Operation Clean-O-Patra.

The humble bathtub has bathed in glory throughout time as a religious rite and a social privilege. It was all the rage for the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, and the Hindus still partake in ritual dips in the Ganges (although I’m not sure anyone is any cleaner after immersing themselves in something that looks like Rudyard Kipling’s “great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees”, but with rubbish floating in it rather than nose-pulling crocodiles).

As I got ready for a well-deserved bath on Sunday evening, I was thinking more in terms of the beautiful Queen Cleopatra’s idea of ablution therapy, but was happy to settle for hot water and bubbles instead of asses milk.


Cleopatra (Photo credit: silkroader)

I had just put an end to a long and tiring Sunday. I had got up that morning to face the result of abandoning my post on the family war front for an entire week: dirty washing had partied madly in corners then gone forth and multiplied, invading the entire house with more enthusiasm and determination than a family of fleas discovering a dogs’ home. It was everywhere: piled forlornly on floors, lurking dangerously under beds, escaping Houdini-like from baskets, draping lamely across bedroom furniture and hanging despondently off chairs.

So I had stiffened that legendary British upper lip, pulled up my sleeves and spent my day waging battle against the evil Lord of Laundropia, a dimension that organised parents have only roamed in their worst nightmares. In the depths of Laundropia, fear clutches your entrails whilst scantily clad, zombie-like children wail and moan “I need soooocks, Muuuuuuuuum” from behind the perilously unstable mountains of filthy clothing. However, I am a fearless and experienced traveller of this particular realm, and the super intervention squad (Candy the washing machine, Desmond the drier, Ivy the iron and myself) had made a cracking job of getting the mutiny under control. I was now gunning for the ultimate reward:  a hot bath and a good book.

Once in the bathroom, however, the only thing I had in common with Cleopatra was an insatiable desire to throw P.F. to the crocodiles. My off-key rendition of The Bangles’ “Walk like an Egyptian” had ground to a halt when I clapped incredulous eyes on a teetering tower of bucket, trowel and other DIY paraphernalia dumped on the side of a bath I had cleaned in a post-flu haze less than 24 hours earlier. To add insult to injury, P.F. had left a generous, crunchy layer of dried plaster and flakes of ancient paint in the bottom of the bath. Although it would no doubt make a cheaper and very efficient alternative to Body Shop exfoliating gel and ensure a rear end smoother than the proverbial baby’s bottom,  I was peeved.

  I suddenly realised who contributed what to the waste pipes getting blocked on such a regular basis. I could, of course, have been more elegant and thanked my family for this opportunity to learn a new trade. After all, two years in a house with waste pipes the diameter of toothpicks has enabled me to evolve from what could be termed a “bog-standard” plumbing philistine to a sharp-shooting John Waynesse of the plumbing world. I can now draw my rubber plunger from its holster before you can say “Febreze”. Yes, I could have said thank you. But I didn’t. I was tired and I wanted my bath.


(Photo credit: Swiv)

I scraped the evidence of P.F’s plastering orgy out of the bath, cleaned it and filled it with hot water and fragrant bubbles. Climbing in, I grabbed my Chosen One from the bath mat (a chick lit charity shop orphan penned by the fabulous hand of Marian Keys). At last, some luxury.

Or so I thought. Any mother knows that it is impossible to have a bath without being interrupted. Within five minutes, my family had rumbled me. The bathroom door shook with what I first thought was Godzilla trying to force the door down. On checking, I established that it was Little My, hell-bent on evicting me from my haven of bubbles, heat and fragrance to give her some clean sheets. After two refusals to get the sheets herself, I said “Ok, sweetheart.  Go downstairs and look for the tall guy with dark hair and blue eyes, and ask him: he’s your father”. This was met with a stony silence from the other side of the door; as I have already discussed in an earlier post, fathers get asked one question: “Where’s Mum?” All the others, ranging from where their school bag is to why men have nipples, are generally for us.

