Sir Alan Patrick Herbert Of all the beautiful things which are to be seen shop windows perhaps the most beautiful are those luxurious baths in white enamel, heeded round with attachments and conveniences in burnishedor bright metal. Whenever I see one of them I stand and covet or wish for it for a long time. Yet even these super-baths fall far short of what a bath should be; and as of the perfect bathroom, I question if anyone has even imagined it. The whole attitude of modern civilization to the bathroom is wrong. Why for one thing, is it always the smallest and barest room in the house? The Romans understood these things; we don’t. I have never yet been in a bathroom which was big enough to do my exercises in without either breaking the light or barking my knuckles against a wall. It ought to be a big room and opulently furnished. There ought to be pictures in it so that one could lie back and contemplate them - a picture of troops going up to the trenches, and another picture of a windy day and with some snow in it. Then one would really enjoy one’s baths. And there ought to be rich rugs or carpets in it and profound chairs; one would walk about in bare feet on the rich rugs while the bath was running; and one would sit in the profound chair while drying the ears. The fact is, a bathroom ought to be equipped for comfort, like a drawingroom, a good, full, velvety room; and as things share it is solely equipped for singing. In the drawing-room where we want to sing, we put so many curtains and carpets and things that most of us can’t sing at all - and then we wonder that there is no music in England. Nothing is more maddening than to hear several men refusing to join in a simple chorus after dinner when you know perfectly well that every one of them has A been singing in a higher tenor in his bath before dinner. We all know the reason, but we don’t take the obvious remedy. The only thing to do is to take all the furniture out of the drawing-room and put it in the bathroom - all except the piano and a few cane chairs. Then we shouldn’t have those terrible noises in the morning, and in the evening everybody would be a singer. I suppose that is what they do in Wales. But if we cannot make the bathroom what it ought to be, the supreme and perfect shrine of the supreme moment of the day, the one spot in the house on which no expense or trouble is spared, we can at least bring the bath itself up to date. I don’t, now, as I did, lay much stress on having a bath with fifteen taps. I once stayed in a house with a bath like that. There was a hot tap and a cold tap, and hot sea water and cold sea water, and PLUNGE and SPRAY and SHOWER and WAVE and FLOOD and one or two more. To turn on the top tap you had to stand on a step-ladder, and
they were all very highly polished. I was naturally excited by this, and an hour before it was time to dress for dinner I slunk upstairs and hurried into the bathroom and locked myself in and turned on all the taps at once. It was strangely disappointing. The sea-water was mythical. Many of the taps refused to function at the same time as any other, and the only two which were really effective were WAVE and FLOOD. WAVE shot out a thin jet of boiling water which caught me in the chest, and FLOOD filled the bath with cold water long before it could be identified and turned off. No, taps are not of the first importance, though, properly polished, they look well. But no bath is complete without one of those attractive bridges or trays where one puts the sponges and the soap. Conveniences like that are a direct stimulus to washing. The first time I met one I washed myself all over two or three times simply to make the most of knowing where the soap was. Now and then, in fact, in a sort of bravado I deliberately lost it, so as to be able to catch it again and put it back inafull view on the tray. You can also rest your feet on the tray when you are washing them, and so avoid cramp. Again, I like a bathroom where there is an electric bell just above the bath, which you can ring with the big toe. This is for use when one has gone to sleep in the bath and the water has frozen, or when one has begun to commit suicide and thought better of it. Apart from these two occasions it can be used for morning instructions about breakfast to the cook - supposing you have a cook. And if you haven’t a cook a little bell-ringing in the basement does no harm. But the most extraordinary thing about the modern bath is that there is no provision for shaving in it. Shaving in the bath I regard as the last word in systematic luxury. But in the ordinary bath it is very difficult. There is nowhere to put anything. There ought to be a kind of shaving tray attached to every bath, which you could swing in on a flexible arm, complete with mirror and soap and strop, new blades and shaving
- papers and all the other confounded paraphernalia. Then, I think, shaving would he almost tolerable, and there wouldn’t be so many of these horrible beards about. The same applies to smoking. It is incredible that today in the twentieth century there should be no recognized way of disposing of a cigarette-end in the bath. Personally, I only smoke pipes in the bath, but it is impossible to find a place in which to deposit even a pipe so that it will not roll off into the water. But I have a brother-inlaw who smokes cigars in the bath, a disgusting habit. I have often wonder where he hid the ends, and I find now he has made a cache of them in the gas-ring in the geyser. One day the ash will get into the burners and then the geysers will explode. Next door to the shaving and smoking tray should be the book-rest. I don’t myself do much reading in the bath, but I have several sisters-in-law who come to stay, and they all, do it. Few things make the leaves of a book stick together so easily as being dropped in a hot bath, so they had better have a book-rest; and if they go to sleep
shall set in motion my emergency waste mechanism, by which the bath can be emptied in malice from outside.
Another of my inventions is the Progress Indicator. It works like the indicators outside lifts, which show where the lift is and what it is doing. My machine shows what stage the man inside has reached, the washing stage or the merely wallowing stage, or the drying stage, or the exercises stage. It shows you at a glance whether it is worth while going back to bed or whether it is time to dig yourself in on the mat. The machine is specially suitable to hotels and large country house where you can’t find out by hammering on the door and asking, because nobody takes and notice. When you have properly fitted out the bathroom on these lines all that remains is to put the telephone in and have your meals there; or rather to’have your meals there and not put the telephone in. It must still remain the one room where a man is safe from that.
54. harking my knuckles
troops going upto the trenches tenor in Wales 55. to dress for dinner mythical paraphernalia cache 56. in malice wallowing to dig yourself in to dig yourself in to bark one’s knuckles means to graze the skin off one’s fingers. a reference to World War I where the fighting was mainly confined to trenches. highest male voice. the Welsh are musically talented and fond of singing. upper-class English habit of changing into evening clothes for the evening meal. purely fictional, hence non-existent. mechanical aids.
hiding-place (for treasure, ammunition). spitefully, mischievously. rolling in mud or water. td entrench yourself (here used metaphorically). to entrench yourself (here used metaphorically)