Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Wrong side of the Gherkin

190 Burdett Road, Mile End
London E3 4HL
020 8709 4420
Housekeeping note: Please stick with this. I do get to the swimming, eventually ...

The colour of sport in Mile End is yellow. You may be expecting a smart ‘who knew?’ at this point. But I knew. Because I'm a yellow. I shall explain. 

Let’s start with some semantics. There is a seemingly innocuous question that can be particularly revealing about the askers background. It’s this: ‘where were you at school?’ If you get asked that, or the even shorter ‘where were you?’ rather than ‘where did you go to school’ the assumption is that you were ‘somewhere’. By ‘somewhere, they mean ‘somewhere we consider important’ (where ‘important’ means practically in the Cabinet already, and ‘they/we’ means ‘people who need to perpetuate myths about what is best, and then do their utmost to keep them out of people’s reach’.)  If your answer is ‘up the road’ rather than one of the acceptable private names, it shows that you were, in fact,  ‘nowhere’. I went to school ‘nowhere’ though at the time it looked pretty somewhere to me, with all its buildings, teachers, pupils, books etc.

And now, on to statistics. ‘What house were you in?’ is equally revealing. If you went ‘somewhere’, your house was probably named after an Old Boy or (for the more radical establishment) Old Girl whose families had owned whole areas of Surrey or estates in Northumberland.  The rest of us, educated nowhere, split into four easy Houses: Reds, Yellows, Blues and Greens. Around 7% of the UK is privately educated; of the remaining percentage, I suggest we knock off 3% for home educators, because if they were asked which house they were in they would just say ‘my own’. Divide 90 by 4, and we can conclude that 22.5% of us were Yellows.  That’s a lot of Yellows!  I was a Yellow, I probably still am as I never officially signed out; I passed that Yellow birthright down to my own Yellow  children (it was that, or the shooting rights on my little place in Scotland). And in their paint and d├ęcor choices, Mile End Park Leisure Centre  has identified itself with the Yellows, has come down not just on the side of the Best of Fellows, but on the whole house colour system. They’re saying proudly: we’re anti-elitist. We, Mile End Park Leisure Centre, are sport for the people. Looking round the area, I’d say they made the right choice.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


261 Lewisham High Street London SE13 6NJ
0208 690 2123
*Or it might be. A bit. In a good way. You’ll thank me.

I was changing in the lilac and purple cubicles of Ladywell Leisure Centre wondering if it was me or the changing room that smelled of wee. Costume on, hat ready, I got my goggles out of the bag but before I could apply my usual anti-fog spray, I noticed they were covered in fine Majorcan sand. I took them to the sink and prodded and poked and waved my hand randomly over the tap before I realised that this was one of those taps you actually had to turn ON. A relic. Sadly I rinsed the sand off the goggles, listening to a couple of women chatting in the shower about how sorry they would be when this pool was gone. The pool was doomed. To be honest, for me it was doomed well before that point. I’m sorry, Ladywell, but I wasn’t swimming on a level playing field.