Reflections… its been a strange week

This is not a party political broadcast, a call to arms or a declaration of a revolution. Its just a poem about some of the topics and things I have been meditating on recently whilst on my swims in the Lido.

Speaking personally the Lido is an actual haven and it keeps the pressures of life at the turnstile for the time I am there and I often lose myself in lovely open thought. I wanted to write about that and also touch on what I think have been some hard weeks to live through in the UK. People pulling each other apart on twitter and face book, people showing their political bums and telling you to put up with it, a murder of an MP and some families in civil war.

This following poem lightly and sometimes heavily points at these things and also has an ending which I hope people can relate too. Surprisingly the regulars chat a fair bit about what is happening outside the walls of the lido and always agree to disagree and laugh things off, that I have been thankful for and I hope you all have a sanctuary, like the lido to weather this storm.


Also thanks to local Labour councillor Mr Richard Ferris for the photo.




It is a drizzly day at the Lido.

Grey sky filled with clouds that appear to want to fire you with rain that might break your skull.

It has been like this for days.

The air is humid, a closeness that is only elevated by a purse in the sky of blue & sunshine.

It is the best time to swim.

This weather keeps the occasional swimmers out for a while longer & the regulars can reign.

The referendum is at hand.

I have grown tired of rubbing out vote leave with vote love and idealism is leaving me sunken.


I enter the shallow end.

The water is not cold, the heavy thumping in my heart changes into the wings of a hummingbird.

This pool is my sanctuary.

Surrounding me in an oasis of thought. I leave my problems at the talc covered dressing room.

0.9 metres soon arrives.

When I reach the first lifeguard, I decide what to cook for myself, whilst my husband is away.

On my fourth submersion,

The fog in my goggles causes a type of chlorine free induced happiness akin to 4 am dancing.


1.2 metres feels warmer.

Newsflash memories create type across my brain, words travel over  the top of the water.

My hands brush aside.

Each headline I then replace them with the photo of my cat sleeping in the garden strawberries.

Over the red line now.

A ruby barrier in the pool that stops bathers from going over and into the possibility of peril.  

I breaststroke into danger.

1.5 metres is approaching, reflections of 2.4 children without a mother blur out the danger mark.


The 2nd lifeguard smiles.

Nigh on a quarter of this length I have hoped that I could clean the real world into a air bubble.

Her face is steaming up my eyes, a  white rose of Yorkshire stabbed, shot, outrage crushing her.

2.7 the most distant.

Was dividing a  bloom from her very root bed, not a horror? Worthy of a hundred poems.

I attune myself again.

Grant swimming a chance once more to overtake the ripping of stems in reason from the world.

I am at the edge.

Reflections dark & light, I vow to be a reflector of love, if not then I may never leave the deep end.


Keely Mills


30th June 2016





The first swim

In my last blog about the Lido, I was exalting the joys of swimming regardless of what you look like and being your own mermaid, which got some very lovely responses from people and I hope encouraged some of them to go out and have a swim.

I also managed to get out and have some swims with some good friends of mine, one of them being Charley Genever who is the present Peterborough poet laureate and also Samantha Hope who is a craft legend. This was during the week where it felt like summer and I really enjoyed sharing their first swim with them and that is what inspired the following poem.  They also wore my spare pair of goggles and my plan is if people come for a swim with me then they will get to do the same.


I love to hear the first shouts and gasps of people when they enter the water and then their steely determination to get through it and then suddenly they are swimming, plunging under the water and even encouraging others to get in as well.  My first swim in the  Lido  of the season is like being reborn, as Jack comments who is the supervisor at the Lido, ‘its like cleansing your soul’ and I have been waiting for it since October, the relief of that first swim  reminds me of long nights, kisses in long grass, new potatoes and short sleeves.

I think myself and the regulars who wait every year for the Lido to open, feel a bit like Persephone, reborn out of Hades and now blooming. Waiting for the Lido to dust off the shroud of Winter. Here is a short poem to describe that feeling. Oh and Happy Solstice! a big cheer to whatever makes your Summer swing.


Fade in time.


The last frosts of winter disappear in the fresh blue.

As I bimble down the teal steps into this other bliss.

My feet touch the temperature that was foretold at the kiosk desk.  

Sapphire water swamps my gasps.


The liberty of the first swim fills me with a hullabaloo.

Buzzy kingfisher feelings drown out the freezing kiss.

I cover my chest as I plunge in, to stop rude bits sticking out on end.

Hands release into liquid diamonds.


My knees power my joints pushing me into & through.

I show off by somersaulting and performing the splits.

The lack of gravity swallows my aches & being light is a god send.

The pool thankfully drinks me in whole.


I am a Lilly of the valley that is no longer out of view.

Returning to happiness and the Midsummer’s glitz.

Each lap I am swimming in the sky of no clouds, floating end to end.

I am getting nearer to Phoebe’s heat.


Pushing with each stroke into the hot, hopeful new.

The prison of shortened days is a whisper & adrift.

Swims submerge the counted days, pulling me atop of the ascend.

Plunging into breathless watery folklore.


In the water, I mouth that this is too good to be true.

Adam’s ale floods my throat & I cough out his gift.

I am Persephone freed from the grief of dead leaves in the timely descend.

Refusing to be believe that there will ever be a last swim.


By Keely Mills
June 20th 2016



Meet the cheery eyes of the chubby mermaid.

The weather has picked up and my schedule has cooled down so I have managed to get in a couple of swims and they have been glorious! 21 and 22 degrees and the clear blue fractals on the surface of the water are just spell binding.

