PUTNEY LEISURE CENTRE
Putney, London SW15 1BL
Phone 0208 785 0388
Added bonus: I parked free on the road outside. (You may have no idea what a bonus this is. It’s a big bonus.)
Negative: Someone said of this blog ‘it’s all getting a bit autobiographical, isn’t it?’ as if me including stuff about myself could possibly be a bad thing. I’m sussing out as I go along how much swimming has featured in my life - more than I thought, and sometimes obliquely. This is the only blog in the world that includes bits about me, which some people would say is a damn shame*. However, if you don’t like the bits about me, don’t read this blog.
*No actual people would say that.
The shallow end of the pool was jumping, an aquarobics class in full swing, water sloshing and bouncing along to UH-OH YES! I’m the GREAT! Pre-te-hen-der-der-der-der-der-der-der-der …and the lifeguard leapt into action. I’m glad to say I’ve never seen one move so fast. She was off that high chair quicker than I could say ‘oh fuck, bad timing’ and managed to de-stick the CD before any of the class went into some dreadful low-nrg hypnotic state and slipped under water requiring actual saving.
I’d already been through the now-familiar DC Leisure conundrum – should I buy a padlock, hire one, or make my own from recycled bits of the family silver (this being Putney)? Answer d) none of the above, I chose instead to bring my bags poolside and trust the people of Putney not to make off with my shampoo and spare swim hat. I’d lost my way four times in the changing rooms and finally made it poolside, with a big groan. I shoved my bag into an incongruously home-made wooden shelving unit. Big groan because aerobics wuz on; the L-shaped pool had been divided in two (shouts crossly) VERY UNEQUAL parts, them getting most of the 33metres of the long bit of L, us swimmers getting the short bit across the bottom. (Apparently, it wouldn’t be fair to make people do aerobics in the deep water, but I reckon you’d burn loads more calories trying not to drown.)
I swam in the short deep length (about 22m) across the pool and diving area, divided into four lanes, with no handrail at the diving end, making that turn a tad unwieldy. The music thumped around for the first twenty minutes, coming into sharper focus on every head turn for breath. I quite like watching aerobic legs under water, jumping and bobbing in blurred animation. The water was 28degrees warm, and had quite a lot of dark long hair wafting around in it. I got so bored doing these short lengths that I tried to work out if I was seeing one bit of hair many times, or different bits of hair once… It was the only discordant note in an otherwise passably bland poolside environment. A row of kayaks hung on one wall; they made better art than the long narrow abstract piece hung along the short of the L: inoffensive blue circles on a blue background with blue wavy bits. It was the same bit of art I’d seen in Tooting Leisure Centre - management obviously buy it by the metre. The ceiling was multiple V shapes. Tiling white with grey grout. There was nothing of note, except for a nice finishing touch: lots of greenery to one side, big jungley plants in a dividing bed, blending with the trees in the small garden area you can see through the teaching pool windows. ‘Bringing the outside in’, designers say, of this kind of thing. Or is it ‘bringing the inside out’? Still, I thought, if Wandsworth Council pay for this, it's good to know that council tax goes on good plants. I wonder if residents would prefer it spent on better art? Or, controversially, services?
About half way through my swim, bored of hair-spotting, I had a revelation. This pool reminded me almost exactly of the one I used to swim in as a teenager. (In this context, I don’t mean ‘swim’ in the accepted sense. ‘Teenage swimming’ should be a verb of it’s own. ) That pool, Wyndley Leisure Centre in Sutton Coldfield, was built in the 70s, and I wonder if Putney went up at the same time. Putney’s exterior is different – it’s a white-tiled box on different levels, and must have looked quite architecty once, but of course, now it’s lost some of that sheen. (That’s a local joke. The pool is on the road to Sheen.) Last time I swam in the Wyndley L they’d cordoned it off in exactly the same way. In my memory, that was an enormous pool, miles long, acres wide, but in reality, it’s the same 33m as Putney. Funny what time does - what it shrinks, what it enlarges. In them days, going the whole length of the pool seemed like a feat and I’d definitely avoid the deep end. Actually, I’d mostly avoid the pool altogether: I had a Saturday job in the café, serving Bovril and burgers to bikers; I’d maybe take a quick dip after work, but that was it. (I also ran the café in Sutton Park’s lido for a couple of summers and would only deign to get wet to make sunbathing more tolerable, in break times. The irony of that is not lost on me. That lido’s gone now. But then, so have I.)
Those memories made this swim quite enjoyable, and I think if I could have swum the full 33m, I’d have almost verged on happy. Not on any silly level, more on the ‘yeah, that was OK’ level. So yeah. That was OK.