Memories of Clap’ham Manor

And so on the final morning of swimming in SW4, I departed Clap’ham Manor Street pool, reflecting on fifteen years of swimming in Clap’ham, and pondering an uncertain Speedo future ahead. The memories are far stronger than the outlook for swimming in the Rotten Borough.

Farewell Clap’ham Manor – you’ll be sadly missed. Thanks for the memories…

  • The occasion when I left my bicycle unlocked outside SW4. It may have been 7am midwinter, but it still didn’t stop a lovely staff member from tracking me down in the pool to alert me. I was all set for a drip-dry excursion out into the South London cold. No worries – the lovely staff member had already wheeled the Moulton into reception.


  • The ease of access for the early morning swims. The process started off with the handing over of my Swim London membership card and a receipt being handed out. This soon became a quick flash of the card, and then a “good morning, no ID required,” and then finally an eyebrow raise at the lovely receptionist as I wondered in each morning. These things matter. Arriving adrenalin fuelled and anticipating a swim is no fun at Brixton. You spend half your morning stuck in a queue.


  • The Clap’ham Whistler is as engaging as he is irritating. A different tune for every day, all of them sounding bonkers. It’s quite funny to observe a middle-aged man whistle as he strips down to his birthday suit. The joke wears slightly thin when the whistling continues in the showers. It’s bloody annoying when you can still hear it underwater as you put the lengths in. Still, it sure beats the Radio Nonsense breakfast show twaddle that most leisure centres insist on pumping out early morning.


  • The mid-morning aqua-aerobics club had an audible level all of their own. They were the aquatic version of Les Dawson’s Rolly Polly dance troupe. The water level rose a couple of inches as the big-boned ladies of SW4 entered the waters of Clap’ham. I never knew that mid 90’s techno with a Motown twist was a crowd favourite of the Darby and Joan aqua-aerobic crowd. I soon learnt more about the science of underwater sound travel. Swimming a length submerged blocked out the bloody racket.


  • Swimming may be off the 2012 agenda in SW4, but I have high hopes of maintaining the Clap’ham Shower Dash. Three working showers in the Gents, operating as a living re-enactment of the Two Ronnies social class sketch. There’s the high power, the medium power and the drizzle. I knew my place. All was well if you were alone in the Gents. Add in extra male company and the the starting pistol for the Clap’ham Shower Dash is fired as you scramble for the high power shower.


  • Never mind the length, feel the thickness? Nah. There was something unique and liberating about the lovely 33-yard stretch of a Clap’ham length. The standard 25m of the modern day pool is barely a kick off the side of the pool before you need to touch down again. 50m can be testing. 33 yards seemed to fit in with the classic, solid design of Clap’ham Manor.


  • And so how I shall miss the old girl. The pool wasn’t perfect, but it was functioning. All I ask of an early morning recreational workout is somewhere to swim, and somewhere to shower. Clap’ham offered both of these, and much more as well. I wouldn’t have had my guttering unblocked (steady) if it hadn’t been for a chance encounter (and conversation) with old Bill in the showers. No money changed hands, and old Bill extended out his huge ladder to help ease my blocked up woes.

Farewell Clap’ham Manor Street, and many, many thanks to the community of early morning swimmers that have made the start to my day so memorable over the years.

Now then. Brixton. Brrrrr.

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