Thursday, 30 January 2014

The swimming pools of London: AKA Bec gets fit

Hey, so here as promised, episode 2 of my obsession with London.

Back in November I joined a gym, I know, I know, how am I always so ahead of the trend! Anyway I joined a gym and they gave me a number of different offers for membership.

'This one', they said 'comes with full-access to the track and field and racquet sports'...*tumble-weed. Please, its November, who wants to be outdoors! I did in fact choose this option because, aside from the appeal of hurdling outdoors at 5 am in minus temperatures this membership also enabled me to use the sauna and steamroom (come on why do we really go to gyms?!) and any of classes, gyms and pools of the branches in the BETTER network.


The swimming pool opened about three weeks before I returned and is the oddest shape known to man. 25metres but with a funny bulge at the deep end. Ooer matron. This was the first pool I used and was the location for the SAS style aqua-fit I did back in Autumn. When I got in the pool, and the water was calm, it reached the top of shoulders, when the water was in motion it was sometimes above my head! This was particularly the case whilst doing push-ups on the side of the pool; extend your arms or drown was the order of the day.

the flume pool, where children play.


Now technically the closest to this pool I've got is the changing room but its so convenient for work that I regularly use the gym and have tried three classes there; I like the Spin class, v good humoured. Anyway, the building is fascinating. Back in 1929 only 4% of homes in Finsbury had private baths so the Council built a bath-house. The renovators have kept one slipper-bath as an exhibit, it took all my will-power not to jump in! The original building also featured Turkish Baths, because you know, if you're gonna get clean you might as well do it in style! The pools joined the outfit in the 1930's and a laundry in the 1970's. The building is an inspiring place to exercise in; its almost like exercising inside an archaeological site in a very positive sense, and without the dirt.

see look how lovely and light it is!


I've kept my favourite until last. I have often walked past the grey, concrete exterior of this leisure centre en route to Covent Garden and bustling about the city centre. I had no idea the gems hidden beneath. The changing room has a plasma screen showing the news for a start! And the sauna is not bad. But the real gem is the outdoor, heated, eccentrically distanced (27.5m) pool. Within 5 mins walk of Holborn station you could be swimming outdoors; and looking at the stars if you are doing backstroke after work! I've used the pool several times and I'm always surprised by how much distance I cover - those extra 2.5 metres in each length add up - but also the cool air kept me refreshed and invigorated. Plus you can bring your towel out pool-side. Its worth knowing this as I definitely walked round the centre in my swimming costume alone, fine when you're dry. Less funny when you are leaving wet puddles in your wake!

Oasis: in summer

p.s. Just to be really clear, BETTER have not sponsored this post, as far as I'm aware they don't even know it exists :)

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The book that revived my love of London

Hi everyone!

How are you? I am loving getting to know London a little better from the inside. There are 2 reasons for this; one is my multi-branch gym pass (more to follow) and one  is Gillian Tindall's 'The House by the Thames'.
(photo taken by me, 16.01.14)

London - life-long love
My Dad has been taking me to London since I started Primary school. As a teenager I explored London from my cousin's well-placed London flat. And now as a grown-up I love walking across London; past all those places that have seen so many things, St Paul's (as in the photo above), the Bank of England, Trafalgar Square, the Southbank.

'The House by the Thames' 2006
This book is a potted history of one property, number 49 and its place in London as it has grown and changed over the past millennium. The Southbank sees a lot of change; it goes from fields, to industrial wharfs, and back again. It becomes the on-trend place to live, it is the place only the poorest of the poor would live. The landscape and thus number 49 reflect many of the changes that happen across the UK; the temperance movement, the introduction of sewers, the British Empire, electricity. Each of these changes had an impact on number 49; its structure, use and inhabitants - these varied from middle class gents, to crippled sweet makers and even a film star!

One of the things I really enjoyed about the book was the way she explains the frailty of memory and the strengths and weaknesses of different historical sources - it is so accessible. Anchoring the history of the whole area around one house was a really intelligent move; keeping me involved with the area's narrative right to the end! She's not just a historian, she's a confident historian, quite happy to share her methodology with us all, and provide photos and plans. This book was like all the best bits of my Cultural Heritage MA.

