Monday, 27 June 2011

Keeping your feet dry

Porchester Rd, Queensway,  Bayswater


 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 Manor Street
 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

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

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.