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Ladies’ Baths Lure Goddesses and Doormats

By Dan Hutton on November 29, 2011 in

The Zen state I’ve acquired from morning swims at the divinely situated, heaven on earth – reserved since 1886 for ‘women only’ – is about to dissipate into a seething ball of flames. It happens every year when the weather warms up. McIver’s Women’s Baths (commonly known as Coogee Ladies’ Baths) is a rare sanctuary for women to swim, relax, meditate, read, gather and rejuvenate.

It makes Bali, Thailand and the Greek Islands’ beauty appear secondary. This lot of grassy, tiered landscape with a rock pool finish is a sacred spot to numerous locals of all ages, shapes and colours. Many of us rise at dawn to greet the day with a private swim, some chose to end it with a night swim, often topless – to feel truly free – something you can’t really do down at Coogee pool or Wiley’s without a sideward gawk (or being arrested).

On a good day, the place is an eye-opener for visitors who discover this magical spot. Recently I heard an American-accented girl of around 14 years say to her mum, “This is the most beautiful place we’ve been so far Mom”. Silently and proudly I thought, “And one of the most beautiful you’re likely to come across – ever”. But then there’s the bad days when what’s normally a nurturing carpet of warm rock, rich green grass and salty water turns ugly.

“Yah g’day (to be said at a decibel level you’d reserve for someone sitting two tables over from you at a Coogee Café), have you checked the system? Well try checking under the purchase order number, right, aha… listen mate give us a call back once you’ve done that and we’ll go form there.”

This, a direct quote from a young lady (and I use the term loosely) sporting a knee length basketball singlet with a Nokia stitched to her ear and a fag hanging out of her mouth – propped there by nothing bar her lips; in her spare hand she wielded a can of Coke – a can that I’d have nothing against, had it left with said basketball fan after her two-hour phone conference. Along with the Coke, I had the joy of picking up the butts of her Peter Stuyvesants once she’d finished disturbing the peace. I was nonplussed; in fact, I was pissed off.

A planned afternoon of relaxation with Colleen McCullough’s biography became a punishing few hours of trying to block out the crap this girl was speaking, smoking and leaving behind – divinity ruined. Meanwhile, she didn’t even get in the bloody water. Could she not have stayed home and fielded calls from there?

I went back on the Sunday. The same thing happened with a different littering gaggle of girls who arrived stereo in hand, playing obnoxious music. After their picnic, they too left their rubbish behind and their cigarette butts plugged firmly into the grass. Kidding, I am not.

There’s a Pablo Picasso exhibition happening in town right now, which brings to mind something he once said: “For me there are only two types of women: goddesses and doormats”.

In an ironic twist, come summer local goddesses are often made feel more like doormats, which begs the question: why it is so difficult for visitors to the National Trust listed site to act as its name suggests – like ‘ladies’?