Thursday, 10 February 2011

Surprise Swim

A hangover that hasn't branched out of it's warm fuzz of alcohol greets me on Saturday morning. Because I can feel the previous nights wine working it's way into my day and rendering it pointless, I get up early determined to do something. I speak to a friend, she's going swimming in the lido at London Fields.

I hesitate. Saturday swimming, bound to be worst than the sunday swimmers, but the weather is a little miserable, and the pool is 50 meters and it is out door. I rush to get my swimming stuff, before last night's lethargy kicks in.

I haven't swam out doors since Charlton Lido (above) closed its doors on the last day of August last year. I fell in love with Charlton Lido. More often than not I would get the whole 50 meter pool to myself save from bored the lifeguard with their hood up against the rain or the wind or both. Like swimming in a JG Ballard short story (a description stolen from my friend), high rise buildings surround it,  prison like changing rooms flank it. At the tail end of the mornings I sometimes bumped into a group of older men, who surprised to see me there would curtail their language, call me a lady, while checking with their eyes that I definitely was.  I got spoilt by it, beginning to think of it as my own pool. Similar to how you might get frustrated when you have a lane to yourself for a while, or your own double seat on a train, and then other people start getting in or on, and you know it's perfectably reasonable, but it's your lane, your seat or in this case, my pool. It's not heated, just basic, the old glamour it was built on washed away. So the first dive in could be heart stoppingly awakening. Perfect when training was still a joke.  I still, now, long for the expanse of Charlton Lido, when the indoor pools are busy and the air warm, the water boiling with bodies. 

I think their refurbing it, making it into a proper dive pool, probably for the olympics (the pictures online that shows it filled with people in it's popularity make me seethe with jealousy. About a pool). It wasn't even supposed to be open last year and I have feeling I won't be seeing it in the same way again. I wish it would stay the same way. If I can't swim the channel because channel swimming gets banned (more about that at a later date), this would be my choice to re-enact the swim. In fact this would be choice anyway after the channel is done.  It is my ideal swim venue outside the sea. 

So onto London Fields Lido, last night's wine beginning to prick my eyes. I'm not here for training, more  of a social swim, but I get here early in the hope I can get 10 uninterrupted lengths in. I think it might be nice to enjoy the water without the pressure of training.

I get in and can't help myself. I try the medium lane at first thinking that smoking and the drinking will slow my swim down.  Medium is too slow for me. I feel the headache leaving, my body thanking me, a smile on my lips underwater. What gives me pleasure about the lido is that you cannot see the end when you are swimming, you see the feet in front of you, the leaves on the floor,  sometimes coins and murky plasters, so it feels like a distance, a real swim not just a few paddles between pushing off. And the wind whips off your protruding body parts colder than the water you are swimming in (London Fields is heated, unlike Charlton).  My hangover drifts away. I reluctantly go and have a splash around with the friend that I am meeting, knowing that 10 lengths I have swam is not enough, that it feels like starting something that I haven't finished. And that I am serious swimmer.

We chat a little, and she shows me her strokes. But swimming is no longer social for me. We are going for lunch before she has to go off for a job, which means that we are on time limit. I manage a further 15 more lengths and although it is not a planned pool trip, I am reluctant to get out of the pool. It feels like unfinished business. Words unsaid.

What I have learnt is that the lido isn't that busy on Saturday at this time of year (oh it will get so, London Fields, has a Time Out coolness when it comes to the summer, queues of people waiting hours to get in, picnics and quiffs atop gentle breast stroke). So although I usually do my upmost to avoid a Saturday swim, here is a 50 meter option. I work out later that I did just under a mile after 25 lengths, but a note to myself. I am not a social swimmer.

The changing rooms line the side of the pool with gaps under them.  For a joke, as a gift, I have sandwich bagged up my friend a mini hot cross bun, I push it slowly under the gap of what I think is her changing room door.  A man say's:

'ER-It's not me!'

I apologise and take my hotcross bun back. Quite slowly.

No comments:

Post a Comment