Memories…Letting The Happy Ones Dominate

Two years ago…I originally published this post, and I posted it last year for a second time.

One year ago…I published this post. I was very pleased with it. So here it is again.

(By the way, I did make it back there at the start of June, I needed to)

happymemories

I am about to go on holiday for two weeks.  I will be visiting various family members and friends.  I hope to take lots of photos and share them in posts.  Two weeks of pleasure seeking and seeing loved ones – cannot wait!

But before I go, I want to get something out of my system.  It has been looming over me…so I am going to tackle it aggressively!  Well…I mean face it head on without shutting it out of my mind.

The park I went to that night.  It is a beautiful place.  One of my favourite locations in London.  I had been there hundreds of times in the five years I had lived in London.  I want that park to be beautiful in my mind…not a place I associate with a traumatic event.  Since that night, I have been back three times.

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This is where it happened.  There is nothing outstanding about this spot.  But I do remember sitting on one of the benches that night.  This is a photograph taken from the bench I sat on that night.

When I first arrived at around 10.30pm, it was still fairly light.  There were people walking their dogs, there were joggers, there were teenagers sitting on the grass listening to music and chatting.  There were people sitting on other benches nearby.

Lackford Lakes June 2010

As I sat there, I became engrossed with my own thoughts.  I remember tears rolling down my face because I did not know what to do about my ex-flatmate who seemed to be sucking all of the life and joy out of me.  I did not notice that all of the sunlight had vanished and I was sitting in the dark.  I did not notice that there were no more dog-walkers, no more joggers and no more teenagers listening to music.

I remember a man sitting next to me.  I remember a lot of other things which I am choosing not to write about because I don’t see why those details would be remotely helpful to anyone else.  What he did does not pain me anymore.  It is the situation with my ex-flatmate that pains me still.

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The first time I visited this location after that night, I remembered something else.  The trees in this part of the park – they are brilliantly easy trees to climb.  I had been at this precise location a few weeks earlier with a friend and her sons.  We had been teaching the boys how to climb trees.  So much fun.

It was ever so helpful to remember that.  Such a beautiful park, I want the happy memories to be the ones that dominate.

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When I first moved to London I bumped into a friend from Wiltshire who just happened to be visiting one of my neighbours.  She wanted to go out for a coffee and a chat.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  I still did not know the area very well.  But my neighbour took us to this park.  There is a house, part of which is now a café.  We sat outside in the sunshine, before having a wander around the park.  I fell in love with the park that afternoon.  I would frequently visit over the next five years.

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It is very helpful to remember that.  This beautiful park, full of happy memories I have shared with friends.  I have taken many friends who were visiting me to the park and we have had long walks followed by coffee and cake in the café.  I want those to be the memories that dominate.

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These are the ponds where people can swim.  I had always wanted to go for a swim in these wild ponds, but I was a bit nervous of going alone.  A few days before I was attacked, a group of us came down to this park to do our keep fit class.  One of the regulars was moving abroad to get married and he wanted to have a special class as it was his last week with us.  Everyone used to call the class “fat-camp”.  I was too vain to call it that, so I called it “boot-camp”.  It was lots of running and exercises designed to train the parts of our body we did not even know were there.  Anyone was made welcome, but if you loved pushing yourself you would exult in the class.  We normally met once a week near to where we worked so we could go straight from work.

However, a few days before I was the victim of a crime, we drove up to this park and started running.  We ran together down to the ponds and then went for a swim. Afterwards we ran back up to a grassy area near to where the cars where and followed the instructions of the guy who took the class – stomach crunches, leap-frogging, press-ups etc.  Then we nipped into the pub for a beer before heading home.

© www.wildswimming.co.uk

I remember loving every moment of that night.  It was perfect.  Perfect in every way.  The delightful summery evening, the friends I was with, the exhilaration of running and swimming at a beautiful location, ending the evening with a laugh and a few tears as we said goodbye to our lovely friend before he moved.

