Monday, 29 August 2011

Just don't call it 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.

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


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 cafĂ© 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.