top of page

# 10
The world beyond the bath overflow

Frances Gill

How to define bath; I think this depends on how to define bathroom. Our bathroom is the archaeology of our house, stripped down to the earth under the late 1700s beams. My man made a 3D-scaled sketch of the bath sitting on beams with its sides pushing up from the floor like the ribbed carcass of a dead animal. How to define overflow; I think this depends on what is flowing over.

I had gone to a beauty salon to redeem a Christmas gift-voucher from him. The gift-voucher which I had saved had expired a week earlier. The receptionist talking in a baby-like high-pitched voice says the computer won’t allow it, so in protest, the home ‘spa’ as we are calling it, may get done sooner. Don’t trust beauty salons. They pinch your money telling you that they will make you relaxed.

I climb in the bath and look at the overflow. I remember the first time I had sat staring at the universe that was inside the overflow and the guilt of sending some salmon-coloured beads into the same universe that lies also beyond the plug hole to which I had also offered parts of the broken-plastic necklace. Guilt.

Earlier still, a foam-sponge lily had been put on my head in my grandparents’ bath. One bath photo of me during this late sixties photo-shoot was entered in a British-beautiful-baby competition.

Have you got your bath plumbed in yet? This is a question I get asked from time to time. No, but I did an archaeological investigation of it recently. After I had pulled out cushions, life jackets, curtains, a forgotten yoga mat, a dressing gown and had peeled back the dust sheets, I had stepped in. Clothed. Sat down.

My mum is fond of telling the story about her blue-eyed blond from Huddersfield, or that was the caption in the northern newspaper. We all roll our eyes as she tells the story about the trip to Blackpool for the prizes and the hotel on the front. For the first time our ears prick up as she says “and we were on TV”. My sister-in-law googled British Pathé, a company which produced all British TV stuff like this back in the sixties. Baby Of The Year Contest (1969) is there on YouTube. I am toddle-paraded on a catwalk with my mum pregnant with my brother in the grandeur of the famous Winter Gardens. My 15 minutes of black and white fame following little Stephen Grimes from South Shields has no personal memory.

So, am I allowed a bath then, a bath of my own? A bath that is still in a cupboard hiding guilty dreams of magazines, ‘inredning’ – a Swedish word somewhere between decorating and renovating – and memories of spent lifestyles. The trend changed. Water is rare. We should look after it.

How to define world; I’ll let you know if it ever happened, I imagined, looking into the world beyond the new bath overflow.

Frances Flute the Bellows Mender

The World Beyond the Bath Overflow.jpeg
A wish for the plughole
bottom of page