It is very helpful to remember that.  This beautiful park, the location for some of my happiest hours doing what I loved with people that I loved.  I want all of those memories to dominate.

So there it is…this has really helped to get this out of my system.  This is the park where it happened.  A tiny blip in an otherwise wonderful treasure chest of happy memories of one of my favourite places in London.

happy memories

 

Swimming With The Ducks

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned one of my favourite places in London – Hampstead Lido (Parliament Hill Lido), which is an incredibly lush experience on a hot summer’s day.

can't beat it.jpgSo when I saw the writing prompt fromSarah Elizabeth Moore, I thought I would share with you my favourite place for wild swimming – Hampstead Ponds!

The whole of Hampstead Heath brings a real mix of memories to me. Many good and some devestating. I wrote about the conflicting feelings and memories I have in a post called: Memories…Letting The Happy Ones Dominate.

I featured my memories of an evening I spent with friends a few days before I was attacked in another post last year. This is an excerpt from it which will tell you about Hampstead Ponds:

I used to meet friends every Thursday for an intensive keep-fit boot-camp. Normally we would run down to a local cricket pitch, where the class would start. We would run sprints, and do squats and leapfrogs and all sorts of different exercises. But this night was different. One of the lads was leaving London to move abroad as he was engaged to be married. So we were going to have the boot-camp at a different location – Hampstead Heath.

We drove to Hampstead Heath. We ran from the Highgate side of the Heath over to the Hampstead side. When we reached the Hampstead Ponds for mixed bathers (there are men only and women only ponds too), we stripped our running clothes off and all of us had our swimming costumes on. We jumped into the water and swam a couple of circuits around the pond. There was a bit of splashing each other too. There was hardly anyone else there at that time so we weren’t annoying anyone.

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Afterwards, we put our running clothes on over our swimming costumes, and then ran back over to the Highgate side of the Heath. There we found a grassy spot and the guy who took the class shouted out some instructions which we followed, press-ups, squats, leap frogs and stretches.

VW camper.pngTwo of our friends (a married couple) had a VW Camper Van. So we all got changed in the back of the van. The girls went first, we had to take our damp clothes off and have a quick dry off and put on our warm dry clothes. Then it was the lad’s turn to change. Once we had all changed, we walked up the hill so we could have a goodbye drink with our friend who was moving abroad for his wedding.

I loved that evening. My hair was slimy and smelt like ducks afterwards. But I loved it, and I am so glad that is one of my happy memories, just a few days before I was attacked.

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This was my post in response to the writing prompt from Sarah Elizabeth Moore:

Writing Prompt #34

Chilling Out At The Coolest Place In London

I am going to tell you about one of my favourite places in London. I had lived here for a couple of years before I discovered it. Well, i was told about it by other swimmers, when I used to go swimming, almost every Sunday evening, at an indoor swimming pool that belonged to a school.

Blue whaleI have mentioned it in other posts, but swimming has been a part of my life since I can remember. It is still a huge influence on the dreams of my heart. I imagine being able to swim in a lake near to my home every morning at the start of the day. I also dream of being in the water close up to a Blue whale! Swimming has always been in my life. In fact one of my earliest memories was as a five or six year old. I contemplated what might happen if I was to lose my beloved parents. My biggest anxiety at that age was “how will I find my way to the swimming baths on my own?“.

grafitti.pngFrom that day forward I sat up and paid attention to what was going on outside the car window. I was determined to memorise the route to important places in case I had to make my own way. In fact it was only then that I noticed that some clever noggin had vandalised the sign pointing the direction of the swimming pool. My Dad and I used to giggle at that sign! Mum said it was disgusting. She was right of course!

swimmingThree nights a week, straight after school, we would head to our local swimming pool. We swam for hours. We had an hour’s coaching from an instructor during the evening who would advise us on improving our stroke to help us to swim faster. We won many races in galas between the three of us (my sisters and I).

paradise 1I love water, I love swimming. It is my go-to place for instant happiness and de-stressing. You might see me thrashing up and down, length after length and presume it is just for exercise. But no, in my head, the swimming pool is where I play, it’s where adventures play out in my head. I don’t think I am in a swimming pool, I think I am in the ocean, swimming with dolphins!

