Tuesday, 11 November 2014

WINTER SWIMMING

In the height of our glorious summer, my lovely sister-in-law challenged me to the Ice Bucket Challenge. I didn’t do it then - not just because I hate doing Things That Have Become Too Popular and not just because I am a camera-avoider. I didn’t do it because I’m a cold water swimmer. Ice buckets is what we do. I decided I'd wait and do the challenge when Tooting Lido had frozen over and thus become the biggest best ice bucket in the WORLD*.


You could join me. The lido hasn’t frozen over (yet) but there are plenty of opportunities over the next few weeks to get into a great big ice bucket. What do you mean, that doesn't fill you with glee? The numbers of cold water people are growing – a source of great pleasure  to me (hurrah! more people!) and annoyance (booo, more people). Here follows a handy guide to upcoming events, compiled as if I was Time Out or something. Please do one. No, that came out wrong.  Please join in, I mean.

I’ve written these in order of dates, not order of enthusiasm, because I’m enthusiastic about them all. If there’s a public event you think I should add, please let me know.

Sat 29th Nov: The first one is the Crisis Midwinter swim at aforementioned Tooting Lido, best lido in The World*. On the day of writing this (11/11) the water was still 10 degrees but the nights are getting nippy, so don't worry the water WILL be cold enough. 

Sun 30th Nov: Next up is Tash Splash. At Brockwell Lido this time, which is nearly as good and always about two degrees warmer. This Streamline Swims event is raising cash for Movember charities. Facial hair not an entry requirement.

Sat 13th December: Freeze for Trees. Another Brockwell Lido jump in, supported by Jon Snow and Doon Mackichan, and raising money for the great charity Trees for Cities. (I wrote a book about trees - I’m including an Amazon link here because it’s convenient, but I don’t like them. I use Hive.co.uk.)

ALSO on Sat 13th Dec is the Outdoor Swimming Society's
December Dip at Parliament Hill Lido from 11am - 1 so it's North/South divide. There's short races, and a longer endurance event for the Arctic Adventurer. (Like all the longer swim events, you'll need proof that you have cold water experience. No just turning up and attempting a long swim.)  

17th Jan 2015 Parliament Hill Icy Swim Hootenanny.  This looks a right laugh, and as far as I can tell, contains no boogie-woogie piano, which is a bonus. They rather racily call themselves the enfant terrible of cold water events and it's by invitation only, so get in touch with them if you're keen. 

24th Jan 2015: By this time, you’ll be thoroughly hooked on cold swimming. Addicted even. So this one is a MUST: the 6th UK Cold Water SwimmingChampionships. A fantastic day, and a great atmosphere. You need to get in QUICK to register, but really, it's only a width so you'll be FINE. TRUST ME. Highly recommended.

I wrote about training for the Cold Water Champs before, here. It includes tips on how to do it, and clearly I can't avoid all cameras. But if you'd like more help/tips or whatever, get in touch on Twitter @jennylandreth. See you in the water. 

*South London. Which IS the world.






Thursday, 27 February 2014

THE AQUATIC CENTRE


Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Stratford
London E20 2AQ
Info at: http://www.better.org.uk/leisure/london-aquatics-centre

Open to the public from Sat March 1st.



(Not to be confused with London Aquatic Centre on the Roman Rd, an aquarium and pond supplies shop. If you DO try swimming here please let me know how it went, once you’re out of custody.)

Last time I was here, this place was a building site and I was a vision in hi-vis. I was granted a post-Olympic backstage visit because I was writing a book about the best places to swim in London (to be published on May 1st by Aurum Press – link at the end, you know it.) It was quite a hoo-ha getting on site – it’s probably easier to get into the pool in Buckingham Palace (looks to camera. Small ‘idea’ light goes on above head). I gave up my first born, my passport, my shoe, hat n body size. Sized up, dressed up, I signed in. And I was stunned – even through all sorts of scaffolding and clattery hard-hat mess it was clear this is an utterly beautiful bit of modern architecture. I was lucky enough to go deep into the bowels of the building to the filter room (yeah, I know how odd that sounds) and I thought then, good golly if an episode of Dr Who isn’t filmed here before very long then I am a catfish.

