Something that happened to me a short while ago…
Since glorious motherhood, swimming hasn’t quite been the regular sporting hobby it once was. I just don’t get that many opportunities to go. But, I had decided that enough excuses had been made, I was going to find an hour somewhere. This was after all what had inspired the film.
Enter the discovery of a local dads and babies monthly Saturday breakfast club – what a brilliant idea. Off I packed them for the morning, resisted the temptation to crawl back under the duvet, dug out the sports bag, dusted it down, found a cozzie somewhere in the dark depths of the wardrobe – and hoped to goodness it still fitted.
A swim early on a Saturday morning…how difficult can that be? Oh, the refreshment, the excitement, the ‘me’ time.
0840 – left the house, bound for Clapham Manor Road pool. A favourite outside lido season, simply because there was always enough lane space for actual swimming. (Northern line: 4 stops)
Feeling delightfully happy and smug (look at me, I’m a mum and I’m out all by myself, aren’t I clever) as I speeded towards the pool, in eager haste and skipped round the corner to see…a huge metal gate pulled over the entrance with a sign on the front. I hoped the sign said it as about to open in 5 minutes. It didn’t of course, but I hoped.
0905 – I forget the details, but the important point being made by the sign was that the pool would definitely not be opening that day, or any other soon due to ‘essential maintenance’. It mentioned the nearby Brixton pool. Ok, I’ll go there. It’s taken over a year to get this close to actual exercise, I can’t stop now! Pounded back off to the tube. (Northern line: 2 stops, Victoria: 1 stop)
0935 – Brixton Pool. Now I don’t know what it was precisely, but I started to have a bad feeing whilst standing in the queue. No other swimmers were there and there was a curious notice on the desk that seemed to mention the word swimming. I tried to ignore the foreboding feeling. Why would the notice in Clapham have sent me here if it weren’t open? That would just be foolish.
0945 – My turn, but I had lost confidence; I knew there was a problem. My voice was unusually high and timid. I knew it, I was right! I could see the apologetic shifting in the seat, the pitying look behind the counter, as she explained the pool was closed until 13.45. Something to do with lifeguard training, I think. I’d stopped listening. Her head was on one side, she smiled sympathetically – it didn’t help.
‘Oh’ I managed, quickly accompanied with a stern look, to show my displeasure (pathetic, I know). This wasn’t helped by trying to leave through a door that was ‘Entrance only’.
0950 – outside, I assessed my options. Go home, broken and defeated, and unlikely to venture out for a swim again – ever. Or carry on in a quest that had now become personal. I carried on!
Where to go? Balham – rumoured to have a decent pool, but I’ve no idea where it is. Tooting – had a bad swimming experience there and never been back. Will tackle again another day. Tooting Bec Lido – lovely, but it was still out of season. Wimbledon – well, it’s on a tube and I know the way.
(Victoria line: 1 stop, Northern line: 8 stops, followed by a walk)
1025 Wimbledon. I’d been travelling for almost an hour, most of that time spent dashing back and forth around south-west London on the tube, passing 16 stops and covering quite a bit of distance on foot. I live in a huge metropolis; I just wanted to have a simple swim. If ever my little comedy film about the plight of the swimmer needed making, it was now!
I entered the building, slowly approached the desk and stared pleadingly into the
eyes of the receptionist. I steadied my voice,
“Are you open for swimming?”
“Sure, but it’s shame you couldn’t have got here earlier, the pool’s always quite full by this time.”
If only she knew.
I nodded numbly, paid and went inside to my fate.