Well, sometimes it can be. Last night, after polishing off a plate of pasta that could have provided a decent foundation for a detached house in the home counties, I slumped onto the sofa to consult Twitter. @Shelagh Fogarty, Five Live presenter & uber-swimmer had tweeted the following message;
At that moment I resolved to go swimming on Sunday morning – today – and this morning I did just that.
Reading is not famed for its swimming facilities but, despite its shabby state, the Arthur Hill pool at Cemetery Junction (yes, the very same junction after which the Ricky Gervais film is named) is a little gem. It celebrated its centenary in 2011; one hundred years of local residents plodding up and down its 27.4 metre length (I assume that must be an exact number of feet) and has been left much as it was when first erected back in 1911. It’s a rudimentary affair; just the rectangular pool and cubicles that line either side. One hundred years of swimming evolution have, thankfully, not changed its simplicity one iota. You walk in from the cold and, within a couple of metres, you are on the side of the pool. A few steps more and you are in your cubicle getting changed. And for those of us who prefer to keep our bodies out of public view, it’s barely more than a couple more metres until everything you have is plunged into the clear waters of the pool itself. By the time a head is turned, there is nothing to see.
Ever since my days as a student in Reading over ten years ago, it has been my swimming pool of choice; apart from a year spent in the wild west, I have always lived on the east side of town. The corrigated shed that is the Rivermead sports centre with its water slides and screaming kids has never been much of a temptation. I had a fleeting relationship with an upmarket affair in neighbouring Wokingham, but my heart has always remained with Arthur Hill.
The man himself – Arthur Hill – was a 19th century aldermam of Reading, mayor four times and a major benefactor to the town. His family gave the building to the people of the town as a memorial to the great man. People like me have been strutting their stuff up and down the ‘pond’ (as it was originally called) ever since, including these guys who clearly must have been the cream of the east Reading cycling community by the looks of it. I am, however, glad that the male leotard thing never really caught on.
There are regular mutterings about the viabilty of the Arthur Hill pool but I sincerely hope that the modern-day successors to Alderman Hill never decide to do what their northern counterparts in my home town of Elland, West Yorkshire have done in recent weeks and shut the pool for reasons of ‘health and safety’. While back in the town at Christmas, I had the sad experience of walking past Elland Swimming Pool, a place where I learnt to swim, my mother did likewise & no doubt her mother before her – she only lived a few streets away afterall and was born in 1909 only eight years after it was opened in 1901 – only to find it had been boarded up. How sad.
There isn’t much I can do about the public baths in Elland. I can however, resolve, once again, to get back into the habit of frequenting my current local swimming pool, for my benefit & for the benefit of the pool itslef. Thanks to Shelagh for the knudge in that direction. Tweeting is indeed good for your health.
The film reminded me of my student days in Reading. Twice a week our swimming and water polo teams trained here. Very simple, perfect for us, but surprised it is still much the same. Good times