One Year On…

Today marks one year since the decision was made to close the club temporarily due to the Covid Pandemic situation… One year on, I reflect on that year, wondering where we are now, how things have changed and what the future holds. I even reminisced on the last time in club history we closed… My only other frame of reference in these weird times…

As most of you know, I was in the difficult position, working with limited knowledge, and the addition of a complex pregnancy hanging over my family as well, of deciding what to do… There had been really no guidance from anyone. The government wasn’t sure, BSAC hadn’t really got a clue, and the Pool were in an even more confused state…

However, with the advent of the announcement that both pregnancies needed to go into lockdown, and that sports clubs should consider their position, I made the hard choice to close. Luckily a few weeks later, this decision was proved to be correct as the government went into full lockdown, closing all pools and public places anyway…

I vividly remember sitting in the canteen at the pool, socially distancing with Instructor Adam, waiting to see if anyone turned up who hadn’t seen the email announcement yet, the week after the decision was made. The pool was like the Marie Celeste… An almost ghost town… It was and eerie place, with little life showing of its former status as a bustling centre in the community. Only a small smattering of staff were working and I wondered then, if it was going to be a long time before I saw our home from home again…

That has been the way since, while some things have reopened, and subsequently reclosed, we have remained in our status quo waiting for any news that the pandemic is receding so that we can consider our position and return to our training and fun in the water.

So where are we now?

Well things are clearly changing, the Government are aiming to reduce the restrictions over the coming months. However, when those restrictions will allow us to return is still unknown… I have taken the long term decision, in an effort to not generate unrealistic expectations, that the likelihood is we wont be returning to the pool before our traditional September term… However, even that is only guess work at the moment.

BSAC has been working hard to come up with solutions and guidance for instructors on returning to the water and beginning training again, but much of this is aimed at adults and diving where people follow and understand rules. This isn’t fully the case or particularly easy when dealing with kids. So we are watching closely.

We are all really keen to get back to the pool as soon as possible. I know many of you have been very patient, and I just hope at the end of all this, when we can get back together, you will all want to come back.

What does the future hold?

Who knows. My hope is that once everyone has been vaccinated, we can return to normality… How soon that will be who knows… But I will endeavour to ensure that once were back, there will be as little change as possible to the way we do things if I can.

So what’s this about the last time the club closed?

Yes, believe it or not, the club has closed once before due to a natural disaster…. Back in one of the great storms of the early 1990s (I think about 1991), the then Walton Swimming Pool (our original training venue) was damaged after a large part of the roof collapsed into the pool…

Needless to say, we got very little notice then too, and found ourselves without a venue with no known idea if we would ever return. The pool was built in the early 1950s, and was already in a poor state of repair. So it was unsure if they would even bother to try and repair the place. However, despite this, it was the only 12 foot 6 inches deep pool anywhere in the area, and was a perfect location for diving and snorkelling. We were therefore keen to get the place back up and running. Luckily it was decided to repair the place, something which took over a year to do.

So what happened in that year?

Well after a few months we were able to find space on a Sunday lunch time at a small pool at the Lady Eleanor Hollies School in Hampton. It was only 6 foot deep and barely a quarter the size of the Walton Pool, but it was wet and ours for that short time…

Admittedly, during that time, my recollection is that not a lot of work got done… In fact for my part, I vividly remember almost not snorkelling at all, thanks to my then club buddy Alex and his dad (a dive instructor) we were able to spend most of our time teaching ourselves to scuba dive on spare kit he would bring along… Something that Health and Safety would definitely not approve of now… Happier times…

I’m fairly sure attempts to continue training were made, and I do recall a cold lecture in the store room once on Marine Biology from my friend and instructor Craig Theaker (father of current member Natalie). However that’s about as much as I recall from those far off days.

I was told, during my research for this entry, that the caretaker at the school was particularly officious, and would chase us out if we overstayed by even a few minutes… Apparently forcing one group of girls from the club out in only their wet swimming clothes and a towel… All I know for me, is that it was a rush to get home for Sunday lunch…

Sadly no known photos, bar one, remain of the time at LEH pool, and that is only of Alex and I diving at the bottom of the pool. So it could be anywhere. Which is a shame as now as an adult, I would have liked a document of our extraordinary time there.

On our eventual return to the Walton Swimming Pool, we continued our training there until the new Xcel Pool was built and we moved across. Sadly, the old pool was knocked down, and no trace of it remains. The location now being a large housing estate.

Anyway, for a bit of nostalgia, I’ve included some pictures of the old pool, taken on the last night the club ever met there before it was closed. I hope you enjoy…

We look forward to seeing you all soon.