I was at swim squads a few days ago and after the session I was in the change room talking with another swimmer who has recently joined our group. It turns out she is from New Zealand, so I asked what part of New Zealand she came from and discovered she lived a few streets away from where I was living. We had quite a trip down memory lane talking about all the places we remembered and frequented like the ice cream parlour where our favourite flavour was licorice. Then she asked, ‘Did you use to swim at the Riddiford Baths?’
‘Oh yes, I said. All the time. That’s where I spent my summers and competed in the school’s swimming carnivals. ‘So did I’, she said.
The Riddiford Baths were right in the heart of Lower Hutt surrounded by gardens and next to the Town Hall. Inside the complex (that was completely outdoors), was a very large 50 yard pool that was eight lanes wide with a deep end equipped for diving boards with a depth of about 16 feet. There were ‘change sheds’ as they were called back then, probably because they were no more luxurious than a shed and I doubt they had been improved on since the complex opened in 1929. There were no hot showers or mirrors or tiles or hot air hand dryers but toilet paper would be there on a good day. Beyond the change sheds was another pool, fully tiled with a constant depth for children who just wanted to have fun and splash about.
Back at the 50 yard pool area there was a set of stairs leading to an upper terrace that had been covered in asphalt. In the summer months the asphalt used to heat up nicely and after coming out of the water we would quickly run up the stairs and lie on the asphalt to try and warm up.
My father has always been an exercise enthusiast and he believes the best time of the day to do one’s exercise is first thing in the morning. So in the summer months when the Baths were open he would rise early and ask us if we’d like to go swimming with him. So Em and my older sister and I would put on our ‘togs’ and wrap a towel around us, hop into the car and dad would make the short two minute drive to the Riddiford Baths where parking was always available and it wasn’t metered – those were the days!
As you walked through the entrance of the Baths, there on the wall directly in front of your line of vision would be an orange sign with white lettering. This was my most anxious moment because this sign would tell you the water temperature and this was usually bad news. Take ten degrees off the indoor heated pool you currently swim in and that would be about right. The sign usually said 17 degrees (62F) and when I paid my five cents entry fee to the woman behind the little booth she would look at me sympathetically and say, ‘Sorry about that. We’ve got trouble with the heaters’. Trouble with the heaters was a permanent situation.
A few minutes later I’d be standing on the blocks shivering and shaking with air temperature that was probably about 10 degrees (50F) dreading diving in to a large pool that wasn’t much warmer. And my father would dive in and look back at me and say, ‘It’s lovely once you get in’, which of course would have been an appropriate thing to say if I was a seal and bloated with blubber.
But somehow I did dive in and I did do my 20 lengths and then I would get out (still shivering) put my towel around me and head out to the car. And for some reason, I really loved these early morning swims.
We didn’t just go to the Baths for swimming training; this was a great place for socialising. On hot days my sisters and I would be dropped off at the Baths where we would meet up with friends and enjoy a day of swimming and sun bathing and eating ice creams and chewing gum and laughing and carrying on. There were no rules like there are today like, ‘No Running, No Jumping, No Bombing, No Diving, No Loitering’, and no silly signs saying, ‘Holding Your Breath Under Water Can Be Dangerous’. So we did all of those things and had enormous fun.
Sadly, the Riddiford Baths were demolished in 1987. I don’t know what happened to the land but somewhere else in Lower Hutt a pool was built in its replacement. An indoor 25mtr pool that has warmer water and lovely change rooms and walls covered in signs stating all the rules. Disappointing really.
After a day of swimming we’d be ravenous and usually by then cold too so it would be lovely to come home to something cooking in the oven like this quiche. Quiche was the height of food fashion in the seventies! I’ve made this many times before and it’s always been quickly devoured. Originally I found the recipe in the Australian Women’s Weekly, Best Recipes from the Weekly cookbook but I’ve adapted the recipe to make a larger quiche.
Leek and Feta Quiche
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: This quiche is perfect to make now while leeks are in season. This is an affordable family meal you can make for around $15.00.
- 6 sheets filo pastry (excellent, no need to make your own pastry)
- 60g butter
- 5 large leeks, rinsed and sliced
- 45g butter, extra
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled or grated
- 1 cup (250ml) thickened cream
- 4 eggs, beaten
- freshly grated pepper
Pre-heat oven to 180C.
Melt butter and brush pastry sheets. Fold in half and layer pastry in a 26cm pie dish.
Place leeks, butter and garlic in a large saucepan and saute until leeks have softened. Add cheese, cream, eggs and pepper.
Pour into pie dish. Place in the oven for 30 mins or until golden brown.
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