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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Occasional Showers Part 1

I like to think that I am something of a connoisseur of the gentle act of showering. My wife says that given the amount of time that I spend in there, this announcement should surprise no-one, but I like to plan my day, bathed in the tender caress of warm refreshing water (in the absence of any better options) and whilst I can pretty well guarantee this will happen at home (the warm water I mean, not the better options), the whole plan tends to fall apart whenever I stay overnight somewhere else. If you’ve ever trusted what remains of your mortal coil to the often less than tender ministrations of a hotel or guesthouse shower, you’ll know what I mean.
Showers in hotels and guest-houses are the hotelier’s revenge on the world. Once you accept this simple fact, you can get on with trying to make the best of, what is all too often, a diabolical situation. For the uninitiated, here are some simple rules.
1. Ignore the Instructions
You might as well. The instructions (if they exist at all) invariably do not relate to the shower that is there now. They are more likely to form a sort of nostalgic tribute, to the shower that used to be there but which has long since gone to that Great Plumber’s Skip in the Sky. That is why the diagram shows that you must adjust two dials to achieve the optimum shower (coupled with dark warnings of what may happen if you do not do this), when you can only find one dial (which won’t move) and a mysterious lever. Speaking of dials…
2. Don’t touch the temperature dial
As previously noted, better establishments will have a well-worn notice describing the supposed functions of the piece of plumbing to which you are about to entrust your important little places. This is a work of fiction but it will give you something to read while you are waiting for the ambulance to come and tend to your first-degree burns. Lesser establishments will eschew the reading material, knowing that real men (and women) don’t read instructions and will instead present you with a Heath-Robinson collection of pipes, plungers and taps and leave you to work it out for yourself. In either case, I urge you – do not touch the temperature dial. This applies no matter what apparently ridiculous rating it appears to be set at. From past and painful experience, whatever the setting of the temperature dial, it is probably correct, unless the previous occupant was a sadist (or, possibly worse still, a masochist).
3. Don’t wait until morning to find out how it works
True of so many things but particularly showers. I remember one infamous occasion when I was staying in a B&B in Dublin. I should have been forewarned when I found that my sleeping accommodation consisted of a camp bed in what was clearly someone’s Study. The ‘usual facilities’ had been shoe-horned into what had previously been a broom cupboard, situated across the hall from my makeshift bedroom. The following morning, crawling unsteadily from my temporary dormitory after a night spent sampling Guinness, red wine and Chinese cuisine (in that order), I stumbled into the shower expecting an invigorating blast of (hopefully) warm water. It didn’t happen. I found that, with all dials turned to maximum (expecting at any minute a Scottish Engineer to appear from the basement screaming “If I gi’e her any more Cap’n, she’ll blow”) I was the less than pleased recipient of a dribble of marginally warm, brown liquid (perhaps it was Guinness?). All attempts to improve upon this state of affairs failed and I was forced to revolve my hung over corporation under this pathetic stream, resembling, for all intents and purposes, a vision by Salvador Dali of the closing sequence of Sunday Night at the London Palladium (now I’m showing my age).
Further helpful instructions in Occasional Showers Part 2
A version of this article appeared in the first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" which is now available in Kindle e-book format at Amazon UK and Amazon USA.  The second, bumper collection "Crutches For Ducks" can also be found at and and you can find the companion piece to this 'Dry with some, Sunshine!' in  A Splendid Salmagundi