The Swimming Thing

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Swimming in the Great Ouse, near Ely, in April 2012

I am fond of swimming, as it says on my twitter tag. I’m not an athlete (to put it mildly) but there is only one physical experience I enjoy more than swimming.


Marie Curie Swimathon, York Hall pool, 2011

When we lived in Hackney, I loved the London Fields Lido & the King’s Hall, but my favourite pool was the York Hall at Bethnal Green. Special place. The sort of place you’d go on a march and scream yourself hoarse if they ever try and shut it down.

Now we’ve moved to North London, and I sometimes go to the Barnet Copthall at weekends, but mostly swim during the week, before work. Stevenage’s swimming centre is fantastic (and very friendly), and the Lido at Hitchin, open during the summer months, is one of those hidden gems that people like me end up raving about. We joined a gym in Barnet too so I can swim there sometimes after work.

In Brighton, I love the Prince Regent Centre – it’s a wonderful pool – but Brightonians are too  good at swimming so I always feel – um – out of my depth there.

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On Brighton Beach in 2008


Swimming has often “decorated”, to say the least, the things I write about politics, directly or not (e.g  here and here). For a swimming pool to work well, everyone has to take care of their neighbour. No amount of external rules about how to swim can make up for antisocial lane behaviour; all swimmers have a better time in the pool if they take care to look after their immediate neighbours



My favourite novelist, Iris Murdoch, was once asked something like “Why is there so much swimming in your novels?”. She replied “Well, there’s a lot of water on the planet”.