The prospect of indoor fun may be being dangled in front of us next week but, for now, there’s a limit to what fun can be had on a rainy day. Not that you’d know it was rainy from the gloriously sunny photo I took as we left the pool today but honestly, this was an anomaly. It’s been drizzling the whole day, if not outright chucking it down like it was a few minutes ago. So we decided to go for one of the few weatherproof options currently available and go swimming as a happy family unit.
I say a happy family unit but what I really means is two, fairly happy, sub-units. Eva and Nathan are the unenthusiastic shallow-end splashers and Reuben and I are the deep-end divers. Normally when we attempt swimming, it’s just the one sub-unit that goes and the other sub-unit stays home and plays on screens. But part of the point of today’s excursion was to get the sub-sub-unit happier with the whole swimming process so she’ll cope better with school swimming. So we all jumped in the car and drove to the Feel Good Centre.
We’re not big drivers but there’s no denying that the Covid-safe version of swimming is much easier with a car. I still struggle to see why stripping off in the middle of a changing room and leaving your belongings on the side of the pool is more Covid-secure than using a cubicle to change and a locker to store stuff…..but, those are the rules. And while we’d normally cycle or walk to the FGC, it’s a long way when half the party is in swimshorts and it’s – as mentioned earlier – chucking it down. And the car is handy for leaving as much stuff as possible in so you can minimize what’s in the “Designated Bag Zone” at the poolside.
I can’t help feeling it’s all a bit discriminatory against people who can’t afford to drive or who choose not to drive for environmental reasons. But Reuben and I have done it on foot to Chingford before so it’s not impossible just…trickier. And a pre-swim shower would be really useful when your walk to the pool goes through the forest.
Chingford was my first choice, as it happens, but they didn’t have any slots for Saturday afternoon and it was going to be a tight turnaround after church on Sunday. So it was the slightly more complicated FGC then, with its paid-for parking (top tip: download the Y-Pay app) and its chilly changing rooms. But it has a very deep deep end, which pleases Reuben and only mildly terrifies me.
Booking is all through the Better app, which I’ve had some issues with before, but it worked reasonably well this time. We had a ten-minute entry slot and kept our facemasks on through Reception and into the changing rooms. Then there was an awkward bit where we had to shed our shoes just outside the changing village and our clothes somewhere within it. The one-way system to get into the pool is well signposted but there’s no sign to say where you go from the kind of swim-ready that you can be outside in to the kind of swim-ready that you can swim in (or “beach-ready” as the sign outside the changing village optimistically put it. Hmm, was I *meant* to shave for this?)
So we were kinda messy and in everyone’s way but we muddled through the transition and found an empty section of the poolside bag zone to leave our stuff. The pool seemed pretty crowded but there was a complicated wristband system, which meant that a load of people cleared out around ten minutes in to our slot. I think our blue wristbands gave us 40 minutes in total but there were announcements to tell you when you had to leave. It was a bit confusing that the bands before us were also blue but a lighter shade and also confusing that the slot before light blue was gold, which was also the colour of the wristband they were giving out for passing the swim test. So a good system in theory, but it had its flaws.
Ah, the swim test. My old nemesis. Roo said he didn’t think he was going to do it today but a few minutes in the shallow end with actual babies and he changed his mind. I’ve never been convinced this is a good way of proving a child’s competence and would happily pay for them to just tattoo Reuben with “vaguely competent” and leave it at that. It always feels like we’re bothering the lifeguards to ask them to do it and, if the shallow end is busy, it’s almost impossible to swim through without putting your foot down. But today, they batched a load of kids up to do the test at the same time and some of the smaller ones cleared out of the way to let them through so that worked better than normal.
Once we were gold-banded and in the deep end Reuben was much happier. Our 40 minutes went very quickly but happily coincided with Roo bashing his head against my foot, so he was kinda ready to get out anyway. I’m not sure what Nathan and Eva were up to in the shallow end – it probably didn’t involve much actual swimming but neither of them cried so that was good.
Happily, we were allowed to use both the showers and the cubicles post swim so we could take the edge off the chilly changing rooms and dry off quickly. I wish the cafe had been open so we could have had a disappointing coffee and a chocolate owl but hopefully that’ll become a reality next week. We can only hope…!