water ways

It’s so quiet I can hear the ticking clock in the kitchen and Dennis’ snoring in the sitting room.
The stove is lit, earlier than normal, cos it’s a frozen-to-the-marrow-kinda-day, well it is the coldest January for ten years.
I’ve made a fancy coleslaw using one of those white plastic mandolines that if you’re not careful and get the angle wrong you can swipe the top of your effin’ finger off.
I made a salad with left overs and have just feasted on a stove top porridge with coriander seeds, and cumin powder. Don’t ask!
After four sweet dates I finished my black coffee, but the sleepiness of the silence made me antsy for more food. I resisted. I’ll eat later with the old git who is farting around in front of his computer.
My house is full of books. They are shelved in a kind of drunken Dewey System. From kids’ books to cook books, history books and plays, I’ve even got shelves of opera librettos and big art tomes. Whether I read them or not books are the insulation on my empty walls, which means I’ve got books on the go in every room. 3 poetry anthologies in the kitchen, a Vietnamese autobiography by Ocean Vuong, in the sitting room, John Cooper Clarke’s big autobiography (a Christmas present from the ‘oosbind) in the bedroom and Lady Anne Glenconner’s tell-all tittle-tattle tale of royal ramblings on the bathroom window sill.
I have several books with curled edges, either splashed from bath bubbles or dropped in the water from shrivelled fingers. But reading in the bath is a luxury that many of us can’t afford. I had an old agent – he wasn’t old but our historical relationship is – who has a bath rack that he can balance his latest bath time book on. I’ve just seen that you can buy bamboo bath caddies, so called because they hold things like a bell, book and candle, as well as a special circular recess for a glass of wine so you can sup between chapters and sponging.
Our cottage is very old and our water system is about as old as James the Second, who was on the throne when it was built. So running a bath here takes practice. Turn on the hot water tap, throw in handfuls of Epsom salts, and after you’ve run into the bedroom to collect your reading glasses and Annie Glenconnor’s wilted paperback, remove all garments, swish the hot water back and forth. Then in with a squirt of ‘Badedas’ and it’s on with the cold tap. We do have a mixer tap so it is but one movement. When the water is bearable, slip into the bath and turn off the cold water. The hot water is still trickling. Paddle the bubbles around the bath and apply a face pack. Either a Japanese peel off affair, a delicate blue one from the factory shop, or an expensive French mud pack that, if not careful, can rip the top layer of the epidermis off with one swipe.
The moment you feel your toes have melted turn the cold tap back on and count for six seconds. If you have been too long applying the face mask count to ten. Swish that water around until the mirror from the rack, which you have just been gurning into, is steamed up. Then sit and wait. After about two minutes add more hot water, 6-10 seconds, than turn off the cold tap until the bath water reaches the level of the overflow. ( I don’t know what I’ll do when the the old git dies, he supplies me with words my ancient brain forgets like OVERFLOW ) Anyway you’re now sitting in a deep, perfectly controlled bath. The foam just high enough to cover your intimates, were a cameraman to come in and take shots of you wallowing. Now turn off the hot water, but I urge you to sit still until you are sure the water comes just underneath the overflow, then take the pink timer from the window sill. It’s already set to 20mins so no need to fiddle. The readout will be opaque, but if you hold it up sideways you’ll be able to make out the digits. Balance the clock on the side of the bath; should it fall into the foamy deep the charity shop in the village have got replaceable clocks for a fiver. This pink one is my fifth. Hold onto the bath rails and slip gently into the nearly too hot to handle water. Slide down under the bubbles, making sure not to splash your face which is drying underneath the mask.
Now just lie there and count the drips from the tap. After 81 the water will let out a 5 second stream, and all will be quiet.
Now reach up with your left hand and using your fingers try and locate the reading glasses without rolling over, knocking Annie into the water or having to sit up. The specs too will be opaque. But if you slip them on and wait patiently for a few seconds the mist will disappear and all will be visible. If the mist doesn’t clear sit up – I know it’s a fucking pain – and using the dry flannel which is hanging over the sink, clean the smeared lenses. Hold the rails and slide back into the deliciously temperate water covering your modesty with the big blue flannel Dame Syvle sent you for Christmas. Now, carefully reach out for Lady Annie who is balanced precariously on the window sill – I did say carefully did I not, because one false move and Lady Glenconnor will be lying face up looking at the hanging penis which Giles sent from Bali. It’s a big, fat wooden fertility symbol, not that me or him are interested, but if we have youngsters coming to stay, and if they are wanting a family, we tell ’em to give the wooden flying todger a little tap, it will flap it’s wings and if all goes well they will soon be with child.
When the alarm goes off, carefully place the dripping autobiography back on the window ledge and using another flannel wash off the face mask. Should you require a little extra scrub there’s some organic face wash in the soap dish. Now, let the water out – unless you want another twenty minuets till the water goes cold – hold the rails and pull yourself upright. Using those arm muscles, making sure you don’t slip, stand upright. Then, step out of the bath and give it a once over with the shower head.
One towel for the hair.
One towel for the body.
One towel to wrap around the shoulders. Then a dash into the bedroom to collect clean clothes.
If you get your timing right you will be relaxed and sweet smelling, ready either for the day or the night. But if, like me today, you get out of bed too late and the day has gone faster than a cheeter on the Serengeti Plain, you’ll have eaten supper, watched the box, read yesterday’s papers and fallen into bed, just a little bit grubby. Or you could take a shower which uses less water than a full bath. Apparently a standard shower head flows at a rate of 2.5 gallons per minute so a ten minute shower only uses 25 gallons of water whilst a full bath can use up to 70 gallons.
I now feel more guilty than Judas. I need a long, hot soak to calm down.

1 thought on “water ways”

  1. Hi Jeni
    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blog and have checked in on you, many times over the years. I once commented on a hairdresser you recommended who was local to me…no I never got in touch.
    Anyway I just wanted to say that from this side of Wadhurst to your side of Crowborough, I am sending you a cheery wave, whilst holding a broad smile.
    Keep going. You’re a gem of a human being.
    Jane May

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