We always went to the sunny end of the swimming pool. It was an outdoors and called Jesus Green Swimming Pool, because it was on Jesus Green. It might seem a strange name, and in our city there was also Christ’s Pieces. These two places were named after nearby colleges because my city was Cambridge – it still is Cambridge, but I no longer live there and haven’t done since I was sixteen.
Jesus Green Swimming Pool was right next to the River Cam, and I only recently learnt that it’s unusual dimensions were to mirror the river beside it. It’s a hundred yards long and fourteen yards wide. I don’t remember the first time I went there as a baby and apparently I could swim before I could walk. I guess swimming wasn’t really what I was doing, floating about in Mum’s arms most likely. My next memories, after those of ling floating like a little starfish with autumn leaves floating on the water around me, was Mum meeting us after school and taking us to the pool for a swim and a picnic. We always went to the same end of the pool, and there were concrete slabs which we would spread our things on, and in the summer they would get so hot our wet footprints dried almost before we had stepped off them. I can almost remember watching the dark shape of my foot gradually disappearing as it evaporated.
The entrance to the pool, through a turnstile, was in the centre of the length of the pool, and we emerged onto the poolside opposite the diving boards. The men’s changing rooms were to the right, and ours were to the left, which was the side with the sunny end. On the opposite side from the changing rooms and entrance there was a wooden cabin which sold refreshments. Were there grassy banks along that side, or were there more changing rooms? I seem to remember grassy banks. The changing rooms had wooden doors with gaps at the top and bottom and I have a feeling we left our clothes there, I don’t remember lockers, but maybe there were and I have forgotten. This pool was where I first joined the swimming club, which could only meet in the summer of course, although later – or maybe when I was older, they hired an indoor pool of a private boys’ school. This is where I had, and won my first races. This is where the junior school had their swimming lessons which were so boring to me because I could swim like a fish. This was where the junior schools swimming competitions were held, and without boasting, I can say I always won.
We used to sped all I free time at the pool as soon as it was warm enough; I think the pool opened on a specific date, or maybe it was when the water reached a certain temperature, but I certainly remember me and my friends swimming when it really was very cold in the water. I remember particularly when I was a young teenager, before the indoor pool opened when we transferred there, that we spent every free day at the pool. We met people from other schools, and when we were at secondary school the schools were segregated, boys from girls and I was quite unusual in that I had many friends who were boys, swimming friends.
I see that it is now called Jesus Green Lido, and apparently it was open in 1923. I remember my dad telling me he swam in it when he was a boy, living only a few hundred yards away from it, so in my mind there is always that family connection.