Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sporting glamour

Ledrington Road
SE19 2BB
020 8778 0131
Opening times: really good until you’ve got there and a gala is on and they’ve shut the whole pool. It’s only not a long way if you live near by. So, CHECK ONLINE, or call. 
Added value: you can scare a whole school party in the communal changing rooms
Minus points: I was told they play piped music here. Is it true? It may be a red herring. If it is true, it's an abomination. What fresh hell is that?

Someone said to me how much they hated this pool because of the building it’s in. That person is a fool. I think it’s fantastic, and I must be right, because it’s Grade II listed. The National Sports Centre was built in the mid-60’s and while I accept that not everyone loves that era of brutal modernity (I use that term as if I know anything about architecture. I don’t) I’m from the Midlands, so I feel right at home in bleak and hard.

Before you start, give yourself a shiny if you manage to get there without inadvertently wandering into the park. Clue: if you see dinosaurs, you've gone wrong.  This is a huge behemoth of a place, the frontage could be an airport, all glass and outstretched concrete wings. Quite daunting. I feel small.  The building contains massive amounts of concrete, de rigeur at the time of its conception, in huge v-shaped pillars holding up the roof, in bars across glass, in steps and walkways. That rough unpolished grey sits beside masses of polished dark wood; there are textural walls of unfinished stone, the cold new metal of internal lifts and then, as contrast, the unnatural red of plastic tip-up auditorium seats.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Cold comfort

Gordon House Rd, Hampstead Heath
London NW5 1LP
0207 485 5757
Added bonus: This picture - isn’t it great? It’s by Darren Hayman, and is one of a series he’s putting out to accompany an album of songs about lidos, next year sometime. I've heard a couple of the tracks, and they're beautiful. I'm VERY LUCKY to have this preview, and glad to share. Please appreciate fully. His site is here.
Added bonus II: you could do a quick dip in Hampstead Ponds, then do a serious swim here. Or vice versa, I’m not prescriptive.

Parliament Hill Lido sits at the bottom of Hampstead Heath, which rises above it green and magnificent.  It’s one of those historic pools that has its own Wiki page, which tells me it was built in 1938, and other stuff you can check out here. You can note from that page the demise of the diving board, and I note from real life observation that there is now one teeny tiny slide – a bit of gratuitous kids stuff at the shallow end. I didn’t have a go on the slide. I might have got stuck, and while I have little personal dignity, that's an ignomy too far. I might have had a go on a bigger slide at the deep end, had there been one, particularly as no one was there, so nobody would have known.  

Monday, 11 July 2011

Swim Peaks

Artichoke Pl, London SE5 8TS
020 7703 3024
Added bonus: South London Gallery up the road
Try spotting: bad shop names nearby.
(I got the title Swim Peaks from the lovely @HurstAKA, who some of you will know as Mark Hurst or Mark Miwurdz - thanks to him, and 50p.) 

Ooooooh. Gold writing!  Up there, at the top of the building! It says, big gold letters: CAMBERWELL PUBLIC BATHS. How fancy!  Doesn’t that make you want to go in? No? GOLD WRITING? Gah, you’re hard.

When I checked out this pool, it had been open for just over a month, and from now on if I have to swim indoors I really only want to go to pools that have been open just over a month. Lucky Camberwell residents.

It started a bit weird. For about twenty minutes, I was a) the only woman swimming b) the only person wearing goggles  c) the only one not doing head-up breast stroke and d) had the smallest breasts in the pool.  You can’t unnotice that kind of thing, and it felt like I’d been accidentally let in to some sort of Masonic ritual where large men poddle up and down, round and round, boobs all a wobble, not getting their minimal hair wet. Then, phew, another woman came in. But she was in an asymetrical  bright red costume with an ostentatious frill swooping across her frontage, her hair in plaits tied on the top of her head. She was Miss Latvia 1993. I swum on, trying not to worry it was all going a bit David Lynch.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Keeping my mouth shut

Off Millfield Lane, Hampstead Heath
London NW5 1QR
0207 485 4491
Advice: Leave your ill-mannered loutish self behind, in South London, where it belongs. Also, men.

I’m in London, but I’m not.  I’m on Hampstead Heath, home of mixed, men’s and women’s swimming ponds, though today I’m just visiting the women’s pond. Ladies. Women’s. Oh, whatever…  my gorgeous swimming companions are playwright Tanika Gupta and writer Caitlin Davies, who has researched the ponds for a book, Taking the Waters, A swim round Hampstead Heath, and is therefore an expert. They are glorious, funny, warm and successful, and I’m a lucky woman to have their company. Lucky lady. Woman. Whatever...