With a heatwave forecast for the first week of the school holidays queues at lidos up and down the country are likely to be long. That puts a lot of people off, and if you're a season ticket holder who can, and does, just pop along to the pool any time you feel like it you may well feel a bit resentful of the hordes descending on 'your' pool. Where are they when it's raining hard and the horizontal wind is making it difficult for the lifeguards to stand up, right? You might well choose to stay home, grumbling quietly, on those hot summer days.
But whether you're a regular who avoids busy days, or an occasional swimmer who only wants to go to a lido when the mercury tops 25c, you need to learn to love the queue.
Busy day income is what keeps most pools afloat. Wet Tuesday afternoons in June are not profitable; it's great for regulars to have the pool almost to themselves sometimes, but the crowds who line up on hot days provide the income that makes those very special 'rock star swim' experiences, where it's so quiet you can almost imagine you own the place, possible.
So, regulars, when you look at the queue feel grateful rather than frustrated. Those queues, and the money they bring into a lido, are the reason you have a pool to enjoy.
And if you're standing in the queue, here's a few tips to make it less stressful:
1. Hydrate - shade to stand in while queuing is rare. Make sure you take a reusable water bottle with you and drink regularly. The queue in the picture above was at Faversham last summer, we'd already been queuing for 20 minutes by this point and the queue snaked right round the play park to the front door. We stood in line for about 90 minutes. This shady part was bearable, but it was almost 30c in the sun on the other side, without a breath of wind. Having water and bribery snacks for the kids and adults alike was vital in terms of maintaining family harmony.
2. Sunscreen - Put on your sunscreen before you leave home, you'll need it in the queue and when you get into the facility you'll be able to leap straight into the water without having to wait for the sunscreen to absorb into your skin. If you get into the water straight away after applying sunscreen it washes straight off, which means you're not protected, and it emulsifies in the water which makes the pool cloudy. If that gets extreme parts of the pool may have to close, because the lifeguards can't see the bottom. Nobody wants that on a hot day!
3. Bring something to do - having a book to read, some colouring pens or a little game to play, helps to pass the time. We rarely leave home without a set of Uno cards, and sometimes you can rope in your queue neighbours as well. Which brings us neatly to the next point...
4. Be nice to your neighbours - it should go without saying, but being nice to your queue neighbours will make the whole experience less painful for everyone. Have a chat and make new friends. I once had a lovely time in a long queue for Pells Pool, because I got chatting to the woman in front of me - she was carrying a Tooting Bec lido tote bag and that's what sparked the conversation. And she gave me a couple of jammy dodgers, so that was definitely a win-win.
5. Don't take it out on the staff or volunteers - by the time you get to the ticket booth you might well be feeling a bit scratchy. Don't take it out on the staff or volunteers - they will have done their absolute best to keep the queue moving and get everybody in while also keeping everybody safe. A smile from you will make all the difference.
Queuing will almost always be worth it. At the end of our 90 minute queue to get into Faversham the kids all got to have diving board experiences they hadn't had elsewhere. They still talk about it, a year later, and none of them regret or resent the queue at all. In fact, we left Faversham to go to The Strand in Gillingham, where we queued for another 50 minutes, and they didn't complain at all. The photos below were taken on that day, and I hope they'll persuade you that the queueing will most definitely be worth it.