Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Subbuteo Swimming

As an avid fan of Subbuteo when I was growing up I loved collecting teams, playing leagues and cup tournaments. I even got Subbuteo Cricket and Rugby and successfully played those solo too. And Football Express, their 5 a-side football game, was superb. In 2000, when I started working from home, I found myself surfing and stumbled back into a whole world of Subbuteo I hadn't thought existed. I also discovered eBay and the two combined into a ridiculous collection. Amongst April Fool's Day jokes of the past Subbuteo came up with a few, and swimming was one of them. For me, it's my way of keeping track just how many lengths I've swum each morning. Let me take you through the mind of an hour's swim...

I get up whenever I get up and head off to the local baths before breakfast, I don't want to be too awake when I start you see. And then it's quick shower and into the pool. Lane selection is crucial. Wednesday's are tricky, along with Monday and Friday they tend to be quite busy. And come 9am, a time I'm usual in the water, the Blue School arrives with at least ten thousand children eager to swim and probably just as many eager not to. The ensuing high-pitched kerfuffles go on for half an hour and concentration is easy to lose. Not with my system though.

Mustn't count strokes. That's really tough. Early on I know I can do a length, twenty-five metres, in twenty-four strokes, but as time goes on that averages out at twenty-six or twenty-seven and I always feel that's too many. My breast stroke is not great, but I figure that the less fluent my style the more work I must be putting in to travel my morning mile. Makes sense doesn't it?

So, I need to keep track of the lengths. The first ten I see as my warm up. It'll take me those to get into what ever rhythm I'm going to swim to for that day. It's easy keeping up with the first ten. After that I need to turn to the classic Subbuteo 'heavyweight' figure as they are called amongst collectors. The first 190 teams Subbuteo produced are considered to be the perfect collection despite the fact that that model reached references around the 324 mark and higher in Italy. My counting takes me through the first sixty-four of those. As mentioned the first ten don't need much monitoring but from eleven - QPR - I'm checking where I am by going through the catalogue. Twelve - Bristol Rovers, thirteen - Blackpool, seventeen - Ipswich, white sleeved version, my team, hurrah!

In the twenties though I start getting confused; too many Scottish teams. Never sure whether Hamilton Academicals or Queens Park are twenty or twenty four respectively. But I do know that Hearts are twenty-seven and those Canaries are twenty-eight. Into the thirties and I'm completely lost. Fortunately, thirty-two lengths is half way so I align myself to that. Thirty-four is Juventus, thirty-six Floriana from Malta and then Grimsby and Poland make up the last of the thirties. During all this time I am thinking of what the day will hold for me, stuff I need to remember to do, dreams I'm like to have. And there are my fellow swimmers too of course. Such a huge number of regulars, people you only see in just one item of clothing. My self-loathing is high out of the water, I must look horrendous! Never mind. We all say hello, talk about how busy the pool is, how noisy the children are and the water temperature of course.

Where was I? Thirty-nine, yes, Poland, didn't reach forty-one, that's easy to remember, Liverpool, followed by Chelsea, Coventry, Falkirk, Hibs. Hibs is another landmark as it means I'm into my last twenty lengths, and then forty-eight, Spain, three quarters of my swim completed. Never count it in percentages, that's my top tip. It's a mess and feels horrible, not sure why. Anyway, fifty is Brazil. Then Sheffield Wednesday, Exeter, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Fiorentina, Ajax, AC Milan, Inter Milan. Who the hell within Subbuteo chose which teams to be numbered like this? Why are there so many Scottish teams so early on? How do you get from South-West England over to Italy, and the Netherlands.

Thankfully, by the time I reach fifty-eight I start counting down the lengths to go. Just as well as I can never recall what teams are referenced in the early sixties, I know they're actually quite rare in collector's terms, which equates to unexciting in football terms. Especially when I was ten. The last lengths and I allow myself to count strokes; four lots of seven, twice. Done.

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