The Big Lambeth Freeze. Brrrrr. Ha, ha, ha [NSFW]
As mentioned in the @audioboo below, I do believe that I have finally found a solution to the lack of swimming pools soon to be open in Lambeth. With the Rotten Borough about to close all three pools, the answer to my daily swimming dilemma can be found over in the West End.
A friendly, clean, outdoor (gosh) pool? Blimey. Why then has it taken me the best part of fifteen years to finally take a plunge in to the brilliant Oasis outdoor pool on Endell Street?
A bit of business to attend in town, and so I thought I would put to use my GLL Swim London card. Clap’ham has been something of a challenge of late. I love the old pool to bits, but the daily routine of putting in the lengths in a sterile, soulless indoor pool, was becoming something of a routine.
Time for a new challenge, time to explore the GLL website, documenting exactly where my Swim London membership allows me access to. Brockwell Lido was well off the radar, whereas the lovely London Fields Lido was part of the package, if slightly off the radar when it comes to a midwinter cycle.
And then – aye, aye, what’s this? Oasis Pool, right in the heart of London’s glittering West End? Gosh. I’ll have a bit of that then.
I’ve no idea why it has taken fifteen years of London living for me to finally swim in the Oasis outdoor pool. I’ve known of its existence, yet somehow swam elsewhere. That’s what living close to a truly stunning Olympic size art deco lido does to a young man.
And so I rolled up to WC2, swiped my GLL card at reception, and was then led on a voyage of uncertainty and discovery, and one, which one-hour later, would leave me grinning for the rest of the afternoon.
There’s something rather special about swimming in any new pool. There’s the uncertainty of an unfamiliar changing room routine; the anticipation of a new pool in which test yourself, and the pleasure of meeting new, like-minded swimming freaks.
Add into the equation the Oasis effect of a 29 degrees outdoor pool with steam rising as fast as the rain fell, and you can see why my mid-morning dip was genuinely one of the highlights of the festive season.
You feel special at Oasis, as soon as you have made the morally superior decision to swim outdoors. Straight out of the changing rooms and you are presented with a choice – a left turn for the identikit indoor pool, or eyes right for the outdoor walk into the uncertainty of the lido environment.
Which way d’ya reckon I walked?
Once water bound, I knew from previous experiences that I had to swim ASAP. The water was tepid, but the air outside wasn’t. The coldness hits you with each rotation of the neck to take on air. Best to keep on breathing, etc, but it made it bloody cold as I lifted my head out of the water after every four strokes.
The pool itself is clean, well-kept and fast flowing. I encountered little resistance as I put the lengths in. Instead of the Clap’ham jet stream that propels you away from the shallow end, the closest I came to being put off-stroke was the odd floating leaf.
I took pity on the poor lifeguard, sheltering from the sleet, yet still doing a fine job on duty. Lidos are wonderful, enchanting places during more pleasant climes; they can be pretty crappy places when you are reduced to taking cover in the slipstream of the rising steam.
Forty lengths later and I felt full of life. It wasn’t quite the epiphany of the Brockwell Icicle experience, but it was the change of routine that my Clap’ham days throughout the autumn months have been begging for.
I’ll probably be back very soon, either through enforcement as the Rotten Borough fails to implement any form of leisure policy, or simply through enjoyment and a love of outdoor swimming.
And so in a concerted effort to avoid the pitfalls of the post-Christmas, pre-New Year settee slump, the fragrant mrs onionbagblogger and I set off on a mid winter stroll around London. Why watch a fictitious local London community come to terms with a tomato ketchup style murder, when you can re-trace the steps of some genuine gruesome back-alleyway bludgeonings?
The organised London Walks are something of a neglected charm for those living in the city. We all know of their existence, but disregard them as an outsider activity.
Dismiss at your peril. For the bargain price of seven pounds, you can spend a couple of hours in the company of an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, who has researched a particular theme of London’s history with great detail and passion.
Keeping in the festive spirit, mrs obb and I opted for the Apparitions, Alleyways and Ale walk. The plan was to be spooked from behind up the back passage, and then recuperate with a stiff one in the murky corners of an old alehouse.
A 7:30 meet outside Embankment tube, and we weren’t alone in our quest to walk London, rather than watch it. A ramble of walkers, close to forty in total, and we were all set to stretch out legs in the excellent company of Peter, our good guide for the evening.
On a sub-zero evening, the pace was brisk, and the conversation was plenty. Without the thoughts or distractions of everyday London life and activity, this was a rare opportunity to actually look around and explore the architecture and history that seeps out of every street in central London.
To list all of the apparitions and alleyway stories in order, would be a great disservice to the lexicon of the walk, as given by our great guide. There is no substitute for experiencing the walk itself.
Highlights however included a watchful Samuel Pepys, overlooking the banks of the Old Father, the Adelphi Theatre stage walker, warnings about the perils of taking up seat D1 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the Headless Woman of St James’s Park, and Giro, the Nazi ghost dog that stalks (walks?) Carlton House Terrace.
On a beautifully crisp and clear mid winter evening, most of the walk was illuminated by genuine London gaslights. We were a world away from the faded glamour of London’s glittering West End, yet in truth, we were simply a back alley away from all the crude commercialism of Covent Garden.
The apparitions were unnerving, the alleyways illuminating and the ale, well, the ale was off the agenda. Keen to keep on the walking trail, the fragrant mrs onionbagblogger and I continued our solo off-piste meander at the conclusion of the St Anne’s Gate location, and continued our walk with a cut through to Westminster, and then over the bridge to Waterloo.
Port and Stilton waited back at base, with thoughts of the Headless Woman of St James’s still occupying our minds. Time for a quick channel surf, and BBC3 was showing Eastenders. We slumped on the settee, mocking the Mockneys and their modern day approach to murder.
Now then, about that booking of seat D1 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane…
…from the Rotten Borough.
“We’re off to slap bang central London this week for St.Giles High Street. Named after the Palladian styled Anglican church (and a lovely church it is too,) the road was somewhat truncated with the building of it’s most famous landmark, Centrepoint.
There’s been lots of building work going on around here and there are some new additions – somewhat incongruously coloured – but what would you expect from a street that gives you Centrepoint?”
“Something a little different for you this week. A church! We are heading slap bang into central Covent Garden for ‘The Actor’s Church’ – St.Paul’s. Built by non other than Inigo Jones, it was started in 1633 for the vast sum of £4,000.
There’s much of interest in it’s long history. Samuel Pepys noted in his diary about an “Italian puppet play,” which is believed to be the very first Punch and Judy show. And from the sublime to the ridiculous, in 2002, Gwen Stefani was married here!
You’re more than welcome to include shots of the interior of the church (I’m not 100% certain whether you are allowed though, so you might want to ask someone,) but for me the real jewel are the Church’s gardens. It’s many benches, all with dedications, some to famous people, some to not so famous people, but all fascinating.
The place is a real oasis in the bustle of Convent Garden. Enjoy!”