I don’t normally begin these blogs with anything philosophical, but some things just lend themselves to that kind of treatment. I have written about Victoria + Albert several times already and expect to do so again, because I think so highly of the their line of products, but every now and again I get a press release that shows their work in a different light altogether. This time round they have not only given me a deeper appreciation of their products, they’ve put me into a kind of time machine because reading their latest press release has taken me back well over half a century, in memory yet green, as the poet has it.
I grew up the oldest of five children in a little house in Helena, Montana that we in the West would consider ancient. It was built in the 1880s and was so old that interior walls were of lath and plaster and square nails. It was a house made the old way, one at a time, by those who took a lot of pride in their product. Walls that substantial last for a very long time, but the other thing that makes them particularly valuable is the way they are insulated. I can remember coming into the house in the summer months when it was very hot and feeling immediately much cooler, because that house was so much cooler by dint of simply being built with proper insulation. That insulation naturally worked equally well in the winter months when there was snow on the ground and it was as much as forty degrees below zero.
A long time Californian now, it is hard for me to remember how bitterly cold that was, but the one thing I do remember as a kid was standing in front of an old gas heater in the living room, my brothers and I, effectively blocking the heat, as my parents repeatedly pointed out, to little avail. We made something of a game of it, standing in front of it until our legs could no longer bear the heat. We would then move, to our parents’ relief-and ours!-walking stiff-legged to avoid those hot, hot jeans touching our skin! I can’t say that we ever raised blisters with that little game, but we sure certainly burnt the bejabbers out of ourselves from time to time.
The other cool thing was the hot tub, which of course, we did not have, as we were much too poor for such a thing. But what we did have was a big bathtub my father installed after he remodeled the bathroom. The tub he installed was enameled steel, which is simply formed steel with a porcelain enamel coating, chosen entirely because it was the cheapest then available. But as it is for anything chosen only for that low price, it had drawbacks, chief of which was the fact that steel, because it is such a good conductor, did a most efficient job of conducting away the heat of a just-drawn hot bath, a fact I learned in the worst possible way: firsthand experience!
I can remember the few times when I was able to take a bath without one of the younger kids banging on the door. Sheer heaven, really, but the best part was soaking in that hot, hot water for as long as possible. The only downside was the water cooling off. Ours was a two story house, and even after the Old Man installed a central heating system, thereby removing both the living room gas heater and our little game of “who can take it the longest,” the heat never went up to the second floor. In the winter months it was so cold I used to roll over in bed and write my name on the frost on the window next to our bed. We only had two blankets on our bed in those days, and my brother and I seemed to do just fine. Nowadays, in mild, mild San Diego, I sleep with four blankets in the winter months, which tells you what a softy I’ve become. But I digress!
What I wanted to talk about was that wonderful tub, or more precisely a tub that would have been wonderful, had it not been for its penchant for letting the water cool. Even with central heating it was cold upstairs in the winter months and cold in that bathroom, but as long as I was in that hot water, it was perfect. But when the water cooled, the only thing one could do was let some of it drain out and replace it with more hot water. I felt like some kind of Einstein when at age thirteen or so I learned how to reach out with my big toe and open the drain for a few minutes, then turn the hot water faucet on, all the while keeping the rest of me comfortably submerged in that wonderful hot water. Well, that, as they say was then, and this is now, and now is when I can finally get this back to one of my favorite subjects these days, namely Victoria + Albert.
What prompted this long trip down memory lane was a recent press release from them which started, “Nothing warms you up from the chill of winter weather like a warm therapeutic soak in a freestanding bath.” It’s a concept, as I say, that I’ve field-tested in the harshest of conditions, but that long ago tub left so very much to be desired. Victoria + Albert has a truly glorious collection of tub styles made from a product they call ENGLISHCAST, which is a composition of finely ground volcanic limestone mixed with high-performance resin. It enables them to not only create the glories we’ve featured in this blog, but to up the ante, as it were, because ENGLISHCAST has high insulation properties.
Those who have a tub don’t need anyone to tell them this, but their press release goes on to tout the benefits of a long soak in a tub. Part of that we knew already, right? Come home at the end of a bad day, soak in the tub, kiss bad day goodbye! Well, as it turns out, and as 13-year-old-me would have attested to, warm baths are just the thing in cold weather. Bathing in warm water actually activates the body’s defense system by replicating a mini temperature rise, which is the body’s natural mechanism for beating infection. Doing so regularly before bed, but especially during the cold weather, helps to relieve arthritis and stiff joints, which tend to get worse in cold weather, and to aid in overall relaxation.
And that brings us back to the virtues of Victoria + Albert’s ENGLISHCAST. The whole idea of the tableaus we’ve shown here is to indulge oneself in a long, luxurious soak in a tub of hot water. If that heat escapes through the tub walls-and in cheaper tubs it does so with alacrity-it defeats the entire purpose of the soak. The whole idea of it is to be pampered, not annoyed! Enter ENGLISHCAST, which actually acts like a thermos to quickly insulate the heat of the water and hold it. Really, it’s the height of luxury. Or is that the luxury of heat: glorious, invigorating, soul-restoring, luxurious heat.
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