Wednesday, 19 October 2011
In Praise of Getting Dirty
How often are you dirty and sweaty enough to need that shower or bath?
After having squeezed the last spongeful of gel out of the bottle for my morning shower, I opened the cupboard to get a replacement. Shampoos, conditioners, tablets of soap, bath foam, all present and correct, but no shower gel. For some reason it had got left off the shopping list.
The gel I use is quite ordinary, soap-free, perfume-free stuff, not expensive, but our little local shop doesn't stock it. The nearest supermarket, which is a 9-mile drive away, does.
So, on a free Saturday morning, a nice sunny morning I could have used for anything at all, I got the car out and drove the 18 mile roundtrip to buy a bottle of shower gel.
It was only afterwards that I realised how very foolish I had been.
Yesterday I had one of these conversations with a fellow dog-walker, a male in his early seventies, about the 'old days'; he told me about his life before the days of hot and cold running water; how the tin bath was taken off the nail on the wall once a week, put in front of the open fire and filled with hot water from the kettle. I've heard it said that the same water was used for bathing several children, one after the other. Being an only child I was spared the indignity of shared bath water. (He also told me about the privy at the back of the house, which his family shared with the people who lived upstairs.) In those days children got dirty, coming home muddy was a badge of honour. Mud meant fun.
The conversation with my dog-walking companion ended with a phrase elders are extremely fond of: "....and it never did us any harm..."
Children don't get dirty nowadays, much less the ordinary adult. Except on hot summer days I never normally get into a sweat, and the only time I get dirty is when I've spent a day in grimy London or another big city or worked in the garden.
I love it when I can see from the state of my arms and legs that I've done some real, honest-to-goodness dirty work, when I've been digging, planting, or on my knees, my face close to the soil and muddy hands pinning my hair behind my ears.
Like today, in fact. Today I needed my shower. Lashings of hot water, a soapy sponge and a warm bathroom, what bliss.
If I'm honest, I have to say I'm glad that the days of tin baths are over.