Last month’s Wild Swiming post described my wife’s membership of South London Swimming Club, and the propensity of its lunatic members to brave the freezing waters of Tooting Bec Lido throughout the winter.
DC Leisure Centres provide a team of lifeguards who take it in turns to oversee this madness.
Yesterday, it was as if the asylum staff had voluntarily changed places with the inmates – when nine of the team turned up for the annual Lifeguards Race.
Wife went down to cheer them on and photograph the event: sensible rubber wetsuits were, I’m pleased to see, strictly disallowed.
The eventual winner was Jason (third from the right) who’d never swum in the open air in his life, let alone on an arctic January morning. By all accounts the entire event was good wholesome family fun – even Ken and Barbie turned up to watch from the poolside.
Wife has just sent me a link to the photoblog Unusual Love Affair in London – in which Elizabeth Furth documents the early morning activities of South London Swimming Club at Tooting Bec Lido.
The photos are vivid and beautiful – one could only wish for a higher resolution gallery of them somewhere. The club’s activities on the other hand are plain barking mad: open air swimming in water just below 5C. The ground underfoot is so cold that even a damp footprint (bottom left, above) freezes into ice.
To understand why the members – who include my wife – persist in this folly as winter streadily advances, you’ll need to read Elizabeth’s upbeat and entertaining blog.
Saw a P.E. teacher marshalling a class of 7 year olds at our local leisure centre a couple of weeks ago. Why was it so surprising to hear him address each individual child with basic human respect and general good humour?
My schoolmates and I took it for granted that all sports teachers were, in the natural order of things, sadistic bullying bastards whose sole mission was to make our lives a misery. The impossible brutality of circuit training, the dispiriting misery of cross country runs, the dull futulity of cricket, the physical terrors of the rugby pitch.
At no point did any teacher ever take the trouble to set out the reasons why we might actually WANT to achieve a basic level of fitness for our own health and enjoyent - and how it might benefit us in later life.
My neighbour Jack’s knee gave out this morning in the bath. It’s been giving him trouble for a while now. But having been a busy and active man all his life, he’s simply carried on as normal with the help of a walking stick.
This morning his wife Ellie called by our house and asked me to help her get Jack out of the tub as she couldn’t lift him on her own. They’d obviously managed to get him into swimming trunks before Ellie went for help, but when we arrived back at their bathroom he was weeping with shame and frustration. Which of us wouldn’t feel the same in Jack’s position?
And having had to haul my own Dad on and off the lavatory in his final couple of years, it’s clear that sooner or later - if we’re lucky enough to live that long - all of us will be.
Swimming. Special K goaded me to take it up in my 30s and get a bit fitter – he’d been a school champion of some kind. Getting me into the habit of swimming is something I still thank him for… but thirty years on it’s something I do much less often than I’d like to. Scope for change, right there…
Tripped on a step and took a headlong fall late this afternoon. Tried to save myself by throwing my weight at the bin and grabbing onto it, but it wasn’t fastened and flew off into the road. Fell hard face first on the pavement . Concerned passers-by handing me my glasses, asking if I was OK. Yes yes, everything’s fine thanks, but it didn’t feel fine at all. Got away with nothing worse than bruised knees and forearm but it all left me shaky and lightheaded with shock. It was a proper old man’s fall, my second in two years. Welcome to your sixties, get used to it. Time to start a blog… maybe it should be on Tumblr.