Monday, 28 May 2012

When the going gets hot.

I said right at the start of this blog that the main thing wrong with it is that time spent swimming elsewhere is time that could be spent swimming at Tooting Lido.

I  ♥ Tooting Lido. Some people who live in my house think I go on about it too much, but I don’t care. I ♥ it in winter and in summer and in all the bits in between. And the bits in between this year have dragged on, and on, and on. The water was stuck for weeks at 10 degrees. Which is fine, but I’m not some kind of idiot, I don’t want cold cold all year round. I love winter swimming, in winter. I do NOT love winter swimming in the middle of May.

And in winter, I can do a dip in Tooting, then a proper swim elsewhere. May and June are usually GLORIOUS, water heating up, those of us acclimatised gradually upping our lengths. But now it's blazing hot? Now I shall avoid it like the plague until a small cloud creeps across the sky and the masses run away.  Now - it's for everyone else. So now, I magnanimously give you the creamy warm water, the dodging between lilos and people chatting as they go and grrrrr, the triathletes with no pool etiquette. Other people's children. Instead, shall I tube for hours across the wastelands of London to slog up and down some shitty dive and be caustic about the cleanliness? Nah. I'll rig up an outdoor shower in my garden and dream about an empty pool in the summer rain. 

 Go in the rain. Go under the cloud. The added peace is worth it. The crisp wash of cold water against your skin, the bliss of a long length, the flash of sun in your goggles. I’m not a hippy (fuck it, I am) but there is zen-like transcendence about getting lost in your thoughts while your arms mechanically churn over and over. Go for a swim, sort a problem out; now that is magic.  I know people who say ‘I can’t swim in cold water’ meaning, I’m made of more delicate material than you, you great clodding peasant. But give it a go. Yes, it’ll feel cold when you get in, even/especially on a hot day. But if you get out at that point, you’re just doing the hard bit. Stay in. Do the first length slowly, breaststroke. Put your face in gradually. Don’t fight it. Relax. You'll enjoy it, I absolutely promise, or I'll give you all the money you've spent on my blog back. 

Here are our outdoor London pools, almost in order of my preference. Try Tooting or nearby Brockwell, a surprisingly nice pool at Uxbridge or the steely cold bliss of Parliament Hill. Try Crouch End Lido, even, or for the nature try Hampstead Ponds or the Serpentine. If you need your water warm (which I understand less and less as the air heats up) try London Fields or Hampton Court. The lido at Charlton is heated minimally, and while it may be surrounded by a building site, the pool is lovely.  Richmond Pool and the Oasis both have outdoor bits, the first cold, the latter positively hot. 

Also, breaking the self-imposed boundaries of my own blog, there is a pool within daytrip distance that I highly recommend. Pells Pool in Lewes (all the info is here) is spring-fed, and sometimes manages to be warmer than other places (don’t ask me, it’s physics, innit. Or, er, chemistry, I don't flippin know). It’s a very appealing space, as mellow and warm as the old high brick wall down one side of it; and a nice big pool so room for all sorts, whether you’re a triathlete or 5. (Are you 5? Wow. You're gifted, but wasting your childhood reading this. Go and do Lego.) Lots of sunbathing space, too and some history, and there’s a lovely homemade chocolate shop by Lewes station. 

We also have Arundel, which I haven't tested so can't endorse, and Saltdean Lido, currently shut. Saltdean has a different vibe. A potentially beautiful Art Deco building right by the coast, it’s less cosy than Pells; there’s a bit of the ‘blasted heath’ feel to it. Sometimes the sea can blow a salty unkind wind across, cutting through the harshest of suns. And here, campaigners have fought the cold wind of destruction, and having cleared the first hurdle, now wait for permissions etc to move into the next phase - being open. They had a terrible fight with the previous owner who we shall refer to as ‘some arsehole’, and who wanted to demolish this listed treasure and put up flats. The arsehole didn't look after the pool,  in the hope, I suspect, that it might spontaneously fall down.  But regardless of some arsehole, the pool is substantial, and very nice for a proper trainy kind of cold swim, with kid pools and a picnic lawn if you have to bring small people along. There is a brilliant campaign (here)  that we should all support, in gratitude for a group of people who worked extremely hard. I wish them happy swimming, eventually. And I'll shout, when the gates open again. 

And if after any one of those you don’t prefer swimming outdoors, you cannot say I haven't tried. 

* PS If you see me at Tooting Lido, please say hello. I’m the one in tinted goggles and with a hunch (costume too short).

* If you have any other suggestions in easy day trip distance, let us know, via the comments section below, PLEASE! 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Nobody said it was easy.

63 Clissold Road Hackney
London N16 9EX
020 7254 5574
Warning: contains the C* bomb (oldplay)
Pic: Pool detail.  If I was cooler, I’d have put the pics the other way round.

I made a deal. My whole parenting is based on deals; along with bribes, complex negotiation and begging, they comprise my whole technique. I say ‘technique’, it’s more ‘making it up as I go along’, and is mostly begging. The deal was, if girl child came to the pool with me, she could pick the music for the car. She chose Coldplay. So NOW who’s the winner, the triumphant glint in her eye taunted me. We hurtled towards N16 with me wittering nostalgically about my friends in the North London. The Scientist came on, and I gaily suggested it would be a good song for their school leavers ceremony (the lyrics kind of fit, it’s harmless, give me a break, they’re 11). She turned her face away, she couldn't speak, she was in tears.  We sang it with feeling ‘NOBODY said it was EEEEAASSAAAAY’. Then I was in tears. Both of us, me for my nostalgia and for her; her for nostalgia that hadn’t even happened yet. NO ONE EVER SAID THAT IT WOULD BE THIS HARD.

The next track though, she wanted to skip, said it was a bit grumpy. Oooh, I said, I like grumpy. Grumpy suits me. Have we not met? That made her laugh, so me too. We got to the pool quite cheered up.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The excellence of friends

Vicarage Road, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 8EZ
020 8977 9911
Shit, it’s Middlesex.
But London Borough of Richmond, so it counts.

I have excellent friends. If I used such a phrase, and if my friends had appeared from above on a ray of light with a bunch of angels singing, I’d say I was ‘blessed’. Instead, I’ll say that I’m blooming lucky, I don’t think you’d find a finer bunch of men and women, I commend them to you. One of them, Tara, has been my friend long time, we have had some times together, oh my lord don’t ask, and if she ever gets a friend vacancy, get in there quick. She is absolute tops. As an added bonus, she’s the kind of woman who stops traffic. And no, she’s not a lollipop lady.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

(2) Reasons to be Cheerful

281 Prince Regent Lane, Plaistow
London E13 8SD
020 7511 4477
Happy that: we’re in Ian Dury territory
Sad that: I still can’t pronounce Plaistow however many times I’m told.
A warning: This is the very nadir of grumpiness and sarcasm.  However, that means things cannot actually get worse (cue song) (and book). 

I try quite often to persuade members of my family to move far far away. This is not as mean as it sounds, I just think it’d be nice to visit them somewhere nice. If I could be in charge, some would live in Sydney, some in San Francisco and some on Skiathos, and I’d visit regularly. Instead, my choices include Oxford, Erdington and Essex, which is not the same thing.  Not the same thing at all.

But as this leisure centre is conveniently situated on our route through to Essex, I can kill two birds to everyone else’s one. It’s a shitty rainy Sunday, which perfectly suits the A13, surely one of the most dismal roads in the country. Just when you think it can’t get worse, there’s Dagenham.