Paula

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 Background

Paula and I met at the Wales National Pool Swansea. For years she has patiently sorted out swimming lessons and membership problems for myself and my three children. WNPS is a wonderful place to swim as it has both a 50 and 25 metre pool with a reasonable water temperature (leisure pools tend to be too warm for proper swimming) but the bureaucracy can sometimes seem quite cumbersome, if not obstructive. Paula patiently and kindly leads me through it all and keeps me and mine swimming – she’s very good at her job.

As we chatted over the years, it became evident that we had a number of mutual friends, including her landlord at the time. Paula is also friends with Clare (lunch number 11) and has been known to attend the odd Pie Fest.

Today’s lunch, not surprisingly perhaps, turned out to include a swim, although not at the WNPS. Paula is a member of a nearby health club called The Village and had been given a free pass for a friend which she very kindly gave it to me. The Village has a gym, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and a 25 metre pool. The changing rooms are far more luxurious than in our pool, the showers are better and everything is much cleaner. I suppose I should have enjoyed all of this but I actually felt quite uncomfortable with it. The pool is only 25 metres and was warm and crowded, whereas the WNPS is twice the size and at that time of day is virtually empty.

Swimming with Paula was good. She has a very similar pace to me but is much better at counting lengths, she led off and did 10 lengths. We stopped for a chat and did 10 more, then another chat and another 10 until we had swum the usual kilometre. It’s odd when you think about it but everyone I know measures their swims in kilometres but their runs in miles. Paula is no exception. In the steam room she told me about a ‘short’ run she had just done where she ran from the beach to the top of Townhill via the Marina and Sketty – you can always tell when someone is marathon training, 8 miles is a ‘short run’.

Paula has a place in the London Marathon this year. As is inevitable with marathon training, she is now focused on the race and tends to build her week around her long runs. She works shifts, some quite anti-social and sometimes has to run early in the morning; just listening to her schedule made me feel tired.

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Date Monday 12 January 2015

Cafe Toucan, SA1 (Swansea Marina)

The Lunch

As soon as I mentioned lunch to Paula, she without hesitation chose Cafe Toucan on SA1 which is the recently refurbished, ex-industrial, maritime focused area of the city. I had never been to this cafe before but know and like the area. The cafe is in one of the old warehouses and has roofed over an old alley way so that some of it seems to be outside. There’s a sign in the door way which says “please wait to be seated” which seems odd in a cafe. Previously Paula had only eaten paninis and baked potatoes there, but we both noticed that there was a nice looking set menu for £12 and decided to give it a go. The food was excellent and very plentiful – I have a big appetite but the starter alone (poached pear, blue cheese and walnut salad) was almost enough food for lunch. Paula’s main course was sea bass which came with lavish quantities of mussels and prawns. I had roast lamb which was perfectly cooked and came with a real gravy. I liked Cafe Toucan, I will definitely go there again, but next time will wear looser clothes and skip breakfast.

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Cafe Toucan’s unconventional lay-out – quirky but it works.

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