I returned to the lady’s pond yesterday for a bit of unseasonably sunny r and r. It’s been a few years since I’ve actually hung out at the meadow and I’d forgotten what a nice relaxed atmosphere it has. There’s a much greater mix of people than in the winter months – many of whom don’t actually swim – and I realised that it’s not often that I spend time in the company of women of such a range of ages. I swam for a good 15-20 minutes as the water was up to a tropical 15.5 degrees and the restraining line has been moved right back (although it’s still there along the side, which I don’t remember from last year). A somewhat unusual new feature is the coot nesting right on top of one of the lifebelts. Afterwards I returned to the meadow to witness the afternoon shuffle – all the sun worshippers following the sun round. It became a little chilly later on, but hang on chaps, it is only April.
I had my first swim in the sea yesterday. BF and I were in Brighton for a friend’s birthday on Saturday and thought we’d recover ourselves with a walk on the undercliff (curtailed because I hadn’t realised how long traipsing through the ghastliness of the marina would take) and a dip. Unsurprisingly as it’s only April (albeit the hottest one on record or something) the water was cold – a good 4 or 5 degrees colder than the pond was the day before by my reckoning. My significant other lasted about a minute, but then he hasn’t been acclimatising himself all winter. I really enjoyed a fresh and salty swim, probably not much longer than 5 minutes, but I’m never confident about my strength when faced with the power of the Actual Sea. It was so warm on the beach that, sunscreen applied, I was able to have a proper doze in my cozzy, not something I’ve been able to do after a cold swim up until now. I’m clearly a bit of a wimp though as, when we arrived, an entire family were standing in the sea up to their waists, and were still there about an hour later.
Today was momentous. I swam in the pond for the first time this year without socks and mittens. With the water up to 14 degrees, ten minutes’ swimming was absolutely delicious. I’d have stayed longer but I wasn’t really sure if I should have been there as I’d just had my legs done and my cycling wounds still haven’t healed. I’ll let you know if I get Weil’s disease. Cured my hangover too, although that could have been the depillation. My only disappointment is that I just missed the lifeguards opening up the whole pond for swimming – they were out in their boat removing the restraining line just as I left.
All this made up for yesterday when having checked that Kentish Town pool was open until 5, I ran there to find the last swim was 3.30. Worse, because I have a pass, I was actually changed and about to enter the pool when the lifeguard said the pool had just closed at 4pm. I don’t like to moan, but it wouldn’t have hurt to put it on the website. And I’ve made exactly the same mistake at Swiss cottage in the past. When will I learn?
I’ve developed a bit of a paranoia about swimming without goggles, so much so that I’ve bought new ones for a one-off swim on more than one occasion (clearly worthwhile – I don’t have any spares at the moment). On Wednesday I was already costumed, swimming-hatted and showered at the point that I realised I’d left my goggles at home so not really in a position to drip my way back to reception to buy some. So I had no choice but to swim with my head out of the water. And guess what? It was really pleasant. I got a really good chance to admire the beautifully restored woodwork in the Willes pool and a good look at other people’s swimming styles (not to mention caps, costumes and tattoos). In the end I got out after 20 minutes because I was worried about my back. I actually only started using goggles in my early twenties so I must have had years of swimming with a bent back, but then most stupid things you do when you’re under 25 don’t seem to matter very much in the long term.
Today, by contrast I embarked on the World’s most petite triathlon. I’m currently trying to gain confidence bike riding after my very first lesson last Saturday (put it this way, I went to the lido afterwards because I thought it would be unwise to expose my multiple wounds to the pond). There are actually very few places you can ride a bike on Hampstead Heath, but one of the main paths is near where I live and at 8am on a Saturday morning is pretty quiet. I made some progress in confidence and turned around once. Then I did my usual run/walk/run up the hill, had a very nice dip in the pond, shared with one other lady and a Canada goose, then ran back home past the railway track. If anyone wants to promote an event based on this regime, just drop me a line. It could be a winner at the 2020 Olympics.
I still haven’t quite worked out why users of Parliament Hill lido are quite so serious. Today I stepped into gorgeous smooth water under bright sunshine and an azure sky and was the only person in there with a smile on my face. On the other hand, the others were doing proper lengths and proper exercise, whereas I just breast stroked around for about 6 or 7 minutes, trying not to get in their way and not putting my head underwater. To be fair, as I left, there was a woman excitedly telling her mobile phone how gorgeous it was. Which it was.
The lido is being done up ahead of what I suspect will be a busy summer, given the rise in popularity in outdoor swimming. This meant the only showers available were the staff ones and I was surprised by how devastating I found the transformation of the normal ladies’ showers from shiny tiles to churned up building site. It shows how transient are the places we take for granted. I went home for a shower actually. That’s why I moved there for heaven’s sake!