#207 - Neasden State of Mind? A trip to the Ace, the Sikh Temple and Amersham via Wembley and the 1950s - 07/09/19

NW10 and Buckinghamshire

Booked onto a London Transport Museum Vintage Suburbia ride today from Wembley to Amersham - 1950s carriages drawn by historic engine the Sarah Siddons - we decided to make a morning of it. Breakfast: legendary biker hangout the Ace Café; bacon sandwiches, terrific atmosphere, a clientele that also seemed to date from the 50s. Then a gawp at Neasden’s Sikh temple and a stroll up the dwindling Brent to the rising towers around Wembley. Leaving the unpretty north circular for the Buckinghamshire borders, all 1930s semis and vintage station roundels, felt like a weight had lifted. But it took an hour to get back, on regular Met line stock. Suburbia can be pretty but I wouldn’t want to live there.

#206 - #dipintolondon no 4 - Tooting Bec Lido and Streatham High St

Tooting Common

Despite growing up nearby, and commuting past if for three years to Croydon early in my journalistic career (the glamour!), I’d only ever swum once in the UK’s largest freshwater swimming pool (by surface area), in my 20s. The location, the unheated water and the excessive length (100 yards) deterred me. But on a cool bright day it is lovely: the multicoloured changing room doors, the 1930s fountain that aerates the water, the tiled memorials to dedicated swimmers and local heroes, the pure simplicity and grandeur of it. I only managed three lengths, showered off the leaves and cycled home via Streatham High Street, where the ghosts of grand cinemas and department stores – and a magnificent Tate library – never cease to enthral me.

Single Swim: £7.70 (after 6pm £4.70)

Length: 100 yards (91.44m)

Heated: No


#205 - #dipintolondon no 3 - The Serpentine and goose crap

Hyde Park

Despite cycling past it daily for over a decade I’d always been scared of swimming in the Serpentine, imagining it the domain of hardened octogenarians churning lengths. On the hottest day of the year in July it was rammed: the next day when I went, almost empty and placid. The facilities are pleasingly rudimentary for a pool in a royal park. The gently sloping, sludgy-bottomed, roped-off lido water is warmer than I expected; murkier too, and the sight of geese crapping on the bank puts you off putting your face in. But the combination of sky, trees and – weirdly – distant traffic is beguiling and even a little disorienting: I found it hard to maintain my line during backstroke.

Single Swim:  £4.80 (£4.10 after 4pm)

Length: Don't know...

Heated: No

#204 - #dipintolondon no 2 - Hampstead Mixed Bathing Pond and a pint at the Flask 24/08/19

Hampstead Heath

Full disclosure: not all these swimming pool reviews will be written immediately after they happened. But my first ever visit to Hampstead’s Mixed Bathing Pond with my wife Ann was yesterday, the start of the sweltering weekend. This picturesque stretch of water was neither as packed nor as cold but EXACTLY as retro-boho as I expected. Youngsters sipping beer, older swimmers churning circuits, a be-ringed man in a knotted swimming cap doing a reverse dive off the jetty. I loved the rudimentary facilities (no showers or lockers, a fenced yard to change in) and the old skool pricing. And the pint in the Flask pub afterwards.

Single Swim:  £2.00

Length: Don't know...

Heated: No

#203 - #dipintolondon no 1 - on Brockwell Lido and linocuts at Dulwich 15/08/19

Brockwell Park/Dulwich Picture Gallery

Naturally my first pool in #dipintolondon had to be my local lido, Brockwell Park. And there was a rightness to swimming in this 1937 structure after catching up on Dulwich Picture Gallery ‘s excellent Cutting Edge exhibition of linocut printmaking - both pool and artworks expressions of interwar optimism and a newly leisured class. On a brisk summer day I had a central medium-pace lane to myself: phew, for someone used to a 15m gym pool its 50m length was a challenge. The water feels clean and not overly chemical, and there is a cheerful, rub-along feel to it with young families, OAPs and wetsuited triathletes all giving each other room.

Single Swim:  £6.40

Length: 50m

Heated: No

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