#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

#202 - On Thames herons, the wonderful @DarbysLondon, and place making in the new Battersea

Battersea/Nine Elms

On a walk via Chelsea to the New Battersea, @acghunter32 and I became slightly obsessed with spotting Thames herons. Indeed, I might develop a full-blown heron addiction. And I might also get addicted to @DarbysLondon, a grown-up grill house among greenery and water behind the impressive new American embassy. Superb home-cured meats, a sweet and fluffy chicken liver mousse, an unusually delicate monkfish at £28 and impeccable service mean we’ll go back despite stiff prices. Can’t say the same for @FiumeLondon where a dog got a drink before I did. But the new Battersea/Nine Elms could be great if it becomes more porous, with more roads punched through the viaducts and markets

#201 - "Extraordinary" - exhibition review, Helene Schjerfbeck 17/07/19

Royal Academy of Arts

This exhibition for the insufficiently known Finnish artist is a lovely surprise. Helen Schjerfbeck was a prodigy and her early work from the 1890s varies from accomplished, cutesy Victoriana to experimental mood studies like The Door. Once into the new century, geographically withdrawn but intellectually engaged with the international art world, her style roamed boldly: there are works here that echo Klimt and foreshadow Bacon and Moore. What stays constant is the sense of sitters – even of still lifes – caught off guard and captured in essence. This is especially true of the self-portraits, that begin with prettified perfection and end with the drawn expressionist maw of an old ghost. Extraordinary.

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