So when I moved to London, as I mentioned above, Sunday swimming evenings became a regular feature of my life. There were some other very good swimmers who swam every week too. One day they mentioned to me “Hampstead Lido” (I found out later that not everyone calls it Hampstead Lido, but rather, it’s correct name Parliament Hill Lido.)

shallow.jpgI had never been to a lido before. I had presumed they were more for children than adults. I don’t know why, but I had always thought a lido was a shallow paddling pool rather than a proper pool that swimmers would enjoy. But one particular couple kept on raving on about Hampstead Lido and how much they loved swimming there.

So one day…I think it was a Tuesday or Wednesday, when I had a day off work and the sun was shining, I grabbed my swimming gear and headed down there. I was a bit nervous at first. The changing rooms seemed dark and a bit scary. I don’t think there were any doors on the changing cubicles. I was nervous when I walked out towards to pool and the handful of swimmers in the water all turned to look at me. But what a lovely sight lay before me:

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The pool was huge. I think it was about sixty metres in length. I could see that one end of the pool was very shallow. Rather than enter the pool there, where I could have just stepped in, I slipped into the water midway. Wow! What a shock I had! The water was much cooler than I was expecting. In fact it was delicious. I realized that the water was much too cold to be enjoyable if you were going to stay still. So, I very quickly started to swim. At first breaststroke. Then front crawl. And then after about half an hour, I flipped over onto my back. That was wonderful! I was swimming along staring up at the blue sky with hardly a cloud to be seem, just faint trails left by aeroplanes.

cooling.jpgNormally when you swim, the water seems to grow warmer, or you just acclimatise to the temperature and heat up as you exercise. But I remember realizing that no matter how long I swam for, no matter how much I exerted myself, that water was remaining deliciously cold. I stayed there for about three hours swimming up and down with just a handful of other swimmers. I loved every minute of my swim that day – it felt like a pocket of paradise amidst the big chokey smoke of London.

On a hot day in London, the lidos can become packed. In fact on a really hot day, I would be too scared to go there! And I think it’s because so many people have discovered that in London, the best way to cool off is to head down to the nearest lido!

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This was my post in response to the writing prompt from Sarah Elizabeth Moore

Writing Prompt #32

What Would You Do With A Million Calories?

What does a million calories even look like? Why am I asking? Because of a news report I have been reading more about.

I am impressed! Very impressed! I am a swimmer. I swam competitively throughout my youth. But this man has done something that every swimmer will be congratulating and applauding him for!

His name is Ross Edgley. He is from Grantham in Lincolnshire. He has just finished a mammoth swim of 1,780 miles around Great Britain – which is rather phenomenal.

Apparently he has consumed over a million calories during his time out at sea in order to fuel his incredible journey.

Here is one of the many reports about his achievement from the BBC News Website:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46088884

 

Ay Ay It’s Wigan Pie!

My day out today (which was in Madchester – sorry Manchester) took me through a town I used to frequent frequently.

Wigan – what can I say about Wigan?  Apparently, it is famous for pies.  For years I have seen a dark blue van drive around with the phrase: “Ay Ay It’s Wigan Pie!” on the side of it.  In this sweltering heat, the last thing I could face right now is a pie.  However, normally, they are quite a favourite of mine.  Although a rare treat nowadays due to the calories in the pastry. These days if I was going to tuck into a pie it would be on a bed of green leaves, not the pie, mash (or chippy chips) and mushy peas (with gravy) that I remember buying as a teenager from Wigan pie shops.  It has been a very long time since I allowed myself that kind of indulgence – my hips will not allow me to even imagine it now.

