Our old bathroom will have seemed cutting edge at the time. A heady mixture of plastic, porcelain and rubber. Looking back now it seems like a wet room in a Victorian madhouse.
The fun started outside the door as you had to plan ahead in those long gone days of the Sixties. if you wanted a bath [showers didn't exist] then you had to flick the switch of something quite Lovecraftian at least an hour before you wanted it and then let everyone know it was 'your' water heating up. This strange thing was called an immersion heater and it took years before I could spell it.
The immersion heater was basically the element in a huge kettle known as the boiler, which was hidden in the lower deck of the airing cupboard. On switching it on in what was always a boxy white unit made of bakelite, a red light would come on and proclaim that someone was mucky enough to need a bath. A bit like an On Air sign at a radio station, this sign on the landing said Unclean.
After an hour had passed and you' d prevented your entire family from using 'your' hot water you could visit the rarefied confines of the bathroom proper. On entering in winter, rather like an Eskimo would enter an igloo, you had to perform the second of the switching-on ceremonies, namely, turning on the bar heater.
The bar heater was a cigar-shaped metal power station screwed to the highest point of the wall on the opposite side to the bath. It was essentially two six feet long electrical rods in front of a chrome fender. To switch this fast breeder on you pulled a long knotted string dangl,ing from it. If you were lucky, the string wouldn't fly upwards, land on the rods and set alight.
After hearing the pulled string give a satisfying click, the elements would begin to glow red like fuel rods. Sun-like heat would bounce off the chrome into the room. It got so hot and steamy that vines grew from the ceiling and monkeys passed through in troops. Electric heaters and bathrooms don't really mix but thankfully I'm still here to tell the tale.
The next job was running the bath. Now baths back then were huge plastic olive-green tanks taken straight from the set of James Whale's Frankenstein. It took a million gallons of hot corporation pop to fill them and they were so deep that if you slid to the bottom and came up you got the bends.
The taps were huge, bulbous, silver or brass and turning them on with the two massive squeaking screw heads was like opening the Thames Barrier. They sent two vertical waterfalls of splurging, frothy, maddened water into the waiting depths. The two falls shot straight down as there were no fancy angles on these bad boys. It was at this point that I usually realised I'd forgotten to jam the rubber stopper into the plughole. Finding it was easy though as it was chained between the taps like Marley's Ghost.
Getting into a laboratory tank full of steaming water wasn't easy. The drop was sheer and the temperature might melt skin and bone on contact. It had to be done slowly and you eased down gently as a deep-sea diver might enter the Mariana Trench.
Once comfortably boiled pink like a lobster you could turn your attention to the job in hand: playing in the bath and as a by-product, getting clean. My own bath-time toys were piled up in one of the damp corners, a no- mans-land of scum and slime similar to a petri dish left out for a year.
My toys comprised of anything that was technically at home in the water. First off the plank was the Action Man deep-sea diver complete with lead boots and red hazard buoy. Next in was his arch-enemy, the Great White Rubber Shark, with an open mouth big enough to keep a bar of Imperial Leather in, no problem. Various plastic boats followed, together with further personnel in the form of Billy Blastoff and a reluctant Callisto. A rubber ducky usually flew in as well.
All the cleaning utensils were handily stored on a plastic bath tidy spanning the steaming tank like the Golden Gate Bridge. On it was everything a boy needed to descale, delouse and demuck: coal tar soap, a timber scrubbing brush, a nylon nail brush, a pumice stone, which I think was actually a creature that had died there and fossilized and a mildewed flannel [yuk!]
Two species of bath-life were uniquely indigenous to Sixties' bathrooms: the pink sponge and the loofer. The loofer, in particular, defied scientific classification and its true origin and purpose remain a mystery to this day. My young mind boggled when staring into its squelchy chambers; the love-child of a string vest and a cucumber, where or what was I supposed to clean with a wet loofer? Baffled, I could never let it go.
Yet all of these utensils paled when compared to what sat coiled at the bath edge; a resting octopus of rubber and plastic, a slumbering Kraken of grips and pipes; yes, it was the flexible mixing hose used to wash your hair. So primitive yet miraculously practical was this contraption that it can still be found on Ebay under retro rubber AND modern hair care. Attaching the open ends was like feeding taps to pythons; only with great effort would I couple the rubber to the metal.
Washing your hair was no easy feat either. You had to move the bath tidy, shuffle closer to the tap end and manhandle the plastic shower head attached to the rubber tubing. Imagine waltzing with a plumber's whippet and you're close: this was extreme showering, since mixing the right amount of hot and cold water was as tricky as divination. A slip-up with the taps would lead to an icy dousing or a lava shower. Once perfected though, you could rinse your mop to your heart's content, as well as yodel into Neptune's microphone like Johnny Weissmuller.
Cleaning agents came in two forms: Matey bubble bath and medicated Vosene. Matey was shaped like a sailor and always made bath-time a fun voyage to the top ports of the world. Made of pines, Vosene brought you back down to earth with a squelch and a whimper. Patented by Quatermass in secret silos, it smelt of labs, redefined the colour green and could reduce grown men to sobbing wimps. Vosene was lethal.
Light relief was provided by soap on a rope. Dangled round a tap like a macho medallion, the soap was usually a classic car on the end of a manky yellowing string. If you were lucky the car was a sleek Jaguar E-Type, which glided through your hands like Lurpak. If you were unlucky the car would be a Model T Ford. Impossible to hold, it had more angles than a rhombo-trapezoid-parallelogram and generated just enough lather to wash a shrew.
Once mateyed, vosened and roped, it was time once more to leave your toys in Davey Jones's Locker and exit the tank. Immediately on standing, the near-nuclear warmth given off by the two bar wall heater would dry you in an instant. With the slight whiff of singed head hair, I would deftly drape a large course white towel, pilfered from Pontins, around my shoulders like Batman.
And so, clean, fresh and boiled alive, with my towel cape, I would face the world with renewed vigour smelling of pine needles with a loofer gripped tightly in my hand. My name was Shanks. Armitage Shanks.
What were your childhood bathroom and bath-time like readers?