I managed to resist jumping in at the time, and I’ve been wanting to get into that water since. I know ‘that water’ will have been changed, I know I’m not getting homeopathic Adlington. But I loved the pool then and I love it now. This is why:

I love the doors at the main entrance. They lean away from you as you go in, and therefore towards you as you leave. You want them to make the Star Trek noise, which they don’t, so make it yourself.

I love the stairs. Take the stairs down to the pool, not the lift, and see how it curls round like a snail shell, with the fixing circles in plain sight, and inset strips of clouded light. Beautiful.

I love the concrete that's everywhere. It's imperfect, and I love imperfect, it suits me. It’s curved and shaped and blocky and though it’s hard, it’s warm, mellow. Like a living thing. It’s turning me into some sort of concrete hippy. Do those exist?  

I love the wide wide corridors and the minimal bright signage to the changing areas. Beautiful bit of design. Very modern and spacey.

I love the training pool, which we never saw during the Olympics because there was a bloody great wall in the way, hiding their cool-down sessions from us. The bits where they all cried about being losers. It’s a different vibe to the main pool – there’s a low, carved ceiling like a middle eastern potato waffle, the light glows. It feels safe, ambient, enclosed.

I love the bright lemon yellow chunky lockers. I love them. I want everything in my house to be them.

I love the view from the main pool, through massive windows (new windows that replace the banks of Olympic seating, the 'ray wing' seats). Through one, you can see the massive Helter Skelter. You also get to see the sky, so there’s an ever-changing view. It’s absolutely swamped with light, but it seems self-evident to state that windows let light in.

I love the main pool. I really love it. There’s plenty technical details around – like on here - it's enough for me to say, its 50m, 3m deep throughout and deck-edged, so fast. Fabulous. There's filming windows down both sides, you can see the moveable floor; underwater, the sides are quite 'busy' with all that. With the tech spec and lineage, it’s clear that this is NOT a play pool, people. ALTHOUGH, wait for it, I have learned that they have adult-size soft play stuff – like a kinda Total Wipeout set up? I mean, THAT IS COOL, huh? For a birthday party?

I love the ceiling. It waves like water at the swell. It reminds me of the underside of a whale, with lights like barnacles.

I love the concrete. I mentioned the concrete already, didn’t I? I love concrete. It’s because I’m from the Midlands, and from the 60s. I am brutalist through and through.

I love that pool.

I love the diving boards. They look like mammoth tusks forcing their way out of the ground. They are beautiful, curved monoliths. Put your hand on them, no go on, do it. You're touching HISTORY, man. HISTORY. 

I love that there's no clock, no digital timing boards nagging away. But I bet there's a clock by now. I bet it goes into that big gap behind the diving boards, that clock-shaped gap. 

I loved the showers, how they whip you like a horse’s tail. Yep, said that. I even loved the fact that I couldn’t quite work out the system to make them go on. Just have fun randomly waving bits of yourself around. They go on and off when you do that. OUCH.

I love that there are separate female changing rooms and a changing village. That suits people like me who hate the changing village, and people not like me who hate the separate changing rooms. We’re all happy. 

I love that this pool is going to be priced in line with other local facilities. So it really will be legacy, because THAT’s what counts for people in the borough.

I love, REALLY love, that we are SWIMMING in this extraordinary piece of architecture. It’s not a gallery, it’s not private, it’s not exclusive. It’s OURS. For SWIMMING IN. I mean, blimey. What an utter GIFT that is. I can’t quite believe it.

As I swum along, relishing the fact that I was alone in a lane for probably the only time ever, I was asked by the man  in the next lane what I thought of the pool, from a swimmers point of view. I told him (it was some of the above, condensed) and he put my words here. Please continue to believe I was tumble turning. What I didn't say was that I thought the water was a bit warm - four lengths in, and I was itching to rip that hat from my head. It felt warmer than training temperature - maybe pandering to its public? I'm prepared to concede I might be wrong - at this time of year everything feels warm to me.  

What didn’t I love?

