By Margaret Tahany
I am a bath. Of course I live in a bathroom, which is rather odd. I hear you say, odd to find a bath in the bathroom? The odd I mean is that nothing matches. My colour is cream, but the tiles are white, the toilet is white, but the cistern is cream. The wash-hand basin is white but its stand is cream and even the white basin has two odd, unmatching taps! Furthermore, the hot water tap comes out of the cold side, and vice versa. I remember our first day here, hot water actually flushed the toilet. “It could only happen to me” my mistress wailed.
Once I was brand new and stood in a show-room with other suites, all different colours, pink, primrose, brown, avocado, cream and white, which had completely gone out of fashion. I was purchased and lived in a new build bungalow with a very house-proud lady who kept me very clean and sparkling. One day her grandson, a clumsy lump of a teenager, dropped the tooth mug into the basin and a hair-line crack appeared. The whole family gathered to examine the crack and I heard my mistress’s daughter say, “It’s time we got a shower and rid of this dated cream affair!”. She waved her hand around in disgust at us. “Look how stained that is,” she pointed into the toilet bowl! The builder arrived the following week, he removed every piece of my suite, I never saw the poor cream toilet again but its cistern stayed with me.
I and my suite were dumped in the builder’s store house. How long we were there I have no way of knowing, but it seemed a long time in that cold, dark place. Then one day the builder and his mate came and took us to an old cottage. I noticed it had a new roof, so I began to hope that perhaps our life was not over, maybe we were going to be useful again?
The builder installed us in a room at the end of the house. The walls were still grey concrete and when he had finished, he left a thin trench in which the pipes showed. “I know you like collecting stones,” he said to my new mistress, “you can fill the trench in with small stones.” “He’s already used up the pile of stones I dug out of the vegetable garden. I was gathering them to make paths! He put them over the septic tank in the underground drainage area!” My mistress said to her husband. “It’s your house,” was his reply.
My new owners had seven daughters. Four of them lived at home permanently so there were plenty of baths. How nice it was to be used again, and in such different ways. Each had their own bath perfumes, bubbles floated in me as they lay in the perfumed water. Such luxury; no-one noticed the grey walls or concrete floor. Even the toilet was appreciated, it was brand new. White, but they did keep the old cistern, they repaired the inner workings and gave my old friend a new lease of life. “Thank God we’ve got rid of that peat contraption,” my new mistress said. I noticed they all spent a long time sitting on the new toilet with its brand new oak seat.
I was happy in my new home despite the ugly grey walls and gradually the trenches over the pipe got filled in with small stones and pebbles. The second Christmas brought a new baby boy, he was born on Christmas Eve and came home Christmas Day. The next thing that arrived was a big machine called a dryer. It’s for the baby’s clothes, my mistress said. It caused condensation to run down my walls, but only I seemed to notice.
The following Easter, the child was baptized. There was a big party and people traipsed in and out of my home. “What a pity we could not have got the bathroom tiles up before the party,” my mistress said.
The next day, the tiler arrived. He did the floor first, cloudy blue with grey cement covered all the floor. The concrete is uneven, the tiler complained, pointing at a space in the middle of my floor. “Just do your best,” my mistress said. Everyone in the house kept coming in to view the newly tiled floor. It was so beautiful. Like a calm sea.
My mistress went out the following morning and when she came back, he had started the walls. “Oh,” said my mistress, “the tiles are on the wrong way, they are supposed to go on like diamonds, not squares.” He took no notice, and when my poor mistress came back, he had half a wall tiled. I heard her say later, “I always regret not making him put the tiles up the way they were meant to go.” But the wall looked so much better with the tiles on, I didn’t complain. He even put the coloured fish tiles in the wrong place. A lesson learnt for the future, state clearly what you want and stick to your plan, Madam, you are paying the bill! Poor Madam, every time she looks at those tiles she says: “damn man, putting them on the wrong way, I should have made him take them down”. However, when the room was finished it did look much better than the grey concrete and the top of the walls were painted yellow to blend with the orange in the fish border and we had new orange curtains. Friends and neighbours came to look and all admired the finished bathroom, a great improvement on the peat electric toilet. The electric bit was fun to take out the smell.
A bath is at the heart of the family. A bath witnesses the joy of anticipation. The despair of broken dreams. A bath restores the weary and to be quite blunt, cleanses the dirty. So I have been witness to many happenings in my family. I have seen their joy and their disappointments. I have seen birth, grandchildren have been cared for here, washed, bathed and potty-trained. Another seven have been visitors. I have seen one funeral. The master of the house had a stroke in the bathroom. He was carried out and was absent for weeks. He was never the same again. My mistress said, “that stroke ruined our lives”. She felt despair, but as ever, she looked on the bright side, and looked after him for another twelve years. He said goodbye to me. Then went back into the sitting room and died. He did not want to go back in the hospital. He came back for the funeral. All the neighbours came to help. They cut the hedge, power-hosed the street. Cut the lawns, trimmed grass that had never seen a trimmer before. The daughters came and scrubbed and polished and moved stuff. Then the coffin came. People came to say goodbye, all his relations came, sister, nieces, nephews, grandchildren. They came from three different countries. People came from all around. People who knew our children came. People came in an unending line from 4 o’clock until 9 o’clock. The funeral was the next day. Yes, a bath sees a lot more than human souls think.
My mistress became very quiet after that. She did the minimum of work around the house and sat around reading all day. She began to have her bath in the morning. “I am too tired at night,” she said.
One day she said to me, “You’re a good friend. You see all and say nothing. I am going to make you mine again”. And so she did, almost as well as the first house-proud lady. But my mistress loves me and is grateful for what I do, and that makes all the difference to an old bath in an odd bathroom.