Movers and Shakers at Leisure

Posted by in May's Magazine

I do like to hang around the swimming baths in an afternoon. No hang on, that didn’t sound right. It sounded awful and possibly incriminating. I do like to hang around the swimming baths of an afternoon.

See? SEE? You thought I meant that it was bad because it made me sound like a pervert, but I was actually making a grammatical point. Now who’s the filthy-minded one?


The point stands, though: Leith Victoria Swimming Centre, to employ its Sunday name, can be a mightily entertaining place in which to loiter. It is, after all, one of the few places left where men in their 70s can go to stand around in what are essentially waterproof pants and chat about cigarette prices, while 80s reggae band Aswad blare from the water aerobics stereo.

Even the Pool Programme Timetable leaves me intrigued. On Wednesday nights, a part of the pool is reserved for, simply, ‘Masters’. Of what, though? Swimming? Degrees? The Universe? Then when Saturday comes, 4pm offers ‘Open All Hours (girls only)’ in which, presumably, Nurse Gladys swims about in the nude while Arkwright and Granville peer sneakily over the edges of the poolside changing room doors.

When I’m feeling particularly flush or the heating at Portrait Heights is broken, I pay 75p for extras, in this case a wristband granting access to the sauna. The sauna is the golf course of the swimming pool, the place where the movers and shakers go to move and shake, sometimes with frightening consequences if a flabby person shakes and you don’t move.

Here, men of an uncertain age eye one another to check whether the sweaty, mostly-naked bloke in front of them looks like he could be easily engaged in conversation. I seem to have perfected a terrified and terrifying look somewhere between that of Susan Boyle entering the stage for the first time on Britain’s Got Talent and Susan Boyle entering a sauna at Leith Victoria Swimming Centre. As such, no one has ever tried to engage me in conversation, save for the time a man asked me to sing I Dreamed a Dream for him, as “ma Jeannie loved that yin.”

Despite my best efforts, pulling the Boyle face does not stop me from hearing. In recent months I’ve learnt how poor Fat Colin’s gout is back and why global warming is “jist another ‘Millennium Bug’ scare.” Furthermore, I’ve mistakenly encountered racism so casual that it is wearing jeans and a jacket and whistling ‘Smoke Weed Everyday’.

Sometimes the greatest treat can be walking into a discussion already in stunted flow. Recently, I found three men trying to remember something. “Whit’s that phrase they use? You ken, that phrase,” said one. “Aw, that, er, that one aboot the bucket?” replied another. “Aye, ‘slopping oot’, that’s it,” said the third. “Nawwww,” injected the first, “human rights, that’s the one.”

Adding confused to my recently acquired portfolio of ‘looks’, I shrugged, sat back, and pretended to be French.

Food Review Extra!
Hark, for there is a new addition to the Cultural Quarter (see the Pen Portraits archive passim, if you really want to. I wouldn’t, and I was there when the horrible little letters fell onto the keyboard in the first place). The Dragon King Chinese opened on the site of the old Lochend Road chippy in late winter, and I went along with Mrs Portraits just before midnight on a recent Friday.

Service was excellent: prompt, polite and with an enlightening conversation about the Year of the Rabbit thrown in – typical Cultural Quarter really. We went for Large Chips (600g) at £1.50 – daringly pitched 20p dearer than New Wang’s on Great Junction Street – salt, vinegar and packaging were free though, a testament to the kindness of the Chinese people.

By the time our food reached the plate it had retained its heat to a pleasing extent. There were a couple of issues with rogue overcooked potato scraps, but I’ll put this down to the timing of our visit. Mrs Portraits transferred much of her main (indeed only) course onto buttered bread before adding a Houses of Parliament jus, while I experimented with Daddy’s tomato ketchup – a recent addition to our larder following a successful promotional stint in Lidl for the much maligned, controversial brand.

We washed down our meal with tins of the excellent 2011 Diet Irn Bru (60p). The Barrs really are doing some special things over at Cumbernauld this year; I suggest you stock up and invite friends over.

An excellent experience overall. I’ve a feeling the Year of the Rabbit could be a good one for the Dragon King.

Score: 9/10
Damage: £2.70

Info: Mr Gray’s Stramash: Tackling Scotland’s Towns and Teams has somehow earned a re-print. He appears alongside your beardy Editor at the Leith Festival on June 16th at the Parlour Bar. 7pm kick-off.


3 responses to “Movers and Shakers at Leisure”

  1. kami says:

    this is the best food review in the whole magazine MORE OF THIS!

  2. Stramashthebook says:

    Just wait till next month, kami…


  3. roddy says:

    what kind of a tag is stramashthebook?

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *