Friday, 9 December 2011

When he says floss, I floss.



LATCHMERE LEISURE CENTRE
Burns Road, Battersea,
London SW11 5AD
020 7207 8004
Added bonus: I can cross Latchmere off my list
Negative: I realise my dentist is fallible.

I’m very obedient when it comes to my teeth, which may be explained by the fact that my dad was a dentist. My dentist now is the Action Man of the mouth, and I always do what he says. When he says floss, I floss. When he says rinse, I rinse.  When he told me it was good at the Latchmere at around 7am, I went to the Latchmere at around 7am.

I have previous with this pool; I bought my babies here many many times. This is how it would go: I would try, tongue out in concentration, to manoeuvre my tiny car into the sliver of space between two huge Battersea tractors, the effort bringing me out in a sweat; I’d lug the small happy child and various bags to the pool. Either I’d undress the child first or myself, but either way was tricky, particularly in the days before they could walk (when you had to find some way to balance them) or in the days when they could walk (when they’d try to escape and bump their heads before we’d even start). Temperature at this point: very hot. We’d head to the water. Child stands on the edge, reluctantly. I encourage. Child falls over on slippy tiles. I get cross. Child goes in. We bob around. I get very cold. I have to decide - shoulders under to keep warm, or standing up ankle deep in kid piss. Child tries the big slide but gets scared at the top. I stand there saying ‘come on! There’s children waiting! Come on! It’s not so scary. OH FOR FUCK SAKE COME DOWN THE FUCKING SLIDE.’  I look at the clock - we’ve been here for three minutes. We bob some more. I try and invent games. The games are too scary. I try and make eye contact with other bobbing mummies. They are too busy making eye contact with their own children. While my attention is elsewhere, child slides underwater, and scrabbles at my costume to get head above water.  Child cries. People stare. Child discovers they love the slide and go up and down up and down up and down a hundred times. I lie on the pool floor waiting. Time to get out!  Child won’t get out. I drag them out by one arm. One of us is crying. Temperature at this point: catastrophic. Aaaah. Fun times.





Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Accidentally in Croydon



THORNTON HEATH POOL
100 The High Street,Thornton Heath
London CR7 8LF
0208 689 5300
Added bonus: Near Tooting Lido (by car)
Negative: I’ve accidentally come to Croydon ... (Added bonus II: ... not by racist tram.)

I have good conversations in Tooting Lido sauna, even when I’m in there on my own (b’dum tisch). It’s strangely personal but not, sitting, limbs fire red, nylon-to-nylon with swimmers you may or may not know. When it’s packed, I worry I might meld with the person next to me in some hot elastic bonding disaster. There’s a code of practice, unwritten of course, whereby the last person to come in is offered the hottest spot in the top corner. I was in there t’other day, talking about this blog to some poor trapped cold sods, one of whom took a slow revenge by recommending Charlton Lido, which has been shut for some time, I found out. Inez, however, recommended Thornton Heath pool, the current place-to-swim for refugees from the old Streatham pool. I thought I should give it a try.





Thursday, 24 November 2011

Swim clockwise round the island



ARCHWAY POOL
1 Macdonald Road,
London N19 5DD
020 7263 0613
Opening times: Definitely shut Weds mornings, which is the time I first visited.
Added bonus: if you like wallowing in ennui
Negative points: milky milky milky

Something has occurred to me (it probably occurred to some of you a while back, but I’m a bit slow). It is this: for the purposes of a blog I chose to start, I’m paying money to visit, on a weekly basis, the shit holes of this city, and then I spend time moaning about them - again, through choice. What a fucking idiot. I could stop doing this blog, but leaving it unfinished would just add a sense of bloody failure to the whole pointless escapade. And one  annoying extra about the whole process is that the worse the area the pool is in, the worse the pool. That seems to me to be the wrong way round. Shit areas should have nice pools, cool gold plated ones where you can swim in natural water and be wafted dry by gods, they deserve it as a respite from life’s rubbish.