But to cheer myself up over my lost svelte figure, I will allow myself the occasional treat as a reminder of the good old days when I could eat anything because I easily burnt off twice the calories during a hockey match or an eight mile run, or a basketball game, or several hours of thrashing up and down a swimming pool.  My pies of choice nowadays are the scrumptious Higgidy range:

Good grief – they are yummy!  My sister says they are posh pies.  Perhaps they are, I don’t know.  But they taste great, no matter where they went to school.

But getting back to Wigan.  If you are genuinely interested in exploring the town, then I will take the liberty of recommending a visit to Wigan Pier to learn all about how this town was built up.

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To be honest, I am no expert on the town.  It is actually a place that has a lot of interesting history, if you are interested in the industrial and social history of England.  I studied Modern World History (wars and politics and treaties) instead of Social and Economic History where I would have had the opportunity to learn more about the mills and factories and trade routes that shaped England,  So I am afraid to venture my limited and foggy understanding of the role that Wigan played in the cotton industry.

wigan rugby clubAlso, I remember Wigan being a very popular rugby town.  Rugby League that is, which I have been told is significantly different from Rugby Union – don’t ask me to explain the differences. But I recall that Wigan were very successful all the way through my high school years.  I went to a school that was near to Wigan.  Our home town was sandwiched between Wigan and St Helens, which are two big rugby towns.  Either side are the cities of Liverpool and Manchester, which have very popular football teams.

My main memory of Wigan is the old Olympic style Swimming Pool.  It has to be an outstanding memory in my mind because I won so many races there during swimming galas.  So it was a very special place to me.

This is how I remember the pool:wigan swimming pool

However, I am sad to say it no longer exists. Which is a strange feeling.  Any location that used to be your beloved playground, your sacred ground, your moment of victory is dear to your heart.  So to hear it has been demolished is saddening indeed.

That is one of the lessons you have to learn as you are growing up, growing older.  Things will change.  Especially man-made things!  I mean there are so many things that are reliable, the sun rising each morning, the spring arriving at long last to bring back colour and life everywhere, the moon drawing the tides steadily in and letting them ebb out again.

But bricks and mortar…there is no point becoming overly sentimental about those losses.  But the memories will last long long after the bulldozers have had their way.  I have already done a little reminiscing about the golden days of school in another post.  I am embarrassed to say, only one person (besides myself) “liked” this post.  I guess I can understand it is hard to read about someone else’s first days at school when the only school days most people can bear to think about are there own!  But here is a little passage from that post which will explain my love of the old Wigan Olypic-Sized Swimming Pool:

Life at school became a bit more interesting when I was asked to leave the rest of my class one morning each week and join the children in their last year of primary school who had weekly swimming lessons.  My sisters and I were part of our town swimming club so the headmaster wanted to see whether I swimmingcould keep up with the children three years older than me. Sure enough they entered me, in my first year of juniors (Year 3) into a couple of the races in the county swimming gala. I was swimming for the school competitively with the Year 6 kids.  Our school won so many races in the county swimming gala and I remember winning mine. The headmaster was delighted with me. We had a number of awards on display in the school lobby after that swimming gala.  Ours was a small school, so it seemed quite a victory that we had won so much.

During the six-week school holiday I had been allowed to borrow a book from the school library.  It was Heidi.  The headmaster had told me that I must be sure not to lose it, I must bring it back at the end of the holidays or else I would not be allowed to borrow a book again.  Can you imagine how devastated I was when my Dad broke the news one morning….our school (which by now I had grown to love) had been burnt down by three boys?  Two were fourteen years of age and the other had just finished year 6 – he must have been eleven. 

https://crushedcaramel.wordpress.com/2018/05/04/first-day-of-school/

So, it was actually at quite a young age, the age of seven that I learnt that places that are special to you can be destroyed.  I must not allow myself to be overly weepie because the old Wigan Olympic Sized Swimming Pool is no more.

I need to cheer myself up though….maybe I could face a pie afterall!

Ooooooooh – look what I found at the supermarket on the way home!  It even says on the box they are “Rather Cheerful” – how could I go wrong with these?

