Julia Stephenson: Green Goddess

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The Independent Online

I'm still waiting for permission to put up my roof extension, solar panels and wind turbines. Although I was granted planning permission seven months ago, I also need party-wall consent, but the solicitor dealing with it seems to have disappeared. The last I heard of him, he was on his way to Heathrow on 21 August for his summer hols, but I fear he may have done a John Stonehouse and swum away forever. Or maybe he's been lost with everyone's luggage. I'm not blaming him, but I would like to crack on.

In the meantime, we're transforming my bright-red flat to a cooler, calmer Scandinavian palette. Using eco-paints, of course, which have proved a great success (lovely smell, good coverage and range of colours). However, progress on the painting front is slower than it might be as, eager to make the most of the Indian summer, I keep dragging S off to the Serpentine Lido for an energising swim.

In hot weather, this Elysian paradise is crammed with perma-tanned lounge-lizardy types, all chatting each other up energetically. If you are a glam over-60 and looking for a hot date on a Saturday night, in fact any night at all, it's the place to be. Swimming among swans and ducks makes the city feels miles away, and leaves one feeling like a million dollars. The water is incredibly soft, and so clean (it's fed by its own artesian spring) that it has Blue Flag status.

Occasionally there is an Algae Alert (Don't panic, Mr Mainwaring!), which puts off thin-skinned swimmers but leaves more room for the rest of us. Last week, an ultra-groomed metrosexual type looked at me with concern as I emerged, green and dripping with five different types of pondweed, from the water.

"Are you alright? Are you sure it's OK to swim?" he asked.

"No, I'm feeling wretched," I lied, causing him to retreat to his sun-lounger with relief.

You see, us serious swimmers need all the space we can get, and the trouble with these metro men is that they are so well moisturised, they leave slicks of male-grooming unguents on the water. Far more noxious than any algae. Not only that, but their lane discipline leaves much to be desired. I can't understand the fuss about algae - chlorine is far more toxic, and yet it's flung about with abandon in most swimming pools in the land. Besides, up the road, Harrods is charging £150 for an algae wrap. At the Serpentine, I get its beauteous benefits for £3.50.

The UK has hundreds of such stunning outdoor pools. The website www.river-swimming.co.uk lists them and promotes all open-air swimming. However, these lovely places, used safely for generations, are under threat from public-safety busybodies, who toil energetically to close them. Let's utilise these national treasures while we still can.

www.ecospaints.com

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