On this wash of ennui, I return to Archway Pool. I say return, because I turned up the week before to find it shuts on Wednesday mornings and I wasn’t even allowed to peek in, because ‘the manager was there’. Obviously the manager is a gorgon, and the advice was for my own good. The outside was not promising, so I hadn’t returned with high hopes. Jaded dirty paint and a half-hearted attempt at a wavy logo on a shitty street just past a McDonalds, 80s metal doors in horrid peeling primary paint and a crappy reception, beyond which the hum of light from a big white space calls promisingly…


Friday, 18 November 2011

How to make the swimmer in your life happy*



This beautiful pic of Tooting Lido was taken on 20/11/11  by @JPDBuckley.

A work in progress.
(I've updated this once, but please carry on contributing your suggestions, either via comments here, or tweet me @jennylandreth and I’ll add them if I like them, and they’re not illegal.)

‘You’re SO DIFFICULT to buy for’ is usually nonsense. It translates as ‘Just tell me. I’m too lazy or stupid to have picked up clues or to apply my brain. If we’re honest, I barely know you, because all the time you were talking, I was dreaming about Sarah Lund’.

And just because I can swim doesn’t mean I want another copy of Wild Swim, nice as it is. That was last year’s glut. Then there’s the swimming stuff that will never scream GIFT.  Buying someone nose clips or mouldable ear wax is like buying a woman Tampax. It’s necessary but never a treat, not even for someone with a worryingly irregular cycle. It doesn’t show you’re intuitive and resourceful and have been taking careful notes. It’s a sign you forgot, and went to the late night chemist.

So, I’ve made a start on a list of things that swimmers might like for Christmas. If you’re buying for a swimmer, it might cut out the possibility of that gritted-teeth ‘you know me so well’.  If the swimmer in your life is you, give this list, appropriately highlighted, to someone who either loves you, or is cashed up sufficiently to pop a little summat under your tree.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Doing a Janet



JANET ADEGOKE  POOL
Bloemfontein Road

Shepherds Bush
London
W12 7DB
020 8735 4900

Added bonus: The receptionist.
Minus points for: really stinking loos and shower
You could also: visit Westfield. Or stick pins in your eyes.

When I said to Adam ‘let’s do Janet’, I had no idea how prescient that comment was. He knew what I meant - to my knowledge there’s no other pool in the world named after a Janet, unless there’s a Janet Street Porter Pool somewhere? Imagine the fulsome joy of that, if you must. The late Janet Adegoke was the first black woman in  London to become a mayor –  Hammersmith and Fulham, since you ask; that's her in the pic - she looked nice, eh. This version of the pool was built in 2006, as part of Phoenix Leisure Centre, which leads one to presume it rose from ashes.

The entrance to the centre is not glamorous on this dark eve, it feels like a little turning that might take you to a car boot sale. But the winged structure of the new build flings some modern light into the gloom. The reception is standard, but the receptionist was not, she was very cheery. I tried to pay with a ‘schwim cap’ that my sis had given me, but the hour was too late, so I handed over £3.70 which, having paid over a fiver in some places, I figured then was quite cheap. In retrospect, they should knock a quid off for the stench from the showers.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Stating the obvious (x2)



HAMPTON POOL
High Street
Hampton, Middlesex TW12 2ST
020 8255 1116
I found this pic on Flickr - it's by Luca Patriccioli. Hope he doesn't mind the borrow.
Added bonus: hot outdoor steam
Negative points: You’d have to be hard-pushed or very pernickety to find something negative about this pool. Fortunately,  I am both of those things. Narrow lanes.

I was going to save this pool for the Xmas/New Year break, as if I was giving you all a little gift, because we swim here then en famille* – as an escape from that ‘oh god if we just keep eating we’re going to die’ feeling. Lots of other families do the same, which tells you two things. 1: it’s very very busy with small people at that time and 2, we are not the only ones who need the momentary escape from en famille* that being underwater brings. No one can ask you for more cake underwater. But you’ve all been so good this year you can have it early.

