Just how safe is Covid-safe swimming? Probably very. How easy is Covid-safe swimming? Err, not very.
Let’s start at the start, which is round about April-ish. Roo and I were walking to the corner shop for our only possible outing and discussing what we’d do when this was all over. He said he wanted to have a walk with our spaniel friend and go for a swim. Well, it isn’t all over but still, we managed to do both those things today.
The walk was extensive and lovely. The forest in the sunshine with a puppy…what more could you want?
The swimming was more challenging. We’d decided on Chingford Leisure Centre as it was likely to be quieter than the Feel Good Centre. Both are run by Better Leisure, so the booking process would be the same whichever one we chose. So, around 6PM last night the kids were having dinner and I decided to try and book. I finally managed it three minutes before midnight. The first issue was the website:
Which was awfully keen on booking me swimming slots in Cornwall or Swindon but not so keen on booking anything in the vicinity of London.
So I downloaded the app, which freaked out about me using an e-mail address that was linked to Reuben’s swimming lessons because swimming lessons are currently suspended. On the advice of some people on Facebook, I logged out of that account and used the “Non Member Request Booking” function to set up a new account, using the choir e-mail address. That didn’t work but also didn’t let me try again with the same e-mail address. So I dug out an old Yahoo! account and the same happened. My eventual success came through Nathan’s e-mail address and an entirely different interface to the one I’d been using before. All I had to do was get back out of bed and walk two floors down to where my card was. Result!
Roo decided to bike over, with me scuttling along behind. We’ve tried various routes there from Highams Park and he was keen to show me a new one he’d worked out when he’d been out for a ride. It involved a busy main road and, at one point, I spotted a cycle path on the pavement and encouraged him to use it. It wasn’t clear from this angle that it went almost immediately into the road itself and then dissolved entirely around the pedestrian crossing.
He handled it very well but I aged several years watching him do it and was relieved to find him waiting for me at the hedgehogs at the end of Ropers Avenue. From there on, it was a simple path through the forest but avoiding the giant hill and still coming out on the playing fields behind the pool.
We were 20 mins early, because I always think it’s further than it actually is. Swimming slots are very precise – you have a ten minute window to get into the building and you can’t enter it before. So, for our 14:00-14:10 slot it was definitely excessive to get to the field by 13:30. I considered stopping for a sitdown but someone else nabbed the bench first and you can’t exactly ask them to scooch up in this environment. But we locked the bike up because last time we’d biked to Chingford there hadn’t been anywhere near the centre itself (Spoiler: there are bike racks just next to the fronr door. I am clearly blind). Then we hung around outside the front doors until 13:55 when we were allowed to go in.
More or less….there was some furore about me using Nathan’s e-mail address because of Track and Trace but once I explained the six hours I’d spent trying every e-mail address that I owned, they let us through.
There’s no denying that it’s a different experience to normal swimming. Entry at Chingford is poolside so there’s nowhere to change or shower beforehand. We did use the loos in the reception area, wiping everything with baby wipes as we went. But we’d come “pool ready” with swimmers under our clothes, as requested, so walked through and left our bags by the window next to the teaching pool. It’s definitely best to be as minimal as possible – I didn’t take my handbag, just a rucksack for my towel – and don’t forget to pack underwear for the journey home. How many of us have made that mistake before?
Once we were properly pool ready, it was fairly straightforward although we went the wrong way around the teaching pool to start with and got told off. Our session was “adult and child” and we were one of three small clusters of people. It feels very exclusive but also you have to be on best behaviour because the lifeguards will whistle for any sign of wrongdoing. Backstroke is frowned upon, as is Butterfly, and there was a rope across the pool where the red line is so the scope for swimming was quite limited.
Still, it was a swim! And that’s something we haven’t for the last five months (and one day). It wasn’t perfect but it was nice to do something that wasn’t just wandering around. And after months of screen-lethargy, I actually feel exhausted in a healthy way. Just a pity about the 6 hour screen battle last night to actually get the thing booked!