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.

Tara came swimming with me today, because it was her manor, and I thought that meant she’d know the way. And yet, after a scenic ride through some exclusive over-parked suburbs of London, when we were back almost where we started, I still felt optimistic because she is such good company. And also, the building looked promising.

There are boxes, and then there are boxes. This is a box but in a good way. It's grey, but in a good way.  We took a look in to the pool area from outside, and though we both instantly recoiled at the heap of babies sat on the side of the small pool, the main pool looked almost empty.

At the counter, the receptionist explained the benefits of having a residents card (apart from the obvious benefit of living in Teddington, and having Zac Goldsmith as your MP*.)  A £16 annual card gives you 50p off a swim, so you have to swim 33 times in a year to make it worthwhile. At not even once a week that's not a hard ask, but still, it doesn't exactly set off fireworks does it? Without the card, it’s a hefty £4.30 - another swimmer reminded me that's £1 more expensive than Richmond Pools up the road, reviewed here, and also featuring Tara and Zac Goldsmith. 

Tara and I chatted in the changing rooms, the doors to our cubicles open as we got ready, skittering in and out as if this was boarding school, gay insouciance abounding. The colour scheme is vibrant blue and deep orange which is almost my perfect combination (orange and purple, don’t mock,it's my era), it’s clean and smart. The signage is modern, it's all purposeful and even though we couldn't find the loo, such is the positive mood I put that down to my own stupidity rather than moaning about inadequacies of the place. We put our stuff in lockers, and wandered through.

Warning: the poolside showers are HOT, and right beside the pool, and I like both those facts. Hot is good, you don't want to faff around with cold water before you get in; and right beside the pool makes it an easy part of the process. Good design choices, tick. 

The pool area is very nice. Oh, this is so my thing. We’ve been on this discourse before, the design of the late 70s – Putney Pool has it, reviewed here. Any visible wood is Swedishly dark blonde, spaced pitch-pine boards; there's an open viewing gallery upstairs where you glimpse open brick wall up top, in a very pale brick.  It’s glass-walled on two sides, all the interior trim is modern but not plastic-modern, not that cold frosty blue modern. there’s a yellow concrete decorative strip in places, the yellow-orange of an organic egg yolk. It all works, all this tiny unexciting detail, because the space has lovely proportions. There's a small baby pool next to the 25m adult pool. They’ve done something groovy with the ceiling (where groovy means ‘a bit pointless and PROBABLY A DUST TRAP’) like pieces of toast* slotting downwards in a regular pattern right across it. It must be for acoustics and it works brilliantly because you’d never know by listening that there were thousands of babies being rigorously chucked around in swim nappies just next to you.

*Not actual toast.

I get in, it feels very warm to me. ‘I like this, not too warm’ says Tara. Two lanes clearly state ‘front crawl only’ and my glare at the breaststroking woman in my lane soon puts an end to her shenanigans. (That’s probably what counts for law-breaking in this part of town. I think I'd survive here for about five minutes before I got evicted for throwing coffee grounds at their MP.) Everything is clean, the light is good, it’s quiet and calm. Eventually I get the lane to myself but blimey, it IS hot. If this was notched down about four degrees, I’d say this is hitting high, for an indoor 25m pool. The only signs of the world outside are a few thick felt-tip lines on the bottom of the pool, where I think some Teddington mum had a mechanical breakdown and ran amok with her permanent marker. I’m quietly enjoying ploshing up and down when… peep peep the lifeguard’s whistle blows. There’s an incident in the senior lane. One senior keeps bashing into another senior. PEEP PEEP. Someone’s going to end up getting banned. This is headline stuff in leafy Tedders. Someone get Zac Goldsmith on it.

After that giddy kerfuffle, Tara and I get out. Take 5 items into the shower? She does, I just have one, and let this serve as an illustration that good looks don’t just happen, people, they take maintenance. She, being also more gregarious than low maintenance, unsociable me, gets chatting with a senior lady, who was glad the lifeguard helped as they normally swim in Richmond where ‘you can get away with anything’. From which I infer that there is ALL SORTS going down in the Richmond pools, and I’d keep clear if I were you until the water’s gone right through the filter.

The senior swimmer warns us of the little step as you come out of the shower block, and I pass that tip on, here. We go back through to dress … and there’s men there. It’s a village! Ooops.Tara and I look at each other – we hadn’t realized earlier, changing with our doors open. Still, if any guys got a glimpse, I hope it filled them with warmth and happiness. Yeah. Warmth and happiness. That’s what this pool does to you.

It won’t last.

PS And I’m right. It IS too hot. Tara can’t have everything.

* My warmth and happiness do not extend to Zac Goldsmith. A 'green Tory'? Don't make me laugh. And don't be deceived, either.  He is a bounder and a cad, an oleaginous expenses-cheating, over-privileged, pompous, arrogant jerk. But handsome, at least, if you like that kind of cricket-jumper-over-the-shoulders thing.  


  1. Very enjoyable read as always. I'd like to say it's inspiring, I mean it is, but I have a chlorine allergy so it's either go swimming in a pool or not be all itchy for a week.

  2. Just as an aside, the lucky kids who were bussed here from their primaries to learn to swim in the 80's had the added bonus that the 'L' was missing from the sign outside. I have many happy memories of Teddington Poo. And as an adult pedant, I should warn you that residents of Teddington have been responsible for the election of Vince Cable to parliament since I think 1997. You can't blame us for Zac...