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Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Once upon a time, my weekly bath took place in a tin receptacle in the kitchen.
This was before my mum and dad got a bathroom built on to the family home and well before we had central heating.
The bath wasn’t big enough to sit in, even for an eight-year-old, so I stood and my mum soaped me down and rinsed me before wrapping me in a big towel to dry.
The toilet was in the yard and although, my mum remembers, it was very nice, I wouldn’t have read the Sunday papers in there.
Fifty years later, few people have to venture outside to answer a call of nature... this is not the same as the “call of the wild” which remains largely an outdoor pursuit.
In the middle of an urban area, the call of the wild amounts to the vicar’s cat miaowing to come in, even though it doesn’t live with us, or the ecstatic coo of wood pigeons mating on the garden wall who do not appear to have a close season.
There are no reported incidents of hyenas laughing or wildebeest stampeding in suburbia, unless you count the very high incidence of people owning The Lion King dvd.
At my primary school, the toilet block was outside in the playground and the paper provided was as absorbent as the proverbial duck’s back. It was probably my reluctance to avail myself of the facility that helped me develop such magnificent bladder control. A control that remains with me today... unless I sneeze.
At grammar school we had indoor loos and mass showers for after PE. We had to line up and walk through an avenue of showers, doing our best to dodge the water (we didn’t want to get wet) while simultaneously covering the parts of our bodies that embarrassed us most. I always put a hand over my navel. Someone once remarked on it and, being female, pubescent and riddled with insecurities – many of which remain today – I made sure no one caught sight of it ever again.
Sometimes I gave myself a verruca with a black ball point to get out of showers. You had to be inventive; if you “forgot” your towel you were given one from lost property, at least that’s the way I remember it.
The showers of my youth (school and swimming pools) were either searing hot or icy cold, produced water at a slow trickle through calcified spouts and smelt of foot fungus destroyer.
A new survey has looked at people’s showering habits which show the average shower lasts eight minutes, approximately seven minutes 55 seconds longer than my post-hockey school showers... well, except on the occasions PE teacher Mrs Blythe made you go round again.
“Lynne Mortimer, Lower 5B, you cannot possibly have showered properly in five seconds.”
“Did, Miss; honest.”
“Do it again.”
“Aw, I’ll get wet.”
Previous studies about the time people spend in the shower calculated it at around five minutes.
This appears to be because a gizmo on the shower pipe measures more accurately than people who self-monitor. Commenting on the three-minute discrepancy a spokeswoman said: “When it comes to time perception, most people are not very good at estimating at how long it took them to do a particular activity.”
Tell me about it.
I have lived in a household of bathroom loiterers for as long as I remember. If I had a bob (the coin not the haircut) for every time I have yelled up the stairs: “Where are you?” to hear a voice yell back: “In the bathroom,” I would be a shilling millionaire (or bald).
Many people lose track of time in the shower/bath. Bathroom doors are like gateways into another dimension: Lost In Space, well-plumbed space, I grant.
I’m not keen on immersion. I often wonder if I was the victim of a nasty Christening experience.
I get in the bath, I wash, I attempt to reach the soles of my feet with the pumice stone – they seem to be further away than they used to be – and exit: Five minutes.
Other people seem to be disposed towards staying in until they have regressed to an earlier evolutionary state, slithering out of the tub with scaly skin and gills.
If I shower, I wash and exit: three minutes.
Other people have been known to render the entire score of one of Stephen Sondheim’s sung-through musicals before stepping out.
Did I mention we went to Chichester Festival Theatre to see the magnificent Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton in Sweeney Todd?