Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Summer season is over

It's official, September 30th and The Tooting Bec Lido has closed it's doors to the public until May next year - that's 2010 - Sounds far away doesn't it?! It won't be as long as you may think... Besides, the good news is that you can always join the South London Swimming Club (SLSC) and swim all year round! Yes that's right - all year round!

See what you are made of and start swimming during the winter months! To keep going when the water temperature is dropping almost daily is a great challenge - See how long you can last!

Look at it this way, once you have made it to Xmas and the New Year, it's only another four and a bit months!

The 2009 Summer season is over and Life guards Dominic and his friend Charlotte are heading home :
"See you next year" they shouted cycling across the common and disappeared in the distance.
"Yes. See you."

Monday, 28 September 2009

Calm after the Storm

Contrary to the saying "calm before the storm" ... This morning's atmosphere at the Lido was more like the calm after the storm !

The weekend at the Lido had been action packed.

Saturday we had the 103 length challenge in celebration of 103 years of the Lido and on Sunday a mini triathlon.

I took part in the 103 and teamed up with Jim, John, Kevin and Mark - we all swam to make up 103 laps - it was a gloriously sunny afternoon water temperature around 16 Celsius - Nine teams swam at the same time - lane 10 was put aside for the solo swimmers.

Some teams were smaller some had more swimmers in them. And some brave souls took on the challenge head on and swam the entire 103 length (which is 10300 yards) solo, all by themselves!

I will have to find out all the names of those who succeeded ... pretty amazing to say the least.
I know of one : Lucy Scott-Petrie. who wasn't sure she'd manage .. and did - Lucy is an amazing swimmer. She has trained to swim the Channel - and tried it twice - last year the tide was against her and she swam 2 hours on the spot before she was dragged out ... not a pleasant experience . however, she never gave up - set her goal for this year. She was training so hard - This year she had the misfortune to get unconscious and again was pulled out - Swimming the Channel really is a very tough challenge - certainly not for the faint hearted. I felt sorry for Lucy .. and so happy when I found out this morning that she had completed the 10,300 yards! That's 5.85 miles or 9.418 Kilometers!

I left the Lido around 4.15 pm on Saturday - I had my work cut out that day and had to rush home.

Sunday, I only made it to the Lido after 2pm - there were quite a few people basking in the sun - catching the last Lido summer time rays - the Lido will close to the public from September 30th - but fortunately reopen for SLSC members seamlessly the very next day.

Lots of kids braved the water, splashed around ... which made it much choppier than in the morning when the water is more as flat as a pancake and swimming seems so effortless.

When I arrived this morning at 8am there were 3 people in the pool. I could barely wait to get in. The temperature had dropped down to 15 Celsius due to a cold night but, the feeling was pure delight! The cool gliding sensation was back and at the end of 10 length a hot shower was in order.

Others had another reward waiting for them!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Waiting for the sun

The last days of September are here.

Autumn has officially begun some four days ago,on Sept. 21st.

One can really notice how much lower the sun's trajectory has become. Specially in the mornings when it takes much longer for the sun to rise high enough to throw her warm rays on the entire pool.

It's ten minutes past 8am. The sun is hiding behind the trees. Every now and again a sun ray finds its way through one of the branches of those majestic trees that surround the pool. I am watching her every move patiently.

I love morning light. It's truly special.

I took my time, walked around the pool once to take it all in. The pool looks different from all angles.

The main focus is always the doors - the magic colourful doors! No matter where one stands. They reflect the light so perfectly. Here a view with the first rays of morning sun behind me.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

"Good morning Albert"

"Good Morning Elizabeth - We've remembered!" he chirped, followed by his familiar boyish smile that makes Albert... Albert!

Albert has been coming for his daily swim at the Tooting Bec Lido for well over 30 years!

I was keen to know how it was then.
"A lot has changed over the years." Gisela, his partner joins in. She's been coming near to 50 years.
There were no hot showers then and we used to all shower together men and women!"

They love the mornings! Hey, I know why!

"We used to come before 7am - it was free to come in until 10am in those days."
" Yes, and I remember climbing over the fence on my way to work when it was still dark. Just to have my swim. It was only a little fence too. Not like all the security we have to have nowadays"
"Really, Albert?!"

I'm well impressed. And it touches me to know how much pleasure the Lido has brought to people over the past 103 years.

It also reminds me of when I was a kid, living in Austria. My brother, myself and some friends jumped the fence to get into the local pool at midnight. The moon was out in its full glory which made the adventure even more electrifying. I couldn't have been older than 10 and already passionate about swimming.

