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I ❤️ baths

Julia Roberts enjoying a soak in Pretty Woman (1990)

Oh dear, says Laura Barton in The Guardian. The cost of taking just three baths a week is apparently set to rise above £1,000 a year. It’s still not enough to put me off. The bathtub is a “place of sweet contemplation”, where thoughts shape themselves differently to those beneath a showerhead: “slower, gentler, deeper in their navigation”. In this godless age, my bath is a “kind of domestic church” – a place for quiet meditation, “for eureka moments and revelations”. There’s no time I’m happier than lying “clavicle-deep in Epsom salts and London water, shrivelling softly in steam and soap”.

Bathing has a rich history in Western culture. In Homer’s Odyssey, it’s a homecoming, “a cleansing after the battlefield”. His hero is bathed and anointed with oils, his hair “curling down like hyacinths”. In the 17th century, Rembrandt depicted Bathsheba at Her Bath, clutching a letter from King David; two centuries later, Edgar Degas painted a series of portraits capturing the “intimate process” of women washing. In cinema, a bath lets us “see our favourite film stars undressed”, from Elizabeth Taylor soaking in Cleopatra, to Julia Roberts lying among the bubbles singing Prince’s Kiss in Pretty Woman. Why should we now forsake this delight? As the 14th-century historian Ibn Khaldun put it: when someone indulges in a good soak, “the heat of the air enters their spirits and makes them hot, and they are found to experience joy”.