Dan, Ernie, Thanks.
Your posts on Balliol baths took me straight back to my childhood. Like many, at the age of 8, I first went to the Boys Baths with Christ Church Junior School. We anxiously lined up along the side, waiting for instructions from the teacher. The chlorine smell, splashing and echoing sounds only increased our excitement. One of my classmates pushed me hard from behind. I tumbled into the deep end, spluttered then, thankfully, came out swimming - seemed like a miracle at the time - but needs must. In the following years, I often went to the baths with mates. Someone would take a pair of flippers and it was always inspiring to feel the extra power and distance possible. As confidence rose, I managed certificates for a breadth, length and several for life saving; all were a challenge at the time. My Da was a strong swimmer and completed my swimming tuition, aged 10, by taking me to Freshfield and Ainsdale in the Summer to swim in, at times, the cold and rough sea. Of course, only wimps and girls complained, so I remained quiet and swam long and hard. Aged 11, I went to the Grammar School in Netherton. In our first year there, we were bussed to Balliol Baths on Friday afternoons for a swimming lesson. The good news is that we were sometimes transported in the coach used by Liverpool FC, complete with flags and stickers; we were in heaven. The bad news is that double maths followed. All in all, great, lifelong swimming lessons in Bootle.
Aged 9, we often collected used wooden lolly ice sticks, washed and dried them, then made them into a trellaced raft, followed by coating the raft in tar, melted by playing a magnifying glass onto road tarmac patches. One day, we found some planks of wood and empty oil drums at the side of the cut. An impromptu but real raft was made - it took hours then we proudly rode it, standing, down the canal towards Netherton. Sadly, my kids grew up in a 'safer' environment, playing too many computer games, despite me often taking them to the Park - I always missed the Rec and Derby - an essential part of my daily life as a Bootle Village street kid. Walshy.