It was my freestyle, not my breaststroke, that got me into trouble at a harbourside public pool.

I was culturally vilified and made a victim of xenophobia.

Christmas lunch, Boxing Day dinner and family visiting from the US had expanded my love handles and I was keen to shed them.

The only present from my wife was a new pair of budgie smugglers so one weekday morning I puffed my way through 20 laps.


"Are you from overseas," a woman of retirement age asked me as I made my way towards the pool stairs.

"Well, yeah, I was born overseas," I said.

"I thought you couldn't read English," she fired at me, and then added: "You were swimming freestyle in the slow lane. There's no freestyle in the slow lane."

She was deadly serious and seriously offended.

With that, I looked at the individual placards placed at the end of each lane and realised I was in the wrong lane.

There's the "Recreational Area" and then the "Slow Lane, No Freestyle" lane where I committed my swimming sin.

Next came the "Slow Lane, No Breaststroke", where I should have been, followed by a "Medium Lane", "Fast Lane, Continuous swimming only", "Medium/Fast Lane" and then fast, medium and slow lanes.

I acknowledged my mistake and tried to explain to the woman that I too was a regular and had immigrated to Australia 12 years ago, but she up and left.

"You really copped it mate," said a man who overheard her reduce me to non-English speaking immigrant who should do the locals a favour and burn his Speedos.

We joked briefly about it - but this exchange was a mistake.

The Terminator was still poolside and seated on a bench with a man who appeared to be her husband.

"I don't appreciate you embarrassing me," she lashed out

I stopped to respond but she fired again: "You were laughing about me with that man."

I took the high road and politely said that her abuse had an element of bigotry.

"You were swimming freestyle in the slow lane," she yelled.

I turned towards the changeroom and they hurled more abuse until the door shut behind me.

I'll have to visit again soon. On the bright side, it's an interesting place, especially if you don't play by the rules.