(from top left: London Fields Lido, Hillingdon Lido, Hampton Pool, Brockwell Lido)
I’m between jobs at the moment and have been treating myself to an outdoor swim in a different pool each week. The first week was Brockwell Lido with my friend Julia in mid-April, a beautifully sunny day which made the freezing water bearable. My tactic in cold water is to do a couple of lengths breaststroke with my head out of the water making whimpering sounds at the cold, then a couple of lengths proper breaststroke with my head in, working up to front crawl if I’m feeling brave enough. Brockwell Lido was wonderful – wide lanes, lots of regular swimmers and sparkling sunshine glinting off the water.
Next was Hampton Pool which I went to for the first time last August when I did the Thames Turbo sprint triathlon there. It’s within easy cycling distance from Ealing and is a 36m long heated pool. The water was almost too hot to swim and it was pretty crowded but another beautiful day.
The first week in May the weather seemed to switch back to winter, and I decided to try Hillingdon Pool which only opened for the season that week. I’ve never been there before and spent several minutes trying to find a route from the changing rooms to the outdoor pool, still on crutches with my towel wrapped round me. There isn’t one; turns out you have to go back out to the reception desk and down a long ramp. There were only two of us in the pool, which is not surprising when you look at the grey skies. I managed a kilometre before climbing out, bright pink by now, and was escorted back into the building by a relieved life guard who could now go off duty.
Then last week I went to London Fields Lido in Hackney, another heated outdoor pool. I’m doing a wood working course on Thursdays in Stoke Newington which is nearby so decided to try out London Fields on my way. It was fabulous – not too warm and wide enough lanes to get round people even though it was pretty full. I only had time to do a kilometre because it took me so long to get there and it would have been great to stay longer.
I’ve got over my fear of displaying my reworked body in the changing rooms, and strip off for the showers now without a second thought. No one bats an eyelid. I feel like a one-woman demonstration of what a mastectomy with DIEP-flap reconstruction looks like in real life, and it adds to the diversity of bodies on show. I’ve been reading Vanessa Kisuule’s poem Take Up Space recently. I love this line: ‘don’t wear your body as if this sacred package of skin, nerves and blood-rush restlessness were an accident, a graceless misstep of fate or fortune … hold yourself with joy and purpose.’
We’re spoilt for choice of outdoor pools in London. Richmond Pools on the Park, Tooting Bec Lido and Oasis Pool in Covent Garden are all on my list to try next, along with Hampstead Pools and the Serpentine Lido.