No, I don’t look best pleased, do I? Unless I was caught off-guard during one of my underwater recreational pursuits: usually involving an empty squeezy bottle and some plastic tubs with lids that never quite fitted, a couple of old flannels and the occasional duck (plastic).
My brother and I were always bathed in the kitchen sink, and we didn’t even live Oop North; I think it was simply easier to do it where we’d just washed up the dinner plates (perhaps we even used the same dishwater – we were noting if not
tight frugal, us Coopers).
Of course once we were too leggy to fit into the kitchen sink, we took our dirty bodies upstairs to the bathroom, where every other normal person in England probably took their, and came to realise that the long ceramic thing in the toilet room wasn’t just where mother spent an inordinate amount of time.
But my father never used the bathroom as his place in which to wash. And this became a massive bone of contention for me as I was growing up. He continued to use the kitchen as his personal hygiene space for as long as I remember, standing stripped to the waist with a flannel at the armpits, waiting dentures in a tumbler on the kitchen windowsill, I’d be mortified to find him in this state of undress if I had a friend round – understandably – and I’d apologise to them profusely once out of father-earshot. He didn’t restrict his ablutions to the kitchen either; if he could hear there was something particularly entertaining on the telly in the next room, he’d amble through, flannel sopping at the pit, a towel tucked into his trouser pocket, and stand semi-naked at the living room doorway chuckling away at the tellybox for all to see. Like an exhibitionist. Then he’d twist an end of his towel until it fitted nicely into his earhole and wriggle that clean before ambling back.
He also shaved and brushed his teeth at the kitchen sink. I wish I’d had Mary Berry’s telephone number in those days, because I was never comfortable with the fact that he was cleaning off his grime where mother had just peeled spuds and arranged our teatime meal.
We had so many angry ‘scenes’ about father’s topless shenanigans whilst I was growing up, especially during puberty (mine, not dad’s) but he remained adamant that as he and his five siblings grew up doing everything in the kitchen which had been the hub of the home, and it hadn’t done them any harm, he wasn’t about to change his ways because his whippersnapper daughter was too proud to find this acceptable.
Dad’s answer to most of my queries was “If you don’t like it, you can leave home” so once I’d wised up to this, I spent my formative years biting my tongue so hard it didn’t seem worth speaking half the time.