When Natalie Blenford’s craving for a hot soak got intense, she asked friends for help. What followed warmed her body and heart – and could warm yours too…
It’s Boxing Day 2021 and instead of lying on the sofa eating mince-pies, central heating on, I’m masked-up and on the bus to my friend Jane’s house where the most coveted Christmas present awaits me: a soak in a hot bath tub.[restrict]
I’ve lived in a small city-centre apartment in Tel Aviv since 2017. I share it with a flat mate, Dani, and I love it. But our bathroom is basically 4 square metres that work super hard, housing a toilet, sink, shower, washing machine and tumble dryer (one stacked on top of the other). There’s no space for a bathtub. And that was fine at first. But two years into the pandemic with Omicron waging outside, my need to soak in hot water at the end of a winter’s day has intensified. I get to 8pm and realise that what I need more than anything is to lie in boiling, bubbly water with a paperback book in hand. A candle could be burning, but I’m the child of a low-income family from the 1980s. I don’t need it to resemble a luxury spa break. I just need to lie still, to let the water envelop me, hug me and heal me. It’s a stress reliever as old as time. And without it I often can’t unwind, however many sleep-inducing yoga poses I attempt to do on my cold bedroom floor.
The desperation follows me around. It’s not unusual for me to be awake at 1am, worrying about where my life might or might not be going, swiping Tinder for potential dates then nipping on to booking.com to see if any local hotels might have a cheap rate on a room with a bathtub for the following day. I don’t need an overnight stay; I don’t care about the quality of the bed linen. I just need 90 minutes. I’ve even called a few local places to ask if I can rent a room simply to soak. I’ve been met with a range of reactions from “is this a sex thing?” to “That’ll be £75, please – I have to pay the cleaner before and after you visit so I can’t go lower than that.”
Luckily though, kindness is a priceless quality and my pride isn’t too great to ask for help. In this era of friends leaving food parcels outside of front-doors when someone unexpectedly lateral flows themselves into quarantine (would that sentence even have made sense in January 2020?), what could be so wrong with asking a friend if you can borrow their bathtub?
I decided first to ask Jane. Jane is a hip millennial, ten years younger than me. She might have laughed me out of town, but thankfully she said yes:
“Come over on Boxing Day and soak to your heart’s content”.
I’d bought a bunch of bath bombs on Black Friday in an attempt to manifest this happy event so off I went, towelling robe, frozen pear flavoured bath bomb and talcum powder in tow.
Jane’s bath turned out to be a low-slung, beautifully tiled tub in the guest bathroom of her Jaffa home. She kindly made me tea and left me home alone to enjoy a peaceful dip while she went out to walk her dog.
A week later, I took an inter-city bus to see my friend Abi. She’s just bought her first home and furnished it with a claw-footed, HUGE round tub. We ordered Sushi and watched The Holiday, catching up on gossip as rain tumbled down outside, then I went in for the soak to end all soaks –possibly one of the best baths I’ve ever had. Even a defective bath bomb that left the water full of murky pond-weed couldn’t dampen my spirits.
When I posted a photo with a tag thanking Jane and Abi for being true, true friends, I received messages from followers all over the world, telling me that they too would lend me a bath, but first they would go and run one of their own. One male friend I’ve never met IRL told me that he’d been inspired to take a soak after seeing my post, sending a photo of his bubbly water along with the message: “Just had an hour of a peaceful soak. With nice foam, gentle music and candlelight. It is a gift, refreshing and soothing, embracing water and foam. Thank you for the inspiration and reminder.”
Of course, we are lucky to have hot running water at all – a shower is itself a privilege. But if you’re in a position to calm someone’s nerves by lending a bathtub, I highly recommend it. It’s an almost free gift that is of enormous value to the recipient. The COVID era has shown us that the simplest of things in life can actually be the best things. I’d take a coupon for a soak in a tub over new technology or new clothes, any day.
So here’s to the global emergence of the not-for-profit Bathtub Club and friends sharing their previously taken-for-granted resources for the greater good. I highly recommend it.