Nothing. I didn’t not love anything. Well, I didn’t love the set up from Stratford tube, because you have to walk through the piped music HELL that is Westfield. It feels stranded, a tad blasted heath-ish. But you can’t blame the pool for that, and it’s momentary. As soon as you see the massive ray, beached out there on the gravel, all that will be forgiven.

Oh, and I don't love the Better website. It's not better, it's strange and difficult. Good luck perusing it. 

And if you get in - ENJOY. It’s OURS! I think I said that already. But WOW, eh! WOW.





BOOK LINK: I’m putting the Amazon link up because you can see the lovely cover. IF you feel inclined to buy it, and I hope you do, you can do so through HIVE, who are here. Or just at a bookshop. Thank you please.




Saturday, 17 August 2013

MAP of POOLS

WELCOME TO MY BLOG!

Here's where to start.  

This map (at the link, below) was started voluntarily by an amazingly kind tweeter, @NikkiCoates. Others have since contributed, without seeking acknowledgment or thanks. The moral of the tale? Swimmers are very nice people. Thank you everyone! It's now got all the pools I've reviewed and it's the best way to navigate this blog, which I'll admit can be a bit tricky, otherwise.


HAPPY SWIMMING ROUND LONDON

Monday, 20 May 2013

GO JUMP IN A LAKE



WEST RESERVOIR STOKE NEWINGTON

It's 6.15 on a Sunday morning, and I'm awake. More than awake: I'm packing my bag. In goes some sesame halva I bought to keep my son going while he's revising but then thought 'fuck it. My need is greater than yours,'* a flask of minimally-diluted caffeine, and everything neoprene I own. I'm doing this as silently as I can so as not to wake the house, but we have a puppy who doesn't understand, I have the Ding Dong Eurovision song going round in my head and I can't find my car keys. Sorry, house.

It's 7.30am on the same Sunday morning. I'm standing on a jetty on the edge of a lake watching the sky get light, and wondering how cold the water is. I'm not in the countryside, I'm not on the outskirts of London, I'm in what is described as 'a picturesque corner of Stoke Newington'. Normally I associate Stokie with couples who were once hipsters but then had babies named Olive or Cecil and had to leave their funtime trousers behind for a more sensible slack. Today, though, it is full of people like me, only younger. People who own neoprene. People who have come to this picturesque corner of Stoke Newington looking for early morning water-based fun. Yeah. You heard me. Water-based fun, N4! These are crazy times.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Costumes present



I am terribly uncool. Cool people get sent free stuff, and I never get sent free stuff. I mean, why would I? But about a month ago, I became a little bit cool. (I'm aware this is like your mum saying 'my bad' then grinning at you all pleased with herself. I ask your kind forbearance.) The PR for Speedo found me, via Twitter I think, and offered me a free costume if I’d take part in their game, a game called We Give You a Free Swimming Costume and You Review It. 
(OK so officially they asked if I would ‘take part in the Keep Going Swim after Swim Challenge and test our long lasting Endurance+ swimwear’, but my version is snappier.)

It made me feel, for about ten minutes, that I was totally a key player. They were an amazing ten minutes. Power went to my head. I fired some people. (My children.) Then I remembered that on this blog I wrote, in dead seriosity, how I worry that wearing a costume with Speedo on it might be contravening the Trades Description Act. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating swimwear called Slowlio. And yes, the S DID once peel off one of my costumes…

I told them this. It didn't put them off. The rules of the game, said Speedo’s PR, were that I had to pledge to swim 20 times in 30 days and review it under certain categories (we’ll get to them). I countered with my own rules. First: I would swim as much as I wanted, and if the weather was truly shit or I didn’t feel like it, I wouldn’t do 20 times. Second: I would follow their categories, but I would be totally upfront about accepting a free costume. Thirdly, I would be direct. If I didn’t like it, I would say.  I’m not for sale, the Maaaaaan.

From this you can see how I went, in the space of about twenty minutes  from being a powerful mogul who fires people, to some kind of stoner loser from a bad 80s movie. Tragic.

Oh, a final thing I pointed out to them. I already wear Speedo most of the time. 

The impressive thing is that even though I am hardly the most amenable of dates, they didn’t give up in exasperation. 

