07/03/2013 by Carl Reynolds
At Parliament Hill I am met by a lifeguard who asks me if I have swum in PHL before and that it is only 5 degrees C. “Bloody warm”, think I, but say, “It’s OK, I swim in Tooting a lot.” He nods in understanding and disappears back to a training session. John Donald, the ice man of north London, turns up. We chat about swimmers and their lack of guile, broad smiles and their ferocious commitment to the right to swim…anywhere.
Getting changed later I meet Andrew, who’s playing Oliver Reed in a play (are there actors at every lido?) and Mr Pate (pate, not pate), and am grinned at by various other regulars. Just like Tooting really. Except they haven’t got the habit of cake yet. It’s been there for around 80 years though – do they have ovens in north London?
John cracks out 1900m, I stay in for a few laps and muster a measly 520m. They don’t have a sauna at PHL and my feet stay cold until I am in Ironmonger Row doing laps over an hour later. The rest of me is fine pretty quickly, but my feet? I don’t get it.
Ironmonger Row Baths are on the way home and I had to pick the boy up later, so needs must. A short pool, but not a standard short pool. This one’s 30m. I spent the first twenty minutes, in between moments of zen nothingness, working out how many laps make a kilometre and a mile. I still don’t have it. And the following forty minutes sequentially chasing some bloke with a post-ironic Shoreditch haircut. He’d vainly speed up everytime I came round to his heels again; and then run out of puff a length or so later. Still, at least I provided him with some interval training.