Ah, Tooting Bec Lido in the winter season! A little haven of civilisation, courtesy and calm. And then….. Comes the spring, the birdies burgeon, the trees tweet, the Lido throws open its doors to the dreaded PUBLIC and Nik, our triathlete (aka, you will remember, Not Anyone I Know) decides it’s time to get in some outdoor swimming practice in his wetsuit. And off he goes to Tooting Bec, ripe with purpose.
Now I’m sure that Nik is a very nice man. I have absolutely nothing against Nik and his wetsuited buddies. The trouble with Nik is that he is innocent. Innocent of all knowledge of the Lido and its rich and varied history, and that of its denizens, and innocent, too, of its carefully tolerant, inclusive and egalitarian culture. He doesn’t know, for instance, that the lady breaststroking painfully slowly towards the shallow end is called Edith, that she is 87 and has been swimming here since she was twelve. He doesn’t know that she used to win medals for swimming and that she was considerably faster than he is now, before arthritis struck her down. He doesn’t know that the chap swimming an agonisingly slow and splashy crawl up and down only learnt to swum last year, has been practising ever since and has just managed to complete his first kilometre, to huge encouragement and applause from all his swimming buddies. He doesn’t know that the people standing around and chatting at the shallow end bundled in coats and hats are mates who have been swimming here together for years, have swum here together all through the winter, and are now enjoying a warming coffee after a chilly couple of miles, skins. Nik, bless him, doesn’t know anything.
*No similarity with any actual swimmers, living, dead, wetsuited or non-wetsuited, intended.