Honestly I should be puffing my book but as there is a small amount of swimming in it perhaps that's how I can make the link. You may be relieved that this post isn't about a cause celebre of Regency England but about getting your kit off and splashing about.
|Szechenyi Spa Budapest|
I love a swim me. Being not particularly good at any sport that involves throwing or catching, (or running for that matter) swimming is the perfect exercise. Of course until that hazy far off future when my books make me so much cash that I can to dig my own pool out in the garden I have to make do with communal pools. This one, pictured above is probably the most fabulous I have ever been to; The Szechenyi Spa in the centre of Budapest. This thermal bath is only one hundred years old, opening in 1913, just before old Europe imploded, styled as old Rome meets High Nineteenth century bling, one of the last gasps of Austro Hungarian excess. It is fabulous, apart from the outdoor pools in the picture, there are many indoor warm baths and if you suffer from arthritis or similar conditions, you can get visits on prescription. I could have stayed there a week no problem.
The other thing that sparked this blog was a meeting in a production company office in London. You can imagine it; lovely modern office building in a tower block in Covent Garden, brilliant views all round, including the new roof of the British Museum to the north. This company overlooks one of London's wonderful and shrinking cohort of Lidos, the Oasis. Built as a municipal pool as part of a council estate in Covent Garden - in the 60s when central London was practically empty, the Oasis is a roof top open air pool without the pretensions or the nasty exclusivity of some (Shoreditch House I am looking at you). It may not have the grandeur of Central Europe but at least it's (relatively) cheap to locals.
|The Oasis Pool London|
What's sad is how many we have lost. Open air swimming was hugely fashionable in the post war years. A way of getting the huddled masses - who were revealed by World War One call ups to be unhealthy and malnourished - out into the fresh air. Pools and Lidos went up all over the country -even at St Leonards a stones throw from where I live now- a massive seaside Lido which was loss making almost as soon as it opened.
|St Leonards Lido in the 1930s|
|London Fields Lido|
Catherine Johnson's latest book is The Curious Tale of The Lady Caraboo, published by Corgi. Please go out and buy it now. If you can't buy it order it. There, that was easy. x
When my children were little, there was an open air pool in Cheddar. Lots of people used to go there in summer, teenagers and families, and eat chips and chat. It was a real gathering place. But when it got to the stage where it needed repair, it was decided it should be closed, the land sold off for housing and an indoor pool built at the leisure centre. Nothing has properly taken its place.
That Budapest pool looks marvellous!
That's so sad Sue. Cheap and accessible leisure (god I sound like a politician) is so important. I thought Budapest was lovely would def go back x
We had a lot of fun in that Budapest pool just last Easter - despite the air temperature - and actually swimming through the steam reminded me of rainy days at the Oasis years ago when I worked near that pool though in every other way, I agree, they are poles apart! But the good news is that other old lidos are on their way back - e.g. in Peckham: http://www.southwarknews.co.uk/news/architects-reveal-they-have-designs-on-peckham-lido/
(And I thoroughly recommend Princess Caraboo too!)
Sue Purkiss - I remember the lovely pool in Cheddar from a summer holiday in 1972. Great for us kids and a shame it isn't there any more. BB
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