Pool tales, 2018: Anguish and a collapsed pH level

Summer is usually a nice time at our house, filled as it is with 2763 blossoming agapanthusses, some fruit we rescued before the Indian myna birds got to them, and lots of cricket and tennis on the box. But before we can approach this near Nirvana, there is a dark and mysterious challenge to be overcome every year: getting the pool ready.

It’s not a posh pool or anything. Just an above ground jobbie with some nice decking, under which the original designer – surely someone who never worked on a pool – shoved all the pipes, filters, taps, filter controls and a box of electronic readouts which don’t seem to do anything other than constantly inform us that something is “20”.

Over the years, this rite of early summer passage has consumed many days, many naughty words and thousands of kilograms of all sorts of chemicals.

A few years back, we peeled back the off-season cover only to find large gelatinous black plates floating on the top. I believe it was a species of previously undocumented aquatic mould. Last year was the worst. I didn’t even bother with the off-season cover this time, thinking I could scoop the goop, run the filter a bit and Robert would be my uncle. Nope. It was like encountering the creature from the Black Lagoon. Mrs Whacked feared there might well be crocodiles in its murky depths. That was the year the surfing ducks took up residence over the off-season and – as I now know – half filled the pool with sludgy duck poop.

This year was going to be different. This time I would – wait for it – read the instructions. Off came the cover and the water looked sparkly blue. Well, blue-ish. Okay, maybe turquoise with a swirl of Kelly green. Anyway, it wasn’t too bad and it took just a week to clean the water, clear it and wait for the heat to arrive.

Unfortunately, we had to go away for a few days during an unexpected heatwave and when we got back, IT was back. The Black Lagoon. Down to the pool shop to get more chemicals.

Do you know how many chemicals can be required to keep a pool looking like it should? There are pH Uppers and Downers, Buffers, Clarifiers, stabilised chlorine, unstable chlorine, anti-algae stuff, flocculants (yes, yes, we made that joke too) water softeners, yada yada yada. And you need enormously expensive little testing strips to tell you which chemicals you need to add next and in what volume. You need a PhD in Chemistry. Over a normal summer, these will cost on average the same as a small car.

This year, after the first algae bloom and a jolly good thrashing, the pool water turned milky, then mouldy milk coloured. It became clean for about half an hour and then went a lovely colour of opaque jade.

It went beyond frustration when, after a damn good floccing, the stuff dropped to the bottom of the pool and became a carpet of squish with a sulphurous yellow tinge.

I backwashed the filters, rinsed them, vacuumed the pool yet again and when all looked like we’d actually found Hunky Dory, I turned the filter pump back to normal …

And watched in utter horror as hundreds of litres of dead, pale algae and stuff jetted straight back into the water. I am in therapy now, but there’s supposed to be a heatwave coming with an estimated 40 degrees.

The pool as I write looks like something from a magazine, and no, I am not referring to a comic called The Blob. It twinkles baby blue in the morning light. But I know that come Friday and Saturday, the Dark Forces which lurk in the pipes and gubbins under the decking will have wreaked their revenge once again.                        – WAYNE GREGSON