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About A Week: Bathroom Pharmacy

Peter Hinchliffe takes a disbelieving look at the shelves in his bathroom.

Most of us go through the opening minutes of every new morning on automatic pilot.

The brain shies away from another busy day. It wishes it was in a head that was still resting on a soft pillow.

Into the bathroom, half asleep. Brush teeth. Quick wash. Spray on anti-perspirant.

It was at this point the other morning that my brain became all too horrifyingly alert. I was holding a green aerosol can. It should have been a grey aerosol can.

Immediate visions of a scene from Nightmare on Elm Street. Of peeling skin. Disolving flesh.

What, oh what had I inflicted on myself?

Peer closely at the green aerosol. Sainsburys Fresh Breeze Dry Air Freshener (Woodland Glade).

It should have been Sainsburys Unperfumed Anti-Perspirant Deoderant.

I washed myself a second time. In panic.

No itching under the arms. Quick check in the mirror. No blisters emerging. I emerged from the bathroom unscathed, and very wide awake.

An incident like this compels a man to carry out an inventory of those bathroom shelves. I am amazed, dumbfounded, alarmed at what I saw.

There's Vidal Sassoon Spray-On Gelle Firm Control; Plax - shifts more plaque than brushing alone, brightens teeth, starts to work even before you pick up your toothbrush; Shock Waves Super Firm Gel; Reach Dentotape, Mint Waxed; Vaseline Intensive Care (For Ordinary Skin)...

And that's just for starters.

There's enough to stock a sub-branch of Boots, or Sainsburys.

Apart from the toothpaste and the anti-perspirant (when I can manage to find it) none of the stuff is for my use.

My hair is now so thin that I am long beyond requiring gel, whether super-firm or super-limp. And I wouldn't begin to know how to use Dentotape.

Now this next is not meant as criticsm of the other members of the Hinchliffe tribe, but these crowded bathroom shelves led me to brood upon some fairly basic questions. Is this what our long centuries of struggle have been about? Is this why we crawled up out of the sea? Clawed our way from drafty cave to centrally-heated bungalow?

All those years of effort and natural selection, just to acquire Shock Waves Super Firm Gel and Reach Dentotape?

Bathrooms used to be so simple and predictable. Plain white tub. Plain white sink. Plain white WC. Of course, if you were reasonably well off, the WC was in a little room all of its own.

There was a plain white towel. Plain white toothpaste. The only dash of colour was a lump of yellow carbolic soap.

Carbolic soap worked wonders. You didn't smell of BO. You simply reeked of carbolic. All day long.

I liked the basic spartan bathrooms of my youth. You knew where you were with them. No mistaking the yellow soap for anything but soap. No risk of reaching down the wrong aerosol can.

And now I lie soaking in the bath after a hike, reflecting on how complicated life has become, and what happens?

Something lands on the bald patch at the back of my head.

Good grief! Am I being attacked by a triffid!

No triffid. Merely a leaf falling from an ivy-type plant growing in a pot supported by a wall braket above my head.
The ivy chose a moment when I was down below to shed its largest leaf.

Sometimes plants seem to display a sense of humour. But who, in those long-ago carbolic days, would have thought that plants would find a place for themselves in the bathroom?

Friday night was bath night for our family when I was young. Not Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday. And definitely not Sunday. Only heathens would take a bath on a Sunday.

Friday it was, and only Friday.

Which was utterly illogical, because our hot water supply came from a back boiler heated by a coal. fire. Operating at full blast, all evening, the living room fire could produce enough hot water for one good bath.

I was last in the bath line. I got into the tub when the water was cold.

For years and years, I thought that bath night was a test of moral fibre, not an opportunity to lounge in luxurious warmth.

Now we have a blue sink. A blue bath tub. Lots of hot water.... And a plant which sheds its leaves when I come within "bombing" range.

Through the steam of 21st Century bathroom luxury I can just make out some of the labels on other items on the shelves above me.

Frequent Use Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, Normal Hair Conditioner (Passion Fruit), Deep Fresh Pine Foam Bath...

By their bathrooms shall ye know them.


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