I don’t want to upset anyone, so I'm going to tread carefully. (Ha ha ha, I don't care about upsetting anyone, couldn't actually give a shit, this is my blog and if you get upset, I look forward to reading about it on your blog.) There is much that is positive about this place, so I can understand why it inspires the pool love. And outdoor pools have much more loyal fans than their poor indoor relations can muster. But I am worried they might fight me if I'm mean, with their strong swimmy arms.  If someone came on here and started being mean about Tooting Lido I might offer them outside (chorus: you already are outside, you loon). Bearing all that in mind, I’m putting on an armour-plated swim hat.






Monday, 31 October 2011

Nearly-night swimming



JUBILEE LEISURE CENTRE
Caird Street
London W10 4RR
020 8960 9629
Interesting to note: One of my fave UK lidos – Penzance - is also called Jubilee. YAAAWWNNN. 
Added bonus: Indoor sunbathing
Negative (for me): Men’s changing is better than women’s.

I’ll clarify that negative immediately before you start getting ideas: I went to this pool with my friend Adam, who took the task of assessing the men’s changing rooms very seriously. ‘I tried out the hairdryer on your behalf’ he said ‘and I think your readers will be pleased to know it works’. Adam reported that the men’s changing area was extremely nice, very well tiled, clean, and with plenty of ‘gunk’ in the showers. I think he meant shower gel. I hope he meant shower gel. Adam reckons that of all the local authority pools he’s visited, these changing rooms are the best; however, he recommends you (men) wait a few weeks before visiting, until they have the lockers sorted, as he had to carry his work suit round after swimming and it got wet. Fortunately it was dark when we walked back to the tube so no one could see his damp bits.


Monday, 17 October 2011

When I win the lottery ...



CALLY POOL
229 Caledonian Road
London N1 0NH
020 7278 1890
Added bonus: A proper greengrocer on Caledonian Rd, the fruit and veg not in stupid plastic bowls. Pomegranites 49p. What a full service I offer.
Negative: Someone said recently that I wasn’t having much luck on this blog lately. And so it continues.

I used the walk down from Caledonian Rd tube station to contemplate bacon sandwiches and freedom, as the road goes past Pentonville Prison, and the café opposite it – The Break Out, ha ha -  smelled deliciously fried baconly greasy. And maybe because I’d walked past the high-up tiny-paned grime-covered windows of the jail, my first thought as I saw Cally Pool was that it would be the perfect location for exterior shots for a TV drama set in an asylum seekers detention centre. The building equivalent of a body-double. 

In reception, the open entrance to the men’s changing room seems practically on the street, and you can see the learner pool immediately. A school party was coming in behind me, but I felt relaxed, they would be in that pool, not mine.  I went through to change, and my heart, that had sunk at the horrible blue corrugated box exterior, sank a bit more.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Memories of Wyndley




PUTNEY LEISURE CENTRE
Dryburgh Rd
Putney, London SW15 1BL
Phone 0208 785 0388
Added bonus: I parked free on the road outside. (You may have no idea what a bonus this is. It’s a big bonus.)
Negative: Someone said of this blog ‘it’s all getting a bit autobiographical, isn’t it?’ as if me including stuff about myself could possibly be a bad thing. I’m sussing out as I go along how much swimming has featured in my life - more than I thought, and sometimes obliquely. This is the only blog in the world that includes bits about me, which some people would say is a damn shame*. However, if you don’t like the bits about me, don’t read this blog.

*No actual people would say that. 

The shallow end of the pool was jumping, an aquarobics class in full swing, water sloshing and bouncing along to UH-OH YES! I’m the GREAT! Pre-te-hen-der-der-der-der-der-der-der-der …and the lifeguard leapt into action. I’m glad to say I’ve never seen one move so fast. She was off that high chair quicker than I could say ‘oh fuck, bad timing’ and managed to de-stick the CD  before any of the class went into some dreadful low-nrg hypnotic state and slipped under water requiring actual saving.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Taking the pulse



PECKHAM PULSE
10 Melon Road 
Peckham
London, SE15 5QN
Tel: 0844 893 3888
Added bonus: there isn’t one. Oh yea, I parked for free because the machine was broken. Probably still is, but I can’t offer a guarantee.
Negative: You could say that.

