There are 1001 ways to entertain yourself around Lewisham. One moment you could be watching a swing band inspiring Manor Park to move to its rhythm. Another you could be grinding up Hilly Fields with 250 others in the latest park run. And then you could be watching blood being spilled at the local pool between two mothers watching their children take a swimming lesson.
Such was my experience in the Glass Mill Leisure Centre this afternoon. As my four year-old kicked his legs on the other side of the glass and learned the finer points of clinging to ribbon float, a heated discussion broke out beside me between two mothers who were also spectating.
It was, as these things so often are, an incredibly worthwhile flashpoint … over a chair, and whether the recent arrival had asked politely enough to use that space. (One of those silver cube chairs if anyone who knows the poolside café is wondering). There was more back and forth. A little bit of under-the-breath effing.
“Or you’ll what?” one of the women postured.
“There’s enough fighting in the world,” another watching mother told the pair. Children looked up and stared. And that, bar a bit of muttering and staring, seemed to be that.
But no. As the lessons drew to a close, the chair war flashed back into life. Two more women got involved. Voices were raised. Children got properly spooked. Punches were thrown. Big men rushed over to stand between the combatants. Blood was spilled. Security called. By the time my four-year-old was changed from his lesson, seven police officers were on the premises, hearing the whole sorry tale for themselves.
And those silver chairs aren’t even very comfortable…