The house of the rising sun

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A brief memoir of my days as a young sailor

Submitted: June 07, 2008

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Submitted: June 07, 2008



My family spend ages in the shower, whereas I am in and out in as much time as takes to get clean and clear the sleep from my eyes. However, show me a deep hot bath and you can cross me off your Christmas card list because, like Captain Oates, I might be gone for some time.

According to my alarmed family my preferred bathwater temperature is so hot that they fear that one day they will find me doing a fair imitation of an over-done Dover Sole, but the fact is I was inured to hot baths many years ago and so am immune to them.

In 1963, at the tender age of seventeen, I was a patient at the Momoyama hospital in Osaka, where I had been admitted after my ship's captain had alerted the authorities because I had presented with symptoms of Diphtheria. I had in fact simply picked up a bug, and I was grateful to the little beggar because for one thing I was free of a ship which was crewed by the biggest collection of sociopaths since Edward Teach set sail with his murderous pirates.

Another, more immediate, reason for my gratitude was that I had a wonderful time in that hospital where I was treated like an honoured guest rather than a potential vector of disease. I remember one elegantly dressed young woman, who bore a startling resemblance to those beautiful Vietnamese dragon ladies who later in the decade, would, wraith like, grace our television screens as the fog of war descended over Saigon.

She used to bring me fried eggs as a late supper, and such foodstuffs are, one supposes, symbols of fertility in all cultures. I digress.

On the second day of my confinement I requested a bath and a nurse led me down into a basement where we struggled to avoid the unpredictable spurts of steam that escaped the heavily lagged pipes that lined the labyrinthine passageways. Eventually we reached a metal door and the nurse removed my dressing gown and gently guided me into a room. Well, I say a room but it was in fact a subterranean Paradise, because my startled eyes beheld a large bathing pool fairly heaving with nubile young women, all of them absolutely au naturel!

Now I don't know whether it was because my father was also a sailor but I am convinced that somewhere in my genes there resides an innate knowledge of semaphore because in an instant I was signalling to the fleet,

`Full steam ahead!'
My escort, au contraire, read my involuntary signal as,
`Reverse all engines!'

and promptly steered me into an adjacent room which contained, as far as I was concerned, a hitherto unknown tier of Dante's Inferno, because all I could see was a series of what looked like old fashioned zinc coated washing tubs and in each of them, immersed in water up their necks, was a collection of bald and wrinkled old men the likes of which had not previously been witnessed outside of the demented visions of Hieronymus Bosch!

The tubs were heated from beneath and as I slipped gingerly into the scalding water I felt like an amorously thwarted lobster, and a particularly crabby one at that!

And that is how, because of my untrammelled desires, I became used to being in hot water.

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