Task: Join a Club

One sunny afternoon at Champney’s spa, Frank Bruno appeared as I was happily swimming lengths.  He dropped sideways into the pool, like a mighty oak being felled, and began some v-e-r-y leisurely breaststroke.  When he left the deep end just before me, I thought ‘He’s going so slowly, I think I could take him.  I could beat Frank Bruno!’.  I set off, nearly had a heart attack, but arrived at the shallow end first.  He looked over and smiled, ‘Are you showing off with that backstroke?’.  ‘Yes!’ I shouted happily.  ‘You’re making me jealous man, heh heh heh’ he said.

I love him for that.  I’ve loved swimming since early childhood when I got my gold woven badge (Mum sewed it onto my costume) which involved making a float out of my pyjama bottoms and treading water for two minutes.  It’s only swimming that could find me, bright and early at 8.45 on a sunny Saturday morning, getting undressed by the side of the Serpentine Lake in the middle of Hyde Park.  It’s a first (and not the al fresco public stripping).

Brian, the Club Secretary, signs me up.  There’s a pleasing absence of health and safety nonsense; no one asks me if I can swim, I don’t have to solemnly swear I’m not pregnant, or on medication, no one needs to see my membership card.  I’m treated like an adult with free will and personal responsibility.

I approach the water.  There’s an area, framed by buoys and a boardwalk, of about 100 metres long.  I step onto the ramp; the water is a chilly 18c.

Normally it takes me about an hour and a half of shrieking and yelping to enter any water colder than a warm bath.  But the ramp descends into mossy, springy, slimy ground, so I jump in.

There are people of all ages already in; from goggles and wetsuits to bikinis.  The water makes my skin tingle; I feel like giggling with the joy.  It’s an adventure, and about a million times more fun than swimming in a pool (not just because there’s no lane rage – why do mid-speed swimmers chose the fast lane, and then not have the wisdom to stagger their laps?).  I love being one of the people that tourists smile and point at.

Afterwards, dressed and sipping sweet tea, I feel a small sense of achievement.  I chat to Brian, who’s been a member since 1967.  He says that the hundred strong membership includes triathletes, MPs and street vendors and adds, ‘It’s always been seen as a place for eccentric elderly gents, and it still is, for all ages and sexes’.

This is exactly why I already love the Serpentine Swimming Club.  As I cycle home, I realise how much that sense of a random community reminds me of living inNew York, where I was part of another set of first-name-only friends.  In that case all we had in common was the dive bar where we were drinking, rather than the Serpentine.  Although there was also some public stripping.

Advertisements
Gallery | This entry was posted in My tasks. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s