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  • I worked in Social Work Disability Services for many years.

    And once a week my colleague Tom and I took Martin, an 18 year old lad with cerebral palsy, swimming in our local pool. A lovely splishsplash session of unrestrained nonsense, as was Martin's preference.

    Earlier that week my female colleagues had run a similar session, for another individual, but to use the jacuzzi instead. Despite their careful (and finely honed over many years) toilet preparations, there was a disaster. Of epic proportions. A very very difficult disaster to conceal, given the fact it had turned the bubbling jacuzzi into something resembling a frothy chocolate drink. But sadly one that did not have the whiff of cocoa about it. The jacuzzi was closed, for several days, until the mess was removed from the pipes, pumps, reservoirs, channels and filters that lurked beneath the floor.

    We were not popular. Formal 'you are not popular' letters had been sent to our establishment. We were told we had to be on our best behaviour from now on. Or else. "Or else you will not be allowed back in, ever."

    And so it was that Tom, and I, and Martin fetched up for a swim a few days later. And the staff gave us the eye. The 'make a mess and you're all out' look. Because the jacuzzi was still closed, its pump clogged.

    The pool was warm, and empty on this winter afternoon. No splashers but we three.

    Martin loved it. We filled the pool with floats and made him the centre of fun. The staff, two lifeguards, bored and surly, looked on.

    One of Martin's favourite games involved one of us holding him upright whilst the other, be-goggled, dived down in front of him and swam through his legs, tickling his feet as we passed and then appearing behind him with a gurgling seamonster burble. Martin loved it and would giggle with delight.

    I took a deep breath, and down I went, through the leg-gap and as I rose something caught my eye. Aaargh!

    I surfaced for air and submerged again. No, I was not mistaken. There, happily swirling about was a sewer trout. A long fat semi-buoyant one. Hugging the pool floor.

    Back to the surface:

    "Tom, get your goggles on and have a look down there"
    "Over there, look, lets all move this way" (putting our bodies between the trout and the keen-eyed lifeguards).

    Down Tom went. And resurfaced "Oh bugger bugger bugger!" he muttered. "is it"
    "Of course not, Martin was in the toilet before we left, and he's wearing his net lined shorts. No possibility this is ours. Unless you did something and you're not telling me?."
    "WHAT? Of course not!" said Tom, indignantly.

    "Well we have a problem" I said. Tom knew exactly what problem I meant. We were the only swimmers here, and a sewer trout was loose, so it had to be ours. How do you prove it belongs to someone else?

    "What will we do" Asked Tom.

    "I think we need to catch it, and take it out" I replied. Adding "without being seen".

    And so began The Hunt for the Sewer Trout.

    We needed a receptacle, so Tom decided to take Martin out to the changing area where he could check Martin, just in case he had let loose the trout (and as I had guessed, he had not) and where he hoped he would find a trout-trap. I was tasked with maintaining a swirling surface on the pool to deflect the lifeguard's gaze and distract them. Tom was gone for ages, and ages, and finally returned, to my great relief as the bored lifeguards started to stir.

    "Did you find anything?" I asked.
    "Yes, took me bloody ages, had to rummage through the bins but I found this"....and discretely pulled a crisp packet from Martin's swimshort's pocket. (Salt and vinegar flavour if you must know.) Which was brilliant because they are silver and blue packets. Ideal camouflage for a swimming pool.

    "So how do we do this then?" I asked.

    "Right, I'll play with Martin and make a load of distraction, you get under and trap the trout in the bag".
    "Ok. Just try and keep yourselves between me and the lifeguards, and distract their gaze!"

    And so began the The Trapping of the Sewer Trout.

    Now, if you've not ever tried this yourselves, let me enlighten you about hydrodynamics.

    Swimming pool water, for all its clarity and apparent inertia, is actually riven with currents. Swirls and whorls of movement, unseen to the casual observer, going unnoticed as they roil and race and turn and chase, invisible.........unless.......unless there is also a sewer trout about.

    And so, above me as Tom and Martin gaily played, beneath the surface I watched the sewer trout: it slowed, then whirled, and rolled, then stopped, and rose, and turned and whirled again, a dervish dance of troutish joy. The unrestrained stop-start tango-trout raced across the tiles, turned and circled, and slowed. I closed upon it, bag in hand, closer, closer still, closer yet....and the trout quickstepped off, switching mid-glide to a foxtrot (or was that foxtrout?) racing on some current or other through Martin's legs. I followed, bag ready, lungs bursting. No use. Up for air. GAAAAASP!

    "Did you get it?" asked Tom.
    "No! It's bloody well prancing about down there like a ceilidh dancer doing a Gay Gordon's"
    I filled my lungs and said "I'm going down again" and did.

    Bloody trout was off across the pool, still swirling and jigging it's merry dance. Back up again. "Tom you need to move, it's gone over there. This isn't working, we need to drive it this way, closer to the wall, and corner it".

    And so began The Herding of the Sewer Trout.

    Swirling our feet and generating currents, we jiggled and swished the trout across to the wall, prancing, looping and roiling in its dancing frenzy. I dived again, bag ready. The trout was circling, waiting, slowly rising...then jitterbugged up and rolled then raced away, but I was quicker now, growing wise to the unseen energies that pulled and pushed and teased. And as the sewer trout and I spun in an elegant pas de deux, I gently reached and turned....and the bag swallowed it. Caught!

    I surfaced, trying to look casual and relaxed. "Did you get it?" asked Tom anxiously.
    "Yep, it's in the bag! Literally! Any idea how we get it out now? Just pretend we're eating a packet of crisps we happened to have with us as all we climb out perhaps?"

    We agreed that was unlikely to work.

    So instead we asked Martin if he'd mind putting it in his swimshort's pocket. Which he did. And we carefully walked out, smug grins on all of our faces, edging Martin round to conceal the bulge in his short's pocket.

    And so the Dance of the Sewer Trout came to an end. Flushed off to join its fellow trout, dancing, jigging and gliding, on and on and on.......
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