Anyway. They sent the costume, with a free swim hat and a pair of goggles. I was a bit disappointed – it was a cheap costume, I thought I was going to get something wildly out my league. Something carved out of GOLD. And I had told them I was going to be direct, so I was: I cannot wear these goggles, I said. I have the wrong shaped face. I will stick with my own goggles. ‘Forget the goggles’ they said, backing away rapidly, with a clear subtext of ‘get your wrong shaped face out of ours’. I did not feel the need to roadtest the swim hat. A swim hat is a swim hat, and I shunned their discreet black one in preference for my own BRIGHT YELLOW one that SHOUTS: COLD WATER SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS. I am nothing if not subtle.

The picture above is me, in the suit of promo, taken by Warren King (@warrenking) at Charlton Lido - swim 15 out of 20. You can see I'm not lying about the yellow hat and the large goggles. You can also see the costume. I think it looks (shrugs) OK. It's a flippin freezing day, and my smile says 'make this quick, and make it kind.' Speedo PR asked me to judge this costume in three specific areas. I’ve been as honest as you would expect of me:

Them: Endurance+ fabric is longer lasting with 20 times more fade resistance than conventional elastane swimwear, with improved snag resistance. Did you find the swimwear to be more resilient?

Me: No. Not ‘more resilient’. I wouldn’t expect a costume to fade or show signs of wear after 20 swims. I didn’t snag it, but I don’t think I’ve ever, in all my life ‘snagged’ a costume. How does one even do that? There are rarely sharp snaggy things in pools. But what I did find was that when I was doing swim training,  an hour of fast laps, the seams  where the colour strips down each side were sewn in, rubbed. I have photographic evidence, but I’m sparing you. I ended up with striations down each side. They irritated my skin, basically. If I was on a real endurance swim, that would make things very sore. But I am quite sensitive (I KNOW!).

Them: Endurance+ fabric is 100% chlorine resistant and contains no elastane, so it will not degrade in chlorinated water. Did you find the fabric retained its colour /quality compared to your normal swimwear?

Me: Well, here's the thing. My normal swimwear is Speedo Endurance. And I certainly wouldn’t expect a brand like Speedo to lose its colour after twenty swims. It started off as a very soft fabric and lost that quite quickly though. It also was not flattering in the bosom department, and my god I need help there. Lovely shape generally, though. And it ‘looked good in the pool’ said my very supportive friend.

Them: Endurance+ fabric is quick drying as it has a lower level of moisture absorption. Did your Speedo Endurance+ swimsuit dry quicker than your normal swimsuit?  

Me: My oh my, it DOES dry quickly! You can almost practically wring it dry. About as much as my existing Speedo Endurance costume. It’s also the kind of fabric that you can put on a bit damp (meh, it happens every now and again) and it doesn’t feel shuddery.

Verdict overall? They asked the wrong questions for only 20 swims. But still: the way I’ve written it allows them to get their message across about Endurance + three times, and I’ve got a new costume with itchy bits. So we can all be ‘reasonably’ happy. 

And in homage to Leanne Shapton’s lovely book, Swimming Studies, the following photos are my swimming costumes so far in 2013.


Promo suit back
Promo suit front
1) The suit we shall call 'promo'. 
With the Stripes of Evil down each side. Nice back, but any outdoor swimmer will tell you that you have to choose your summer costumes VERY carefully, to get the required tan lines exactly right. Apart from aforementioned seams, this is a great comfy fit but the wrong back for me in Summer. I note, too, while photographing my cossies that it's the only one without front lining. Which could explain the naff bosom thing. I wouldn't  knowingly pick a pink trim, either. Not for any anti-girly thing but er, that, probably. 


Hot suit front
Hot suit back

2) The hot suit
No, not because it makes me look hot. There is much psychology involved in cold water swimming. The psychology involved in this costume says ‘These longer legs will keep you toasty warm.’ As if. But they do mean you don’t have to shave your bits all winter unless, well, wow, your pubes grow right down your leg that far.






