There I was in the South of Spain last Summer with great intentions for my travel journal / journey of the mind and then, like so many things in my life, I’ve neglected these pages for other probably less salubrious interests but…here I am – sober, well mostly, and up for sharing with (or boring) anyone with my visits and thoughts and general whatnot.
Many times have I thought about my writing and wondered what is the purpose of any of it? But really we should all write, if nothing else, to express to ourselves our true opinions, our true selves. To open our souls onto the page. And in that process something great happens. We learn about ourselves. And surely this can make us happy or wiser in some way. And yes, now I think about it, it could be a disclaimer for my crappy musings. Ha! But who cares about the quality? This is about experience. This is about burning through life, not cruising, not even motoring. It’s about rinsing every last drop out of a day so my eyes are wider and brighter and brimming with tears at the absolute fucking magic of the world around me. That’s what this is.
Something has to be the match to the fuse of life and, yes, it’s people, it’s books, music, art and the creativity of all those great minds going back to the beginning of time but most of all it’s place. Sometimes you just know you’ve arrived. That feeling is truly hard to describe. It could be a lake, a beach, a hill, a square, a room, a bed, a tree, a shop. Any of these ‘places’ but they give something to you. You don’t need to own it (although of course many people then feel the need to do exactly that) but just being there somehow makes you more complete. More like you’re living.
Lidos. What places. I could and probably will start a whole other blog about lidos just as I could write a whole blog about favourite pubs (in case you’re wondering, yes, The Square and Compass in Worth Matravers and yes, The Cat’s Back in Wandsworth which would both feature amongst many people’s most ‘characterful’ oh, but so many others besides!). Don’t we all wish we’d been the first Roger Deakin to swim their way in various weird and watery places in the British Isles? And, actually, although there is such a craze for ‘wild swimming’ now I’m surprised more people haven’t done their own version of favourite swimming haunts and their experiences. I suppose noone could compare to RD’s lyrics of love and such acute insight into nature.
But enough of that, I was talking about arriving. Arriving at a place that inspires and fixes me when I’m bruised and battered, when the chips are down. Lido. Lido. Even the sound of it is soothing, like the undulations of the water that occasionally slosh over the side of the pool. Yes, some might say the Clifton Lido has departed from its roots – it has nothing like the grandeur – that Thirties style – or even the size of, say, Sandford Parks in Cheltenham (Wow, that IS a proper swimming pool) and people might complain that it is a touch, dare I say, ‘poncey’ just because it’s in Clifton, has an excellent restaurant which caters to the great and good of my favourite town and is £26 per day to use the facilities (pool, steam rooms, jacuzzi and spa). OK, all right, yes, it is a bit poncey but it might have easily have become another Tesco Express and we might never have known. How many times will this happen with important buildings? And God bless those people who get off their arses and start a campaign and save these communal baths that create and keep our dreams.
She is truly my second home, somewhere to hunker down and hide away from the normality and harsh realities of everyday life. She is an old lover, my caresser, always reliable, always soothing me, whispering to me, wishing my troubles away. Some days her surface is smooth or gently undulating like a soft, grey, duvet and other days sharply glittering and glimmering and catching the sunlight and creating sudden sparks that stun one’s eyes. At one and the same time she is calm but also incredibly, confusingly beautiful. Yes, I might be sad, I might be mad but I think I’m in love with a lido.