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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 10 April 2008
One of the Heath swimmers who braved the cold to use the Ladies Pond
One of the Heath swimmers who braved the cold to use the Ladies Pond
Welcomed, but the men still get a frosty reception

LATE-NIGHT summer skinny-dippers aside, the Heath Ladies’ Pond has always been man-free.

So last Sunday will go down as a historic day in the life of the lake as men were welcomed – albeit briefly – to sample the delights of the waters.
I hear the session, organised by the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association, was well attended – despite the heavens opening and a snow storm greeting swimmers.
I’m told even the idea of inviting men in for a two-hour slot met entrenched opposition, with members of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association divided over the plan. Despite that, it was hardly storming the barricades of this bastion of exclusive female bathing – once they’d got out, the chaps in trunks were served coffee and croissants.
The invite came about as a thank-you to regulars at the nearby Men’s Pond, who had allowed women in over the winter months when their own pond was occasionally closed.
And the wintry weather added to the sense of occasion, according to the pond association vice-chair Mary Cane.
She said: “It was just exquisite to swim as the snow fell.
“The conditions could not have been more beautiful.
“We have been grateful to the men this winter when the pond has been closed a few mornings and they have let us use theirs. We thought this was a good way to say thank-you.”
Regular Men’s Pond swimmer Paul Ashley Singer, 46, travels from Stamford Hill each day to swim. He said he felt privileged to have savoured the delights of the other pond.
He said: “It was a nice gesture and very enjoyable. I was particularly impressed with the unusual weather conditions and wonder whether the ladies will be able to guarantee such an impressive experience every year?”
I believe the idea of this becoming an annual event has been greeted with horror in some circles – not because the swimmers have anything against men sharing the pond, but because they fear the City of London, who run the facility, may use it as an excuse to say that single-sex bathing ponds are no longer needed. Now that would send a chill through the most hardened swimmers.

Authors in the running for Orange book prize

TWO local authors have made it to the Orange book prize long list and I eagerly await to see what odds I can get on one of them scooping the top prize.
I hope to make back a few pennies I lost on the Grand National last week by backing two runners with Camden connections.
Hampstead-based Deb­­orah Moggach’s book In The Dark is set in the First World War and the good reviews it has received mean it must be one of the favourites. Tip number two is Charlotte Mendelson and her excellent tale, When We Were Bad. It tells the story of a Jewish family facing some uncomfortable truths and is based in Gospel Oak and Holloway.
She writes on her website that she has been inspired by home.
“I live near Hampstead Heath,” she states.
“There is both variety – Vietnamese restaurants, fishmongers, Greek bookshops, glamorous MittelEuropeans – and the Heath, with its Italian café and swimming ponds and wild woods. It also smells fantastic: wood smoke, garlic, clean(ish) air and rain on leaves.”
That, for me, is enough to make it the literary equivalent of Comply Or Die.

Taxi fan Brian’s ‘not taking us for a ride’

TORY GLA representative Brian Coleman has consistently raised the ire of fellow members for the cost of travelling in taxis.
And while the mayoral candidate Boris Johnson claims he is the man to trust with transport, his fellow Conservative Brian seems not to enjoy using buses and the Tube.
His expense claims, seen by the New Journal, show some rather hefty taxi rides (despite the GLA furnishing him with a free annual travel card for zones 1 to 6).
On December 13 last year he put down two receipts. One reached £412 for a lift from his home to the London Jewish Forum and then on to City Hall, and another is for £244 to attend an NHS Confederation rec­eption. But one item claimed particularly caught my attention: a £140.99 bill for a taxi to “attend the funeral of Peggy Jay”.
Brian told me: “I’ve no idea how much the cars cost because the GLA office organises them for me. They were all used on official business and it’s all above board.”
Still, I wonder what Peggy, a Labour stalwart on the Greater London Council, would have made of London’s tax-payers picking up this ride.

Bad vibes at conference as Rupert is stabbed

MAVERICK Hampstead scientist Rupert Sheldrake has been stabbed during a bizarre attack in New Mexico, I am told.
The controversial biologist, who has posited theories ranging from the universal subconscious to the telepathic power of dogs, was speaking about “thought transference and morphic resonance” at the 10th International Conference on Science and Consciousness in Santa Fe when a member of the audience drew a knife and stabbed him in the leg.
Another featured speaker observed that the man appeared to be “full of negative energy” and advised him to “calm down”.
Online forum Alien-Earth was soon flooded with blogs from the paranormal community.
“The effective and compassionate response of the conference attendees uploaded a massively positive input into the morphic field,” wrote one eyewitness.
“We should collectively send him healing intention,” suggested another.
David Icke also sent his regards.
And I too, though not of the “fortean” persuasion, would like to wish Mr Sheldrake a full and swift recovery.

Eagles a sore point

COMMISERATIONS to Clement Temile, the 42-year-old manager of Kentish Town FC, who was unsuccessful in his bid to become the next coach of the Nigerian national football team.
Clement’s pedigree stood him in good stead for the post: he is a former winger for the Nigerian team, known as the ‘Super Eagles’.
Sadly it was not to be, but you can’t keep a good manager down.
Clement told me this week he would consider reapplying for the job after the Olympics.
“I’m still very much in the market,” he insisted, “but at the moment I just want to take Kentish Town straight into the Premier League!”

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