Aus costume back
Aus costume front
3)  The Aus costume. I bought this costume in Melbourne last Easter. It is one year old, I wore it all last year. Great colours, eh. From it I learned that I’m a little longer in the body than your average Oz woman (oooch, hunch those shoulders), it’s a pain to wiggle in and out of and if I had boobs I reckon they’d pop right out the top. But it holds me in well and I love the shape and colour of it. Tricksy back for a summer outdoor swimmer, though, but thin straps. We like thin straps. 




Sauna costume back
Sauna costume front
4) The sauna costume
Now, check the back of this one out - this is what I mean about a good swimming back for the summer tan. (I'm not obsessed. (I am a bit. I admit. Blame the 70s. ) This one has now been relegated to wearing in the sauna - it's knackered, a bit out of shape and the colour has faded. It's from the Speedo 'Sculpture' range even though I don't have the kind of body that needs sculpture. My friend Jackie has the same one and it looks a million times better on her (I look like the twin deprived of sustenance in the womb). 
But I love the shape of this one, it's very easy to get on and off, very very comfy. THE SEAMS DON'T RUB! 


Really what I want is a halterneck, Speedo. A halterneck for flatchested birds, that I can train in. If you wouldn't mind ... 






Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Not a pool review


A chance to put a poem on my blog, and him:



You’ve got to love Robert Newman. Don't worry, you won't be lonely, lots of us already do. He is a proper creative genius of the old type. You don’t know who he is? Eons ago, when I was but a girl, he was one half of Newman and Baddiel (he was the ‘Newman’, David Baddiel was the ‘Baddiel’)  the first comedy duo to play Wembley Arena in the days when *ahem* comedy was the new rock n roll - NOT MY PHRASE don’t shoot me. He’s a superb comedian, one of the most intelligent of his generation, which might tell you that it ain’t all knob gags*; he did a brilliant show about peak oil which was stunning in its breadth of reference as well as for the laughs. He’s a writer too -  here’s a link to his new novel, out on April 11th - The Trade Secret. I have pre-ordered my copy already. (And yes, I’m using ‘pre-order’ after Robert said I was wrong to complain about ‘pre-order’ not being a thing and that it was actually a thing. He's so much smarter than me I believed him.) 

So why else have you got to love him? Because Robert, when we were talking about swimming, told me that to stop it getting boring he had an Auden poem - A Walk After Dark - that he recited in the pool and it took him two lengths of Marshall St - about 60m. It is entirely fitting - he’s an erudite, literate, well-read man with, it turns out, a good memory. I asked him what the poem was, because I wanted to find out if I swam faster than him. That too is entirely fitting - I’m a shallow woman. The poem is below; I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I memorised a poem, but I’m going to try this one. You could, too. For the purposes of this exercise I think I shall re-title it: Am I Faster Than Robert Newman? I suspect that for most of us, the answer is ‘bloody hell yes, but he is a far superior writer’. 


A cloudless night like this
Can set the spirit soaring:
After a tiring day
The clockwork spectacle is
Impressive in a slightly boring
Eighteenth-century way.

It soothed adolescence a lot
To meet so shameless a stare;
The things I did could not
Be so shocking as they said
If that would still be there
After the shocked were dead

Now, unready to die
Bur already at the stage
When one starts to resent the young,
I am glad those points in the sky
May also be counted among
The creatures of middle-age.

It’s cosier thinking of night
As more an Old People’s Home
Than a shed for a faultless machine,
That the red pre-Cambrian light
Is gone like Imperial Rome
Or myself at seventeen.

Yet however much we may like
The stoic manner in which
The classical authors wrote,
Only the young and rich
Have the nerve or the figure to strike
The lacrimae rerum note.

For the present stalks abroad
Like the past and its wronged again
Whimper and are ignored,
And the truth cannot be hid;
Somebody chose their pain,
What needn’t have happened did.

Occurring this very night
By no established rule,
Some event may already have hurled
Its first little No at the right
Of the laws we accept to school
Our post-diluvian world:

But the stars burn on overhead,
Unconscious of final ends,
As I walk home to bed,
Asking what judgment waits
My person, all my friends,
And these United States.


I wonder what other people do to fill their minds while they're swimming? Share, if you want, particularly if it's more poems.

* I am not anti knob gags. Neither is he, I don’t think. Maybe he is. I’m not, though.