PETERSFIELD

10th April 2017

This time of year, when the sun burnishes the golden gorse as it sinks ever later beyond the horizon, is a time to take stock. It’s a time to shed coats and stretch out, both physically and mentally. I commonly become a little torpid in the winter, but this year I’ve withdrawn from the world more than usual. I seem to have been weighed down by layers of clothing, layers of care and layers of confusion. Life has been a box full of jigsaw pieces and I haven’t had the energy or inclination to begin to put them all together.

But this weekend I think I’ve sorted the edges. The corners are in place, and I might be able to tackle the bigger picture. As I barrel down the A34, en route to Petersfield for the first time, the effortless green of a countryside sloughing off winter reminds me that change is inevitable; and sometimes uncontrollable.

I think about that as I plod up and down, enjoying the warm water after a winter of cold. My mind replays the important talking that has happened over the weekend, and the low sun blinking through the water initially seems chaotic. But it, and my thoughts, soon settle into a rhythm. The decisions I have to make rise to the surface like the bubbles that break free from my hands and feet.

It feels like a breakthrough. Swimming usually provides me space to think, but I haven’t been able to make use of that space for some months. I’ve generally felt out of place in the water, unable to settle; so I’ve avoided it. At Petersfield, I feel settled.

I feel it as soon as I approach the turnstile and ring the bell. I have a lovely, welcoming chat with the women on duty. They immediately make me feel at home. The pride and love lavished on this pool seeps from every brick. It is immaculately kept, and pretty. I am particularly fond of pools that nestle into an urban environment. They have none of the scenic attraction of pools blessed with stunning natural backdrops; what they make of themselves they must make for themselves. Petersfield makes the best of itself in every way. The entranceway offers an enticing glimpse of the blue jewel that lies within, the gloss work gleams, the mosaic tile band sparkles in the low evening sun, the diving board remains gloriously operational and the period ironwork of the gates and turnstiles hark back to simpler times. And in winter, when they run cold water swimming sessions, they light real fires for swimmers to warm themselves around.

Every town should have a pool like this.

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