Doing "naughty" things out of a passion is not what youngsters like doing these days mind you...

Last winter people had nothing better to do then to break into the Lido twice to vandalise the place. Once to throw a few bags of sand in the pool and on another occasion to break the little glass window of the sauna.

However, nothing kept the regulars from coming - the poor life guards had their work cut out though. Eventually, after a few days of hard work they managed to get all the sand back out. The pol looked at its best again - the water crystal clear.

"We even swam when the water was green and full of algae then! We didn't mind!"

"I guess people's immune system was better then too!", I remarked.

But enough reminiscing.

"See you tomorrow, Albert and Gisela. You've had your swim and I'd better go for mine."


Here a view out out my cubical. You'll see what I mean!

PS: Great news. “The thing” remember, the belated birthday present... well, it has arrived today. About 1 hour ago! Took it out of the box! Looks awesome.

I’m sooooooo ready to use it ... come October! The countdown has begun. Thanx Bro!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Keep checking your local paper

It's Albert! The name of the lovely gentleman who greets me every morning with a smile followed by an update on how the water feels is Albert!
I'm glad I have it written down ... cause I'm not the best remembering names. Nor is Albert for that matter :)
"What's your name ?"
"I'll have to try and remember that!"
"That's easy, I said, we are both regal :)"
"It's easier for me to remember names if I think of some else I know with the same name..."

I can't wait for tomorrow morning to arrive! We'll see who is better at it..

Funnily enough, there was an even greater sense of joy and camaraderie at the pool this morning. I put it down to having all the children's paintings displayed. It was lovely to see that each person, in their own time went to take a closer look at the exhibits.

With regards to the press release for the Free Art Event at the Lido, it will hopefully be in the South London Press as opposed to being in the Wandsworth Guardian. The Guardian found my photos "too arty" :) I'll take that as compliment then :) Specially as the South London Press liked them! Bottom line is that it would be good to have something about it in the press.

So keep checking in your local paper! And keep coming to the pool for your daily fix ... of coffee :) but only after your revitalising splish!

I did it again ... sneaked a pic from out of my cubical ... sorry, it was just too tempting not to :)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

I have a plan

It is official. I NEED October to come along. Fast!

The quality of morning light at the Lido is just simply out of this world! I don't know what it is about this place? Simply enchanting. And, I'm itching like no body's business to take photos, photos, photos and some video footage of course.

Unless you swim here, you cannot image what it feels like to be gliding along and at each breath one takes to be catching a glimpse of the light reflecting on the surface of the water .... combined with the view of the famous multicoloured doors in the background. Stunning!

Last year I took underwater stills as well as video footage with my IXUS 70 - I had invested in an underwater housing specially designed for that model and got some really lovely stuff.

But what I was missing is being able to use it while swimming along.

For this year, I have a plan. I'm researching options right now and hope to be fully kitted out by the time October opens its doors to the world of Elizabeth's underwater photography :)

While I'm on to my to my next project, let me sign off with a taster of things to come.

Monday, 21 September 2009

What a welcome

Wow, when I got up around 6.30am the sky behind the roofs outside my window presented itself with the most amazing hues of red and orange.

Red sky in the morning - Shepherd's warning .. what a lot of nonsense ... :) at least this morning! Once I arrived at the Lido, the sun was already gently pushing its way through a thin veil of clouds that the night had generated.

Two solitary swimmers gliding along the calm surface. One man making his way back from the shower and to his cubical, a towel round his waist and beaming from ear to ear : "You'll like it today! it's a bit warmer than yesterday" - I really must ask this lovely man what his name is ... a smile alone as a reply followed by, "great, I look forward to getting in", won't do :)

Slowly, another and then another swimmer, is making his/her way through the gate. It's like The March of Singing Souls approaching poolside :)

"Hello Blogger!"
ahhh one of my (blog) followers :) has arrived!
I tell Vince about the cute shots I took of him and his children on Saturday during the art event.

By the way, A press release about the event has gone out to the Local Guardian. So, with a bit of luck, you will be able to read about it in the paper soon.

No more chit chat though. Time to get in and feel the clear, refreshing water envelop my body.

Gliding is the name of the game. Each stroke accompanied by a gentle stretch - Today it feels like pure poetry in motion! And yes a touch warmer - the weekend sun and the warmer nights must have helped. Good God, we are up by one degree - the thermometer shoes 16 Celsius.

