Monday, 28 March 2011

On the waterfront

30 Woolwich High St
London SE18 6DL
020 8317 5000
Added value: there is water here
Negative points: not very nice water.
Take: children. And fruit.

Yes, indeed, there is water here. It’s a ‘water park’, after all, and you should stick with whatever image that instantly conjures up. This is the kind of place I visit to prove to my children I’M A FUN PERSON not a miserable old bag, which always backfires because, being the antithesis of everything I like, it is guaranteed to turn me into a miserable old bag. Why does that lesson remain unlearned?

If you’ve been on holiday in this country and it’s rained the whole time, and you have children to entertain, you, like me, will have been to a similar hangar. You drive past every day thinking ‘please don’t let us be so bored we accidentally go here. Please let the sun come out. Please save me from the Fun Palace’. You promise the kids you will DEFINITELY go there one day, and then try every possible option to avoid it - including, in our case, a Museum of Salt. It’s where I find myself staring into the eyes of other adults trying to communicate non-verbally – can we bond in our dislike of this place? But no one ever seems to hate it as much as me, not even the mum busy slapping her son for floating face-down pretending to be dead.

Actually having a proper swim here felt a little freakish, but I managed it, no claxons went off, and I was only tempted to get out when a man sat on the pool edge cleaning the gunk from between his toes into the water. (I assume he’s not a permanent feature.) The pool is a laned, shallow 25-metres, cool in temperature only - about twenty degrees cooler than the fun splash pools (which I ventured into when I spotted an opportunity to shout at my child) where the water is at optimal temperature for unidentifiable skin rashes to bloom. Along one wall, a line of glassy-eyed adults sit waiting in their coats, staring disconnectedly at the huge metal ducting tubes across the high ceiling, maybe wondering if they could fit in them and crawl away. The place is busy with swimming lessons, which feels odd as swimming is the least relevant activity here. Still, in a brief moment of positivity, I felt glad for all those hours I’d waited for my own child to FOR CHRIST SAKE LEARN TO SWIM, because today she toddled off with her friend to slide, time and time again, down the massive anaconda tunnel. They loved it, thought the smaller slides were a bit babyish, and poddled around for ages in a deeper pool with aggressive water sprays, and a small Jacuzzi which, they reported, had ‘fierce bubbling’.

The changing rooms are utterly municipal with individual booths, cracked formica benches and lockers you don’t trust will either lock, or then unlock. The only showers I could find afterwards were pool-side, where you could wash off other people’s discarded skin and plasters but not get properly clean.  

It reminds me of Splashdown in Bournemouth (with added diversity), a collection of tubes, flumes and horrible little warm pools of piss and verruca scabs that we visited on one of these drear November weekends that make you realize what it’s like to be dead. The food options are similar too; here, the ‘diner’ (DINER? What hellish piece of misguided modern middle management-speak is this?) offers a full range of indigestible crap like sugar-sprinkled doughnuts that can irradicate any final vestige of wellbeing just by existing. Hence the advise to bring fruit. But then, I took bags of apples and carrots to Disneyland because a defrosted salad is about the only ‘fresh’ stuff  in a 25-mile radius, which is a travesty, and just one more reason why I hate Disneyland.

NB I am able to find enjoyment in places that don’t serve fruit. I’m not mad.


  1. Count yourself lucky Jen - miles worse are the ones in France when it's raining. Preposterus entry prices for non-locals (budget Eu30 for a family of 4) plus you can only wear skiddly diddlies if your a chap not bermudas. You can buy them from vending machines yes - trunks in a packet for another Eu12.

  2. I can second that. About one hour from Bordeaux there is a water park with a dedicated pissing pool that I inadvertently floated into. It was boarded with people with misshapen heads either dribbling or pulling that just had a big wee face. I managed despite my best attempts to contract an infection that eventually burst an ear drum. I have a long memory oh Aqua Parc from hell...pardon?

  3. Funny place my mates band used to play parties there way back when we were playing tranmshed - bet it's shabby now

  4. Just love your turn of phrase. Nice find on a bank holiday, look forward to more!

  5. I use to swim when over in Spain in a beautiful hot outdoor pool in my home town La Coruna, when I moved to the new development Royal Arsenal, the Waterfront was my only option. I joined Swim London, but after a few swimming session at 7am, to avoid the dirty pool and disgusting changing facilities I gave up swimming from now. I just can stand this place is dirty, and if you unlucky to go late is full of people who blow the nose on the pool or spit on the water.