The Lido: Cold tiles, the smell of chlorine and 1980s memories of outdoor swimming at primary school

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Having recently completed Couch25k I was looking for another challenge, something to add to my fitness repertoire, if you will. I like swimming, and given the recent closure of the Regional Pool, my choice was to go to the Lido, writes Joanne Chanter.

I’ll be honest and say I hadn’t given consideration to the other pools around Peterborough, of which there are two (and I bet they have free parking!)

Having reluctantly paid the £3.50 to park nearby for less than two hours which didn’t even give me time to pop to Primark, I set off for the metal turnstile.

What struck me first off was the ambient atmosphere. Everyone had jobs to do and were busy going about their duties, the lifeguards were chatting amicably to one another. Early noughties music was playing from the speakers.

Peterborough LidoPeterborough Lido
Peterborough Lido

Trying to push down the building trepidation inside, I made for the changing area. The coldness of the old tiles on my bare feet was a taster of what was about to come.

I found myself next to a lady vacating another cubicle at the same time as me and it seemed rude not to exchange pleasantries about what we were about to let ourselves in for. I consider myself to be of fairly robust character but it was clear to me she was much hardier than I, and having kindly put herself in the water first which enabled me to gauge her reaction, “It’s like the air temperature” she commented, to which I replied confidently “I can handle that”, it was still a good two minutes before I dared to put my shoulders under the water.

I watched waist deep while my new acquaintance was already making strides. The smell of chlorine that hit my nose when I did finally plunge my shoulders into the water, immediately reminded me of the 10 metre outdoor

swimming pool we were all subjected to in primary school approximately 38 years ago.

“Well, if my nine year old self could endure this I’m sure I’ll be alright” I said to myself in an attempt to soothe the shock of the cold water, as I gamely began my first few breast strokes.

Looking round it became clear to me that this was not an activity for the fainthearted. My fellow pool members consisted of over 65s, a professional looking swimmer complete with hat and goggles several years younger than I, and a couple of thirty something men who clearly had great stamina shown in their masterful front crawl technique and speed.

As I bobbed along in what I would call my ‘1980’s’ swimming style, head out of the water, hair tied in a clip so as not to get it wet, I couldn’t help wondering how many more years the Peterborough Lido would remain open.

I remember my Grandad telling me how he’d attended the newly built outdoor pool, aged nine, in 1936 and it put me in mind of my great-uncle also who, incidentally, had taken part in D-Day landings, the 80th anniversary of which, my visit coincided. I questioned if the young (er) generation of today would use such a facility, like I was, during term time, who unlike me, haven’t (thankfully) been subjected to the rudiments of outdoor swimming at a young age.

Will they be bothered about mounting a campaign when it comes to the crunch time of closing it, as it inevitably will at some stage?

It’s like everything, I thought philosophically as I swam; times are changing and so are priorities. For example, nowhere near as many people go to church anymore as they once did, and I know first hand that the high costs of keeping these historic buildings open for weekly worship will eventually mean, they too, will have to close their doors at some point.

I cheered myself up with the thought of feeling lucky that both are still here for us to enjoy, as and when we choose, and I’d urge anyone with a spare hour or two to give it a try. There’s nothing like a bracing swim outdoors to propel you into the present and refocus the mind and it wasn’t really that bad.