It seems someone has decided my locker is now their’s so I have shuffled my number along and there is no bolted down furniture this year that the regulars would normally roost on between swims, but they have already claimed benches and nice rattan chairs from elsewhere and the regular’s have their nest once again.

Yesterday I laughed for at least a quarter of a mile of my half mile swim, as there were two young men who were enjoying their swims and they would sing along to the songs that were playing over the Lido speakers and even break out into synchronized swimming. When the Carly Rae Jepsen song, ‘ Call Me Maybe’ came on the tannoy, I thought my heart might burst as they were singing in the pool and then a young life guard joined them! It was like watching your drunk uncles at a wedding. Its this feeling of ownership, comfort and acceptance that I think keeps me coming back year after year. The Lido is more than just a pool, its a place of hello’s, conversations and a sharing in something so transitory, that if your heart is inclined to it, makes you feel so grateful.

The following poem, is a poem I have been wanting to write for a while. Often when I explain my inexplicable love for the Lido, lots of ladies seem to be baffled at the fact that I am prepared to get my body out and swim. I explain to them that for the 30 seconds or so from the dressing room to the pool, I wear the most glamorous swim suit and this seems to dazzle people who might want to say stuff which is not nice to me into a submission.

Plus the actress/MP Glenda Jackson once said that I am not the most beautiful woman in the world but I believe I am and so others  do too. So this is my poem, The Chubby Mermaid a little homage to self belief.



The Chubby Mermaid


In the water. I am the chubby mermaid, a floating deity rushing through water.

In the swimmers only lane, I am not the second glanced woman, sin-binned into the xtra large.


My curvy hydraulic hips, that squeeze past grumpy teens, at the corner shop-

My meaty love handles are swept away by the waves and I am ancient and I am beautiful.


Likely I will never be carried over the threshold in the dry world of gravity but in the pool.

I am a sailor’s dream and they raise the flag with the letters of BBW on it to find me.


Disney did not sell me the idea of being a water nymph, I never made a pact with Walt,

My super size could not be held by a cartoon and my mermaid shape is not sellable in Asda.


I found her in the Lido, which I discovered like a coral reef on a concrete side of a car park.

I am as lucky as a sandboy that this open sky of water has beached in my city for 80yrs.


Those walls of summer, call me into it’s tempting watery embrace from May to September.

Those dressing rooms where I get ready melt the shackles of dry dock & I feel ocean splendour.


The first time I brought that golden locker token, I was nervous that I would be stopped from-

Entering the pool, just in case, the other swimmers winced or drowned at the sight of my body.


If performing poetry in pubs, tea rooms and tents has taught me anything, it is to

Be what you seem to be and remember you have the microphone that makes you the loudest.


Use that turned- up voice to piss on the heckles, recite words in a confident hum in my head.

Wear costumes that show the real me, be a shieldmaiden using clothes to ward off soul eaters.


So, in  a two fingered salute I wore the most glamourous swimsuit I could find, no black.

I would not be a bruise of a woman that should be hid away in colours that would rub me out.


Strings of sequins fell from my breasts and the necklace I wore absorbed and distracted. Strangers in swimming caps turned as I sparkled in a costume that ignited me with embers.


The possible insults were sunk before they could even be spoken.The cool aquamarine took over my breath and then I began to swim unaided.


When I swum under the surface, my eyes inhaled the hot diamonds of the sun, shimmering.On that first swim, I left the dirt of body regrets on the mainland and in that blue was bountiful.


The previous taunts of fi-fi-fo-thumb by the strangers, the insults in Wilkos were scrubbed away by the other mermen and maids that smiled at my happiness between their gasps and mine.


Not one swimmer mouthed fatso at me,  in the deep end, we were all poseidons. I no longer had to reach for the rum & I halted the dreaming of pirate daggers, if I let them would-


Cut me a new shape, so I fitted in just for a moment, to give me a body that society deserves.

Now  chop at my chunky thighs and there are scales, descended from Calypso’s bloodline.


Make- believing fills each stroke and  every evil doubt is crushed by each length I create.

Maybe in this school of fish- people I can truly ignore what others think of me.


Cutlasses now trim me into the real, they shed the human for a while, reveal the mermaid.

Cuttlefish, seahorse, stickleback heart is what really lives in this plus sized chest of mine.


I had tried many earthly ways to change myself, I drank shakes, wobbled & ran

I was saved from being buried alive when I found water’s forgiveness and began to understand-


The tilting water, the quietness of swimming  that washes my body into a angelic trident.

Till then my face burnt red & the dress size went high and low, it all disappeared as I understood.


In that art deco monument that my hollowed out shape that many can’t forgive or let be.

there it’s equal.

I wear goggles at whatever size I am and this tidal of acceptance.


Did lick me into better shape than I was before, both in my head and around my waist.

In this admission, I can swim a mile and I can be allowed to love my body when it does.


When I wax wet-lyrical about my swimming adventures, other ladies often shrink back-

They are too frightened to do the same, to show their bodies and swim unbound.


Media forces them into playdough shapes in their minds and it pushes out their angst too.

When I envy their 24,36 and 38 double D frame, they can’t see how incredible they are.


I pass them the microphone for a while, now they have the loudest voice. I never ridicule.

Lend them money for their gold token, pass the catalogue to search for their own costume.


Hoping they fall into the open air pool, where there are thin, medium, overweight skimmers, diving into the splash. When they come up for air they meet the cheery eyes of the chubby mermaid.


By Keely Mills
29th May 2016