#209 - Marshall Street Baths (sorry, 'Leisure Centre & Spa...') 20/09/19

Marshall St, Soho W1F

I last swam in Marshall Street baths when I was around ten, and the Civil Service Swimming Club – of which my dad was a member – decamped there while their own pool was repaired. Returning this summer I was amazed how many styling details I remembered of this gorgeous pool, begun in 1928, completed in 1931 and refurbished in 2010. The way the Sicilian marble floor overhangs the water. The scrolling font of the depth markers. The surprising three-metre deep end. The gorgeous, barrel vaulted ceiling. Even the way people leave their clothes on the side (there are lockers if you bring or buy a padlock). There were semi-pro, triangle-torsoed swimmers and learners there the afternoon I went. A gem.

Single swim: £7

Length: 30m

Heated: No

#208 - A study in stark contrast - exhibition review, Tim Walker vs Antony Gormley 19/09/19


How amusing to have such starkly contrasting shows open, a 15-minute bike ride apart, on the same day. Tim Walker’s flights of fancy are all about artifice and distortion – Tilda Swinton as Edith Sitwell, a model with another’s shadow attached, Kate Moss as a naked flower fairy, the pomp and inflation of high fashion. Antony Gormley’s work comes down mostly to stark geometry and the dimensions of his own body, to rough metal and stone. In Walker’s show the early high-gloss photographs impress more than the later – often grotesque - responses to artefacts from the V&A’s collection, many of them mounted on tacky stage sets. With Gormley, the experiments in mass, volume and weight - one room full of metal coils and one of water, a huge suspended mesh oblong, cables stretched between galleries and carving up empty air – come as a relief from the insistent self-portraiture. The prospect of entering and groping about inside a room-filling, cuboid rendering of Gormley’s body is frankly offputting, though a small humanoid – the Iron Baby in the RA courtyard – will surely be this year’s most Instagrammed artwork. Is it actually a rendition of the artist himself as a baby? Knowing his work, probably.

#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

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