My week Casey McGlue and Patrick Castledine Lido managers
Saturday 29 June 1996
P: I got up at 5.30am this morning, as usual. The first thing I do every day is have a swim. It's an outdoor pool heated by the sun, and it's usually over 70 but it felt freezing today. I always check the chlorine and bromine levels of the water, then open the turnstiles at around 6.30am for the serious swimmers. A few turned up for a dip and a cooked breakfast, then we closed at 10am for our morning meeting. That's when we sort out maintenance and train the lifeguards. We've been open four weeks so far this year and already had four savings. The accidents tend to be children grazing themselves on the concrete, but last year, one kid jumped on a girl's back when she was in the shallow end and we had to call an air ambulance in to do a spinal lift.
C: I do the later shift. It's very different because the morning swimmers are civilised. The ones in the afternoon don't come to swim; they come to get a tan, to socialise, to cruise. It was really hot today, so when I opened the gates at 12, there was a queue. By one, you couldn't move. We're between posh Dulwich and not-so-posh Brixton, so we get all sorts, all classes, all colours. People like it here because of the relaxed atmosphere. We don't have signs up all over the place telling them what they can't do, but you have to be aware. Punters come in drunk or stoned, children climb over the walls, and there are health risks everywhere - concrete, railings, wasp stings. Today, the boiler went in the restaurant kitchen - I fixed it and stayed cleaning up until after midnight. The rubbish is unbelievable - crisp packets, cans, ice-cream wrappers. Last season, we sold five and a half million portions of chips, and cleared them up afterward.
P: "Dangerous", the night security man, was there when I arrived this morning. Someone thought it would be a bit of fun to break in during the night and have a crap in the foyer, so we had to clear that up. It's usually kids, but "Dangerous" knows how to deal with intruders. He watches them break in, strip off and swim, then steals their clothes while they're in the water. When they come out, he won't let them out of the door but makes them climb back over the wall and run home in their pants. Quite often when I get here in the morning, my desk is covered in clothes, trainers and mobile phones. They come in later looking sheepish, asking for their stuff.
C: When it's hot like today, people bunk off work, or set up office by the pool with their laptops. A few children skive off school. Today, I had to ask some of them not to roll a seven-skin spliff right outside my office, but you can't be too strict; they could come back at night and wreck the place. We've been dubbed The Giro Oasis because so many of our customers are unemployed, but sometimes we get people who should be in care. A few weeks ago, a man came in, tripping on something; he slashed one of our lifeguards with a knife. Others are just eccentric. One bloke phoned up a while back asking if he could hire the whole pool so he could swim in the nude with an orchestra playing.
P: The head of the Civil Service and a Secretary to the Cabinet were there this morning, having their usual pre-work swim. Some people phoned up asking if they could bathe topless and I had one or two enquiries from blokes about thongs. We have quite a big gay community who use the pool.
C: When it's hot, the phone goes all day with debtors, asking for their money back. We had to borrow a lot to get started and when it's like this, they imagine we must be coining it. I spent the afternoon rotating the lifeguards around the pool to keep them awake, sorting staff wages and shifting money between the tills and the safe. With 1500 people coming through each day, the toilets can get really disgusting. I normally let the "Pool Vac" loose and it bounces off the sides of the pool, clearing up the plasters, hairbands, leaves and wedding rings. Today, it was being repaired, so my mate came down with his scuba gear to sweep the bottom. I spend a lot of time blagging credit and favours from friends, especially at the start of the season when we're strapped for cash. This year, we stripped the pool ourselves and borrowed money for the paint. The pool takes a week to fill and the water costs about four grand.
P: Every week, we have a barbecue where people can have a floodlit swim. Tonight, we have more than 200 people, but because of the Lido's booming acoustics, we have to wind up at 11.30pm. This pool is our baby. Even when we're not here, we think and talk about it all the time. I learnt to swim here when I was three, and my mum lent us lots of money to get it going. We had no idea what we were taking on. It's a vertical learning curve and a 24-hour operation. I'm going out after the barbecue tonight, but I'll call in on "Dangerous" on the way back. At the end of the day, it's our responsibility if someone's lying face down in the pool tomorrow morning.
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