Higgidy Pie 7

Cheesy Dreams

I had such an odd dream last night.  I remember it fairly vividly and have found it has been playing on my mind all day.  What do you think?  Could I have been over-indulging in cheese?  Is it cheese that is supposed to make you have odd dreams?

It started with a very familiar scene to me, paying a £5 fee to go swimming at the pool in the town where I grew up.  For some reason I had my lap top in the pool with me…and it was still working even when I dived underwater with it.  Then I decided I had finished with it so I would close it down and put it back in the changing rooms.  While it was closing down I started looking around and noticed all the tiles and grout were immaculate, pure sparkly white.  Then I headed to the changing room to put the laptop away.  For a moment I considered getting dressed and leaving because I was tired but then I recalled I had paid £5 and I had not really had a proper swim, because I had been on my laptop for so long.

 

At that instant one of my sisters came into the changing room, surprised to see me.  Lots of other people came in behind her.  I went back out to the pool.  I was about to slip into the water when I noticed I had my trainers on.  So I took them off and decided rather than return to the changing room I would leave them on a bench against the wall.  I went to the water again and noticed my purse and keys were in my hand, so I decided I would put them with my trainers.  I returned to the water, and now I was aware I had on a summer hat and sunglasses.  Back to the bench.

 

By the time I came back to the water something odd was happening.  One side of the pool had lessons starting, swimming lessons and canoeing lessons…at the same time.  Along the other side were fishermen casting their rods into the swimming pool.  So now it was just the middle of the pool where there was room to swim.  I headed over there.

 

I tried to swim a length of the pool but my route was blocked again.  There were three women sitting on the side of the pool talking and cooking on some kind of little stove.  It was a dream of course because…. what came off that stove were giant pastries, like Danish pastries with cinnamon and icing, some had thick custard.  They saw me lingering and offered to move out of the way so I could reach the water.  I said I didn’t mind stepping over them, but I was jealous of what they were making.  Anyway I finally made it into the water, but I felt so ill I had to get straight out.  That was the end of my dream!!

 

Strange hey!

 

Some parts make sense.  I love swimming.  I love clean tiles.  I love seeing freshly tiled and grouted surfaces.  My youngest sister and her husband are both tilers.  I met my brother in law when I was 16 and he was 11 when he was helping his dad tile a swimming pool.  It was one of my first volunteer projects.  I had swimming lessons for years.  I loved canoeing, but only did it in school trips and on holidays.  I knew they ran  canoeing lessons at the local pool, but my parents said they could not afford for me to go to canoeing lessons in addition to other hobbies I already was involved in.  Mum and Dad made sure all seven of us children had swimming lessons, but there was no way they could accommodate all of our faddish interests in ballet, trampolining, canoeing, pottery and so on.

I don’t really understand the fisherman in the dream. (Maybe they are trying to catch me to stop me from reaching my goals.) The women who were baking on the stove…well, I guess I like baking, I like any kind of cake or pastry and I’m trying to be good (want to be as almost perfect as possible for my lovely Goldfinch), so it probably does make sense that I’m dreaming about pastries and cakes. (Again, possibly the cakes and bakes have slowed me down and distracted me from reaching some goals.)

I think the whole dream of the swimming pool becoming more and more crowded and all the obstacles to me actually getting in the water and having a swim is kind of a parallel to my current reality.  Since I was the victim of a crime almost three years ago, I have trying to rebuild my life and get back to where I was before.  Slowed down even by things that I had forgotten to do, such as how I had forgotten to take my trainers off and take my hat off, delaying me getting into the pool. It seems to me that that part of the dream was perhaps to do with me getting a bit frustrated with all the little things that I seem to need to do before I can be where I want to be.

I don’t normally try to interpret my dreams!  I certainly don’t think they are omens!  But I do think your brain is trying to sort and make sense of all sorts of input and connections.

 

Have I been eating too much cheese?

Cheesy Dreams