Whilst roasting in the Tooting Bec Lido sauna the other day someone referred to the current weather as a heat wave. The water, hovering at 5 degrees seems to some to be a balmy bath compared to what it could be at this time of year, so people wander about virtually naked but for a lick of cloth and occasionally a pair of Liz Taylor sunglasses, chit chatting as if we were in Benalmadena minus the palms. Anyone looking in through the security fence might see people who are locked in for their own good.
This winter has been wonderful because of Tooting Bec Lido and it’s colourful inhabitants, my previous fear of Albion’s frostier months dissolved in a tingling splash into 100 yards of clean sparkling water.
Having said that I’m taking it easy on the getting cold front. Down to 10 degrees I would swim my 10 lengths without a wetsuit until one day when I caved in and slipped into my prophylactic sheath, but I couldn’t sustain swimming in a suit when old ladies were cheerfully leaping into the pool in only their bathing costumes. Anyhow I discovered that it was actually my hands and feet that were suffering so I acquired some gloves and booties and ditched the wetsuit because I wasn’t connecting with the water, then I shed most of the lengths and started swimming butterfly widths with a few lengths thrown in so as to get some exercise, usually without any hat or gloves or wetsuit. It’s my first winter, I’m finding my rhythms and just enjoying it.
Some of my favourite moments are the races. It’s a heady mixture when over 100 years of history mingle with tea and cake and chilly water plus a bunch of enthusiastic chit chatting souls all pleased to be together for such a wonderfully silly purpose. I keep thinking that David Attenborough will turn up and film this strange penguin colony, the ritual of lining up on the pool side, shuffling up and down finding one’s place in the order of things, waiting for the mayhem of the immaculately conceived handicap system to bark people into the water one after the other hoping that one day nobody would win (the point of handicapping is that everybody has an equal chance of winning). How wonderfully British this is.
The best thing about Tooting Bec Lido has to be the people and the sauna is the place to catch up with them, either that or supping on a cup of well earned tea in the cafe. I’ll write more about them later because right now I’d like to go there for a swim. Toodle pip.