The nephew came in with bare feet. He had been wearing no socks and a generous coating of dirt covered his toes. “Look at my feet!”
”You’ll need to wash them.”
”I have had a shower already.”
”Well, wash them in the sink.”
”How do you wash your feet in the sink?”
“You stand on one leg and lift your foot up to the sink and wash it and then you dry it and do the same thing with your other foot.”
There was a doubtful look.
His father looked at him and said, “When I was a child in Belfast the sink was my bath.”
He was unimpressed. Eventually, a bowl of water was run and the dirty feet became clean and fresh.
Does no-one was their feet in the sink now? Perhaps there is a lack of suppleness to do so, perhaps obesity makes it difficult for some, perhaps everyone is too sophisticated to wash their feet in the in the sink.
Fifty years ago, baths were a weekly occurrence: washing morning and evening were the mandatory ablutions in our house. A lack of attentiveness sometimes meant large amounts of water ending up on the floor and, in wintertime, there was probably more time devoted to washing hands and lower arms than to any other part of the body, but the wash basin kept us clean and healthy.
Washing on a summer’s evening remains a special memory. Being out in cornfields in shorts and tee shirts meant accumulating layers of dust and shins being scratched by the stubble. The scratches always meant a splash of Dettol being added to the hot water, Dettol being at the heart of our household hygiene regime. The disinfectant caused scratches to sting as one leg and then the other were raised to the sink to be washed with Wright’s Coal Tar soap. The smell of the Dettol and Wright’s soap never fail to transport me back to school holidays that lasted forever.
Perhaps washing feet in the sink is as alien to people born this century as Victorian customs were to those born in the 1960s. Perhaps doing so would mean being regarded as the sort of person who in former times might have kept coal in the bath. Of course, washing them in a bowl of water is much more sensible, but I have no recall of it ever being an option.
The chief deterrent now to washing my own feet in the sink is not what anyone might think but the fear that I might suffer serious injury in attempting to do so.