Why have baths disappeared down the plughole?

Published on July 14, 2010   ·   No Comments

As a poll finds that one person in six can’t remember when they last took a bath, Fay Weldon laments the passing of such a comforting ritual.

Baths, like the written book, are being consigned to the past. A whole room dedicated to a bath is no longer a token of worldly achievement. Baths take too long for the modern age, use too much water, take up too much space. So says a recent poll. One in six people questioned for a survey to mark National Plughole Week could not remember the last time they enjoyed a soak.

It is true that “I’ll just go and take a shower” belongs more in the modern world than “I must go and have a bath”, which sounds rather tired, sweaty, and out of a stodgy pre-computer age. But I would think that, wouldn’t I, having abandoned the bath of my own accord a year ago and taken to showers instead. It’s always pleasant to feel part of the zeitgeist.

From a hygiene angle, baths are doubtless rather disgusting. Soviet hotels never supplied a bath plug, finding the desire to sit in a bath full of dirty water incomprehensible, and Westerners were advised to bring their own. Thus cultures misunderstand each other.

Baths were essential to the Romans, and emperors provided them free, along with bread and circuses, and thus arguably denuded the Mediterranean lands of forests and turned the bread basket of north Africa into desert. Their baths were not for soaking in isolation, but for sweating in company. In the caldarium, you sweated; in the frigidarium, you brisked up; in the tepidarium, you chatted. A Roman soldier expected baths at the end of a day’s marching, but as a group activity. As a result, some say, the countryside around Hadrian’s Wall remains fairly treeless to this day.

A few years ago, I thought a long hot bath before bed was necessary to my survival. It was my time, the time I relaxed, prepared to sleep. Now a morning shower seems preferable. I sleep anyway, wake less enervated. But I don’t get through so many books. The bath was where I did most of my reading. The bathroom used to be littered with books cruelly wrinkled and distorted by steam, or unreadable because they’d fallen into the water from my sleeping hand – the fate of many a Booker prize supplicant. Entrants to the Costa Book Awards got a better deal, being not so conducive to sleep. I suppose a water-proof e-book stand for the shower would be possible. But it is more difficult to skip dull passages on a screen than on the printed page – one disadvantage of the electronic book seldom mentioned by publishers, but of great concern to readers.

In my childhood, baths were limited to six inches of water, out of patriotism and parsimony mixed. Deeper, and you were not only hindering the war effort, but wasting money. Running hot water in a house was the exception, not the rule. Kettles were boiled, or you put coins in a gas meter above a narrow bath to heat water. Six inches in a narrow bath cost twopence. So if you were a child you shared, which was fun, though short-lived, in winter in houses without central heating. Not surprising that those brought up in the war – just as those who were once rationed to two ounces of butter a week now spread it more lavishly than the young – developed a taste for avocado baths in more and more splendid bathrooms, where hot water gushed and synthetic marble gleamed.

Yesterday’s frugality returns in today’s stricture that we should limit the shower to six minutes only, in the interests of the planet’s survival. For minutes read inches, for planet read nation, and what has changed? Yet the practical truth remains that the shower is more convenient, more hygienic – my skin simply could not take all that soaking – less expensive and less enervating than the bath, so I suspect the shower will win in the end.

The bath and the bathroom will fade away and the built-in alcove take its place. But it’s still a pity. When will any of us have time to reflect? Is silence so frightening? Must we always be active? Soaking and ruminating, ruminating and soaking, alone with our own thoughts – that’s what baths are for. Showers are just getting ready to do something else.

REad More : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/7888165/Why-have-baths-disappeared-down-the-plughole.html

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

Contact: jomo@zeppelin.lk

Web: http://www.zeppelin.lk/eco_cabins

   Beat diabetes   Diabetes diet