Frivolous Monsters

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.cast-iron-bath

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.Pigeon 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? Copy of Hats Picture 2

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-

Rabbits?

Well they used the beavers to extinction… In that Manchester they foppishly used wool.

Rabbits?

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.

Rabbits?

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.Life on Mars Stockport

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17 thoughts on “The Last Days of the Bath – Part 01

  1. I loved the pictures of that pigeon! Sorry your bathroom is rather primitive, remodeling can be a pain. Hopefully it is worth it in the end.

  2. There’s a British ‘National Space Centre’? I’m not usually one to chuckle loftily about US superiority, but on this one and only topic I will allow myself a small smirk. On the other hand, why didn’t I ever go to the Lawnmower Museum?!

    Also, rabbits?!!

    • Yes, I know, it is not heard of here without irony either. Not even sure what it is they do AND, after checking again, I have even been there too! A friend was going to drive there to some Star Wars event held there years ago and asked me if I wanted to go along. Apart from the rocket they have (oh yes) I remember NOTHING of the place. Other than that the Star Wars element was really rubbish.

      And it’s your loss that you missed out on the Lawnmower Museum. I’m sure you must have losts of odd places too. I remember Neil Gaiman described some really odd place in his book American Gods. That sounded pretty awesome a visit.

      I should add I am not dissing the hat museum in the slightest. I was probably there for an hour or two and had an interesting time. I know the celebrities mentioned will mean nothing over there, but they mostly focus on the historic, the variety, the international, and the new fashion.

      The whole place is in the original hat-making building, I think, and the period hat making process is preserved. If you’ve seen the scene with the spinning/flying rabbits from the Wallace and Gromit film then the machine looked exactly like that! Although I’m still surprised that “normal” hats are/were made from rabbit fur.

  3. No bathroom? Eeek! I’m surprised you didn’t take a trip to more comfortable environs until it has been replaced.

    I remember the Wallace and Gromit rabbit sucker well so imagining it actually making hats is a little startling. The traditional Akubra hat seen in every Australian country town is still made of rabbit fur, and even though they are horrible vermin here I would rather think of the fur being gently removed rather than sucked violently from their bodies!

    • A trip to more comfortable environs? Funny you should say that. More on that later.

      If you’d said to me “a hat made of rabbit fur” I would have thought it would have included the skin (?), like in a fur coat, and therefore been obvious, not the individual hairs sorted by size by the many different metal cones.

      That’s what I believed a beaver hat was made of, although I imagined that was more leathery as I didn’t think beavers had too much hair (they probably do) or that you could get that many of them to build an industry on. The beaver hat pictured above shows they were used like rabbits.

      Plus I always believed that stuff made from Angola rabbit hair were combed off. I’m a lot more suspicious now. They museum had actual period film of the workers at their different stations, but I didn’t look too closely and what they were doing!

  4. Mm. Well I too prepared for a descent into a decrepit old age by installing a swanky walk in shower, but I went to Paris for a month while they did it (not showing off honest!)

    I also went to Stockport one day because it is a far as you can go with your UK bus pass on the train, but I was very disappointed to find a cultural and architectural desert…..(.apologies to anybody from Stockport reading this and I kNOW that Bolton town centre is even worse at the moment. .. but that’s a rant for another day) ….I thought the hat museum might be an oasis but like you I was not very impressed. There was a good bus station so we got a bus to Didsbury and had dinner, ( lunch to you southerners and foreigners, ) in a good Italian restaurant.

    Still I have ticked Stockport off the list of being a tourist in Manchester.

    I am really curious how you kept from alienating everybody by not smelling.

    Love Denise

    • I don’t get the appeal of the shower as being better when you’re older? But what do I know? Paris for a month sounds like a plan, and as I’ve just finished DAY 05 I have similar tales to add, but someone needs to be around here at all times as the two of them keep disappearing off for stuff and they leave everything open.

      I have to say I DID enjoy the hat museum. Don’t want to give the opposite impression. It is (almost) the first time I’ve been to Stockport and I did find it a very odd place when I explored further. As someone pointed out to me it is like one big bridge and the rest of it seemed to exist on many levels. I do think it is badly laid out with a lot of road crossing to do. It was odd but it was the first time I’d seem the train bridge: been over it many times, but never seen it.

      Sorry to hear about Bolton. Last time there I thought it was quite impressive. I don’t know what’s going on there. And I don’t think I cam afford lunch or dinner in Didsbury! As you say Stockport is ticked off the list.

  5. My mother, who always hated showers, finally gave in one day when she couldn’t actually haul herself into an upright position from the bath and spent quite a long time in there before managing to get herself out with a mixture of bodily contortions that I am guessing she is glad nobody was witness to.
    Personally, I’ve always preferred showers as having a bath always makes me want to put on PJs, have a cup of cocoa and go to bed afterward which is not a good idea if you’re supposed to be off to work or something.

    • Oh I can see how it can become problem. I used to – I have to say “used to” now – spend hours in the bath and it’ll be a sad day when I’m no longer able to get in and out. I do believe my parents will stay the youth-ish same forever, so find it hard to accept them making such compromises, but I have heard the odd comment or two how some things are becoming a struggle for them.

      Strangely, after I was told the bath was going, my Dad started getting phone calls from people asking if they were having trouble getting in and out of the bath! Nothing to do with me at all… Honest! No, really! They didn’t help my cause though as all he jokingly asked them was: “Why, are you going to come around and help me out?”

  6. Thanks for this I shall cross the hat museum off the list.
    For the benefit of your readers, their pleasure and edification, you should continue to get out more, just so long as you write about your adventures. And as you didn’t take sandwiches on day two, what did you have for lunch? Or is that the subject of another post?
    My mother had wet rooms. I was dubious at first, but they are fab. Someone just needs to design some attractive shower seats. The current range of thick white plastic ones is not terribly exciting.

    • I seem to have given people the wrong idea: I DID enjoy the hat museum! Honestly I did. It was a fun visit and very educational and historical too! I wouldn’t want to give people the opposite idea and would fully recommend it. People should go. And it’s free too!

      I’m glad to hear you think writing this down is a benefit to others. I just wondered if it was a moan. After all I normally finish a multi-part blog post before I upload the first part. Here I don’t know how it ends. After Monday it just started writing itself.

      I can confirm, after DAY 05, that I have been out more. To other places I’ve always thought I should go, and things I should so. I will bring those tales soon.

      I’m not sure what I did for lunch. I think I may have been late leaving that day so may have had something before I went. Although I think I went without one day.

      I used to have a wet room when I lived in Wales. I did love that. We have had problems with fitting in this new shower and I did suggest that, but apparently there’s a lot of work to make everything watertight. And I know nothing about shower seats. I guessed that’s the plan for them, if not now then later, but time will tell. The shower base is down now and it does look pretty big.

  7. I enjoyed your renditions of random people’s conversations. It makes life seem very surreal…

  8. Rabbits. You know. The ones that they hide in the hats for the magicians to pull out.
    Love you description of the college kids. School ending at 10am??? Well, they’ll make it to uni, no doubt …

    • When I looked at that college – it’s the Catholic one and I was put off by the enforced religion classes and the nuns – you had to stay all day no matter what your classes were. To be honest I’d have probably got better grades if I’d had that enforced time there. These days it’s all change and they’re competing with the college one, which has consolidated just down the road, and so the nuns and the enforced long days are gone.

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