Radox is as near as I ever get to an exotic life in the bathroom
Michael Harding: Getting a new bath installed is not as simple as you might think
The plumber had come to install a new bath. The old one had been in the cottage since it was built for a bachelor farmer in 1971
We were on a bench in the garden. It was early on a May morning and the cuckoo was hollering above the alder trees.
“Don’t look at the ground,” the plumber said. “If you’re looking at the ground when the cuckoo calls you might find yourself in the grave by this time next year.”
The plumber had come to install a new bath. The old one had been in the cottage since it was built for a bachelor farmer in 1971. He passed away and we bought the house but I often thought about him when I was bathing. Wondering did he too enjoy a good scrub on a Saturday night. And it was sad to see the old bath perched on the back of the plumber’s trailer, destined for the scrap yard.
Some people nowadays can’t resist turning the bathroom into an art gallery”
When the old one had been removed I asked the plumber did he want a cup of tea and he said yes, and we both drowned our teabags in mugs of scalding water and returned to the garden seat to enjoy more birdsong, although this time the only music was from magpies cackling in the spruce trees and a distant digger growling in a far away quarry.
The new bath was identical to the old one; plain white and shaped like every other bath I have ever had the pleasure of washing myself in since I was a child.
“Well at least it’s practical,” the plumber said. “Some people nowadays can’t resist turning the bathroom into an art gallery.”
Tubs and tiles
I said Radox is as near as I ever got to an exotic life in a bathroom. Although I did have a rush of blood to the head in the hardware store when I went to make the purchase. There was a vast hall of tubs and tiles and fittings for showers, and I noticed a big swanky tub sitting in the middle of the room. It was white on the inside but black on the outside and I’ve seen smaller boats moored on the Erne. I began dreaming of the black tub sitting on black tiles and me reclining in the white enamel interior, like James Bond, with a well shook martini in my hand.
But when I pointed at the big swanky bath and said, “I would like that one, please”, the man in the shop looked at me like I had two heads.
“You need a big room for a bath like that,” he explained. As if I was an idiot. “A bath like that,” he said, “needs to be seen. You couldn’t put that bath in a small bathroom. It would look wrong.” Then he paused and approached the sixty-four dollar question.
She might have drowned only the girl at reception saw her drooped head vanishing below the rim"
“How big is your bathroom?”
I felt as embarrassed as if he had asked me the size of my penis.
“It’s tiny,” I confessed.
“Well, there you are,” he said, having proven his point, and so I agreed to take a look at some of the more conventional tubs.
But the plumber assured me that a fancy bath can be dangerous. “The high rim is treacherous,” he said. “Nearly as bad as the hot tubs.”
“Are hot tubs dangerous?” I wondered.
“Deadly,” he replied. “There was a woman got into a hot tub in Carrick-on-Shannon recently, after a hen night, and the steam was so hot that she fell sleep. Slipped under water and might have drowned only the girl at reception saw her drooped head vanishing below the rim. And my friend Iggy, the carpenter, nearly killed himself in a hot tub in Salthill on his holidays. Rushed over to get in so fast that he slipped across the lip of it and ended up head down with his feet in the air and the daughter screaming that her daddy was drowning.”
Just above the trees there were birds darting about so fast that it was hard to identify them.
“Are those swallows?” the plumber wondered.
I said I wasn’t sure. But when I looked up I could see a pale moon still standing in the blue morning sky and I remembered a poem by an old Chinese master that described bathing on the porch of a mountain retreat as the full moon drenched the porch with pallid light and the poet’s beloved stood beside the bath tub wearing only the full moon like a hat. And that gave me a wonderful idea. So when the work was done and the plumber was about to drive away I asked him to take the old bath off the trailer.
“I’m going to keep it,” I declared.
“What will you do with it?” he wondered.
But I didn’t tell him.