JANET ADEGOKE POOL
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.
Into the changing village. Big major oh fuck sigh. It does not take a village to change for swimming. Please, municipal pool designers, ask an end-user before you give us villages. I am available. I know if you’ve got young kids of different genders it’s easier to mill around in a village getting under everyone’s feet, I’ve done enough milling in my time. For everyone else, it’s crap having to change in a tiny damp box, not being able to strip in the shower. Then it’s down to that old conundrum – the non-returnable 20p. GRRRR. Notices everywhere saying KEEP YOUR BELONGINGS SAFE. So, locker designers, answer me this: I put my stuff in the (very thin) locker (too thin, but that’s another fault for another day). I lock it, and swim. I come out, but only need towel and shampoo for shower. I open locker and get that stuff out. NOW WHAT? ANOTHER 20p? Leave it unlocked? Or empty the locker and put my clothes and bag on a bench while I shower WHICH YOU’VE TOLD ME NOT TO DO? HOW FUCKING ANNOYING and ill-thought.
For those who’ve seen me rant on this subject before, apologies. For others, this is me, ranting.
By now, about to go poolside, I was so hungry I could have eaten a float. This is not good. Don’t swim too hungry, people. Don’t swim too full, either. Christ. This is how Goldilocks must have felt.
Poolside, BRIGHT LIGHTS. Football stadium lights I would guess, but as I had to ask what team played at Loftus Rd which we passed en route, you’ll see how limited my football knowledge is. They were big, anyway, gave the place the unnatural over-lit look of a film set, with none of the attendant creative buzz. Slabs of big brash colour tiling around, and a massive once–white metal duct running the length of the once-white metal ceiling. And at one end, the round window; don’t know what happens through the round window, it was dark. The name Janet Adegoke Pool written in over-size fridge magnet letters. At one end, a teaching pool, and even though the water was flat and still you could just TELL it was hot and wee-full, it had that acrid haze.
The main pool is nothing exciting, functional. 25m long, wide enough for four lanes and an extra bit. 2006 - that means five years the tiles have been in, and there’s no sign of decrepitude or mould, so it has nice clean crisp lines. That crunchy dark blue, and white. There’s a sloping ramp running practically the length of the pool for easy access, like the longest footbath. I chose to splosh in on my chosen lane – always a teeny gamble if you don’t know how deep it is. It feels warm as I get in, but as the bottom dips away to the deep end, the water cools. Hot warm cool. Cool warm hot; like a goldfish, I thought that thought, every single length.
My medium lane was next to a swim school, and being as how I’m pathetic, I raced them, determined to beat that thin boy windmilling up the pool and reader, I did. Ha to you, ten year old. It was like swimming through an It’s A Knockout round where contestants get a bucket of water chucked at their head every few seconds, but them’s the breaks. I swam a kilometer. I was hot. And now, so ravagingly hungry that the float was looking like a mere starter, and actually I could have grilled that boy, if he’d wasn’t so thin.
The changing room toilets and showers STANK drainy bad, and there was hair everywhere. I had the quickest shower and headed to the snack vending machines, set in a small, cheaply-seated area clearly based on a Job Seekers Club, with added snacks ground into the dark carpet. No, of course I didn’t chose Nestle.
On the way home, I learned the full prescience of my ‘doing Janet’ comment. Adam told me how once, when he’d swum here before, a woman’s breasts, both of, ‘fell out’ of her costume, and she carried on doing lengths. A voluptuous woman, he said. Had he not been a chivalrous guy and averted his gaze, he'd have copped a right old eyeful, time and again. He asked me, what did I think? I told him what I thought. I told him that my un-voluptuous breasts had never ‘just fallen out’, that I was sure most women, all and any size, would probably say the same, and that it meant something else, was either a treat or a message and whichever, he was a lucky man. Maybe I’m wrong and breasts constantly fall out - if you’re still reading and it’s happened to you, please share the info with us all. And, in the interests of finding a through-line, let us not forget Janet Jackson's breast popping out. From now on, it’s called ‘doing a Janet’.