Ten minutes later, a dull throbbing noise started up outside the door, and I swore in my usual feminine way. After finding the sheets, P.F had pulled out one of his favourite toys – a hand-held sander – and seemed intent on boring his way through the bathroom wall. I held out for five minutes, then gave up on the bath and pulled out the plug. Phase two of “Operation Clean-o-Patra” was abandoned: I was no longer in the mood.

Opening the door of the bathroom, I was greeted by a white haze. It looked strangely as if  my home had been hastily transformed into a cocaine dealer’s production line. I followed the foot prints in the generous dusting of plaster dust  on the floor, and was rewarded by the sight of P.F appearing out of the fog with a power tool clutched in his hand, blue eyes beaming out of a powdered, white face. “Had a nice bath, then?” Hmm. Now, let me see……

I’ll leave you what I think is a very original version of “Walk like an Egyptian”. This is what happens when bluegrass country music meets The Bangles, and I think it’s fabulous.

17 thoughts on “Operation Clean-O-Patra.

  1. Amazing how you just have to have a bath, sit down with a book, go the loo or talk on the telephone and suddenly all around you the world is ending – kids need to ask you urgent questions, the cat is desperate to go out/eat, and your other half wants your finger so he can bang something into place.

    I’ve given up on baths. The taps are too small anyway, by the time there’s a couple of cm in the bottom it’s all gone cold. French plumbing is crap.

    • I totally agree. I think families come equipped with a special radar that picks up on “mum’s time out” and sets off an immediate “seek and destroy” mission to put us off trying to take time out for ourselves.
      Our plumbing is a nightmare for the waste pipes; the rest seems to work ok. What I love about French bathrooms are the bidets (apparently used for soaking laundry rather than washing bottoms) and those great mini bathtubs that have no room left for the water once I’ve fitted my nymph-like frame inside… 😀

  2. I recommend you to listen to that excellent Georges Brassens’s song (ca 1958) :
    “Mon Dieu, quel bonheur ”
    “D’avoir un mari qui bricole, ”
    “Mon Dieu, quel bonheur ”
    “D’avoir un mari bricoleur ! ”

    • I didn’t know that one! It’s true that it is a “delight” to have a DIY freak as a husband. I just wish he’d go and do it somewhere else than right outside the bathroom door at 7 pm when I’ve spent my day washing his kecks and ironing his shirts 😉

  3. oh the joy of being a Mum, MM (I can’t say I can commiserate, as I don’t have kids!) + I don’t have a bath-tub, got rid of it just before Christmas and got a huge rain shower installed! P.F. sounds like a very hands-on kind of Anthony, for his beloved Clean-o-patra 😉

    • You GOT RID of your BATHTUB? Uh-oh, I hope PN hasn’t read this, he’ll be devastated….. I’d like a rain shower too, but I couldn’t live without visual evidence that from time to time I can flake out in my bath. PN is doing most of the hard work in this joint, and he’s a super hero. But I don’t understand why he has to start sanding down walls when I’m in the bath.

    • Poor you 😦 It was one of my conditions when we moved here: a bathroom with a bath and a window. I don’t have time for a bath very often, it’s usually a quick run through the shower, but I love a good bath and a read!

      • We have a huge bathroom, I could play soccer in it. There is a small shower, a sink, toilet and as this is Italy we of course have a bidet. But no bath tub.

        I can see a bit of DIY coming.

  4. A perfect description of why I gave up having baths unless the offspring were firmly tucked up in bed and DH otherwise engaged. 🙂

    As for the laundry, I reckon you should adopt our family tradition that each child, on reaching the ripe of old age of 13, is given a crash course on how to work the washing machine and dryer. After that it’s a short step to doing their own ironing and you’ll have it made.

    • I’ve been pushing them to empty and fill machines, but for the moment it’s still only done under threat. Having said that, Rugby-boy appeared with a jumper I handn’t put in the drier this morning, and told me that he’d put his stuff in Desmond yesterday evening…. Maybe things are looking up 🙂

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