It is that time of year again.
More precisely, it is weeks before that time of year has taken place in years gone by, because come hell and high water I wasn't going to be attempting to shut down the swimming pool in a force ten October gale while the womenfolk stretched out in the house and watched TV.
Accordingly, I raced out of the house on Saturday, pulled off the solar cover and vacuumed up all the crap the Maple tree had dumped in it over the week. I cleaned up all the air pillows with a scrubbing brush, and got the crud off the solar cover while I was at it. Curse that aerial plague on mankind known as "birds".
Conventional wisdom says you should tether a 4-foot diameter balloon in the middle of a pool our size before covering it with a winter cover. This allows the cover to fill with rainwater that holds the cover down in gales. Over the course of the winter months the trees, birds and insects conspire to convert this "water" into a soup of such disgusting olefactoriness that it defies description. Steviewisdom says "sod that for a game of soldiers". Last year I augmented the 4 foot pillow with three 4x8 foot blimps, and apart from some teething troubles when it rained so much the cover almost burst with the pooled weight of water it went rather well.
Well enough that I decided to up the oomph, blue vinyl balloon count wise, and purchased another 4x8 foot pillow and a 4x15 foot one that I envisaged forming a sort of ridge pole for the tented cover.
Inflating these things is a bit tiresome to be honest. They do not have a standard fitting such as one might find on a vinyl dolphin, inner tube with a pillow, fancy airbed or other non-life-preserving swimming pool fun-enhancer. They have instead a one-inch plug that has a sort of inexpensive one-way valve underneath it when you pull it out. This means that standard fittings on compressors or hand-pumps will not work, a decision that was no-doubt taken for consumer convenience reasons.
The proper method for inflating an air pillow is as follows:
Go down into the basement and retrieve shop-vac.
Spend fifteen minutes locating the hose which you removed three months ago, the last time you used it, when the damned thing attempted to snag you with its tentacle as you walked by it. Twice.
Wrestle shop-vac up basement stairs, dislodging carrier bags of crap hung on walls at shoulder height by spouse and child so that the contents form a satisfactory hazard the next time you descend those same stairs.
Bang head on door at top of stairs and come this close to going arse-over-tip down them.
Emerge into light of day clutching shop-vac and hurl it onto living room floor so the power cord can unspool.
Wrestle the shop-vac out of back door and tangle power cord on screen-door handle, slamming said door on left elbow punching a hole in screen.
Disentangle power cord from screen door, pick up shop-vac and stumble over hose.
Fall down short flight of concrete steps, twisting right ankle and give siding of house a good banging with head.
Once shop-vac is successfully situated on the patio, deploy hose in "blow" configuration.
IMPORTANT - connect vacuum to power supply and switch on while pointing hose away from anything you care about, own body, windows, car etc, so as to avoid a repeat of the Low Compression Air-Powered Sawn-Off Shrapnel Gun Fiasco.
Lay out air pillow on clean lawn furniture so as to not pick up crud from the floor and thereby transfer it to the pool - once was enough for that oversight.
Unplug air hole and poke finger in to bend back flap of valve otherwise it will take all day.
Grasp air hole fitting by making a ring from your index finger and thumb underneath the plastic valve.
Switch on vacuum.
Leaping smartly aside to avoid flailing hose, switch vacuum off again.
Grasp hose under right armpit wile grasping valve of air pillow as described before with left hand.
Switch on vacuum.
Flail about for ten seconds attempting to get right radius and ulna to spontaneously develop extra joint.
Turn off vacuum.
Grip hose between manly thighs, ignoring unseemly comments by family members, neighbours and other onlookers, grip air pillow valve as described before in left hand and switch on vacuum. By pressing vacuum on the ring formed by your finger and thumb you will eventually persuade the air pillow to inflate.
Wash blue vinyl blimp with hose to get all the stuff off that stuck to it anyway, and transfer pillow to pool, fighting sudden gale-force wind gusts, and lash at each diagonal with ratty clothesline.
The process became much more fun with the 4x15 foot pillow, which in only half an hour went from being an unwieldy, unmaneuverable, heavy blue vinyl tarpaulin to an extremely unwieldy, unmaneuverable, unaccountably even heavier blue one-inch-to-the-foot scale model of The Hindenburg. With perfect timing a small gale blew up just as I was getting a proper hold on the damned thing and I was swept around the garden from pillar to post, augmenting my manly grip with that of my manly teeth and, on one occasion, one of my legs too, all the while chanting the most powerful charms against the forces arrayed against me in a World Gone Mad. My vocabulary came into its own when I was slammed up against the razor-sharp corners of Mrs Stevie's four-burner barbecue which had decided to join the fun and become just mobile enough in the windy chaos to intercept me as I was pushed backwards and cushion what could have been a nasty collision with something not sharp at all.
Well, to cut a long story shorter, I finally had all these pillows inflated and resting in the water, ready for me to apply the pool cover. Which was when I realised that I had never gotten around to cleaning the crud of it last spring. I had no time to do it now. The topside was clean because I had managed, in typical a moment of genius, to lash the damned thing on upside-down last autumn. But I emphatically did not want the dirty side anywhere near my pristine clean pool what I had spent lo! These Many Hours that morning cleaning out. So I once again mounted the cover on the pool in inverted configuration. This wasn’t optimal because the seams are tucked under and form places where filth can be washed to form colonies of Azathoth-knows what if they point up and out but I was at the end of Mr Tether by then and speaking in tongues. It is my hope that the tented arrangement will allow the dirt to rinse off in the coming fall monsoons.
I had no more ratty clothesline for temporary cover securage, so I cut up one of my nice sheathed ropes. Normally, this would have been unthinkable, but it was getting late, the wind was getting up and I was getting fed up. With the cover on I set the pump to run for twelve hours and dropped in a “winterizing orb”, which is basically a way of adding copper sulphate to the water as an anti-fungal/algaecide. It didn’t work last year, but I noticed they’d changed the instructions and so gave it one more go. Worse comes to worse, I’ll just eat one load of diatomaceous earth next season by vacuuming up the crud at the start of the season. This new filter is so good I was tempted to not bother winterizing at all to tell the truth. The D.E. is so cheap it won’t matter if I have to completely clean out and rebuild the filter after the first cleaning next year, and the water stays clean.
Once the pool was down for the count I dismantled the tent gazebo and packed it into the garage, then called it a day. Mrs Stevie and the Stevieling are off to see Hamlet on Broadway tomorrow so I can get on with productive stuff then. I retired inside to staunch my wounds, shower and mess around with what Mrs Stevie is pleased to call "pointless crap".
I’d earned my supper this day.