It wobbles while it wiggles and occasionally pops out of its DD cup giving the old boys who linger on the outskirts of the class area a frisson of excitement. Men, it would appear, never change.
But the pool has also introduced me to a few real characters (name changed to preserve friendships). Madge who comes to the pool, in a swimming costume built of scaffolding, sporting a Florida tan and with a special cap with earmuffs, only to chat to all of us about how much people splash while they swim (not too sure what they're meant to be doing). Jake who either swims 3 miles or runs 10 every day - he's retired and clearly hasn't figured out what to do with his time. And the lifeguard whose hair changes colour with the seasons (in a range from red to yellow and all shades of orange in between).
And then there's Mike - trying his hardest to keep up with the triathletes - pity his physique is arriving on the next plane. And an endless supply of mums with toddlers saying things like, 'Now Angus, take that duck/whale out of your mouth' and 'No Sally, blowing bubbles underwater should not be called farting!'.
My hour's up in no time.