The Open University
It’s thinner, but more colourful; my name printed rather than hand lettered; it has an impressed stamp like the other, but as a sign of the times, also has a holographic stamp too; it’s A4 portrait on paper rather than landscape and card – it’s my degree certificate.
A repetition of my first degree (right down to the class) though via rather different subjects. It is difficult not to look at the piece of A4 paper and not think about the money that such a degree now costs to students studying in many UK universities. Even without taking living expenses and the cost of textbooks, you are looking at twenty-seven thousand pounds. I wonder what 27K would have got me when I did my first BA in 1970s – certainly more than Room 816 in Neuadd Lewis Jones in Swansea University, and all my textbooks rebound in leather with my personal monogram embossed in 24k gold on the front!
OU degrees do not cost as much, but the cost of the courses has increased exponentially since I took my first course over thirty years ago: what was a couple of hundred pounds or less is now a couple of thousand. Such costs are a reflection of political insistence, especially on behalf of the Conservative party which was a vociferous opponent of the whole concept of the OU. It has forced the OU to become more financially commercial with the result that its courses have become further and further out of reach to the very people they were designed and intended to serve. It is still a wonderful institution and I am very proud to be a graduate. At last. Only taken thirty years!
I have been reading “Great Lengths” by Dr. Ian Gordon and Simon Inglis, which is a pictorial survey of the historic indoor swimming pools of Britain. This was an inspired Emma birthday present to me as it fits well with the work that I did on the comparison of Hockney and Guevara’s paintings of swimming pools which was the subject matter for my extended essay in the OU course on Modern Art.
There is still some discussion about the exact location of the swimming pool in Guevara’s paintings and I am hoping that some of the information in the book will allow a more precise identification. There is a bibliography as well, so there is the opportunity for further research.
The history of indoor swimming pools in Britain is not such an arcane area of knowledge as you might think. The impetus to build such pools in the nineteenth century reflected the growing concern with public health and municipal pride. Pools were divided into classes and the structure of entrances to the pools reflected the need for division of the classes so that they didn’t mix. When you add concerns about lady swimmers and what costumes both sexes should use you have a complex history of social manners that delights!
I have only just started reading the book seriously, but it looks like something to which I will return for future research.
It was also poignant to see pictures of the Empire Pool in the centre of Cardiff opposite the bus station. It is now demolished; an act of barbarism which I am not inclined to forgive. I used the pool (only a trolley bus ride from my home in Cathays) when I was a kid and I used it until adulthood and only stopped when Cardiff built a series of new leisure centres which gave access to decent facilities in neighbourhoods outside the centre.
I ended up using the David Lloyd Centre situated on what is laughingly called Rumney Common (you have to look very closely to find any vegetation finding a way through asphalt and concrete there now) and it had the advantage of being on my way to and from work. I would sometimes debate, after a long and tiring day, whether I actually wanted my second swim, but I usually found that the car made the decision for me and while the debate was still going on in my head, the wheels of the car had followed the well worn metaphorical ruts and I was in the car park of the centre!
It is much the same in Castelldefels. I was a member (I still am, ah the stickiness of a standing order!) of a municipal pool on the other side of the town, but to get to it I had to go out of my way. The nearest pool was only open air and, while that is more than acceptable in summer, it is a completely different form of masochism in winter! When the local pool was reformed with a retractable roof I joined the centre and it is the one that I have used ever since. My only desertions have been during the times the pool is closed for maintenance- and what happens then is a completely different story for another time.
Meanwhile, I am about to meet an ex-colleague from Cardiff who has come to visit Barcelona and we are going out to lunch to give her the opportunity to explain (as if an explanation were necessary) why I made the right decision to retire from public education! The stories I am hearing about the administration of my last British school are heart-breaking, not only because of the misery of my colleagues but also because of the way that maladministration will make a difference to the way that the kids are taught. It is at times like this that I remember that I am being paid money simply for being alive. Even with a streaming cold that is something to warm the cockles of my heart!
And I’ll drink to that!