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Weekend doings

As for the weekend, I spent Saturday sleeping in blissfully, and then lounging around in my dressing-gown on the sofa, drinking coffee, writing about Doctor Who and finally watching the end of Dollhouse. Even the Sci-Fi channel had clearly more-or-less given up on this, as last weekend they stopped bothering to show it one episode a week, and just broadcast the three remaining episodes in one blast after midnight on Saturday. I couldn't watch it at the time due to preparing for my Newcastle paper, but recorded it, and watched the rest over the course of the week.

It was very much about getting the plot finished in the end, to the extent that I found myself caring less and less about most of the characters with each subsequent episode, even though I had two seasons of investment in them behind me. I could have done without the programme's one portrayal of an emerging lesbian relationship appearing as such a very token, last-minute gesture, and it also didn't make much sense to me that those characters who wanted to retain the changes which they had experienced since the mindwipe technology was first applied needed to stay underground for an entire year to escape the potential effects of Topher's 'reset' pulse. All the same, it's nice to see it all wrapped up, and I genuinely did like the way that the relationship between Adelle and Topher was portrayed in the final episode.

Sunday dawned all bright and springy, so I leapt out of bed and cavorted around the house to 1920s music, cleaning and vacuuming, before heading over to Harrogate to spend the afternoon with kissmeforlonger in the Steam Baths. This was something I'd never done before, and I really enjoyed it - partly for the experience in itself, but of course also because of its Roman resonances.

The décor was a luxurious Victorian take on Turkish / Moorish architecture: all carved wood, coloured tiles and more-than-semicircular arches. But there were elements which were definitely reminiscent of Roman baths, such as marble benches and in some rooms mosaic under-heated floors. I'm not sure whether these were straightforwardly preserved in the Moorish tradition, or re-integrated into the mix when the idea of steam bathing was re-discovered by northern Europeans. The big difference from Roman bathing is that most of the rooms did not have pools for complete immersion in the water - there was only one, for cold plunging. But the sequences of rooms - warm, hot, steamy and cool - were very much in the Roman tradition. And I made damn sure that I gave myself a good dunk in the cold pool at the end, because this is one of the aspects of Roman bathing which modern observers find hardest to grasp - "What? They sat around in increasingly warmer rooms all afternoon and then jumped in a cold bath? Were they mad?" Actually, though, it was (as kissmeforlonger had promised me), very invigorating after all that lying around and sweating, and nothing like as much of a shock to the system as I'd expected, given that I was already so very thoroughly warmed through.

We went to a ladies-only session, which was course again entirely in keeping with Roman practices. And, on a modern level, it was very lovely to just sit around alternately chatting to one another, and listening to the voices of the other women around us lazily reverberating around the tiled walls. There was a lot of just lying there and letting the warmth lull us into a delicious trance; and afterwards when we came out we found that we were both almost too sleepy to think, and just wanted to go home and go to sleep. Which was largely the point, I think.

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2010 11:58 am (UTC)
The Harrogate Steam Baths are astonishingly good. Well worth the trip - and well worth the cardiac arrest when you get into the plunge pool.

Of course, there's no point in becoming de-toxed if you cant get toxed afterwards - as such, I'd recommend a trip to the Grove Cafe in Headingley after you've got all relaxed...

Mar. 8th, 2010 12:06 pm (UTC)
Well, I live in Headingley, and indeed walked though the shopping centre on the way back from the station to my house. I can't think of the Grove Cafe, though - whereabouts is it?
Mar. 8th, 2010 12:08 pm (UTC)
Its on Cardigan Road, directly opposite the Rock Shack.

The Grove is, unquestionably, the best curry house I've ever been to, and the combination of sauna & curry makes for a very happy viscount.

Mar. 8th, 2010 12:10 pm (UTC)
Ah, right! Thanks for the recommendation. I was definitely ravenously hungry by the time I got home, and it took a supreme effort of will to stay true to my current diet and not dive into one of the many delicious-smelling takeaways I passed on the way...
Mar. 8th, 2010 12:31 pm (UTC)
Maybe thats what I was going wrong, all those years ago? Going to Harrogate and then to the curry house?

Oh well. A delicious mistake, if mistake it actually was!
Mar. 8th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
The Grove was just up from us when we lived in Leeds, but it had extremely idiosyncratic opening hours! I think we only actually managed to get any food there one in three times that we tried.
Mar. 8th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
Oh happy memmories. Steam baths, the glue in books melting, darting accross the floor because it was just to hot, watching the expression on people face the firt time the plunged, getting flirted at by the camp attendent who became convinced I was don Jaun as I'd turn up with a different lady every time, and spicey curry goodness afterwoods.

Followed by passing out knackered at the end of the day....

Happy times.
Mar. 8th, 2010 12:00 pm (UTC)
I would love a proper Roman bath experience (perhaps without olive oil and strigils, though). I was fascinated by the baths at Bath when I was little, and enjoyed the bath-centred module of GCSE Latin.

Cheaty research question: was mixed bathing a total no-no in Augustus's day, do you happen to know off the top of your head?
Mar. 8th, 2010 12:09 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes, of course - that was one disappointment. No free state grant of olive oil, or slaves to rub us down with it. :-(

I'm not 100% sure about the Augustan era specifically, but the general approach to bathing so far as we can tell does seem to have been to keep men and women separate. This would either be done temporally, with women going in the morning and men in the afternoon, or spatially, with a different set of facilities for each sex.
Mar. 8th, 2010 12:10 pm (UTC)
Cheers - that's very helpful.

And what a great icon!

Edited at 2010-03-08 12:10 pm (UTC)
Mar. 8th, 2010 12:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Yes, I should have used it for the whole post, actually, but managed to forget that I had a specific Roman bathing icon until just now.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 8th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
I am going to have to try some Turkish baths when I'm back in the UK - for some reason, it doesn't feel like something I want to do on this side of the Atlantic, and I don't know why.
Mar. 8th, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)
It was lovely!
Mar. 10th, 2010 08:05 am (UTC)
Mmmmm baths, wish there was something like this here in Bristol. I heartily agree with the idea of using this kind of place in a social fashion rather than just for cleaning/exercise. To an extent the hot pools in Wellington worked but only to an extent.
Mar. 10th, 2010 09:15 am (UTC)
Actually, there are some new hot baths in Bath now. Apparently they are fed by the same hot spring as the Roman baths used, but are across the road from the Roman complex. I assume they have found some way to deal with the bacteria that caused the Roman baths to be closed for actual bathing in the '70s. It all looks ultra-modern, anyway.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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