The Last Days of the Bath – Part 01
And so begins two weeks of hell as the bathroom is being done. I only asked for one thing, to be told the bath was going to join the choir invisible, and so I stressed the desire that at least the sink should have two taps like any normal upstanding Englishman. The amount of say I have around here is awesome.
So as my parents prepare for a descent into decrepit old age with a walk-in shower it looks like I’ve had my last bath until I gather the wherewithal to move out. And for a fortnight it looks like I’ve had my last shower too. Come the morning I’ll be turfed out like it’s a Bed and Breakfast to hang out with the common man. I guess I’ll smell you later… Although, as I think we all know, it’s gonna be the other way around.
DAY 01: On the way to Bury I was walking past the college at just gone ten to find an exodus of students going home already. Monday must really be a tough day for them. An equal number crowded outside the gate on the main road, a new social underclass, smoking away like a Lowry portrait of grim factory workers about to hack up a lung.
In the gardens both the Asian taxi drivers were busy, standing stock still, hypnotising the pigeons. The hoard of yeti-legged avians on the other side of the fence didn’t seem to mind and I’m fully prepared to accept that it might have been the other way around.
In the remainder bookshop a pensioner in a very loud voice asked the shop girl whether she’d heard of a book called the Karma Sutra, before going on to break down the title for her, translating directly from the ancient Indian. He went on to let her know that it was no bloody use to him anymore. After he’d left she turned to the guy behind the till and said: “A regular, is he?”
After discovering that the newly refurbished Tesco toilets are “touch free” I was surprised to discover that so, now, is the Britannia building society when the door swept open before me. I pressed the woman behind the glass as to why they’d given up on the draconian locked doors and having to negotiate entry through an intercom by answering a riddle. She mumbled something about it not helping on either occasions… I pushed for information to be told that the first time they were done over the robbers smashed the window instead. The second time they just knocked first.
Returning to the gardens I found that the king of the pigeons was wearing a Mcdonald’s Mcflurry lid as a sash and looking like it’d been scooped in a game of fairground hoopla. I lured him away from the hypno taxi men with a trail of breadcrumbs, like a Grimm fairytale, just so I could take some photos. In the library I had to endure two hours having to listen to an Irish guy and a Polish woman exchanging tales of immigrant misery: they hate Bury, find it culturally bereft, and they don’t even rate our tramps, whilst admiring their dedication, who they suspect may all be secret policemen.
I then got home to a bathroom which had been trashed and was left just a small room made of bricks. All we still have is a pot to p*ss in, and a bucket to flush it away, and a leaky hose to fill the bucket. I don’t know why we don’t just revert all the way back to Medieval and start flinging it out the window.
DAY 02: And I couldn’t put up with the nonsense I endured yesterday. So remembering a BBC article on the UK’s ten oddest days out – I’ve done the Loch Ness monster spotting, I’ve done Portmeirion, whilst the Isle of Arran nudist beach is just a little bit too far away – and there was the UK’s number one (and only) hat museum which is not that far away. So I had a day trip to Stockport. I didn’t take a packed lunch.
Arriving at the museum I got in behind a couple of old dears and as we descended into the collection I expected this millinery journey we were embarking upon to be educational and highbrow. Yet all I could hear was squawks of: “Ooh look, there’s Ainsley Harriott’s chef hat… Ooh look, Fred Dibner’s… Judy Dench!”
I hoped to see a Paris Beau, or an Astrakhan, but sadly even the Fez they told me was probably “resting”. The highlights were the hat that Wellington might have waved about at Waterloo… although probably didn’t; a stovepipe from 1913, the biggest you’ll see this side of the Pennines, all eighteen inches of manliness; and I was deeply humbled to be in the presence of the hat worn by Alexi Sayle when he sang the 1982 classic Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?
The factory floor was full of period contraptions which looked like they’d walked straight off the set of Wallace and Gromit – all conveyor belts, giant perforated metal cones, and round windowed chambers – in a production line that looked like it was knocking out women’s hats made of navel fluff. The lady offered to explain the process:
“And here’s where you put in the rabbits-“
“Well they used the beavers to extinction… In that Manchester they foppishly used wool.”
“And then they come rolling off the off the conveyor belts into the spinning chamber where the giant hoovers suck all the fur onto the metal cones to make a wizard hat shape which can then be moulded around a wooden block, treated with boiling water and sulphuric acid, and that’s how you make hats.”
Whilst in Stockport I rounded off the day taking pictures of the Police Station set from Life On Mars whilst bemused council workers stared at me out of the windows as if I were crazy. Well, after today, it’s definitely not me that should getting out more.