Doing a ‘Yorkie’

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Blog Yorkie

Dave Carnross remembers his adventures at YokRoad Baths and York Road Library in East leeds, especially having to get changed in full view on the balcony and searching for ‘Biggles’ books in York Road Library

 

  YORK ROAD BATHS

“Going to Yorkie“ meant going swimming. Before we’d ever even been to the swimming baths for the first time at around eight years old,  we used to brag about how far we could swim – “I can do a breadth  – so what, I can do half a length etc etc“. Came the day, however, it was an altogether different matter. There was a line of darker tiles on the bottom of the pool at the shallow end. The first objective was to stand on the line and lunge forward at the `pipes` – hands out in front, feet off the bottom. It suddenly seemed a very long way and there was many a sneaky underwater, creeping step forward before committing yourself.

For myself, the burning desire to be able to swim soon overcame the nerves and before long I was doing my own frantic version of the breast-stroke, arms going like a bee’s wings No wonder we were thin – it must have used up 50 calories a breadth. The progression from that point was well understood by all of us – first of all – lung-bursting, head-back breadths across the shallow end with feet occasionally hitting the floor. Then gradually going further and further up the pool and out of our depth as our technique improved and confidence grew. Swimming lengthways meant starting off from the deep end to make sure you were in shallower water when you were tired and breathless.

I progressed very well until the day Titch Isotta accidentally jumped on my head from the top board and drove me to the bottom of the deep end like a depth charge. Whilst that wasn’t a source of great amusement, I reasoned that nothing much worse than that could happen to me and my confidence was boosted as a result. Eventually, we all became strong swimmers and went on to become proficient divers, graduating to jumping off the balcony and generally showing off. I could never make my mind up whether we wanted to impress the girls or each other.

Other memories of Yorkie include having to get changed on the balcony or in the boiler passage because all the cubicles had been taken. Modesty was not allowed – not that we had much to see because the passage was always cold and draughty even in summer.

 The showers comprised two fittings and they were only occasionally warm never mind hot. We used to stand shivering shoulder to shivering shoulder like Emperor penguins huddling in the Antarctic winters gradually shuffling and manoeuvring around until we were in the warm. We were in and out of the pool all the time and occasionally using our towels to keep warm. It has to be said that towels in those austere days left a lot to be desired in size and quality, so when the time came to get dressed, the towel wouldn’t have dried one foot never mind your whole body. Pulling invariably holed, woollen socks back on to wet feet was a real problem and often resulted in them being twice as long as they were when you set off from home and with bigger holes. If you were in funds, there was a window high up on the wall near the cash desk where you could buy a cup of scalding hot Oxo or Bovril which was usually drunk too quickly and left you with a sand-papered tongue for hours afterwards.

When we came out. I always seemed to have water locked in my ears and the outside world would be strangely muffled and uncomfortable. My cure for this was to hop on one leg with my head on one side until the water came out now heated to body temperature. Others used to bang the sides of their heads with the flat of the hand or blow their noses violently. We must have looked a real motley crew hopping and snorting our way home.

 When we were teenagers and if we could afford it, we took to going to the slipper baths to wallow in a full bath of hot water which, for a change, hadn’t been used by anyone else before you got into it.  That was real luxury then.

YORK ROAD LIBRARY

Many were the happy hours we spent in there. All for free as well. I must have read every Biggles book ever written. I used to scour the shelves for them and, if there weren’t any there, I would have a look on the little cart which the librarians used to carry the returned books back to the shelves and sneak them straight off the pile. The `Just William `books were also favourites even though their characters inhabited a world which was light years removed from our own. I still find that a bit odd really. We also used to leaf through the bound versions of National Geographic magazines searching for pictures of semi-naked native ladies. I think this must have been a favourite pastime for most of the young local lads because, nearly always, the books would automatically open at the desired pages. Silence protocol was enforced and observed. The Library always felt like an extension of school to me and none the worse for that.

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