SOUTHGATE LEISURE CENTRE
Winchmore Hill Road, Southgate, London N14 6AD
020 8882 7963
Sometimes, it's about everything but the pool. This is one of those times.
Today, people, I will be attempting a very difficult trick. It is extremely dangerous and I have been training for it for years. Highly skilled personnel are standing by ready to assist me, should my trick fail. Do not try this at home. Today *drum roll*
I will be diving off the top board wearing only a variety of sandwich spreads painted on my body in an edible replica of the Olympic logo.
Don’t worry! It’s a joke! *serious face* I don’t have official permission to replicate the Olympic logo.
But today, actually, I am doing something a little different. I would call this a ‘blog mash-up’ if using that phrase didn’t make me sound like a middle-aged* Glee fan in a retro Adidas tracksuit who had reluctantly torn herself away from Fifty Shades to get to Pop Choir on time. But I am swimming with another blogger, writer Wendy Lee, who has an eversoslightly different perspective on swimming, and her take on our experience is here. Not so much a mash-up, more a friendly collision.
Backstory: Wendy and I have been friends long time. I met her through my husband and, as occasionally happens (he may be reading this) we became closer than they were. At the time, the notion that one of us might ‘exercise’ was unthinkable, oh how we mocked the fit. Then I changed a bit. I started running and swimming, and Wendy, who is more sarcastic than me even, mocked me. I withstood the mocking, it seemed fair. Wendy has severe Crohn’s disease, which for years meant she was stuck near a toilet. Then, two years ago she had an ileostomy, which means she now poos into a bag on her stomach. Lots of people do, and it remains somewhat taboo beyond jokes about Cliff Richard, but Wendy drives stylishly through the barriers to write about it in a funny and candid blog. She decided, once she was bagged-up, to come swimming with me, to the pool she used to frequent as a child. I thought this was a good idea until she started tweeting about how ‘brave’ I was. I’m not brave, I thought, I'm a silly coward. But by this time it was too late to back out without looking like a total arse (itself, in the context, an ironic phrase) again.
So I’m swimming with someone who doesn’t swim, who has warned me that her bag might put the poo in pool, in Enfield. It’s a promising start, yes?
I’m aware, not least from the ‘brave’ tweets, that this is a big deal for Wendy, and on the journey, I opt for playing it down rather than ratcheting up the tension; she knows me well enough not to confuse my inane blabber with lack of care. My heart sinks when we’re greeted with a building site, by big signs saying ‘We’re still open!’ and a temporary stack of portacabins at the side. Obviously, we're swimming in the 'before' photo, which is a shame. We go into one of the portacabins and ask for tickets. ‘Not before twelve’ says the receptionist doing a chirpy ‘computer says no’ impression. Can we just buy them now? ‘Not before twelve’ she repeats. Can we … Not before…and so on, in ever diminishing sentences; we go and wait outside before our laughing gets rude.
At twelve oclock on the dot we are allowed upstairs into the higher echelons, the upper portacabins, which are decorated with the temporary finesse of a permanent Travelodge. The changing room is make-do, no point ‘reviewing it’, as it’s clearly (oh god I hope) only there while the area is renovated. So far so good, Wendy has a normal costume on, she doesn’t look like A TOTAL FREAK. We go through to the pool. I would have held her hand, but I think that would have alarmed us both, so instead I chatter inanely some more; turns out I'm quite good at it.
The pool. Oh yeah, I'm here to review a pool. ‘I thought you’d like it’ says Wendy, showing she pays attention, ‘it’s 33metres’. Indeed it is, nicely proportioned in the room, which is bizarrely decorated with a repeated triangle theme. I can see the meeting: ‘What’s the theme here?’ ‘Triangles. Swimmers love triangles, it reflects the shape of the elbow, as it comes out the water, and there's a pointy bit, they love a pointy bit...'. (I also speak fluent Design Bollocks.) The ceiling jags up and down in dirty grey artex; there’s one wall of windows the shape of an open envelope, and the tiles on the side are neat little alps in a screaming yellow with dark blue, brown and red tile trim. I know, weird colours for a pool. And there’s either a new entrance being built on one side, or they like the black binliner look. I try not to look too closely at the filthy light covers in the ceiling and the chairs in the spectator area look lethally dirty. The pool itself is tiled in a duff blue; it looks dated, and nursery. It would look so much better in white - cleaner, and lighter; yells, off: Have you got this pool, in white? But it is 33metres.
Have you ever been third in line to get into the same bath? I have, and this is how it felt. Warm and a little … used. Clean enough, but without any of the crisp pleasure of a colder pool; like swimming in synthetics rather than cotton. I do miss the clarity, this fuzz is less satisfying and makes me much less sharp; the chill is my thrill. But for today, for this, it's better; yes, we were those annoying women in the unlaned bit, breaststroke-chatting, heads up. I can report, for a one-off it was extremely pleasant, we had a lot to talk about. While Wendy was resting, I did a couple of quick lengths but it completely wasn’t about that, and once you've settled in for a slower pace, speeding up seems a bit of a stretch. There used to be diving boards at one end, Wendy remembered, and yeah, it has that lovely deep swoop. At the shallow end, we note how the water barely comes up to my waist but laps at her ample bosom. Maybe I should always take a short person with me, to give a different perspective to the shallow end.
I’m pleased and proud to say that Wendy Lee of this parish (what’s the Jewish equivalent of ‘parish’?) swam 6 lengths today. It was four more than she thought she’d manage. I’m pleased and proud that my lovely friend chose me to share it with. Her bag didn't leak poo. I think we'd have coped, if it had. And we decided mutually that it was time to get out of the water when an elderly gentleman swam ahead of us with the dressing on his bald head flapping in the waves, revealing a wound in all it’s dried bloody glory. That’s gotta sting, I thought. In a final act of solidarity, Wendy showed me her bag in the changing room. So I showed her my chlorine rash. Sometimes I think she doesn't really understand what I have to cope with. *winks*.
On the way out we see what I think is the best revolving snack dispenser I’ve ever seen in a pool. Sorry, Wendy, but this is the real highlight of this trip. It’s small and shiny metal with a little metal pointed hat, and, get this, it dispenses little pots of sunflower seeds! Yoghurt covered brazil nuts! Mixed nuts! There is no saturated fatty crisps or stale chocolate nonsense, no massive profit margin, no shitty chemicals. NUTS and SEEDS! As if we were birds! I’m so chuffed. Love it. I didn’t buy any in the end though, because what I really really fancy is a Twix.
*I have a official certificate that states I'm allowed to use the term 'middle-aged' perjoratively.