An elegant tree-lined road somewhere between Kilburn and West Hampstead, NW6. A hot tub crouching behind one of the unsuspecting white Georgian houses, simmering like a cauldron as one by one, we climb in, armed with wine glasses, week-old cigarettes, Aperol spritz. There are our beach towels hanging poolside on high alert, a saucer to use as an ashtray because the official line is that the hot tub hostess doesn’t smoke. Tentatively, various limbs are negotiated and arranged in the water, drinks poured, fags lit.
Shipped from China by way of eBay and installed into the rather more English back garden by eight local builders, the hot tub in question is a frothing disco diva, her underwater lights alternating red and purple and blue, while the Spotify app serenades us with Donna Summer, Stan Getz.
Winter hot tub evenings are best because it’s dark outside so it doesn’t matter if we’ve shaved recently or not, if we’re wearing our worst, stringiest, mixed-wash-iest swimwear. And it’s bliss to climb in, like a return to the womb, great female company; the warm, massaging jets, a tad mindful of not letting them hit our naughty spots in public. Last year, when the hot tub nights began, we dutifully took turns to undress in the shed (with the sun-loungers) by the ping-pong table, god forbid anyone should see a breast or – horror, worse. Now we don’t care.
We undress into our various bubble-trouble gear – and much later, dress back again into our regular, slightly soggy clothes in the kitchen inside, graced by large, open-shuttered Soho House-esque French windows. If anyone can see in, it doesn’t matter; if we can’t see them, they can’t possibly see us – not without our glasses on at any rate. And anyway, we like our bodies these days, after years of loathing them when our bodies didn’t have these marks, those additional bits. Better late than never.
So here we are, rub-a-dub-dub, four women at a time, five at a push if we rotate and one of us sits out. Welcome to our hot tub soirées; the dark, lathered heart where nothing spoken is off-limits, everything is permitted. We’re a motley crew of writers (all genres), mothers, daughters and lovers. We’re still wearing ‘L’ plates, yet we know what we want. We don’t claim to have any moral high ground, but put together we make perfect sense. Oh yes, and because the hot tub is in London, the neighbours can probably hear.
The view from the tub is distinctly feminine, soft skin, hair (tied up if long,) but unlike many pussy posses, not in the least bit competitive. We talk about what we did today, the films we saw last week, juggling our careers, orgasms real and faked. Then there is the increasing vulnerability of our parents, Death, what we would like to eat for our Last Supper, the most outrageous places we have had sex. We recommend books, art exhibitions to one another, discuss our dreams (we still have them), communal living, why they serve Twiglets at the Groucho. We sort out our other friends’ problems without the friends in question even being present, without them ever knowing they are a topic of heated debate. We try to fix the world.
And while there are most certainly conversations of the ‘what’s said in the hot tub, stays in the hot tub’ ilk, we thought it only fair to invite you to dip in a toe or two and join in.