Sunday, November 14, 2004


Isolation tanks became popular - when? Was it in the free-spirited 60’s, or the mind-altering seventies, or the alternative eighties? Whenever, the image of Edina aka Jennifer Saunders in Absolutely Fabulous springs to mind as she dons her scuba-wear and descends into the tomb-like structure conveniently placed in her bedroom. Apparently the salt-water and darkness contribute to the greatest sense of well-being since the womb. Something must have been missing for Edina, though, as she always emerged more of a shivering wreck than the one she was when she went in. Perhaps it was withdrawal symptoms from the variety of substances she was fond of abusing. Whatever. I have found my own alternative isolation tank. It is found in most homes and costs much less than the professionally hired one. It is called a bath.

Now I know you are thinking this does not have the same Tutenkhamen-esque sarcophagus lid, nor the salt water, but believe me it works just as well. Epsom salts was ever the scourge of the old wives who prescribed this evil-tasting solution for almost every ailment from ingrown toenails to split-ends. It has one redeeming feature: used by the boxful it can make a bath seem as salty and soothing as the sea. Next, the question of the lid. I don’t know how many people really like the idea of being shut in darkness without any means of escape except perhaps students of the Marquis de Sade. I don’t need the lid to feel isolation. I just need the door shut.

There you have it: the modern day, easy to use Isolation tank. Prepare for at least an hour of uninterrupted snoozing or reading by telling everyone else you have gone out to do a large grocery shop, or to kill a wild boar, or something. Drive the car up and down the road for a bit and then park it out of sight. Creep back in as quietly as possible, trying to shake off the dog by throwing an old slipper or a dead rabbit, whichever is handier, for it to chew. Then sneak into the bathroom and quietly add water and Epsom’s finest. You’ll have to drizzle the water in very slowly so as not to alert the youngest member of the family who can’t bear a bath to happen without her. Be sure you have piled your favourite book or even a magazine discretely behind the loo-roll before the operation begins. If you want to be extremely organised, you could put your favourite beverage into the bubble bath container once you are absolutely sure it has been rinsed enough times. If you have done your groundwork properly, I promise you might even read a whole chapter of your book or even (no, really, this has been done) a magazine from cover to cover! There are a few hazards though. Dogs with a great sense of smell and a strong attachment to your person can blow your cover, especially if your bathroom door doesn’t lock. But keep a handy supply of aforementioned slipper or rabbit at your side and encourage enthusiastic hunting of the above as quietly as you can. Outside the bathroom of course. Now, the trick is to switch off your Pavlovian response to the screams of the children as they throw garden spades at one another, and to repeat to yourself as a mantra, “I will not answer that, I will not answer that” as the phone rings interminably. It can be done. But it takes a lot of practice. Believe me, I’ve tried. The trickiest bit is ‘arriving home’ without any supplies for the empty cupboard but I’ve learnt to describe a Startling Supermarket Check-Out Strike with such dramatic detail that the enthralled audience forgets its hunger for a moment. And the clean, rejuvenated me will then make inordinately interesting toasted sandwiches for lunch.

647 words.

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