Supposedly most Poms used to keep their coal in the bath, hence they didn’t wash and smelt a lot. Cleopatra bathed in assess’ milk and was renown for her fabulous complexion. Indina Sackville (the Bolter) used to receive guests while in her green onyx bath and of course Archimedes famously determined the volume of an object while in his bath and then ran naked down the street shouting ‘Eureka!’ – Greek for I have found it.
Most of my life I’ve been a shower girl, that’s how we wash in Oz – especially in the far North, but there was always a bath in the houses I’ve inhabited over the years and a bath was a thing of indulgence, not a basis for basic cleanliness like the timed shower we had under my father’s water watching regime. Do you remember Save Water Shower with a Friend? And did you?
I came to the real joy of baths when I was at uni and took possession of my Nan’s house and her green and magenta bathroom – I kid you not. After long training sessions on the river (I used to row) I would retire aching and exhausted to the bath, accompanied by glass of wine, book, record playing outside, and Siska the cat, who managed on several occasions (unable to learn her lesson) to slip on the green ceramic surface and scratch me to pieces as she clawed her way back out of the water, only marginally frantic. I needed my sunglasses too as there were no curtains and the afternoon sun just poured into the room.
For years after that I only showered, cold showers for 20 years in the NT – well you didn’t need hot water for anything other than the washing up. A shower cooled you, cleansed you: was a functional experience necessary to deal with the constancy of sweat.
And then I had a home with a spa bath. Oh, it was wonderful: triangular, two person, jets, bubbles – indulgent heaven. Once more I retired to the soothing pleasure of a long bath, with wine, some chocolates, a book and music, except now it was at the end of a long working weak – a treat for surviving and a nice place to be away from the off-spring and to sometimes ‘play’ with the other half.
Once again over here, a bath is both functional and indulgent. The shower attachment was rendered useless by the girl-child, who managed to wreck the curtain and attachment in one go – still mystified by this feat – and beloved other half refused to fix, as it was flimsy and not robust enough for us. Now I have bubbles and bath every time I wash and I take my time and luxuriate at the end of my very long day.
The beauty of the bath is not to be over-stated. It is like entering a time-capsule. As long as you are in that contained space you are free to be anywhere it seems. My mind wanders a great deal. I listen to old songs, the dog pops in to say hello – very much to big to join me – and I unwind from my day. Pleasurable stuff.
But good stuff as things float in and out of my mind, I think about problems, half find solutions, think of things to blog about, how to solve the problems of my book. It seems as if the steam and aroma of bath salts and oils (and cute little bombs from Lush) seep into my brain and enhance the vision, give colour to shade, meaning and solutions to the imponderable.
Just like Archimedes I find solutions in the bath. Just like Cleopatra I indulge my skin and person in the bath. Unlike Indina I do not have an onyx green bath, but perhaps one day I’ll have something as beautiful, but never to greet my friends from – that would be as useful as keeping coal there!