Seriously, this book is great; whether you are a novice or an expert give it a read!

Next time: The pools of London; and the adventures therein.

Monday, 13 January 2014

New Year, New Me, well ish, kinda

Hi Everyone,

How are you? How is January going? Set yourself a series of super goals?

I like the idea of goals and the high you get off achieving them so I've set some: I'm off alcohol and coffee for January - I want to know I can do life, even when its tough, dark and cold without these things - turns out it can be tricky but so far so good.

Having said that I read this article on LinkedIn over New Year that said he'd given up Goals because he finds they don't make him happy in the long run. And I kinda understand that - you run at all these targets thinking they'll make you happy because you will have achieved something; but actually it lasts like 5 minutes and then I'm dissatisfied with something.

(image from: ASDA)

In the article he says he has put aside the immediate satisfaction of goals for longer term processes that bring him life. This means, especially where his gym technique is concerned, sometimes he misses out on short-term goals like a run, in favour of long-term health i.e. going home and not spraining a knee to reach the day's goal in favour of still being able to attend the gym tomorrow.

So I'm doing a bit of that as well. Trying to find processes that do me good. I'm trying for at least 3 sessions in the gym, if not 4 per week. I feel like this is semi-sustainable in the long-run; especially since I discovered gym branches near work which opens up the opportunities. But to be honest, exercise before work is still a bit of a stretch.

(image from Happy Place)

The other process, which I'm close to flouting right now is no tech after 10pm, and aiming at an 11pm bedtime. Luckily its just a guide so the occasional late night or tech-heavy evening isn't going to kill me. I got into a routine where bedtimes involved being snuggled up with my laptop - watching endless youtube videos or watching films. Whilst I always nodded off eventually I wondered if the times I was going to sleep (between midnight and 2 am) and all that brain activity before bed was really a good idea. The results of my findings are; I have some more energy in the mornings, I don't jump out of bed with a cry of joy, but some things seem easier, and my concentration is a bit better in the mornings. I think I need to wait a bit longer and see. But this process has been particularly hard to stick to, I love nights out with friends, and tech is a little bit addictive...right, its 10:10, I'm turning this off!

Thursday, 2 January 2014


As ever I've been up to loads of stuff and not spending very long typing. I did so many things in December that I actually spent a whole week in my pjs not moving just to recover!

Exciting changes include: turning 25 (I went to a salsa bar and drank so many tequilas that my basic step was a sight to behold!), leaving one job (sob!sob!), but starting a new one (hurrah!) and all the wine and books I got for Christmas. I also attended a charming wedding and squeezed in time to visit Germany one last time this year (might tell you about that soon). Yeah I know! I'm obsessed!

(zumba parties, avignon, berlin and my 25th!)

Before moving on to a review of one of the many books I've come into contact with this season I thought I'd just pause and reflect on the last year. By my blog-posts alone I have been incredibly fortunate; look at all those holidays, books and plays. And they are only the experiences that have made the cut. That is to say nothing of the long-weekends, the weddings, the private views and the DMCs enveloped under a blanket of stars! 2013 has been pretty decent, here's to an equally solid 2014!

(Little Face by Sophie Hannah, oh wow!)

Little Face - Sophie Hannah
Little Face was one of the world book night titles of 2013 and was handed to me box-fresh by a friend in October. I have to say I remained unmoved by the cover for quite some time so didn't discover it until a wintery morning under the covers when I devoured the opening 50 pages in one sitting. This book is so gripping I stayed up to finish reading it last night, I admit I paused for Sherlock, but I am human! Its a sensational page-turner about a child abduction. Something terrible in the context of somewhere very luxurious. I liked the way she plays with time, unafraid to jump between weeks as the chapters progress. I was amazed at the way she sort of grabbed me by the jugular and kept me involved, the suspense was incredible. It would make a great two-parter BBC drama. Its a little bit dark and has so many last minute twists but I loved it! Plus she mentioned ASNAC for extra geek points!

Hoping to be back later in the week to talk you through my observations from Aachen but many other things to do first! So we'll see!