Welcome to the Peckham Pulse Healthy Living Centre! This isn’t just swimming! This is HEALTHY LIVING, people! The whole thing, you know, all the healthy living stuff. Time to GET WITH THE PROGRAMME.

Or, better, go and look at the library next door (pic above) which was award-winningly architected, then hop a bus and go up the road to Camberwell Baths instead. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Go straight to Rosie's.



BRIXTON RECREATION CENTRE
(aka Brixton Rec)
27 Brixton Station Rd
London SW9 8QQ
020 7926 9779
Added bonus: Market Row
Points off for: the pool.

If you noticed that the photo above is not pool-related, well done, take the rest of the day off. If you thought it was pool related, where the hell are you swimming?  It’s a cup of coffee, of course, a flat white since you ask, more of which later.

You'll know by now that I don’t usually shy away from a bad joke, but I’m trying not to say ‘Brixton Wreck more like!’ partly because it’s so naff it makes my verrucas twinge* and partly because it’s not really true any more. Yes, faithful readers, I have history with this pool. I know, you’re patient, you’ve followed round all the pools I’ve been to before, and listened to me wiffling on about my swimming history, and I do thank you for that, I am grateful for your attentions. In brief, when Clapham Manor pool was open, it was often closed, and then in absolute desperation I’d come here, but only rarely because it was so shit - literally, there were always tales about turds in the water, though I never witnessed a floater myself.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Willes Pool



KENTISH TOWN SPORTS CENTRE
Grafton Road
London NW5 3DU
020 7974 7000

Turns out, I didn’t have such a raucous 20s after all. Doing this blog I’m coming to realize how many pools I swam in during those years, and I’m disappointed in my younger self. I used to live in Kentish Town, so I knew where this pool was without looking it up. I trolled down the street and stopped at the impressive redbrick gothic building, yep, that’s it, memory served me well – it says ‘Public Baths’ up there, in fancy gold, looks better than it did, smarter.  I tried the doors, newly painted in restoration French grey. Hmm. Locked. I poked my head around the corner and saw a sign to a much more modest entrance, a ramped stone walkway with inlaid lights.  Behind a modern reception desk a man with the cheery demeanour of a Chuckle Brother welcomes me back, tells me I’d need £400,000 if I wanted to go in the original way - it’s been sold for flats. I sigh like I did when I saw that what used to be Ken’ish Tahn’s lovely independent Owl Bookshop is now a Tesco. He pointed me to a leaflet celebrating the first year of the pool’s refurb, and assured me that it’s all much improved. I’ll be the judge of that,  I thought snarkily, and handed over a comparatively moderate £4.50 to swim.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Shadders



ST GEORGE’S POOL
221 The Highway
City of London E1W 3BP
020 7709 9714
Added bonus: The DLR. Cheap. (£3.60)
Negative points: check school lesson times. Also, the non-returnable locker thing (see below).

Shadwell. Say it a bit Welsh, in a homage to the John Sparkes character of the olden comedy days. If posh people lived here, they would probably call it Shadders. But they don’t, not a one. I used to, on the 17th floor – great views - of one of two tower blocks that dominated the area then, with a man who eventually asked me to leave because I made the bathroom floor too wet when I got out of the bath. Now I’m older and wiser and have my own bathroom floor which gets wet from other people, I see how wrong it all was, and wish to humbly apologise via this blog.*

Monday, 5 September 2011

Casual swimming



HIGHBURY POOLS
Highbury Crescent
London N5 1RR
020 7704 2312
Negative: Overheard: ‘It’s vay dirty, considering how much you pay for membership’.
Warning: quite a lot of preamble.

