Bath and beyond

14 Feb

I don't have a gold bath, but I love mine all the same

Kirsty Young hasn’t asked me to appear on Desert Island Discs yet, but when she does, I have my eight tracks ready. At the end I’ll tell her I don’t want the bible and when she asks me what my luxury item will be, I’ll say a bath with an infinite supply of hot running water. Obviously this is an implausible, ridiculous request, and that’s probably why Radio 4 hasn’t invited me onto the show yet. They’ve seen into my head and they know I’ll be a lousy guest: it’s just that a warm lagoon complete with its own waterfall would never do.

A long hot bath – the kind that turns me lobster pink and warms my bones for hours afterwards– is my idea of pure joy. I’d put it in the same category as sex when it comes to cheap pleasures, except a bath is something best savoured alone.

I have long been fed up with the notion that only men need their sheds. Women need their own space too, and unless a family has enough money for the adults to claim a bedroom each, then awkward corners (look, it’s a study if you slide in a filing cabinet, create a makeshift sideboard with MDF and sit a computer on top!) and outside loos made of asbestos that should have been demolished at the end of the second world war, suddenly look very attractive. However, there are very few places where you can actually shut yourself away and have complete privacy. At work I’ve always been surrounded and at home I’m usually a magnet for needy people. That’s where the bathroom comes in handy.

I love my bathroom. I’d go so far as to say that it is my favourite place in the house. I don’t have a lavish marble suite complete with Missoni towels. Mine’s a bog standard bathroom, complete with a ceiling that still has the odd hole in it where light fittings were drilled in the wrong places. I have bamboo glass in the window, something I know that I’ll never get around to replacing, that wouldn’t look out of place in a mobile home site office. Thank god for dimmer switches, bath oil and good grouting.

While taking a dip I have been known to eat a cream tea, listen to Maggie May (I mocked my husband for liking Rod Stewart so had to remove myself from public view/earshot to play this) and make up a limerick. Before entering the bathroom I often pour a large gin and tonic, with the excuse that it cools me off from the steamy heat. The bath is the perfect place to do important paperwork, such as filling out school trip permission forms (soggy but still legible), and read up on things I don’t understand such as FTSE 100 share indexes (no, still none the wiser). In the bathroom mirror I can check out my eyebrows and inspect the weird line of dark hair that grows on the back of my otherwise blonde haired thighs. I can also have a quick orgasm, read a chapter of my book and floss my teeth. Nobody can bother me in the bathroom, because it has a lock. Nobody wants to bother me in the bathroom because they know that when I emerge after half an hour I am a far kinder, happier person to be around.

The extreme pleasure I get from bathing alone is a million miles away from bathing with my children. By this I mean actually getting into the tub with them, as opposed to drinking wine at the side, while watching the baby suck and swallow all of the toothpaste from the toothbrush head without any brushing taking place at all. Most parents will have bathed with their children: how many actually enjoy it is questionable.

Perhaps it is a life long phobia of mine, borne out of the fact that when I was five we lived in a caravan at the bottom of our garden for three months when we moved to a new, but totally delapidated house. We had very basic inside facilities: as far as I remember a one ring gas cooker, a loo and a bath. My mum and I shared the bath to save what little warm water there was: it was always the colour and temperature of hour old weak tea brewed from scummy water. All I can remember was counting down the seconds until I could hop out of the murk and on to the cold quarry tiles. Hardly sweet relief but nicer than the lukewarm brew I’d been dunked in. My poor mother must have felt much worse, at seven months pregnant.

Flash forward 30 years and the memory still lingers. When I’m in the bath with any one of my children I may as well be back in 1982. The water is usually the temperature of a swimming pool and my legs are treated like a climbing frame, or scrutinised by one of the children (“your stubble is pricklier than daddy’s beard”.). The water, unlike that of my childhood  in the rusty piped countryside bath, is a tie dye mixture of wee, poster paint and a couple of kids’ toothpaste spittle, all made cloudy from the soap that was submerged – then lost in the chaotic tangle of toys – by the baby.

No, I can safely say that unless I miraculously turn into Thandie Newton (I seem to remember her saying in an interview that taking baths with her children was her ultimate treat) then I will never share a bath with my children again.

Here’s my favourite bathtime song:

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2 Responses to “Bath and beyond”

  1. Florence February 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Er.. isn’t it a bit weird to try and educate yourself about the FTSE in the bathroom and it jars with the relaxation thing slightly. It’s nothing to do with the quick orgasm is it?

    • mothersruined February 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

      You’re just the kind of person I can imagine taking a spreadsheet into the bathroom, D! Anyway, I need a lesson, or several in anything to do with money. And yes, lack of understanding prob something to do with the little O. They do tend to make my brain turn to mush, lovely as they are.

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