There's a minor crisis in swimming local to me at the moment. It's unfortunate that pending brand new spangly swimming pools in both Clapham and Streatham, there are no public swimming pools there at present. Clapham has been demolished and Streatham is a long and complicated story. Of course, this puts pressure on Brixton, a pressure increased by the current refurbishment of the wetside changing.
So I've been procrastinating and avoiding the issue; always coming up with lame excuses for not going swimming. (If I told you the lame excuses, you'd be appalled). A possible alternative is Balham, whose website is impenetrable and doesn't seem to list the pool opening times (which are very different from the centre opening times) nor restrictions, but a telephone call tells me that basically it's not open in the evenings after work.
There's another one near Victoria Station which has a ghastly name, the Queen Mother Sports Centre, but in future I shall refer to it as the Vauxhall Bridge Road Sports Centre because I see no merit in 'honouring' a Nazi sympathiser who amassed a fortune at the expense of the British taxpayer.
Its opening hours are not much better than Balham and its website just as useless; by phone call I discovered that it closes really rather early most evenings (last admission 7pm), but on Tuesdays it does actually stay open later.
It's only 15 minutes walk from work so I decided to go there this evening. What can I say? The admission cost is half as much again as it is in Lambeth: if you went three times a week that would be an extra £20 per month. I could pay a monthly fee of £30 but I'd have to go just about every working evening when I didn't have other commitments, if it were to be worthwhile. (Being in Zone 1 also increases the cost to me).
And what do you get for that? A cramped and dirty changing room that not only makes Brixton look palatial and clean, but makes even Clapham (pre demolition, obv) look spacious and modern.
I went into the Pool and into the Slow Lane, which was a pain. Being so crowded it was a case of swimming toe-to-tail, and, by necessity trying to maintain the pace of the fastest person (who, arguably, should have been in the middle lane, although whether middle lane people would agree is another matter). I did spot some people relaxing over the other side of the pool and it dawned on me that these were the relaxation lanes and they were nearly empty, except for a couple of people chilling at the shallow end and one man bombing up and down. As soon as I get space and can focus on technique my speed increases, so I was actually going faster than previously but felt that I was in control.
It seems very cramped in general: no windows and no sense of overhead space. The walls are plastered with adverts for junk food, resulting in information overload. There is a leisure pool with a slide but that is only open to the general public for a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings
As I say, the changing rooms are pretty cramped, and I decided not to go in the showers, because it seemed to be shoulder-to-shoulder, with more than a hint of St Trinians and no opportunity properly to warm down. Half the number of cubicles that Brixton has (and Briton additionally has shoulder height booths which I prefer to cubicles); the remaining changing area is just a set of benches by the lockers.
I suppose I shall have to get used to it as the most logical after-work swim for at least 18 months, until Clapham re-opens and takes the pressure off Brixton. I suppose on non-work days I should cycle to Balham. Of course, on hot days, I also have the luxury of two Lidos close to home. Ha ha ha!
But I like Brixton; it has its faults. Its customary round here to slag everything, but everything, off and Brixton Rec certainly has its faults. But given a straight choice between Brixton Rec and VBR Sports Centre (bearing in mind there as close to the rail-links as each other), I'd choose Brixton any time.