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Loner: Go swimming in a pond

Oh gees. I have just successfully made my first GIF after half an hour of screenshots and cropping photos and now I am too distracted by it to write this post as I am basking in the feeling of being a social media and computer whizz. Trying to mindmap what GIF based list I could possibly publish on buzzfeed right now.

The GIF I made (sorry, just gotta talk about it) is of Shirley Jones - of Rodger's and Hammerstein, Brady Bunch and more recently Day's of Our Lives fame - taking a dip in Oklahoma!, the musical about a brand new state (gonna treat you greeaaaatt!) where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain, and the wavin wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the raaaaain. Oh yes, did I mention I love musicals? Especially Rodger's and Hammerstein ones, and especially Oklahoma! When I was little I used to watch it on my days off sick and I would get so enthused by the singing and dancing and cowboys (but not the weird half an hour ballet bit in the middle, always fast forwarded through that) I'd think I was better and go into school in the afternoon, just to be sent home ill again 20 minutes later. What a sweet little story, which is completely irrelevant to this post.

Anyhoo, Oklahoma!, as always is getting me carried away, sorry. This post (but perhaps one later, yes?) is not about Oklahoma! or indeed musicals. I've just come back from a run, and you know what, depsite it being half way through September, despite there being brown leaves on the ground, and despite me wearing my cellulite revealing, camel-toe-creating, generally unflattering and genuinely teeny tiny cycling shorts instead of my slimming, toning, pert-arse-making lulu lemon leggings in an attempt to get more breeze on my thighs, I am still bloody hot. 

According to BBC weather, we've still got a couple of weeks at least left of summer! Woohoo! So it is our last opportunity to make like we are in the deep south of the USA and go for a nice outdoor swim in some lovely natural ponds, as jumping in a nice cool pond right now would definitely be better than dragging my lycra-d arse round Victoria Park. Wouldn't it be nice if we lived out in the countryside of Oklahoma at the beginning of the twentieth century where there were beautiful clean ponds galore, rather than in smelly, polluted cloggy London where we would be best advised to have half a dozen immunisations before dipping our naked toe in a puddle?

But hold on, for just a half an hour a walk from a zone 2 tube station, in the most south-American-state-at-the -beginning-of-the-twentieth-century bit of London - Hampstead Heath - there are actually ponds that you can swim in, no extra vaccinations on top of your standard ones required!

On the Highgate corner of Hampstead Heath there are 3 ponds: the men's bathing pond (frequented mainly by gay men apparently), the mixed bathing pond (frequented mainly by straight men apparently) and the ladies' bathing pond - frequented by me, and women of all ages, life purposes, sizes and sexualities. Obvs you can go in the mixed bathing pond, but I like the ladies one best because it has the cleanest water they say (it is the nearest to the freshwater spring, and the others basically just have water that had flown down from the ladies) plus the meadows and trees that surround it (they were planted to keep the perverts away in Victorian times) make it feel even more secluded, and even more like you are not really in North London. If you ignore the adidas sporting lifeguards, you could well be in Oklahoma in 1905 for all you knew. 

The first time I went was with my friends, and it is definitely a lovely place to go sunbathing with the girls, enjoy an M&S picnic, and a few cans of G&T with a magazine on a lazy Sunday or a summer's evening after work (it closes as late as 8:45pm in the summer months) but for a real moment of mindfulness and peace, and to really appreciate the beauty, tranquility and magic of the ponds, it makes a lovely trip to go on all by yourself.

Unfortunately, unlike Oklahoma in 1905 it would be frowned upon for you to jump in the pond naked and use it to wash yourself. Actually maybe more than frowned upon. However, everyone there are ladies (as the name may suggest) so whenever I go alone, I use it as an opportunity to tan my very white boobs, which is quite the norm there. It is like a little slice of a beach in Corsica, France on a meadow in Highgate, London. 

Because of the ladies only thing, I haven't got many snaps to share with you, as they don't really allow that in case you are a pevert. Or in case you are going to write a blog and post people's swimming pictures all over the internet without their permission. Fair enuf. But here is one I found online, and a couple of ones sneakily taken, as they are only of my friends and I make them allow me to put their photos up on my blog for anyone on the internet to see. Sorry guys.

Important: Be safe!
There is no point in the Ladies Bathing Pond where you can touch the bottom, which makes it excellent for jumping in, and a great workout as you are treading water the whole time, but don't go in unless you are a strong swimmer. Although there are lifeguards, the pond is huge and it is often really empty so don't bank on anyone else to help you swim, only go in if you are absolutely fine swimming by yourself.

Also, even in summer, the ponds can be a little bit of a shock with the cold at first (though your body soon get used to it and then they truly are lovely) so don't just jump in straight away, as tempting as it may be after you have got yourself very sweaty with a walk up the hill to Hampstead Heath and a rush hour trip on the Northern Line. You don't want to give your body too much of a shock. And definitely don't go in for the first time if you are reading this in November. It takes quite a while of swimming in the ponds every day until you can become one of these amazing women, taking the Kenwood Ladies New Year's day dip:

(Copyright Kenwood Ladies Bathing)

So for a cool dip outside without the chlorine and crowds of a lido, head on down to Hampstead Heath bathing ponds today (unless it is a winter month, and then please re-read my warning)...and the best bit - it costs hardly anything, so you can treat yourself to something in Topshop on your way home. Who said that?

Waaa, when writing this post I came across this petition to stop building some damn dams (couldn't help myself) which could be a threat to the ponds. Sign the petition here pleeeeease. 

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