I was dreading my first return to the pool after kicking my latest cold, but it was great today. Flooded with sunlight and not too hot or too full, I started enjoying it almost immediately (sometimes it takes the whole 30 minutes before it starts to feel like fun) and it wasn’t anything like as hard as I expected. In fact, although I’m probably doing it All Wrong, I feel like I have a rhythm with my breast stroke legs now. Hurrah!
More memory time as I’ve been off swimming again…
Last MayI went to Switzerland and twice failed to swim in wild water due entirely to my own lack of courage. In Berne I went to the lovely Marzili swimming complex . A Swiss acquaintance of mine poopoos the complex itself, saying: ‘The Marzili is soulless, sorry. Avoid it next time. You need to get into the Aare further upstream”. However, I enjoyed my 40 minutes in their large clear unheated lido – and the weather was perfect for it. I did go up to the edge of the River Aare and saw many people swimming, but I was a bit intimidated by the flow of the river – which runs through a really narrow gorge here. Later I talked about it with the Librarian of the Swiss Parliament (who sometimes takes his staff down for an afternoon when the House isn’t sitting) and he recommended the river with a discussion as follows:
Me: ‘but the river flows so fast, aren’t you always forced to swim with the current?’
He: ‘Oh yes, you can only ever swim in the direction of the river’
Me: ‘But isn’t that dangerous? there’s a sluice just before the bridge.’
He: ‘Oh yes, you must get out or you’ll be forced over the weir’
I couldn’t quite understand how if you’re forced to swim with the strong current and are hurtling towards a sluice you can feel secure that you can get out… but then maybe it’s different further up the Aare.
In Lausanne, I had even less excuse for not swimming in the lake when I went to Bellerive plage. The place was deserted, it was windy, but there was a lifeguard… basically I did my 30 minutes in the lovely L-shaped lido, and stood at the edge of the lake realising I was getting sunburned and that the friends I was meeting were probably already in the pub (they were). And got dressed and went and joined them.
It really took my dip in Hickling Broad in August to make me realise that I was brave enough to go into wild water on my own. Thanks Outdoor Swimming Friend!
On Saturday I returned to the Kenwood Ladies bathing pond which has now gone up to a whole 9 degrees. I’m pleased to announce that no-one laughed at me and the same lifeguard who did last time was very helpful getting me a season ticket application form.
There were more people this time – although as each of us was only doing about 5 minutes, we didn’t really have to share the water (at least not with each other, there were some mercifully unaggressive geese in the water and a form of exotic duck I have yet to identify). I tend to be a bit intimidated by the Pond Ladies who are either north london eccentrics who think nothing of 3 degrees and have been doing it for years, or wetsuited triathlon types. However, everyone was very friendly and I couldn’t help noticing that the Australian wetsuited woman who later mentioned she was training for Swim London in the Thames got in after me and out before me. But it’s not a competition.
All things going well, I’m moving to the vicinity of Parliament Hill at some point in the next month or two. I’m very excited at the thought of being able to run downstairs, have a 5 minute dip in the lido and run back up for a cup of tea before work. But I’m also thinking about whether, for year-round indoor swims, I abandon Usual Pool – which is well situated, although a good 45 minutes walk from my new home and 25 from work – and start going to Swiss Cottage, a pool I don’t really like very much since they rebuilt it, although it’s next to the Jubilee line which will be handy for work. At some point this year, the lovely Prince of Wales Road pool is due to open, and it is promised to be restored to its original municipal glory. Looking at the Swim London website I realise that this card might then become a good buy as I could also use London Borough of Hackney’s Pools (Ex-pool attendant boyfriend lives in between Clissold Pool and London Fields Lido) although Westminster and Islington are likely to remain excluded as they’re not run by GLL.
But I would miss the peace and quiet of Usual Pool, not to mention the Sauna and availability of a shower in central London whenever I want it. Besides, how often do you see a grown man swimming in a full wetsuit in a 25 foot indoor pool in a public bath? He did take it off after a bit (he was wearing trunks underneath) so I assume he’s trying to acclimatise himself to wearing it in preparation for a triathlon and fitting his training around work hours. Bless!
I was a little disappointed today as I went to the Porchester Spa, the borough of Westminster’s cut price steam and sauna extension to their public baths, in the hope of some proper girly steams and saunas as well as a swim. However, Sunday after 4pm is couples only. I had naively thought that ‘the couples’ session meant that men and women were sharing the space, not that people on their own were not allowed. Both the attendant and the bloke in the caff implied that if I hung around I’d find someone to go in with me (it’s not restricted to different-sex couples) but I sort of thought that would be against the spirit. Besides, paying £23 for a swim, sauna, steam, jacuzzi and lounge around on the bed, when a swim alone costs a fiver is worth it when you are staying a few hours, but not really when you’re really only going to be there an extra hour.
So, I went to the other entrance, paid my fiver (which is a lot, but I assume the discounts are being passed back to residents) and cheered right up when I got the pool, as I’d forgotten how pretty it is and how full of natural light (the last time I was here it was raining cats and dogs, whereas today the pool was bathed in sunshine). When I arrived there was tons of space as well, although it filled up a bit (not with children – the children’s pool was open separately, which was a great boon to all). Strangely, having made the decision to stay in the slow lane (because I wanted to concentrate on my leg action, not because I’d had a snack a bit too soon before swimming and had mid-afternoon hungover sleepiness, honestly), there was only one genuinely slow swimmer in it with me. Presumably the others were put off the quite fast swimmers in the medium lane who were put off the fast lane by some olympic studs, but I couldn’t see that far to the other end of the pool. Outdoor Swimming Friend claims that men always go to the fast lane and won’t be overtaken by her. I disagree – it’s just as bad when, as we did here, there are swimmers who would rather be emperor of a slower lane than have to work really hard in the fast one. To be fair, the worst offender was a young woman who wanted to be in the same lane as boyfriend (the one genuinely slow swimmer) – and maybe he needed moral support if he wasn’t confident – but she didn’t need to look so bloody smug each time she overtook me…
I had my first proper outdoor swim of the year yesterday! At 8 degrees, and cold-free for a month now, I decided to do 5 minutes in the Kenwood Ladies Bathing pond. Arriving in several layers of thermals, cardies and coat, I had deliberately hurried up the hill from the bus stop to get my body nice and warm ready for the icy immersion (and clothes nice and warm for getting dressed again). And… it was fantastic. I have to admit that I thought I had made a big mistake when after the first 20 seconds of ohmygodthat’scold I didn’t smoothly morph into ohthatsokayactually but instead had a good minute of every muscle in my arms and legs protesting and threatening to sieze up. But then there was the inevitable ahthisisnicenow, isntitbeautiful, thatsagoodpace, so that only the knowledge of how hard it would be to get my temperature up again forced me out the water. As I emerged (flipflopless annoyingly) the two lifeguards, started laughing and one loudly said ‘Oh I feel like a new person now’. The polite assumption would be that they were laughing with me not at me. However, I was piqued enough not to offer to pay my entrance fee (although the machine had broken) or even ask for a season ticket form. I will *get* a season ticket so I haven’t actually diddled them, although what I ever did to them, I really don’t know.
Anyway, the cosy changing hut and ‘chill off’ shower were just right for someone who’s skin is the colour of a lobster and I managed to get all my clothes back on before I started shivering. A swift run down the hill to Bistro Laz, where 2 herbal teas and bowl of hot soup were consumed and I brought myself up to merely cold. The elation was indescribable though and I’d have gone back today if a fresh load of easter flab hadn’t meant I had to do a proper swim.