It doesn't matter where you swim in Britain you seem to end up encountering detritus in the water.
When we first moved to Streatham, we were mightily pleased to have a pool virtually at the end of our road. However, on our first outing there, we discovered it to be quite the filthiest experience either of us have ever had. I'm not exaggerating when I say it felt like swimming in a sewer. The bottom was completely green and there was brown unidentified muck swilling around at the bottom. I lasted three lengths before I suggested to Nic that we leave which she happily agreed to.
When we complained and got our money back, we were told that the pool was fully chlorinated and anything nasty would be neutralised. I replied that that wasn't really the point and that they had stuff floating around at the bottom of the pool that was obviously some sort of human deposit and needed sorting. It's a common complaint of London pools.
What we hadn't realised at the time was that the plot on which the council swimming pool stands had been bought up by Tesco along with a large stretch of the property on the High Road. There was a plan to build a huge Tesco Superstore in it's place and as part of the deal the Supermarket were obligated to build a new swimming pool, leisure centre and the ice rink all of which were due for demolition. The result of this was the council halted any new funding for the existing buildings, but inevitably there was a huge planning dispute which meant nothing got started. Three years on still nothing's happening and the leisure facilities are falling apart literally.
Anyway our first swimming experience meant we had to re-evaluate where to swim and we ended up as regulars at Crystal Palace, we're lucky that we live just a 10 minute drive from one of only two 50m pools in London (which is in itself a disgrace, but that's another post), but we have come to love it there.
The National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace is getting a little worn around the edges, especially considering the level of usage. There is never a time when the place isn't packed out. It's an extremely inspiring place to be. You get to see sports being played that you wouldn't really see anywhere else, so you can watch national standard trampolining, diving, basketball, waterpolo and all sorts of other weird and wacky pursuits. Kids today get a very bad rap in my opinion for being lazy couch potatoes, but spend some time down at Crystal Palace and you see nothing but positive, happy, competitive kids having a brilliant time, keeping fit and keeping of the streets and out of trouble, it's very life affirming.
It was our big hope that the successful Olympic bid would mean the centre would get a huge facelift - which it very much needs - but unfortunately it doesn't even figure in the Olympic Delivery Authority's plans for training facilities, so I can only see a decline. Maybe it would be cheaper to start from scratch, than to try and update a facility built over 40 years ago, but it seems frankly daft not to include it in the plans and no one seems to have provided a reason for the decision.
Anyway back to my point (UFOs). As it is one of only two 50m pools in London it is inevitably hugely oversubscribed by swimming clubs from all over London, which means the ongoing cleaning process is immense. The pool sees over 2000 bodies in and out each day, that's an awful lot of potential human detritus and yesterday I found that to my cost.
I really didn't want to be there yesterday. I'd swum on Monday and run Tuesday and Wednesday and that was on top of my cycle to work. Nic's also away with the boys, which meant I had to cycle there. Anyone who knows Crystal Palace will know what a bastard it is to get to by non-motorised means, as it's built on one of the highest points in London, hence the positioning of the radio mast ( incidentally it's England's tallest self supporting steel tower and also the principal transmitter for the BBC).
I had no choice, but to go though, as I am currently trying to complete the Aspire Charity Channel Swim Challenge and I needed to complete my 18th mile as I've only got two weeks left to complete the other four that I need to have done the equivalent of the channel. So I got there knackered, flopped in to the pool and proceeded with my mile breast stroke, as I just couldn't muster the energy for freestyle. 1,200 metres in and frankly hating the whole thing, as I bobbed my head out of the water and sucked for breath, I sucked up a tube, which completely panicked me. Luckily I'd had the whole lane to myself for 24 lengths, which is unknown, but it takes away all the lane politics and trying to swim round people which makes lane swimming such a pain in the arse, but my steady zombie like rhythm got completely shocked. I stopped dead and spat out the tube and lo and behold it turned out to be a tampon applicator. Great, just what I needed, I'm used to swimming through plasters, or dressings or the odd bit of paper, sweet wrappers all of which I wonder how they got there, but please a tampon applicator. I almost hurled. I guess it's just one of those things you have to accept that they can't keep the place meticulously clean at all times of the day, however that didn't stop me raging at the lifeguards, who reacted with a mixture of apology and barely concealed mirth. Anyway, I'll be watching where I'm going in future, I need to tweak my technique anyway, if that can somehow incorporate no breathing maybe I won't have to inhale any more sanitary products.