When one’s children are small, one does things that one might not otherwise chose to do: to pass the time, knacker them out, attempt to maintain adult relationships, to bitterly cling on to what one deemed a life, as if the life one had before children suddenly on their birth became so retrospectively brilliant its passing must be mourned.  In that joyful spirit of acceptance, I used to meet my old friend Robert, whose son was about the same age as mine, in the playground of Highbury Fields, on the understanding that they would play while we chatted, laughed, heads back ha ha ha, discussed creative ideas. Our understanding, note, not theirs. Actually our whole time was spent trying to maintain peace, rubbing elbows and knees saying ‘oh, that didn’t hurt just a little scratch’, yelling NO DON’T HIT STOP GET DOWN, sighing tiredly and doling out bits of organic dried mango where they craved beef jerky. Once, it was too wet for the playground so we took them swimming to Highbury Pools, narrowing our chances of conversation even further, even though my lovely successful Alpha-in-every-other-way Male friend hated swimming, couldn’t, actually, but that didn’t matter as we didn’t get much chance to have both legs off the bottom of the pool anyway.



Monday, 29 August 2011

Just don't call it Uxbridge Lido



UXBRIDGE LIDO
AKA Hillingdon Sport & Leisure Complex
Gatting Way 
Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 1ES

0845 130 7324
Added bonus: People are impressed you’re going in, if that kind of thing makes you feel big or clever.
Negative: I realise that I may be opening a can of worms labelled ‘Orpington’ by coming  here, as it’s officially Middlesex. But heck, it's a cold water lido, on the tube and within the M25. Also, yeah? it’s my blog, I make my own rules?

‘People don’t call it Uxbridge Lido’ said the taxi driver. ‘People call it Hillingdon Sport and Leisure Complex’. Woah, I thought, the people of Uxbridge are loquacious. Want a shorter way to express yourself? No, thanks, they say, we prefer things official, verbose and preferably a bit of a mouthful. Verbally dextrous the people of Uxbridge may be, but it seems they don’t like cold water swimming - or not yet, anyway.

We got a cab from the station because the marathon trek to the end of the line was as far from home as some holidays I’ve been on. My swim pal Jackie must have felt the same because as we arrived she said ‘it’s like travelling to a holiday cottage and hoping it will be OK’. The sign at the entrance was OVERSIZED and unpromisingly-council but once we went through a small brick archway reminiscent of stable blocks in National Trust properties (what do you mean, too middle class a reference point?) straight away, you know it’s more than OK. The pool is laid out at your feet right in front of you, and it’s bloomin lovely.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Pronounced Bal-HAM.



BALHAM LEISURE CENTRE
Elmfield Road
London SW17 8AN
020 8772 9577
Opening times: many
Added value: if you join the gym you can do a Zumba class, a ‘dynamic Latin-hip hop fusion exercise fitness system’. Some of us would sooner eat a dog than do this. (Me.)

Disclaimer 1: I have sat for many hours in the reception of this gym/pool combo watching my child’s swim lesson through plate-glass windows, doing that thumbs-up ‘I am watching, I’m watching THROUGH the newspaper’ thing. I have sometimes used her lesson time to swim, but you have to be a bit desperate, and I’m rarely that.

Disclaimer 2:  Child loves it when they put all the inflatables in (weekends, avoid avoid avoid), it’s our local pool, it’s a well-used place that I would fight to keep open.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Shlurpentine



SERPENTINE LIDO
Hyde Park
London W2 2UH
020 7706 3422
Added bonus: open every day up til Sept 12th, so get a shimmy on.
Points off for: having to walk through in your cozzie and feeling the shame of your children (may only apply to me). The café coffee is a bit ...meh.   

If we get a nice day between now and Sept 12th, or even a less-shit one, or -  and let’s face it this is the likely option -  a totally shit day when you think you might kill something if you stay indoors another second - go here. If you don’t like it, I’ll give you your money back.* If you don’t go now, I’ll make you go on Christmas Day at 7am* and you won’t like that.

