The Pleasure Bath

Perilous Pond became the first outdoor swimming pool in London, renamed Peerless Pool in 1805, closed and drained in 1850 it is now Peerless Street.


The first time I saw the Children’s Eye Hospital I thought the jagged fascia rather cruel.


Sharp metal shards suspended, screening the windows at the front. Port holes at the side, like tiny tears.


Now I know the piscine/piscine* history of the street I’d put money on the architect having done their homework and can see the lit up fascade mirroring a moonlit swimming pool, easily. A conceit, then, but if so at least a nod to the now invisible past.

On the other side of the road the outlook is a council estate and round the edges there is evidence of the tear down and upgrade now going on on Old Street, a block behind.

A man wearing a T shirt bearing the legend “Dockyard Supplies” seems to speak to the past, he grandstands silently like a toothless muscle dog, but no, he is not working, he’s waiting for a friend, and they embrace and go off elsewhere.

No more swimming up and down here, but nearby Ironmonger Row baths is one of the main reasons I had for moving to this area. I wanted to be ‘no excuse’ distance from a swimming pool, but a year later can safely report that there is no such thing. I saw a flat on the top floor of a small tower next door, on Norman Street, but I couldn’t have persuaded the guy to swap. Tottenham was too far away, he said, but I think he just didn’t like me not LOVING his view.

Well, it was a grey day and all you could see of the skyline was flattened and bleak. I think bad weather London is like living inside a pie. It’s a valley, really, and the sticky polluted air can be trapped by a solid topping of cloud.

Did you know Fray bentos is a place in South America? They must tin those pies before shipping. That’d make most sense.

I wonder if I’d have been allowed to swim with my dog in Peerless? It’s a dream of mine. Ironmonger is a no, even without the toxic chlorine it’s a hard sell.

Breast up, back down, I made a decent fist of it at first. Only twenty minutes in the water, but even so, break a good habit and it’s hard to go back. I had a steady series of weeks where a friend came with me. That was easier, and so it is when I go to yoga. Down faced dog, and thread the needle, tree, and corpse. Evocative poses reached for by lumpen women an hour a week. There is still an interest in reviving or maintaining the fitness in this area – a lot of busy gyms.

It’s mostly encouragement I need. Hitching a ride on someone else’s energy, rhythm entrainment, back and forth, so much easier than using my own. Go and come back.

In the winter it got harder to go swimming. Potentially fatal for me, when the water was colder – swim or spasm and sink.

Like the victims of the Perilous Pond.


* I looked up ‘piscine’, first by definition and then by translation, because I wanted to know how to pronounce it, since I knew the word but had only read it and never heard it said. I wrote the above during the first lesson of a Writing in the City class that I am taking, and I will have to read it out next week. This threw up what was, to me, a double entendre which pleased me, and also the choice of two pronunciations – the original French or the anglicised version. The meaning in English is to do with fish, and over the Channel, it’s swimming pool. I find this extremely pleasing. I mean, to the Nth degree. I am that much of a word nerd.
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Crossposted from e4q, my Livejournal blog, which I never deleted and which contains all my earlier blogging except a few posts where the photos were linked from somewhere else and have since disappeared. I also cross posted the text to Linkedin, just because.


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