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Herstory of the Hot Tub

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“You’re not planning on getting another hot tub, are you?” my two boys asked me. In unison. It was not so much a question as a plea. You have to understand, my hot tub, or the hot tub I once owned, had a reputation. If that hot tub could talk, oh lord, the stories it could tell. Back in my hedonistic 40s, my hot tub was the scene of more than a few orgies. A round cedar tub of the type you rarely find outside of Southern California, it sat in the corner of my back garden in West Hampstead, overlooked by thirteen windows. That the neighbours used to steal a glance while I was getting it on with two or more men was never in doubt. As an exhibitionist, it was all part of the fun.

Aside from sex, the tub was a place for confessionals. I recall sitting in the hot water with two close girlfriends, crying over a guy who had been cheating on me, while we watched his old jeans burn to a crisp over the BBQ. I wanted to see them go up in smoke just like our relationship.

During my sons’ teenage years, the hot tub was the place we would retreat for difficult discussions. Sitting in hot water definitely helped soften the blow as my boys let off steam and their feelings of anger, often directed towards me.

While for most men I met, being covered by four feet of water, almost always gave them a hard on, despite all academic evidence pointing to the contrary. Not that I minded most of the time.

It was a move to a new flat that prompted the question from my kids. Without asking it directly, what they were really saying was: “Are you ready to give up your crazy life?” I wasn’t sure.

Then the decision was made for me. It was six months after I’d moved into the new flat, on my boyfriend’s birthday. We were at a local pub, getting drunk. I picked up my phone, typing ‘Hot Tub’ into EBay. And there it was, a brand new four seater Jacuzzi, with flashing lights, speakers, a waterfall and loads of jets. The description mentioned something about being shipped from China. The auction was five minutes away from closing and it was £850. I pressed, “buy” and a few minutes later it was mine.

“What are you doing?” he said.

“I just bought a new Jacuzzi,” I replied.

“On my birthday??” he said, as if that special day was somehow reserved only for him.

“Does it really matter what day it is? It’s a Jacuzzi and it was £850!”

As it turned out, it wasn’t really £850. The price did not include installation, something I only thought about when the truck driver dumped it off in my front garden. “How am I going to get it in the back?” I asked him.

“I only have instructions to drop it off. You’ll probably need a crane.”

Meanwhile, the Eastern European builder, working on the flat upstairs was looking at me, taking it all in.

“£200 to move it to the garden?” I said.

“You’re having a laugh. More like £500!” he replied.

“No thanks,” I said.

What then ensued was a week of phone calls. One company told me I’d need to lift it over the house, shut down the road and get a license. The cost? A cool £3,500.

The hot tub supplier said it would be an additional £350 to plumb it in. My cheap hot tub was starting to look like a very reckless and expensive purchase. Eventually I relented, paid the builders £450 and then took a walk while eight of them lifted it over a brick wall into my garden. My friend Anne put it best when I told her: “Third world solutions to first world problems.”

As it turned out my new, modern hot tub, is on its way to acquiring the same mythic status as its predecessor, albeit without the sexual overtones. It turns out shagging while sitting in a plastic bucket seat isn’t easy. (Well, I had to try, didn’t I?) It is the place where Advantages of Age was conceived during one of my monthly gatherings of local girlfriends. Most recently Rose and I held a Hot Tub Salon about Death that we recorded using Facebook Live that has reached almost 3k views. And now that my boys are no longer children, they have come to understand its magnetic pull when attracting the opposite sex or just a bunch of their mates.

The old hot tub was a lot of fun and holds some great memories for me but I have a feeling this new one is pretty special. To the hot tub and all that goes on there. Long may it continue!

A View from the Tub

1 Minute Read

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.

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