Thursday, April 21, 2016

Non-illustration Leisure Time: goodbye to bricks and mortar.

 ~ The iconic yellow type of the Lei(s)ure Centre, set in Cooper Black ~

I've always gone out of my way to use my body, ever since the day post-graduation that I realised I would no longer a) be walking miles into college carrying stuff or b) riding a bike to my boyfriend's house up several hills, now that I had acquired a yellow Citroen 2CV in lieu of a debt.

That's meant a lifelong gym habit, the acquisition of yoga, a taste for running and in the last couple of years, a twice-weekly early morning swimming routine. When you sit down drawing and thinking and typing all day, if you don't get off your ass now and again it will literally be the death of you. My body might sometimes feel like it's just a thing to carry my head around, but I'll be damned if I let my job do me in.

So me and my Mum and Dad go to Hinckley's defiantly 70s Leisure Centre two mornings a week to smash out as many lengths as we can, then get changed in the no-longer-fashionable open-plan changing rooms, where everyone stands around discussing husbands, politics, jobs and telly in various stages of stark-bollockness. It's reassuring, grounding, and completely delightful.

All that's about to change as the Leisure Centre I watched being built with my Dad, as a small child in 1978, will close on Sunday and be demolished two weeks later. It was never quite right, its construction dogged by controversy - the pool was never big enough, there were alleged shortcuts taken all over the structure, and the concrete was meant to be poorly. But I always liked its awkwardness and slightly heroic feel. It's stood there serving my town for nearly 40 years, ugly, dingy and angular as it is, and this morning was my last ever swim there.

I spent some time in the building today recording details ahead of its destruction. As I walked through what used to be the café I remembered that I once went for a part time job there, in the kitchens, and being asked 'if I could cook'. When I replied 'you mean can I flip greasy burgers and lower chips into a fryer', I was most assuredly not going to be given the job.

As we sat outside in the mossy 'Al Fresco' area I also remembered locking up my bike one night and being groped out of the blue by a mystery man whose face I never did see, because he ran off before I could even shout 'oi, perv!'

And my best mate at the time, Dawn, now deceased, who laughed at the story and told me with fabulous logic 'it's OK Colehole, he probably thought you were a bloke'.

Ah the memories!

Here are some of my photographs from this morning. They show both the wear and tear that are the reasons for its replacement, and the efforts of the staff to keep the place going. The Leisure Centre is Dead! Long Live the Leisure Centre!

The strange red building has always had a beautiful front garden:

Stand here and hear the hum of the mysteriously scary pool machinery below:

The diving pool with its 'moveable floor', the idea of which used to really freak me out. 
It stopped moving a long time ago, and the diving boards were removed years ago. 

Those angles! The place is full of 'em.

SO much concrete.

All quiet.

The last post-swim breakfast, in the outside eating area. 
As far as we know, we are the only people to have sat here in all the time we've been going!

Not about to be repaired any time soon.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What a great little piece Moley. I could never resist running up the slopey wall outside what used to be the ' crèche ' and I was taught to swim there by the one and only Mrs Padbury, who was a fantastic teacher, but used to scare the shit out of me, for some reason we were never allowed to wipe the chlorine tainted water from our eyes and If we were caught doing so we were berated with a " use the windscreen wipers!!! " which meant we should blink the stinging concoction from our bloodshot retinas, rather than wipe them. Used to spend huge amounts of time there aimlessly treading water in my pyjamas and retrieving drowning rubber bricks, why I would want or need to rescue a brick was beyond me then and still mystifies me now. Good times were had there, and I'll never forget the time I I found a dead snake round the back, near the car park, and it stank, but that is another story!


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