Archive for June, 2008

Playground investment submission

June 19, 2008

Earlier today I submitted the proposal for the Lewisham Park Stage and now it will have to go to panel for a decision on its merits. The deadline for submissions is tomorrow noon.

I don’t know when the decision will be taken actually, hopefully it won’t take long and hopefully it would be positive.

Should it be turned down it could anyway be pursued through the Local Assembly.
As said before, for this idea to become operative one needs a community association to build up a program of events. The next step is therefore that of booking a venue for a public meeting and to deliver leaflets around the area to invite people wiling to help to come along and start the group.

Here’s my submission in full:

Dear Chris Bull,

following your appeal for ideas on how to invest on playgrounds I am now writing you to propose the Lewisham Park playground as one site that could be improved through investment in an original idea that I was already thinking about when I saw your appeal. I was thinking to propose it at the next Local Assembly for Lewisham Central to be held next month but as your initiative fits so perfectly I am now bringing it to you first.

My idea involves linking the playground area to the adjacent depression in the ground surrounded by tall trees and that already looks to me like a natural theatre and only needs a stage to be one.

This would involve building a stage to host fun cultural activities for children and teenagers to involve them into the performing arts through workshops associated with a program of performances to be held on that stage during the good season. The vicinity to the playground area would work perfectly as a “lure” to children that normally would not be involved in the arts, as your appeal says, those that are hard to reach.

The playground is used by a mix of children from all sorts of backgrounds, and this is true ethnically as well as socio- economically, positive activities that keeps relationships between kids of diverse backgrounds from the playground into their adolescent years would have a definite positive effect on social cohesion and performing arts workshops held by performing artists would also provide aspirational models for many children that need such models in their life. Lewisham Central suffers form high levels of social deprivation and this little park is very close to some large estates where a lot of children that need such activities live.

The idea would also involve creating a community group to manage the stage and put together a program of activities. I am personally well positioned to start such a group as I am well known in the neighbourhood for other community initiatives I have been actively involved with in the recent past.

I attach two photos and a google map screenshot of the site for the stage in order to clarify visually what I’m talking about and I hope to hear from you soon.

All the best

So, that was the proposal, there are apparently still funds available from last year’s Lewisham Central locality funds for the purpose of “set up new residents and community groups” and that could well fund the booking of a meeting room and a round of leaflets to invite people to come along.
Anybody willing to help please say so and let’s do it.

Also, please email Chris.Bull@lewisham.gov.uk in support of this initiative.

Famously furious

June 12, 2008

I’m again in the local news, standing up for swimmers! The Mercury quoted me, the News Shopper called me a furious swimmer. I really like that.

And nearly furious I was two days ago at Downham Pool where at 9:40 pm, 20 minutes before end of play and just as I was getting into the rhythm two lifeguards started winding up the lane floats . Standing up mid pool and pointing at my wrist I yelled them a loud and clear “Oi!”. The lifeguard looked very puzzled, then lifting his hands half-way up he walked back and put the floats that he had just released back into place. Two swimmers nodded at me in approval and went back into swimming their lengths, their lanes still there.

The Downham experience

June 7, 2008

As Ladywell Pool is temporarily closed I have been forced to use Downham Pool for my swims and I have to say, there’s much to be enjoyed, and although it’s not the swimming heaven that those with an interest in it want it to be, it’s a really pretty pool.

One excellent feature is that the pool room has a terrific window on the park side and that does brighten up the experience. I’ve been told that it presents problems with the glare of the sun over the surface of the pool water that makes it difficult for the lifeguards to spot what’s happening there at some times of day. Indeed I was already aware of a precise guideline about avoiding south-facing windows to keep in mind when designing pools but I suppose that it’s not written in stone and if the view is deserving then one can forget about it and add a sunglasses allowance to the lifeguards’ wages.

More pluses, the lockers give you your money back, the cubicles are generously sized, there are free hairdryers, the showers are warm (maybe even a bit too warm) and they have doors too.

It’s got a bar with a real person serving you. There are healthy options on the menu (including an orange squeezing machine) and the bar has a terrace on the park.

The centre has also other services, noticeably a library and a surgery but I can’t really comment on those as I haven’t used them and I don’t think I ever will actually. Maybe the library if I have to kill an hour sometimes. Anyway, probably people there like them.

Now let’s say what I don’t like of the centre.

The first impression as one approaches is not one that inspires much, the design is again that of the ever popular shoebox, it’s made of rather uninspiring dark bricks and if it wasn’t for the large glass doors it would look more like a wharehouse than anything else. You can say that it’s a no frills centre, you can say that the local authority didn’t waste public money on extravagant features, you can say any other formula like that and you would be right. You could also say that it looks cheap and you would be right too. It’s a PFI building after all, it has a shelf life of 30 years. But I have to say that inside it’s completely different, it’s very bright and clean, no complaint there.

But let’s speak now of the one thing that really disappoints me and it is of course the size of the pool. I know that all modern pools are now 25 m but the reason for that is that this world is run by the beancounters. Every length is an anticlimax, it’s just short. And this reflects on the quality of the exercise, I just don’t get as tired, at parity of time spent swimming it’s definitely much less of a work out. I swam for 50 minutes the other day, try do that at Ladywell, you end up massacred. To break every 33 m instead of every 25 m does make a big difference.

The only satisfaction that I can get out of its length is that I can swim a full length under water, a thing that I’ve been trying to do for ages at Ladywell but never managed to, I always get out of comfort zone just a few strokes before the end and there I emerge, at Downham it’s a breeze. It’s also very shallow, so shallow that if I stand on my toes in the deep end I can keep my head above water. I won’t be diving there, I’m just too scared of scratching my nose.

To complete this series of moans about the size of the pool I also have to say that the lanes are narrow, if more than one person is swimming in one lane you should really avoid breast strokes. Today I had a lane all for myself and as a little game I tried to touch both lane floats at the same time whilst doing breast strokes in the middle of the lane, I never managed to do it but only by a tiny measure.

But I don’t want to sound horrible, it’s a nice place, I can’t wait to bring my daughter because the teaching pool looks really good and for a suburban area like Downham it’s probably the one thing that is most likely to brighten up the average day of many of the residents.

I can even envisage myself choosing to go there instead of Loampit Vale when Ladywell closes in a few years time, it’s likely to be much less crowded and the green is very pleasant, I can very easily ignore the cheap PFI look of its exterior and just enjoy myself.