Long Hot Baths

Between January 1998 (when I just got back from New Year’s Eve in Spain) and August 1998, aged 25, I spent a lot of time in the bath. Long hot baths, often reading books by Hemingway. I can clearly see myself (you probably don’t want to) on a grey February morning up to my ears in steamy bathwater, half a mile up the hill from Brixton tube station, reading For Whom the Bell Tolls.

I had no idea that months later I’d be moving to Madrid, and would spend huge portions of my adult life wandering around in that same pine-covered Madrileño Sierra where Hemingway’s hero felt the earth move. At that point, lying in the bath, dreaming of Spain, I didn’t know that I just had to wait. For instructions. Stage directions from God, or the Universe, or fate, or whatever you call it, that a while down the line would pop into my head: “Why don’t I go and be an English teacher in Spain?”

It came to me that there were only so many days I could soak in the bath, unemployed, mind-numbingly bored and mildly depressed, so moving to Spain seemed like a much better idea. So I did. (Sounds easy, I was actually terrified for weeks before and afterwards. A friend seeing me off at the Eurostar station for the long train ride to Madrid said, “You are very brave,” and I thought, “no I’m not, you have no idea how scared I am!”)

Anyway, I used to get such a hard time from my wage-earning London housemates at the time about lying in the bath all morning with a book. I was very lucky to be able to do it, I had some money help from home while I was supposed to find my vocation as a photographer in London, (full story in Errant in Iberia). Then one day I upped and left for Spain, and looking back years later it feels like I was picked up like a pawn in a giant chess game and simply moved to Madrid by some giant, divine and invisible hand.

Right now I have a few ideas about projects I’d like to do, and while dedicating the necessary time to running our business, I make time for lots of long, hot, literary baths (currently reading Woody Allen’s autobiography Apropos of Nothing, which is very funny). Seems to me I should have a lot of these baths until stage directions from God, the Universe, or whatever you call it, set me going on the next track. And until then, I just have to enjoy the wait. The last thing I should do is try to force anything else into life. Nothing more than this blog post, which I was inwardly-informed (stage directions from above) that I ought to go and write after I got out of this morning’s long, hot bath.

6 thoughts on “Long Hot Baths

  1. Interesting definition of “waiting” here, as it obviously is a very active process, Ben’s mind is going through – otherwise there would be no reading of books in the tub, no sharing of thoughts here! So please continue “waiting”! 🙂


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