This is one of those places that inspires devotees and long tranches of historical history, and there are more posh people in the story of this lido than most others. (I can’t be bothered to recount it all here, but these people have.) It’s famous in swimmy circles, well used, right in the middle of a very busy park and millions of years old, so here’s a surprising thing:  in the middle of August, at midday in reasonable warmth – I was the only person swimming.  There’s something unnerving about that, something that makes a person feel a bit almost self-conscious, like you’re on show. An embarrassment of riches: all this, just for little old me? But within minutes the environs made me forget about being on display, focus right down on what's around  in that moment and then, being on my own was an unexpected school holiday treat.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sporting glamour



CRYSTAL PALACE POOL
Ledrington Road
London
SE19 2BB
020 8778 0131
Opening times: really good until you’ve got there and a gala is on and they’ve shut the whole pool. It’s only not a long way if you live near by. So, CHECK ONLINE, or call. 
Added value: you can scare a whole school party in the communal changing rooms
Minus points: I was told they play piped music here. Is it true? It may be a red herring. If it is true, it's an abomination. What fresh hell is that?

Someone said to me how much they hated this pool because of the building it’s in. That person is a fool. I think it’s fantastic, and I must be right, because it’s Grade II listed. The National Sports Centre was built in the mid-60’s and while I accept that not everyone loves that era of brutal modernity (I use that term as if I know anything about architecture. I don’t) I’m from the Midlands, so I feel right at home in bleak and hard.

Before you start, give yourself a shiny if you manage to get there without inadvertently wandering into the park. Clue: if you see dinosaurs, you've gone wrong.  This is a huge behemoth of a place, the frontage could be an airport, all glass and outstretched concrete wings. Quite daunting. I feel small.  The building contains massive amounts of concrete, de rigeur at the time of its conception, in huge v-shaped pillars holding up the roof, in bars across glass, in steps and walkways. That rough unpolished grey sits beside masses of polished dark wood; there are textural walls of unfinished stone, the cold new metal of internal lifts and then, as contrast, the unnatural red of plastic tip-up auditorium seats.


Monday, 18 July 2011

Cold comfort


PARLIAMENT HILL LIDO
Gordon House Rd, Hampstead Heath
London NW5 1LP
0207 485 5757
Added bonus: This picture - isn’t it great? It’s by Darren Hayman, and is one of a series he’s putting out to accompany an album of songs about lidos, next year sometime. I've heard a couple of the tracks, and they're beautiful. I'm VERY LUCKY to have this preview, and glad to share. Please appreciate fully. His site is here.
Added bonus II: you could do a quick dip in Hampstead Ponds, then do a serious swim here. Or vice versa, I’m not prescriptive.

Parliament Hill Lido sits at the bottom of Hampstead Heath, which rises above it green and magnificent.  It’s one of those historic pools that has its own Wiki page, which tells me it was built in 1938, and other stuff you can check out here. You can note from that page the demise of the diving board, and I note from real life observation that there is now one teeny tiny slide – a bit of gratuitous kids stuff at the shallow end. I didn’t have a go on the slide. I might have got stuck, and while I have little personal dignity, that's an ignomy too far. I might have had a go on a bigger slide at the deep end, had there been one, particularly as no one was there, so nobody would have known.  

Monday, 11 July 2011

Swim Peaks

CAMBERWELL LEISURE CENTRE
Artichoke Pl, London SE5 8TS
020 7703 3024
Added bonus: South London Gallery up the road
Try spotting: bad shop names nearby.
(I got the title Swim Peaks from the lovely @HurstAKA, who some of you will know as Mark Hurst or Mark Miwurdz - thanks to him, and 50p.) 

Ooooooh. Gold writing!  Up there, at the top of the building! It says, big gold letters: CAMBERWELL PUBLIC BATHS. How fancy!  Doesn’t that make you want to go in? No? GOLD WRITING? Gah, you’re hard.

When I checked out this pool, it had been open for just over a month, and from now on if I have to swim indoors I really only want to go to pools that have been open just over a month. Lucky Camberwell residents.

It started a bit weird. For about twenty minutes, I was a) the only woman swimming b) the only person wearing goggles  c) the only one not doing head-up breast stroke and d) had the smallest breasts in the pool.  You can’t unnotice that kind of thing, and it felt like I’d been accidentally let in to some sort of Masonic ritual where large men poddle up and down, round and round, boobs all a wobble, not getting their minimal hair wet. Then, phew, another woman came in. But she was in an asymetrical  bright red costume with an ostentatious frill swooping across her frontage, her hair in plaits tied on the top of her head. She was Miss Latvia 1993. I swum on, trying not to worry it was all going a bit David Lynch.


