Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Soap Soliloquy

It is said that the humble bar of soap is going out of fashion, with a majority of people now opting to use shower gel instead. It is claimed that in our busy lives, this is a more efficient way of washing ourselves and that it is more cost effective.
 
When I say that there is more to a bar of soap than just washing, I hope that you will not think that I am referring to anything untoward, it is just that bar soap purchase and use, requires more attention than just sloshing a gel out of a plastic bottle. I'm not actually going to write about all the things that you can do with soap apart from washing. You can find plenty of articles on the internet about this; and of course they are all fascinating! So if you are really bored out of your skull, get searching and reading about soap use. You may then find that the things that you thought were so boring, were actually rather exciting.
 
My interest in soap, (some would say predilection,) stems from the days in my youth, when at home we had to make do with some very basic blocks of the stuff. My mother would buy bags of the cheapest and most colourful kind of soap. She was moved to do so out of need for economy, but I remember that the soap would function for about a half of its volume, when it would then resemble a fragrance and lather free block of wood which would resist any further use.
 
Her sister, unburdened by the costs associated with having any children, by not having any children, used a more upmarket soap. This was not actually much more expensive, but my aunt made my mother feel that it was the pinnacle of soapy excellence, because she saved the end stubs of her soap and gave them to my mother for her use and delectation.
 
Quite naturally this infuriated my mother, who felt looked down upon as a poor relation. So the gift of soap stubs was a fester in the mind of one sister and a graceful and generous act in the mind of the other. Nothing was actually ever said about the matter. 
 
After I left home and went to sea, the quality of soap that came my way did not improve. The shipping company I worked for provided us with a bar of "Buttermilk" soap each week. After a period of about ten years of using this self same soap practically every day, my ennui  was such that I was encouraged to become more adventurous when it came to the time that I had to purchase my own.
 
Perhaps it can be said that I was a lucky man for not ever having to buy a bar of soap until I was 25; but by that time I felt like a change. Even small differences can make your life feel more interesting.

I was living in Singapore as a student and I discovered in one of the Indian shops in Change Alley, a stock of Morny soaps. They were big and round and looked like the type of spheroids used in lawn bowling, only slightly smaller and more fragrant. I could not really afford them, but I bought three anyway. Back in my rented room, my bathing arrangements consisted of a tin can with a wooden handle across the top. This can had to be dipped into a big earthenware tub of cold water and then you poured it over your head. Even in these simple surroundings, the use of my new soap made the whole ritual seem more luxurious. Overnight I became a soap aficionado. 

Now in later life I continue to find and use many different brands of bar soap. If asked if I follow the soaps, my reply is that I most certainly do. In a sheltered life, this is about as adventurous as it gets.

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