When we stayed at 9DR, one big activity was to go to the swimming-pool! There were certain stays during which it seems I used to go, I think, almost every day! I must have been quite clean at the end of the holiday! It was a thing we loved with my cousin Mark: he would arrive early enough at Grandma's, say 9 or 9:30 (I remember a day when he actually woke me up) and after a quick Rice Krispies breakfast (he more regularly arrived after the breakfast) we would leave for the 298 bus stand down the road and outside the park:
and let the bus take us to Southgate where we would jump off and walk to the pool:
It's hard to find good photos of the pool on the net, because the space is now a leisure center, and clearly has turned its attention to the other activities and left the pool fend for itself. And strange too, there are many things I have forgotten about this very frequent activity! I don't recall the bus stop very clearly, for example, nor do I remember exactly how much it cost to get in (10p? 20p?). I cannot visualize at all what the changing rooms looked like. But the inside of the pool, yes. Well, some salient points. In fact, the things which are hung to memories of those visits. One such thing is the notice board where little drawings represented what you should not do: no pushing, no jumping, no running, no swimming in the diving area, and the one which of course most caught our attention: no petting! Here it is (or a close version)!
(this guy has had a nice go and is reminiscing about the same thing!) Then there were the diving platforms, with several levels: 3ft, 10ft and 20 ft! Each time I came to the pool, I used to look up at the high platform with envy and dread at the same time, and secretly wish I were able to dive elegantly from up there like some young ones did… But I never dared!
Then one year, I decided I just had to do it. I walked up the ladder, and found myself at the top of this little world… I believe I had already jumped off the 5 m board in France, but I knew my maths, and 20 feet not only was higher, but felt it! It was a large board, with plenty of space. I looked down where the water was, where the little eddies far down below indicated where I would drop, and I dreaded that moment of falling, even though it could not last more than one second. Nothing like the long three or four seconds’ jump which Matthieu and some of his friends performed from that rocky shelf in the Verdon, and which I’m still amazed at having witnessed.
Anyway, my own jump took ages! I mean, I was completely frozen up there, not managing to just “do it”. Mark had come up and shown me, he was waving from down in the water, other children had come up and walked past me, and dived, jumped, shaming me into helplessness; even a swimming instructor noticed me, and encouraged me. I was just too mesmerized by that emptiness between the ledge and the water. But, well, I wanted to do it, and after goodness knows how long (it seemed much longer than it actually was, perhaps), I finally did it, felt the rushing air, the hard surface, and the quick resurfacing – and there it was, the bliss of victory over my fear! Not every one is equal in these matters. I don’t think I did it again a lot though, because it was just too taxing in emotional terms.
One great thing about these swimming sessions was at the exit, the moment in front of the vending machines when we got the chocolate bars (Crunchies were my favourite) or sweets which our sharpened appetites knew were waiting for us! I also used to like the ride back, the freedom of climbing at the top of the double-decker and munch away, with the warm summer air blowing in our drying hair, the great feeling of wet and cold limbs becoming comfortable again, and finally the delight of Grandma’s meal ahead and perhaps an afternoon devoted to a thrilling Enid Blyton story!
I know there were pool outings with other cousins, but the ones I recall are the ones with Mark. With him we also went to other pools, I remember especially Barrowell Green pool (there was also Edmonton Green and Picketts Lock), which was an open-air swimming bath, with grass lawns and lots of people in the summer, but where I felt it was colder (in the water and out), and perhaps without the much-sought after amenities (such as a warm shower and the sweets machine). I’ve looked up this pool and learnt that it closed in the early eighties. (I found this account on the net, and the writer says there was concrete all around the pool, not lawn, and he mentions a sweets machine in one corner! Well, we do concur about the cold water!)
You'll find a discussion about the pool where I borrowed this photo: here
And here's part of a letter from Auntie Olive on swimming!
One year as a birthday present Grandma gave me a toilet-bag with all the necessary items such as comb, tweezers... all these are long lost but I still have in my swimming-pool stuff the old, dirty, and half-broken brush coming from the bag. To say the truth, it's there, and I know it is, but I don't use it any more, I almost superstitiouly keep it there, this way when I go swimming (every week), it gives me an opportunity to think of her! (I'll have to take a picture of it)
The time spent at the pool was no doubt full of fun, jokes, allusions, stories, although I don’t remember any, apart from the play on words which Mark had coined: the “piss-in” as an alternate (French-English) name for swimming pool! I think regularly about those days at Southgate pool, and I think that somehow if I still swim today, part of the incentive goes back to those glorious days in England.
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