Monday, 4 July 2011

Keeping my mouth shut



KENWOOD LADIES POND
Off Millfield Lane, Hampstead Heath
London NW5 1QR
0207 485 4491
Advice: Leave your ill-mannered loutish self behind, in South London, where it belongs. Also, men.

I’m in London, but I’m not.  I’m on Hampstead Heath, home of mixed, men’s and women’s swimming ponds, though today I’m just visiting the women’s pond. Ladies. Women’s. Oh, whatever…  my gorgeous swimming companions are playwright Tanika Gupta and writer Caitlin Davies, who has researched the ponds for a book, Taking the Waters, A swim round Hampstead Heath, and is therefore an expert. They are glorious, funny, warm and successful, and I’m a lucky woman to have their company. Lucky lady. Woman. Whatever...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Keeping your feet dry



PORCHESTER CENTRE
Porchester Rd, Queensway,  Bayswater

London

 W2 5HS
020 7792 2919
Added bonus: one of the few remainingTurkish baths in the country is next door. Also, places to smoke shisha pipes.
Negative: I didn’t have time to have one (Turkish bath, or shisha.) 

The trains were fooffed, and it was a boiling cloudy day, so my bag (I carry  enough swim stuff for an extended family) had made its mark in sweat on my back by the time I saw the proudly plain 50s font of the neon sign above the grand pillars of the Porchester Centre, a fantastic Grade II listed building.  In through double doors, the kind my grandfather might have pushed open to go to work – heavy wood, a large brass handle -  into the dignified architecture of the entrance. This is aged municipal, from a time when municipal might have meant conservative and upstanding, and when conservative might not have been such an insult. Tiles and dark panelling and hefty yellow stone walls with a solid air of permanence and solemnity. The motto should be: The decision to swim is not taken lightly.  It’s similar to the council building I got married in (also a Westminster facility), and reeks of the serious daily work of men of old, poring over massive ledgers crammed with tiny spidery numbers.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The god of luck.



CHELSEA LEISURE CENTRE
Chelsea Manor Street
 Chelsea 
London
 SW3 5PL
020 7352 6985
Added bonus:  I didn’t use a cliché about not wanting to go to Chelsea in the title.
Negative: the crappy pic. Sorry.

I was pondering on the nature of ‘luck’ on my way here, about how our perception of it alters our experience of it, about it being essentially the same as religion – if I choose to believe in ‘luck’, which is about as abstract a notion as ‘god’, it’ll give me solace in bleak times, won’t it? The idea that I may in the future get lucky? 

I was also wondering if I could get to this pool without engaging in the nonsense that is the King’s Rd.  I couldn’t. The horribly poncy big car/big hair/sunglasses on a cloudy day combo put more than a crimp in my mood as I trudged in, miserable rain dripping through my crappy cagoule, at the arse end of a Sunday ‘summer’ afternoon. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

No shaving. No spitting



TOOTING LEISURE CENTRE
Greaves Place, off Garratt Lane
London SW17 ONE
0208 333 7555
Added points for: little seating areas
Negative: my own stupidity.

Oooh, I thought in reception, look at all this design: a big crèche, a café with a kiddie ball park, little seating areas with fabric bucket chairs arranged round plastic plants, where you could have a meeting, maybe, about ‘going forward’ or ‘toploading’;  all very Premier Inn, I thought. The receptionist gave me a paper bracelet to wear and directions to the changing rooms, so I wandered off and found ‘female changing’. I got my stuff out, and realised I’d left my nice costume at home and had to wear my baggy old one, by which time I’d lost my paper bracelet. Then I couldn’t find signs to the pool. I was in the wrong changing rooms, someone told me, and helpfully pointed me across the café area. I was not negotiating a path through the buggies in my baggy costume, so I dressed again, and went to ‘Changing Village’. Exasperated sigh. Changing doesn’t need a village, it needs benches, a bit of privacy and a few lockers. I needed a padlock for the lockers, which I could have hired or bought here, but I’m glad I didn’t; having got the wrong place and costume and lost my bracelet, what were the chances of me remembering a lock combination?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Swimming in sweat