It is amazing how the regular swimmers immediately feel the slightest change in temperature!

Still, I kept my session at 10 laps (only) :) I would have loved to stay longer... if only I didn't have to be back in time to let Ifi in. Who is Ifi? She's the most cheerful cleaner you will have ever come across!

She greeted me with an untroubled "they said it was going to rain, rain,rain today" to which I replied as joyfully : "well, they were wrong, wrong, wrong!"

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Remains of the day

What a weekend at the Lido! Saturday was action packed. Sunday was quieter. However, Sunday would of course not be your usual Lido Sunday if "the customary races" were not on the agenda :)

They are fun (to watch!) but I have never really been tempted to take part :) For some reason I have never been one to enjoy competing ...

I did arrive at the Lido in time to watch before lowing myself into the 15 degrees Celsius - ahhhh what bliss!

6 relaxing laps later ( still exhausted from yesterday's activities) it was time to take a leisurely stroll back home.

And for today let me leave you with an image that depicts the remains of yesterday's event :)

Friday, 18 September 2009

The plan that didn't quite work out

It only gets better! the sun was out for real already early this morning- I felt such a pull to the pool- immediately as I woke ... however, that was 6.30am - still dark then this time of year... besides, I have my back exercises to do first, then my morning gongyo (buddhist practice) and only then am I freeeee to jump on my bike and peddle as fast I can to get my daily fix!

As I reached the gates, I saw Vince - would you believe it :pushing his bike:)
"is your pony lame?", I called out - and got a big smile in return before going straight into the customary swimming chat!
As we got through the barriers all we could see was a beautifully calm pool no more than 2 people in the water - wow - the water as flat as a pancake - I love it like that - the gliding sensation one gets when swimming in such calm water is simply sensational.

But I'm getting ahead of myself what I wanted to share with you was that I had a plan. This morning I wanted to take sound bites at the pool - examples of the little chit chats I spoke about yesterday.

And what can I say I was soooo not prepared to get this wonderful opportunity when bumping into Vince already at the gates ... and Fiona for that matter ... sad that .. but anyway - we had fun talking before getting in the water and I didn't want to suddenly pull out my gadget and break up the flow of conversation .. it will be for another time - the lesson: gotta always be on the pulse and well prepared :)

the swim was ... well... what can I say other than : sensational! I did my 10 laps - finishing my 6th lap and wanting to push off again, Pip was just getting out: "looking very good", Pip said - "oh- thank you" - the daily practice is paying off, I guess! Vince and I had been talking about the "total immersion" technique for months now! we talk about it obsessively every day! and practice it - Vince religiously, drills and all ... me, more casually! We're getting tips from Margy and Sue and discussing swimming at large with almost every body who has the patience to listen and put their pennies worth in!

Let me tell you, there are some seriously good swimmers at the Lido! and I am aiming to introduce you to them bit by bit .. something to look forward to!

So after my swim and quick shower - believe me, it's tough but I'm getting much better at reducing my shower time :), I had to have another go recording. Sitting at the pool's edge, soaking up the sun rays that were helping to warm me, I was drying my feet and putting my socks and shoes on.

I simply switched on the recorder and had it next to me.
and this is what happened - a first try - unedited - and not really according to plan A.
I thought I'd be able to simply upload the audio file on my blog ... but no - no go! - Am now furiously reading forums (not a pastime I enjoy .. at all!) and I decided, until I get an easy answer .. I will have to postpone the idea...

So, I thought I'd sneak in something else I did today .. at the lido: naughty of me ... I know :)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

9.15am : Just back from my plunge into 14 degrees on a perfect crisp september morning. The sun trying to make its way through a thin layer of clouds. The surrounding trees at the Lido reflecting on the serene and calm surface of the water. What more can one ask for? Yes, I will admit, the water was definitely a touch nippy ... as you can imagine! But as soon as I had lowered myself into the water and pushed off from the shallow end of the pool I was in bliss! 10 length later I quickly jumped into a piping hot shower - ahhh another lovely feeling .. sadly no time to chat with fellow swimmers under the shower this morn ... in a mad rush, specially as I had delayed getting in the water earlier .. due to chatting with lots of fellow swimmers .. such as Allison, Chris, Fiona, Vince and others whose names I actually don't know ... - those little verbal exchanges are lovely - sometimes it's just a warming smile or words of encouragement and congratulations ... I always look forward to these moments as it is an integral part of the whole cold water swimming experience!

