South London Swimming Club are framed as the opposition by the Serpentine Swimming Club, at least when it comes to the annual races between the two London clubs. It is a friendly rivalry, though, one that hardly penetrates anyone’s thinking. Today is Tooting, just ahead of the acceleration of warnings about coronavirus, the day after the sauna was closed for anticipatory public health reasons. The sun was shining, the blue water had a sparkle to it, and was a delightful six degrees Celsius. Pauline baked fruit cake and brought it along. This was the first test of the extent of concern about the present plague. Cake was accepted with gusto, with the laughter of invitation. We come here once a year, usually in February but this time in March, paying a day fee and registering, bringing cake so that we feel we are contributing to the kitchen, where there is tea and toast and anything else that people bring. The cake was devoured between my leaving it in the kitchen and getting changed after swimming – Pauline and I were pleased. The swim, in London’s longest lido, was for me a couple of lengths. A lady called Rachel came and swam next to me, swam-talked most of the first length – she usually swam with her daughter, I could take her place today, because she wasn’t here. She usually swam in Brockwell Lido, but this was recently closed for refurbishment, there were quite a few people from Brockwell Lido there this morning, that’s why. We will need to do a London Lido safari some time… I spoke of Scandivianian swimming and how nice the water was, sparkling blue, how the sun had some warmth to it, how the sky was blue, how much I like the colour blue, and so on. ‘Count me in for the London Lido safari’, I said. Two geese were swimming behind, almost drafting, on a swimmer ahead of us. These geese have the run of the lido, I learned.
There was enough warmth in the sun for me to want to stand in it after getting out, for some minutes before changing. No sauna meant a shorter stay, but no less pleasant for it. I went to shower, and they were just too hot, so I didn’t really shower, just went back to my red-doored cubicle and changed. The doors of the cubicles are an item of identity for this lido, and the steps area has plaques honouring the greats of the club, going back to the start of the lido, in 1906. Tea, people were drinking tea and eating toast, the elbow-bump had become the standard greeting, often with apology for the absence of a hand-shake. The sun was warm, the sky was blue, the tea and cake were delicious, and it was difficult to see that tomorrow would seeing the tipping toward the coronavirus emergency, hoping against hope that this would not be
the corona-year, 2020.