A firey dilemma

I’m a big fan of birthdays that are outside of the norm – when by ‘norm’ I mean meals at restaurants or drinks in a bar. Last month, for example, saw an afternoon of fun in the park where each guest was instructed to bring an Olympic themed activity with them. [My contribution was dry-land synchronised swimming, but sadly we didn’t get to try it. Competitive strawberry shoelace eating with no hands was epic though.]

However, I become slightly less excited about unusual birthday celebrations that involve significant levels of clothing removal – like an evening in a sauna in Barking.

Having said that, when Saturday morning dawned, the fact that I had a pedicure booked as part of the party was quite a pleasing thought. However, I began to worry at lunch time when I realised that I’d left my swimsuit at home and couldn’t work out what I should wear in the sauna.

The fabulous Barking Bathhouse sauna. (Credit.)

The thing was, I’d been organised – I’d studied the Barking Bathhouse’s website, chosen a treatment and ascertained that they didn’t have water based spa activities. (As in a pool or hot tub – they did have showers and toilets.) Therefore, my logical mind had concluded that no swimsuit was needed. For some reason I hadn’t considered the sauna, or any of the following points:

1. I didn’t know everyone who’d be there. Plus, some of them were men with whom I have slightly awkward relationships already. Did I want to sauna with them without a swimsuit/similar attire? No.

2. Spa towels are difficult to predict, size-wise. Yes, I could’ve gone in starkers with a towel, but I had no guarantee this would protect my modesty. (Obviously, a bath robe would be far too warm in a sauna.)

3. I couldn’t do the primary school PE thing of vest & pants because I needed to wear my vest & pants for the rest of the evening – which would not be pleasant having sauna-ed in them.

And thus, the lack of a swimsuit became quite a pressing issue.

The issue was realised while I was at a gathering of women leaders (in all likelihood, this will be tomorrow’s blog topic), and several women provided advice – or simply laughed at my predicament. What could I do? As I saw it, there were a few options:

  • Go home and get my swimsuit. (Not an option really – I didn’t have the time.)
  • Go and buy a new swimsuit. (Similarly tricky – swimsuit shopping is a pain at the best of times.)
  • Acquire alternative underwear. (Doable, but where from?)

When telling this story to my mother earlier, I had got this far when she came up with a (genius) fourth option: Buy a large beach towel. Yes, that would’ve solved it – kind of.

So, what did I do?
Well, thanks to TfL engineering work, I had to travel to Barking via Stratford, so a quick stop at M&S (happily the nearest store to the tube exit at Westfield) was little bother. There, I happily discovered matching vest & pants sets for £6. A solution to my dilemma and new underwear – bonus!

So, was the party as traumatic as I feared? In a word: no.
Yes, the towels were too small; but my vest & pants set did the job of a tankini. Yes, there was a man in the sauna; but he was married and visually impaired without glasses. Yes, there were strangers; but I’ve sauna-ed with strangers many, many times at my old gym, so no biggy.

Plus, the spa served drinks in jam-jars; I tasted chocolate beer for the first time; I got a glittery pedicure; the squidgy baby was as delightful as ever; and I overcame virtually all modesty issues and even hung out in the spa’s bar in my bath robe and towel (fear not, I was not alone in doing this). The Barking Bathhouse is highly recommended should you need a spot of pampering – it may not be around for long, but it’s certainly worth a trip.

Delightful smoothies in jam-jars – but cava was even better. (Credit.)

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