Every Saturday morning when I was a kid I’d ride my bike from Garsington, a village just outside Oxford, England, to my grandparents’ house on Boswell Rd., and then walk over to the Temple Cowley community swimming pool, where I’d do lengths for a while. It was one of my very favourite routines. Afterwards there was a glass of Ribena and if I was lucky a Club biscuit at the kitchen table with Cecil and Dorothy, and those are hours I miss more than most.
And back when I lived in Toronto, I’d head through Trinity-Bellwoods to the gym at some point most days (well three or four out of seven, anyway).
These days I stroll along Bagot St to the newly reborn Artillery Park. It’s a new habit that matches, just about, those above, and one that makes me feel better about myself (or will, soon, I’m sure), and better about the state of Kingston’s downtown. It’s a handsome facility with plenty of cedar and steel and glass. I haven’t used the pool yet (but my kids have, and the reviews were grand), but the entrance lobby invites visitors to sit and watch all the splashy stuff, or hook up to the free wi-fi and completely forget where you are. It’s a good scene in there. The gym is a well-appointed and handsome facility that renders exercise nearly painless. Actually that’s patently untrue, but it does at least contain the puffing and panting to an aesthetically pleasing space, and I choose to be grateful for that much.
The odd thing, though, is that it’s so damn quiet in that gym. Rarely are there more than four or five fellow strugglers in there with me. Perhaps it was packed until everyone heard I was on my way and hit the road, but I doubt it somehow. I’m not quite that hard to be around. Apparently memberships have sold well, and so the money’s in the bank and that’s a good thing. But much as I like having the pick of the equipment, the community-minded part of me feels obliged to urge you to check it out. It’s fantastic in there, and it’s ours.
In the last couple of weeks a homeowner on the corner of Bagot St opposite Artillery Park has installed a new red cedar fence around her modest yard. It’s a beautiful fence – the boards stretched out horizontally, which is my distinct preference - and it mirrors closely the exterior of the rec centre. I like that a lot. I’m really taken by the idea that the new facility is being embraced by those who live around it, and admired too, and that in this small, fence-building way the building is already being knitted into the fabric of the neighbourhood around it. Now we just need a cool diner to hang in before and afterwards. The take-out at the Crack’d Pot is a good first step.