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.
Down the middle of this grotty room was a row of red metal hooks and dark wood benches that must have been here for years. I expect they pre-date the pool. I expect they existed first, and people thought ‘what facility shall we build round this handy metal hook/bench combo?’ The answer must have been ‘whatever we do, let’s make it glum’. To either side are lockers and a few cubicles, the ceiling like a white metal colander with special dust-collecting abilities. I started to change as the school party came in. Now I know how a naked adult woman can embarrass 10/11-year old girls, it happens regularly in my house with my own daughter, so I tried to be discreet, but failed. The teacher chivvied them along, her eyes firmly fixed on the lottery ticket she was filling in as she sporadically yelled ‘Come on girls. Moooooove’. Not sure she was setting them much of an example, filling in a lottery ticket. Christ, the message was, give me three numbers and I’m out of here.
Oh. Disappointingly, the girls followed me poolside. There were lessons in the main pool while the learner pool remained peacefully empty. There was only one wide lane left for public swimming. (Two actually, I discovered. The middle one said ‘swimming lessons’, but it wasn’t. I could have gone in there, but that would have taken me nearer the noise and splashing source and I was happier clinging to the opposite edge.) I should add at this point that I’d lost my normal goggles, so was wearing my oversized tinted goggles that would be better for skiing. I did, it must be said, look like a twat. Care? Not I.
The room is dingily decorated in beige and maroon. I haven’t seen maroon for some years, but am enjoying saying the word out loud. (It was definitely maroon and not plum or aubergine. I checked, without my dark goggles on.) Maroon and beige is not an enlivening colour combination. It was popular in the 70s, but so were Findus Crispy Pancakes, and we have all since had our fill and politely moved on. There’s a dark glass box to one side, decorated with blue sticky-back plastic figures in various poses that hint it’s either a gym or there was some funny contortion business going on. The roof is humped and corrugated, two long windows running the length, and two fluorescent light strips meanly glowing dark candle yellow. There’s a thin window, too, running right round, just under the ceiling letting in a flicker of sunlight and giving a view on to the top of the Caledonian Rd tree.
The pool is 25m long, half as wide and I knew it was 28 degrees because a digital display in reception told me so. There’s no deep end, just a dip in the middle, but even then, well within my depth. The water is opaque, a little chalky in its whiteness; I’m not worried about the sand on the bottom as someone on this blog kindly told me about filtration systems. Hot and cloudy is about the opposite of what I like. And I’m distracted today, thinking about a work thing I was waiting to hear about (it didn’t come off). Sometimes I feel that heat slows me down, I suspect physiologically that’s wrong, but something did slow me down today, probably incipient disappointment. Fortunately the one lane I was in lovely and wide, enough for the big guy knocking at my heels to overtake easily.
Into the shower, a shabby affair that someone has tried to brighten with a job lot of cheap shower curtains patterned with faded blues and flowers; they reminded me of the skirted costumes the older Jamaican women at Clapham Manor pool used to wear for their aquarobics. I used to moan about that pool, til it went. I wonder where those ladies bob around now?