My thoughts about soap in its various guises…

I don’t like soap. That’s not to say I am averse to washing, I just prefer to perform my ablutions with something other than a bar of soap. Soap in bar form to my way of thinking has far more disadvantages than advantages. A bar of soap is hard and not very friendly. A large bar of soap is difficult to handle, easily dropped. And once you’ve dropped it on the floor then you have to pick a load of bits out of it.

When I was a teenager I lodged for a short while with a family who – shock horror! – did not use washing up liquid to wash their dishes. Instead they used a bar of soap which lived in a metal cage slightly bigger than the soap, and with a handle attached. They called it a ‘soap saver’. The idea was that you held it by the handle and agitated the soap in your sink of hot water until it formed a satisfactory lather. The only trouble was it didn’t work very well. It was rubbish for getting the grease off the dishes. I think we lived in a hard water area, and the water was never really hot enough either. I used to dread my turn to wash the dishes.

Many years later while living in London I went into a rather posh shop selling hand-made soaps from the South of France. Lovely smelling stuff, evocative of that wonderful part of the world. I bought a bar of lavender and another fragranced with oranges. But once I got the products home I realised I’d got a bit carried away, for the bars were quite large cubes and very cumbersome in the hand. So they sat around for months on end, one on the hand basin and the other on the side of the bath. They left a scummy mess where they sat. I went back to the posh shop and bought a pair of wooden soap dishes, but the soap left a scummy mess on those instead of on the bath and hand basin. And every now and then the soaps would fall on the floor, picking up bits of whatever. In any case, the lavender soap was full of lavender flower heads which were quite rough on the skin. Over time the surface of each soap cracked, and the cracks grew wide and nasty, full of dirt from people‘s grubby hands. My expensive soaps were no longer attractive. I persevered as long as possible, tried cutting out the cracked bits, but in the end I gave up and threw them out.

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