Sadly, I cannot show you recently taken photographs ... as yet anyway, because officially one is not allowed to take photos at the lido... at least not during times when the pool is open to the public .. let's not go into the why?how come? and how stupid all of that "STOP NO PHOTOS" is ... suffice it to say that come October - I will have permission again (like last year) to take photos. I can't wait for October!! Last year I also produced a 36 min. short film entitled Activities at the Tooting Lido which was shown at the Cold Water Championships last January. Check out the 3min version of the movie. I also produced copies of the film on DVD. Lots of members bought a copy (£10 each) - which is great as I could donate £2 per copy to the club.

I also took photos galore over the autumn/winter months. Some of them made it into the calendar Sue Rentol produced for the club.

I have more creative plans up my sleeve for this season - so stay tuned.

Here a photo taken last year to wet your appetite!

Must rush into town now - for my "one to one" appointment at the mac store in Regent Street.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

This is a bold title isn't it?

"An Unusual Love Affair in London".

But, hey, over the next few months you will get to understand and hopefully also feel that what I am about to share with you is absolutely that : a love affair and an unusual one at that! Well, it is perhaps not as unusual as I may think it is because I am not the only person who is "madly in love" with this unusual "thing" ... let me keep the suspense going for a while :)

I know for sure that I am not the only person who has the good fortune to feel this tremendous emotional, yes, even physical pull towards "this". Maybe there are people out there who are feeling such a seductive jerk right now?! and fulfilling the need to satisfy it! In fact know there are at least a hand full of them! There must be! Well I know there are. And yet, I will confess. We are a minority.

What is she on about?

Well, at this stage I can tell you as much as that it is a physical, emotional and spiritual activity. Yes, that much I can give away...

so what is it?

Ok, it's probably a sporting as much as a deeply energising and exhilarating, pleasurable and, for some, calming activity. It could paradoxically also be a meditative activity.

Could it be rock climbing?mountaineering? skiing?... mountain biking? People who love those activities certainly feel a tremendous pull even a distinct calling to engage in the duality of thriving on the physical as well as satisfying an emotional and spiritual need. The peak of a mountain is said "to be calling for his conquerer to triumph over it".

But, hang on. The love affair takes place in london. Remember!

Oh, I know. Bungie jumping! No, it's not bungie jumping! In fact I couldn't think of anything worse than bungie jumping :)

Free running. Yes, I got it. No sorry. Close. interesting new sport that gives amazing athletes a hell of a buzz. But, no.

Tightrope walking. Yes, you have discovered the thrills of walking on a tight rope. Inspired by the film "Man on Wire" - A must see film by the way - go rent it in case you haven't seen it- You have gone totally bonkers and are planning to tie a wire between St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern!

Great idea. Daring. But, no.

Ok, enough guessing. I'll fill you in with my Love Affair. The best way of doing that is to show you a little video.

You see! You get the idea?! The Championship drew quite a bit of attention. Even Reuters covered the event and as I am fluent in German I was asked whether I'd be willing to be interviewed. Of course I was willing! I love talking about cold water swimming and I love the Tooting Bec Lido! By the way, the swimmer with the funny looking contraption on the head is me! I entered 3 races. One of them was "the head up breaststroke with the fancy hat" race. Seeing that I am a freelance photographer and film maker - Bridget, a friend from the pool designed the hat for me!

As if by magic I live no more than a 7 min. bike ride away from the pool!
You saw on the clip the Lido is an open air, unheated pool. What you couldn't see, is that it is 100yards long. However, at temperatures below 10 degrees celsius we usually "regress" to swimming widths (which are still 33meters long!). The Lido is open to the public from the end of May to the end of September and, hurray, open to members all year round.

I swim daily. Come snow, hail, rain, wind and even sunshine! One could say I get my daily fix of love, exhilarating energy, emotional and spiritual enjoyment there, at that very place.

Believe it or not the Lido is 103 years old! I invite you to read up on Lido's history.

So I invite you to stay tuned because during the next few months I will attempt to convey to you what that experience feels like.

Although we have had a fairly good summer and the water temperature had risen to a high of 20 degrees centigrade during July and early August, the temperature has gradually fallen. For the past few days it has fluctuated between 16 and 14 . This morning, around 8am - which is when I usually swim it was a positively refreshing 14. I swam 10 lengths - just short of one Kilometer- and felt amazing.

Now that the secret is out, stay tuned and check in for regular updates on activities at the Tooting Bec Lido. Photographs, interviews with other crazy cold water fanatics and much more to come.