An ill-fated trip to the lido

1/3 of the Violet editing team, Scarlet Rowe, bravely recounts her trip to the lido and explains why she will most definitely not be returning any time soon.

Scarlett Rowe

"The lido itself looked deceptively inviting"Image by Louise Dav from Pixabay

Being the idealistic Romantic I am, and ever since I first heard about it, Jesus Green Lido (a public open-air swimming pool) has always been a quaint and attractive prospect to me. In fact, I remember actually being disappointed when we couldn’t come back last Easter partly because I had looked forward to going to the lido. Back then, I was youthful, hopeful, and optimistic. Now, I am none of those things, because today, for the first (and last) time, I ventured to the lido.

It was, in theory (the operative word, as always, being ‘theory’), the perfect day for it. The sky was a pure blue, and the sun made one of its sporadic appearances. Everyone, including myself, was as happy as Larry and the streets were bustling with life.

“It was, in theory (the operative word, as always, being ‘theory’), the perfect day for it”

“Why not go to the lido?” My friend and I conjectured, spending a good ten minutes trying to figure out the Better booking app, and (in classic humanities style,) complaining about how it wanted our personal details. Little did we know that an invasion of data privacy would be the least of our problems.

So, having finally booked our tickets, we were raring and ready to get to the lido for 4pm. Except, of course, we were five minutes late because I’d got carried away trying on my new skirt (an absolute steal from TK Maxx) and drinking tea while chatting to my grandma on the phone. When we arrived, still technically in the right time slot, the ticket agent asked for my name. This should be a very simple question.

But, alas, I have a rather unfortunate habit of switching between my father’s surname ‘Rowe’ and my mother’s surname ‘Rudkin’, and I couldn’t quite remember which I’d put down. So, me being me, I guessed both of them. The ticket agent raised their eyebrows a little and said that I did, in fact, put ‘Rudkin’. This was followed by an awkward laugh from me and a forced ‘that’s the one’ comment before I quickly darted through the entry gates at a breakneck speed. In hindsight, I wish I’d never have guessed either surname right. Then, I may have not been allowed entry, and thus still be the youthful spirit I was just this morning.

The lido itself looked deceptively inviting. The water was clear and very blue. A group of three friends were already swimming and chatting light-heartedly in it. This, of course, gave me a severely unrealistic impression of what it would actually be like. The first ‘red flag’, then, were preparing to swim in the ‘Medium’ lane; a group of five swimmers wearing wet suits, goggles and gloves. Why on earth are they dressed for an Arctic expedition? I wandered out loud. Well, that aged well.

Long story ‘short’ (ish), the water was freezing.

Numbing.

Glacial.

Piercing.

Just all round unpleasant.

Oh, and did I mention, cold?

So upon walking down the ladder into the relatively harmless looking water, I sprung right back out again. “There is no way I am going in there”, I protested (potentially i.e. definitely too loudly). This exclamation is coming from the same person who used to do open water swimming. Evidently, I was made of stronger mettle back then.

My friend, then, bravely went in first. He did not look too happy at his immersion in the water. In fact, he looked positively traumatised. And in the meantime, a few swimmers glided into the water with hardly a grimace. “Is there something wrong with us?” I mused. Perhaps, however, some questions are best left unanswered…

It did not help that my friend was managing the Arctic Sea X Jesus Green Lido collab a lot better than me. Though still, of course, in immense discomfort and shock at the cold, he put on a braver face. I had no choice, then, but to begrudgingly give the water another go. My competitive streak is something which I need to get rid of and ASAP.

"Upon walking down the ladder into the relatively harmless looking water, I sprung right back out again"https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jesus_Green_Lido_Summer_2007.jpg

Eventually (aka, after an Oscar-worthy song and a dance on my part,) we decided to swim to the end. It took forever.

And ever.

And ever.

And then another eternity.

And why not throw in another eternity too just for the sake of it?

“My decision to swim it all again is definitely one I will question for the rest of my life”

In fact, at one point I really thought I just wouldn’t make it. This is not exactly how I imagined it would all end, I thought to myself about 40 metres in; as instead of acclimatising and getting warmer, I was just getting colder and number and more miserable by the second. 91 metres later and finally at the other end of the glacial pool, my friend (sensibly) decided to take a break. I, on the other hand, decided to ‘soldier on’. Another 91 metres later, and a miracle had occurred: I was feeling strangely okay. One could even say I was getting too comfortable, because my decision to swim it all again is definitely one I will question for the rest of my life.

As the sensible wetsuit adorned, blissfully naïve swimmers paced up and down, I started to lose sensation in my fingers and toes. This is something that I would 10/10 not recommend to a friend (or even an enemy). 15 minutes later, and my friend and I decided we had had enough. I don’t know why it took so long either. As we clambered out of the pool, my friend said he felt ‘lucky’ and ‘grateful’ to ‘still be alive’. I agreed wholeheartedly, glancing back at the pool in undisguised terror.

While my friend shivered along to the male changing rooms (with a renewed sense of gratitude for his life), the life guards had a surprise in store for me. ‘Because of the one way system, women have to walk all the way around the pool to get to their changing rooms’ apparently. This would be fine and not grossly unjust if the pool weren’t 91 metres long and 14 metres wide.


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I genuinely felt like I was back in school and being punished for going ‘up’ the ‘down’ stairs by having to do the walk of shame and make my way to the lesson again (the right way). But this time instead of teachers watching in amusement, it was the life guards. And instead of a nice heated corridor, it was the biting and unsympathetic cold for me.

Upon arriving at my final destinations a few decades later, and to my absolute horror, the changing rooms were genuinely like little paddocks. They were dark, unlit and spiderish. What’s more, the ‘door’ did not even reach my shoulders. So much for privacy. By the time I made it out of *that place which we do not name*, I was struggling to speak to my friend due to a complete and utter chill. Anyway, luckily, my friend felt similarly — i.e. wretched and strongly regretful, so we walked back in a sort of shell-shocked silence and shame.

“You know what I said about maybe making the lido a weekly thing before we went in it?”

I asked my friend, who nodded in response.

“Well, I don’t think we should ever go again,” I said through chattering teeth.

And you know what? I don’t think we have ever agreed more.

The lesson? Some things (such as the lido) are very good in theory, but catastrophic in practice. So next time I get a random urge to swim, it’s Parkside Pool for me.