Friday, 28 June 2013

Soaps and Soaks

After spending so much time at La Petite Maison, on what is virtually a building site, the renovations are starting to wear me down; physically, mentally and emotionally. Time to have a break from all this “doing” I think.

One of the best ways to recover after a day’s dirty work is to indulge in a long hot soak in the bath. I love to lay in a bath with herbs and flower petals infusing around me in the water, releasing their soothing scents. 

Lavender and Chamomile 

(harvested from the allotment)

have a soothingly soporific effect, helping to relax my aching muscles, whilst Calendula, Rose Petals and even oats work their healing powers to repair my much battered and suffering skin.  

I confess though that as romantic as it may appear at first with petals floating on top of the water, emerging from the bath with oats or chamomile flowers sticking to various damp patches of skin is not desirable and so I tend to contain the herbs in little organza or muslin bags which I let infuse in the bath water.

I should perhaps mention that my Lavender bath soaks are best used at the end of the day, when the next item on the agenda is sleep. The almost narcotic effect of the bath soaks can be detrimental to any planned activities, as Susan’s mum found out to her cost when she had a herbal bath on Christmas morning; resulting in dinner being prepared by Susan while her mum lay comatose and snoozing in an armchair.  

There is another way of enjoying a Herbal Bath that ever since I saw the episode of River Cottage when herbalist Eleanor Gallia filled a bath for Hugh Fernley Whittingstall with herbs and flowers in the water - outside in her herb garden at Nethercerne Farm, I have thought how lovely it would be to bathe in the open air surrounded by trees, herbs and wildflowers.

Can you imagine how gorgeous a herbal bath in the above settings would be?

Aside from our unreliable climate - with copious amounts of rain falling unpredictably and the currently unappealing surroundings of builder debris, practicalities would prevent this from taking place at La Petite Maison however. I have no desire to flaunt myself where ogling neighbourhood eyes (hitherto screened off, prior to the removal of the mature trees in the garden by the Elder-of-the-Much-Appreciated-Men-Folk) may now inadvertently peer gazing in horror not only at my nudity (shudder) but also at the huge ignominious bruises where I recently bashed myself on the scaffolding and which look as if I have received a rather bad beating. 

I should just interject here and suggest that there is somewhere ideal for this type of bathing experience and that is beside a certain “Lavender Walk” in the Perth Hills,

which if La Petite Maison ever reaches fruition is where I may find myself jetting off to for some much needed recuperation to stay with Sister Ruby aka Francois. But that is not likely to happen this month unfortunately!

So the other day I found myself setting off for a different type of soak. A soak with a seaside theme! No it was not a swim in the sea; although the benefits of the sea are captured with this form of bathing - but without having the worry of jellyfish or the icy chill of the water and the horrifying possibility of encountering something unpleasant from a local sewage plant floating by. Instead this form of bath involves seaweed and has to be one of the most therapeutic and relaxing baths I have experienced.

I have been known to occasionally gather seaweed from the shore, but that is mainly for use on the allotment, as seaweed makes excellent fertiliser and keeps slugs at bay; for my bath today the seaweed had already been gathered fresh that morning and washed at the Seaweed Baths where I was heading, by Dermot – the co-owner.

Seaweed bathing became popular in by-gone times when farmers collecting seaweed to use as a soil conditioner noticed the hacks and calluses on their hands healed as they handled the seaweed.  

As I drove past the bay the sun glinted on the water, but as I reached the Seaweed Baths clouds had gathered over the mountains and the sea took on a grey tint. The first spots of rain were beginning to fall as I got out of the car.

The Bathhouse staff were welcoming as usual and when the room was ready, after warming up first for several minutes in the Steam cubicle, I slid into the huge roll top bath amongst the floating seaweed and felt the heat from the water seep into my skin.

Apparently the steam session and the hot water dilate the pores and blood vessels, allowing the skin to be more receptive to the minerals and vitamins from the bath. 

The heat releases the seaweeds essential oils leaving the skin smooth and helps lower body stress and relieve skin conditions (psoriasis, eczema, acne etc). It has also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of muscle aches and joint stiffness (rheumatism and arthritis), and excellent for some circulatory problems.

A pleasant smell emanated from the bath; salty and wholesome as I lay submerged like a mermaid with only my nose above the water and I felt all the stresses and tensions slip away as I swished the slippery silky seaweed around the water.

After my bath was over – (the forty five minutes were gone before I knew it), feeling revitalised and rejuvenated I set off for home, having purchased a packet of dried seaweed for home use and which I shall enjoy following the next exhausting day at La Petite Maison. Until that time I will carry on with the seaweed theme and make use of my homemade Sea Garden Soap with its special addition of Kelp.



Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your seaweed bath. I would no more have gotten naked in a tub full of seaweed than I would roll around in the dirt. However, the herbal infusions in your little organza packets would have been a welcome experience.

Charlotte Garden said...

Hi Linda. I always try to avoid the seaweed when I am in the sea, but in the bath it is lovely. If you ever visit Ireland you should give it a go!