BRENTFORD FOUNTAIN LEISURE CENTRE
658 Chiswick High Road
London TW8 0HJ
0845 456 6675
ONLY bonus: It cost £6.20 for one adult and 3 kids, almost what it costs for one adult in central London. But adults should be allowed in free, as no one would choose this unless they had to take kids. I feel the same about Disneyland, and most 3D movies.
Negative points:  Are the people of Brentford part-sand, that crumbles  off as they swim?

Once you’ve negotiated the acrid smell of old chlorination mixed with cigarette smoke on the steps of this building, the next thing that hits you is the bluff heat as you go in. Yeay!  Must be another school holiday, and another fun pool.

I’m discovering, a bit late, that Geography A level doesn't help me find my way anywhere. I stood in front of the sign, crossly saying WHERE’S THE SIGN until a helpful child of my acquaintance pointed it out. The first bit of the changing area is a bank of lockers, but then I couldn’t find where to take my clothes off.  There were a few men in dismal sagging shorts to the left, so we wandered right and eventually found a little boxy area with a few narrow cubicles to change in. Then we couldn’t find the pool. It’s not so complicated, I was being difficult and recalcitrant. It happens, we know that.

Monday, 30 May 2011

A lido? In Crouch End?



CROUCH END LIDO
Park Road Leisure Centre

Park Road

Hornsey
 N8 8JN
020 8341 3567
Added bonus:  The pool website says that Simon Pegg and David Tennant live in Crouch End. Star-spotting. Hold me back. (SEE NOTE) 
Negative points: Seasonal. 

This review will mine the gap between ‘hidden gem’ and ‘never heard of it’.

I won’t ask this question to the queue stretching along the road on a beautiful summer day, but - how come so few people I know who swim in lidos have swum in this lido? Even my friends Wendy and John, who live three yards away, haven't swum in it - mind you, they’re not a litmus test, they’re private pool people. Hmm. I know. *purses lips, mean little nod.* It’s no more off the beaten track than, say, Uxbridge (dodges while people from Crouch End throw things) and it can’t be the North/South divide, because I've swum in Parliament Hill Lido.  Somehow, this one has slipped off my lido radar. Yours too?





Monday, 23 May 2011

Nice and easy



POOLS on the PARK
Old Deer Park
Twickenham Road, Richmond TW9 2SL
020 8940 0561
Added bonus: In out in out
Negative: The flight path.

‘Don’t get your hopes up’ muttered Tara, darkly, as we approached the long, low modernist building, ‘this is an outdoor pool, not a lido’. It’s a fine distinction, I recognise what she meant, even if I can’t define it. But I admit I was expecting great things. Richmond, after all, is home of the Jaggers, the Woods, Zac Goldsmith, other, less obnoxious, people (including Tara) -  it’s posh. I found myself using French words. ‘It’s very distingue’, I pronounced badly. ‘Tres jolie’. I could see palms everywhere. Maybe I thought I was in Cannes. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Sign says NO



Seven Islands Leisure Centre
100 Lower Road

Rotherhithe, London, SE16 2TU

0844 893 3888
Added bonus: Decathlon, two mins away, cheap sporting goods.
Negative: The photo says it.  

Sounds romantic, Seven Islands. I imagined swimming from one pool to another, past waterfalls and jungly plants, floating cocktail bars with bamboo roofs, laughter, happiness, all for a meagre £4 entrance fee.  Yeah, well. This is Rotherhithe and romance buggered off some time ago down the road to Canary Wharf, til it realized there were no yellow birds there and that these names were a con. Apparently, this concrete block of a building opened in 1965 ‘before it was finally completed’, and it might be nice if it’s ever finished. As it is, the words ‘hole’ and ‘shit’ spring to mind, not necessarily in that order. Still, I’m here to serve, so in it I swam.