One of my fortnightly trips to the public baths
Each fortnight, Dad and I would venture out to the Public baths on Portland Street, in the Meadows area of Nottingham. It was a very stressful exercise for Dad, because it involved him parting with 3d (1½p), and that hurt him a lot I know. It might have been 6d if we’d both had a bath each, but Dad being Dad, not one for wasting or spending money, we shared a bath between us, me going in after him in his dirty water, and using the wet towels he had used before me – and getting the verbal’s from the husky female attendant as I was always the one in the cubicle when the time permitted was up! I recall her husky, grating orotund voice as she would kick hell out of the door and, in a tone reminiscent of Winsor Davies in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum say; “Time up, Out Now! Let’s be ‘avin’ yer, one minute!”
But I still preferred these fortnightly trips out to what I had to do on the alternate weeks. That involved my first getting all the pans, and kettles we had, and getting the water in them on the boil on the stove, and on the fire in the front room.
Then go out and struggle to get the tin bath off the hook on the railway viaduct wall in the yard, and drag in into the front room in front of the fire.
Then get the carbolic soap and towels ready, warming the towels at the side of the fire grate.
Then carry the hot water pan off the fire, and tip it into the bath (I still have a scalding scar on my right arm).
Then add water from the kitchen stove utensils, refill them and put them back on the ‘lights’.
Then call down Dad, to get into the bath.
Then retire to the kitchen, and listen to him singing, occasionally interspersed with the odd curse word as he caught some appendage or other against the hot side of the bath facing the raging fireplace, as I awaited his demands for a top up of hot water.
Then supply the same as ordered. After an hour or so, he would emerge from the front room and start to sharpen his cut-throat razor on his emery block and leather strap.
Then to mix his shaving jug contents into a lather, and then to have his shave.
During this time, I had to rush into the front room, dive into the luke warm dirty water, bath, then dry myself on the wet towels he’d used, get dressed, get the bucket and scoop out some of the water from the bath and tip it outside down the drain in the backyard, then when it was light enough for me to move it, drag the bath to the back door, and tip the remaining water out.
Then take it to the viaduct wall, and climb on Dad’s cobbling bench, and lift the bath back onto the hook.
Then clear up the front room, top up the fire with coke, put the towel on the drying horse in front of the fire.
Then put away the pots and kettles.
By then, Dad was usually just finishing off his shaving by placing bits of the Nottingham Evening News on the cuts and nicks he always acquired when shaving with his open razor. (We had the Nottingham Evening News as opposed to the Nottingham Evening Post, because the News was made with a little softer paper, and kinder to our posteriors when cut up into squares for our outside bog) in readiness for his settling in front of the fire, tuning in to the ‘Light Programme’ on the radio, putting his feet up, opening the newspaper, and falling asleep – While I got his tea ready!
So you see, going to the baths was like a holiday for me every fortnight!
Back to the day I started writing about:
Dad, came out of the bath cubicle and told me how long I’d got left to have me bath, usually between 5 and ten minutes, this day it was 10 minutes. He shot off to support the local Shipstone’s Brewery at the ‘Lord Nelson’.
He left me not only to have a bath, but to prove that the Eric Sykes episode where he got his toe stuck in a tap outlet was feasible!
Even at that tender age, I was so embarrassed when the stern-faced woman attendant had to free my digit! Tsk!
I actually do not have the scar today, as I crushed the toe some years later and this obliterated the scald scars as the nail was pushed into the flesh and bone.
The accumulation of these many True Woes suffered over the years by the little mite, are an indication of why the poor old git is now the gibbering wreck that he is yer know.
Coming soon; Part Nine – The Fascinating Auntie Mabel!