I can`t remember the last time I had a bath. That is a bath! Not washed. Well what I mean is…..I shower all the time, but actually getting into a deep bath filled with hot soapy water, well? ……So I got to thinking.
I was born in 1953, the year of our Sovereigns Coronation. Our house was colloquially called a “two up, two down”. That is two rooms upstairs and two down. No bathroom. Not uncommon for those times. No central heating, coal fires in each room, no insulation etc. (How did we survive?) My Mother Dad, and me, later my brother and sister, but that was much later. My first real memories are of short pants, chapped knees, and wet feet. Summers that seemed to go on forever, and snow each Christmas? Really?…..Winters that were always cold, ice on the inside of the house windows and………….the Sunday ritual.
Not having a bathroom, didnt mean we were dirty, oh no, we were clean each Sunday! It was this day of days, the day I hated most of all. Around 5 pm each Sunday evening, my Dad would begin the ritual, by going into the back yard, and unhooking the old Tin Bath, from a wall hook on the outside of the house. He would clatter and bang the old thing into the house and lay it ceremoniously, in front of the living room fire. Then……both he and Mother would begin to boil water on the stove, and when hot enough? Pour it into the Tin Bath. After what seemed like ages, it would be pronounced full enough, for the first bather of the day. Which was usually my mother. (Ladies first!) For which the front house door was locked, curtains drawn, and my Dad and I retired to the yard if it wasnt raining, or to the small shed he kept in the yard. Either one was awful, always smelled of stale fags and oil!
When mother was finished. She would appear at the yard door, then it was my turn, urgh! “Off with those rags!” She would say, and as she virtually stripped this little boy, flinging the dirty clothes to one side as she did so, she used to mutter things like,” that will need a stitch!” And her favourite saying was, “ Dont you pee in that bath!”
The water was always smelling good after she had been in, when I was in she would scrub me like an old shirt, hard, and with each rub, the days and the weeks dirt fell away. Dont get me wrong, I wasnt a filthy little urchin as portrayed in some Ealing comedy films, no! (Yes!)
With my hair washed, ears washed and looking sparkly like a new pin, I was hoisted out, to let the Old man in, before the water got too cold! How things have changed.
I dont miss the tin bath, or the cold winters, but I do wonder about what we might have lost.