Miss Mar Shall (or don’t).

21/01/2012 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Marshall Street Pool

Westminster Council took this picture before anyone had used it I think

I had noticed that Marshall Street Leisure Centre in Soho, which opened last year after a long gap, was run by GLL, and was a bit miffed when it didn’t appear on the SwimLondon web page. I assumed it was being excluded for some Westminster-related reason and just felt grateful it was still a public swimming bath and not a private club. Having failed to check back on the page, I finally decided to spend my fiver on a visit when I was passing through Soho on a swimming day and was feeling a bit glum (I’d also luckily not been able to cheer myself up by spending too much money at Revival Retro in Kingly Court). I half-heartedly asked the polite and friendly staff if Swim London applied and was delighted to discover that it did! A fiver saved and a new pool to discover – smiling already!
The changing rooms are very much like those in the Seymour, Queen Mums and Porchester pools: weirdly small, badly-designed and impossible to use without getting in your fellow-changers’ way. Also I nearly walked naked out into the corridor looking for a bin and not realising where I was going. However, the lockers are big and take a pound which they then return (an ‘eternal’ pound as a passing swimming teacher said when I asked). The pool is smaller than I’d expected (I never went there in the old days), a bit too warm and already showing rusty corners … but it’s lovely. The ceiling restoration has been beautifully done and kept distracting me when I did my (now) obligatory 5 minutes of backstroke. It was pretty busy for 3.30 on a Friday afternoon. I dread to think what it’s like at 8am or 6pm, but maybe Soho hours are a bit different. And it wasn’t crowded enough to make it unpleasant – I didn’t experience any of the pushing and shoving you get in the Oasis.
So all in all, a lovely addition to Central London’s pools. In fact I felt so happy that I went and bought three skirts in the Fever sale. So that pound wasn’t as eternal as it might have been.

A lifeguard’s life

18/01/2012 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
lifeguard sign

Picture by Zack Bernardin

One of the things I’ve noticed at my morning visits to the Oasis (when most swimmers seem to be regulars) is how much interaction there is between lifeguards and swimmers. Some swimmers don’t really do much swimming, just a bit of paddling in the slow lane (in the very warm shallow end) and having a chat. It’s not something you see very often and, while I can’t see myself lifting my head out of the water for long enough to have a conversation, I do find it cheering because, frankly, I think it’s a grim job. Even at an indoor pool, the idea of always being on edge but very rarely actually doing something is that combination of stress and boredom which has characterised my worst ever jobs (but times lots and lots). Add to that an outdoor pool and it’s my worst nightmare – stuck outside in the cold trying to keep warm knowing that at any moment I might have to strip and dive in. So, today’s post salutes the lifeguards. Thanks for being there and I’m glad it’s you not me!

Different strokes

11/01/2012 at 2:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
back stroke swimming

Boing crash! Picture by Konszvi from flickr

One of the perennial problem with public swimming is What to do about Back Stroke. If you’re swimming in lanes, then you’re a hazard because you can’t see whether you’re catching up with the person in front or about to bump into the poolside. If I’m honest, backstrokers get a pretty hard press from anyone who regularly swims on their front, which isn’t fair really because not everyone can have a personal pool.

Well, reader, last Saturday I was that hazard. I’d forgotten my goggles and rather than just doing a head-out-the-water breast stroke until lower-back pain kicked in, I thought I’d try a bit of back stroke. Now, while I didn’t formally learn my usual stroke, breast stroke, until 2009 (despite swimming it for 25 years), I do remember learning back stroke at scary local authority swimming lessons.. Thirty years later, the two phrases ‘one arm should always be moving through the water’ and ‘if you make a splash as your hand goes in, you’re doing it wrong’ stayed in my head and were helpful things to concentrate on. But crikey, it’s hard! It was pretty quiet in the shallow lane (even at 11am on a Saturday morning) but when I became convinced I was about to bump into a person / tiled wall and turned over, I found I’d only made it about halfway up the length. And I was VERY out of breath at the end of it.

All of which tells me that it’s an excellent workout and not the lazy swimmer’s option at all (although obviously it’s harder for me as it’s using muscles I don’t normally exercise that much). Other swimmers allowing, I’m going to try and fit in a length or two (and possibly work my way up) every time I swim from now on. And I’ll certainly have a new respect for the backstrokers who bump into me in future.

Oasis squeezeathon

08/01/2012 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Swimathon launch 2012

"some bald bloke and a six foot model" oops!

Last week I went to the Oasis for one of my new ‘uncrowded’ swims and found myself signing a release because the only public swimming (until lessons finished at 10.45 in the indoor pool) was in a single lane of the outdoor pool and ‘there will be photographs taken’. Now the Oasis has one of the worst fast/slow tolerance rates I’ve encountered (it’s the pool where I once got a nosebleed after somebody doing a fast crawl up the middle of the middle lane accidentally punched me as he kicked off) so hopes weren’t high for us rubbing along together, but actually it was fine. It wasn’t hugely full and there was enough room in the middle to overtake when stuck behind a slow swimmer. Well, mostly. Sometimes the slow swimmers seemed to take up a lot of space but then it was the slow lane we were in and they probably are used to considering it ‘their’ space. There was only one really fast swimmer and she was extremely good tempered and jolly. Actually, after 10.45 I wondered why she hadn’t moved to the indoor pool, but then I realised she could equally say the same about me, so probably like me she didn’t want to be deprived of swimming outside just because of some media event thingy (and in fact the indoor pool was still shut when I left at 11.05).
So this media event. It was a bit strange. Lots of people wearing coats were standing around being photographed. Then around 20 photographers (and the odd telly camera) stood at one end of the pool and started clicking. At this point a number of people either got out or stood in the shallow end out of shyness presumably. I carried on swimming and started to worry that people thought I was an exhibitionist, until I realised that the photographers were far more interested in the bald bloke and six foot model posing in the middle lane (she came into the ladies’ dressing room later and said ‘I’m so cold’ which I don’t blame her – you don’t want to be outside in a pool and NOT swimming). Later that day it occurred to me that the bloke was Duncan Goodhew (look, not everyone who swims and is bald can be Duncan Goodhew) but I’m afraid it’s only today that I realised the lady was Jodie Kidd. Sorry chaps! Keep up all the swimming ambassador stuff and all that.
Anyway, in case anyone showed footage that wasn’t of those two, I was the one doing breast stroke wearing goggles, a cozzy and a swimming hat. Among all the others.

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