We were lucky enough to have a wonderful outdoor swimming pool not far from where we lived, a five-minute bike ride away from home. It was built on a common beside the river and was 100 yards long and 1 4 yards wide (although I have read that it is 15 yards wide, I am sure all our swimming certificates said 14!) It was opened in 1923, roughly the time my grandparents pub, a couple of hundred yards from the pool, began its transformation and rebuilding to change from the Scales Hotel to The Portland Arms. My dad spent much of his summers in the pool – Jesus Green Swimming Pool, when he wasn’t out with his friends, out in the fens, on rivers, in rivers, by rivers, or helping his parents in the pub.
I don’t remember my first visits to the pool, I was a very small child, so it may have been the summer after I was born in January. I don’t remember not being able to swim… in fact I was floating about quite happily before I could walk. When we were little, on lovely days, my mum would meet us after school and we would walk to the pool with a picnic, and swim, and have fun and eat our picnic. When I was old enough we joined the swimming club, I was about six probably. The club could only meet at Jesus green in the summer, but in the winter we could train at an indoor pool belonging to a private school.
Once I could swim safely, I used to go to the pool on my own with friends, after school, in the evenings, at weekends and in the holidays… and it’s the holidays I remember. There was a gang of us who went, not just from the club, but others as well, and we would lounge around – in sunshine or under grey clouds, even when it rained it didn’t matter, in swimming costumes you didn’t care about the rain.
When we moved away, we came to a seaside town with an outdoor swimming pool which was very different – a beach-side pool, a fun pool, a leisure pool, a lido… we went along during the summer that we moved home but it never became part of our lives… it was built in 1937 as a seaside fun pool, and sadly, unlike Jesus Green Pool, the Tropicana as it became, was closed in 2000, and is now a rather desolate and unlovely venue for ‘events’… in fact my featured image is of one of those events, Dismaland, which says so much about the Tropicana…
How lucky I was to have those summers by ‘our’ pool.