There was a real party atmosphere at the pond this morning, largely to do with the lovely weather. The water temperature is only 9 degrees, and that’s cold but, as they say, you feel every half degree below 10 and it was 6 degrees only a few weeks ago (it must work the other way? surely?). Anyway, it’s officially still winter swimming before the clocks go back, and thermos flasks were in evidence, but the rope restraint had been moved back a few feet in honour of the increased temperature. And it is exciting to think that every day from next week the ponds will be open later (and maybe the water will get warmer too, who knows?).
The presence of a male Corporation of London employee didn’t seem to worry anyone much. In fact, it was nice that he was having a chat with the lifeguards while having a cuppa. This reminded me that I have mixed feelings about the ladies’-only aspect of the pond. On the one hand it seems ridiculous to have segregated swimming when even topless sunbathing isn’t allowed. On the other, the ladies’ pond has a very special atmosphere and it’s possible that the single-sex nature is part of that. Having said which, there’s already a small amount of mixed bathing (the men are invited over for an hour next Saturday, 7.30am to 8.30am, shame I’ll miss it as I’ll be in bed). And there’ll be plenty more if the Hampstead Ponds dam redevelopment programme takes place as planned. Perhaps this is the best compromise – we keep our separate ponds but offer a bit of hospitality from time to time. I’d certainly like to try out the men’s!
Yesterday I visited the Seymour Leisure Centre for the first time in ages. It has the ‘Westminster’ problem: all Westminster’s pools are grimy, peeling and run down apart from Marshall Street and all of them have terrible changing rooms including Marshall Street. However, they’re in the Swim London Scheme, you get your 20p back from your locker and actually I have a great deal of affection for all of them. I was pondering this and I came to the conclusion that it’s because I normally go to them when I’m about to do something fun: go to the pub (Seymour, Porchester) shopping (Marshall Street) or take a train to somewhere pretty in Sussex or Kent (Queen Mum’s). If I’m ‘just swimming’ I’ll probably have gone to usual pool (52 Club in the old days, Kentish town now). And I only go to the Oasis when I have to (usually when I’m coming from or going to work). So they’re lovely really even if the Seymour pool is too short, too narrow, really run down and feels like it’s in a forgotten basement. Meanwhile, Seymour Hall, the indoor basketball court is lovely and looks like could have been a pool once and could still be one. Why do the dry sports people get the nice room? Incidentally, I was SURE Jenny Landreth had made this point in her review of this pool but she didn’t. How odd.