triskellian: (swimming)
[personal profile] triskellian
I've been in London for the last few days, treating [ profile] kauket and [ profile] zenithed like a hotel while going to Colindale to read magazines(*).

(*This is actually work: the British Library keeps most of its newspaper and magazine collection in the Colindale Newspaper Library, and if I'm going to eventually write a hundred thousand words about magazines, I have to read some at some point. Apparently.)

In between the research, I squeezed in lots of tasty food of various types, cooked by [ profile] zenithed, Wagamamamamama, and a local pan-mediterranean-type restaurant, and [ profile] kauket and I, with her friend Z, went to a different bit of the BL for some scifi-themed comedy and music (highlight: realising that the Doctor Who geek, who was very funny, was rather a lot like we are about Buffy).

But, fantastically fun as all that was, that's not what I want to write about.

Yesterday afternoon, after a hard day's work at the book mines, I fulfilled a long-held ambition to go to the Ladies' Bathing Pond on Hampstead Heath. The weather was grey and muggy, and about the time we arrived on the heath, it started to rain, and [ profile] secondhand_rick, who we picked up part way across the heath and walked with for a while on his way home, didn't seem sorry to be going in out of the wet. We, on the other hand, progressed gleefully towards even more wet.

There's something specially nice about swimming in the rain, about being immersed in water and surrounded by green, about swimming with almost no one else around (there was a lifeguard, but she stayed in her hut apart from occasional excursions out to shout at the coot whose noise was driving her potty).

And normally, I might also say there's something specially nice about the slightly illicit nature of swimming outside, in non-chlorinated water, but here, one of the most amazing things was that we were in the middle of London, in a gorgeous setting, in a place where people have swum for a very long time. The ponds have been officially operating since the 1920s, according to my brief and non-rigorous web search, but the magical thing for me is that they still exist. Oxford's scattered with defunct bathing places - dead lidos, stories about naked dons, and so on, but they've all gone, and although I often see teenage boys swimming in the river, or drunk or boatie students in there by some sort of misadventure, the vast majority of adults I see swimming are with me, and we still attract amused or astonished glances from passers-by. At Hampstead it's perfectly accepted.

But despite all this, despite the lifeguard, the entrance fee, the notices, and the occasional floating liferings, it still shares all the magic of my more usual river swimming, and was just as wonderful as I'd hoped it would be. Afterwards, freezing cold, still being rained on, we met up with [ profile] littleangel_103, and Susie-from-my-masters-course (*), both of whom had been prevented by unpredictable transport from arriving in time to swim with us, but we ate cake and drank tea and gradually [ profile] kauket and I warmed up.

(*Who I hadn't seen since the end of the course cos she now lives in Foreign, but she's awesome and I miss her.)

And then this morning, on my way back to Oxford, [ profile] kauket, Susie and I went swimming again, and this time the sun came out and it was even more glorious. The feeling of contentment and relaxation and all-being-well suffered a temporary blip during the three hours of public transport it took me to get home afterwards, but writing this has brought some of it back. I can't wait to return.
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