Baths play a significant role in this Spinster’s life; living alone affords to luxury of extraordinarily long languorous ones. Such blatantly selfish behaviour that comes with living tout seul; a utterly marvellous privilege quite frankly I’d have to be facing absolute peril to give up and it wouldn’t be willingly! (Taking the occasional tumble doesn’t get anywhere near it besides this affords the opportunity to find a myriad of things I’ve dropped and one becomes very aware of the amazing places cobwebs are created; ingenious beasts the weavers of cobwebs don’t ya know!)
Of course one is able to nip (well slowly inch on crutches in my case) up the corridor to fetch something I’ve forgotten without bothering to cover ones nakedness! Now the image of me in such a state of undress frankly appals me (so those of you who know me please protect yourself from harm by not going there). You know the bits that go South in ones middle years and the delightful flashes of lightening otherwise known as cellulite (that a particularly unpleasant ex partner said helped him find me in the dark; for years I tried to secretly verify whether stretch marks were luminescent (they aren’t))! Orange peel doesn’t even get near to my extensive geographical navigation map -(practically to OS level of detail not omitting even the most minor of A roads) – these days especially when you factor in the nicely named thread veins oh ladies, as many of you will know, age really doesn’t come alone!
Walking on crutches does of course mean the wobbling of hanging flesh is less pronounced than in an able bodied person. Please one has to look for the positive where one can these days; there are seldom upsides in my current daily life! The Physio might have taught me ‘model walking’ but that’s the last thing on me mind when inching naked from the bathroom to retrieve some item ‘essential’ to my bathing experience! Posture is frankly more likely to resemble that of a Neanderthal man in the stage between ape and human. And yes the rear view won’t be any less frightening; I swear my buttocks can wobble from side to side these days – when Vera my 84 year old swimming companion who gets occasional pleasure (if not glee) from slapping my wet arse next indulges herself I must ask her to give me her honest assessment on wobble behaviour! Believe me this is NOT something I should ask because she will give it her full attention before turning me around so I neither miss the message or the facial expression when delivering it! She can be utterly unforgiving and shockingly insensitive sometimes but what you see is definitely what you get!
Back to blissful baths. The Landmark Trust rent out a remote cottage in Cornwall, near the Lizard, and buried in depths of primarily oak woodland owned by the National Trust. It is indeed idyllic nesting in its own woody glade seemingly carved out just for the purpose some considerable time ago in the 19th Century when it is believed it was home to a fisherman. When Royal Navy fighter planes from Culdrose up the road aren’t practicing for a forthcoming air day Fisherman’s Creek is deliciously peaceful sitting just above the Helford River. The cottage is basic to the standard it was last lived in or thereabout either way the period my companion and I were fascinated by was the 1950s when it was rented as a retreat by one CC Vyvyan and Maria Penhaligon. Excited as one sniffed a Sapphic soaked triste I confess to being a tad gutted to read further into the most informative file to find the name of Maria’s man! But thankfully he seemed to have a rather subordinate bit part in the story!
Along with a copy of Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek ( a ‘cracking’ read according to my companion) there were several books written by CC Vyvyan who seemed to be a great traveller. When I say great the creative subject focused on the Cornwall and Scilly Isles but with a foray into mainland Europe too. The Helford River is a witty well observed travelogue detailing amongst other things this cottage which she and Maria named Cuckoo Cottage on account of hearing a cuckoo when they first found it. Romantics at heart they, or rather Maria, set about furnishing Cuckoo Cottage in a comfortably rustic style appropriate for their times a deux and the entertaining indulged in from time to time (catered by the Penhaligon staff).
Eagerly lapping up the story I confess I approached the task rather too hastily skimming the text (of a less than pleasant scented book) for juicy morsels. CC liked to come to the Cottage on her own to read in her bath I read how utterly fabulous I felt an immediate connection as one Spinster to another; CC never married. Conveniently ignoring the fact that the Landmark Trust had during the renovation installed running water it never occurred to me to consider the logistics of having a bath of a suitable temperature to read in at length! Companion humoured me carrying a cafetiere of coffee for her disabled chum into the bathroom as I filled the bath with lovely hot water will a couple of capfuls of Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir or it could have been the Fig and Cassis as I had both with me.
Point of information: this Spinster is well aware that only one capful of oil is required especially in this bath which it turned out wasn’t quite as big as it looked. No with these fulsome nether regions rather more water was displaced than anticipated when lowering the body mass in; still that’s probably why there were so many towels you know to mop the floor when the water cascades over the top! However back to the bath oil and this seemingly profligate behaviour. Well my gorgeous brother bought, well i confess to having allowed him to not precisely be there at the point of purchase that Christmas; but either way in December 2011the two bottles of Jo Malone came into ones possession. Can you see where this is going? Basically you can’t bloody use the stuff fast enough; great value but 18 months on I’m getting a bit bored of them hence the two capful observations!
When I went back to the informative documents I only discovered that the baths CC and Maria loved so very much didn’t involve water at all! Oh no Maria had discovered that a carefully upholstered hip bath made the perfect place to curl up in! They had matching, in the ‘vintage retro chic’ sense i.e. a harlequin set i.e. no blinking matching at all, baths in Cuckoo Cottage. All I can say is they must have been rather fitter and flexible than moi as the prospect of heaving this Cruella inhabited body in and out of a hipbath without the aid of a hoist or strapping lad or lassie is laughable! But possible, maybe, if the bath was braced to the floor and a small stool were to hand; now that might be a runner…wonder if the OT (if she ever finds her way from the University Hospital to the deepest dark environs of the Vale) would consider?
No matter how old one gets one never tires of hearing stories of eccentric women from earlier generations. I wasn’t surprised to find that CC was actually part of the Vyvyan family who own a substantial estate in Cornwall. Apparently older people in the area still remember the eccentric CC in her pony and trap; what a gal she was by all accounts! These photo’s from her books just give one an indication of the woman she was; the oldest image just makes me smile as I recall one story of the challenges of collecting dung for the garden, she just sat back contemplating the task and lit a cigarette!