I visited the Victoria Baths a good few years ago whilst I was at university, back when it had just won a little bit of funding but was still unable to open to the public. Armed with my camera and a cheeky donation I was allowed in on my own, and managed to take some photographs for a documentary I was working on. Unfortunately the laptop I worked on back then died and I have no images of the baths left – just a bunch of negatives that I’ll probably never get round to scanning again. This weekend we found out there was a vintage home fair at the baths, with just a £3 entry fee… we didn’t buy any vintage furniture, but were more than happy to pay £6 to have a nosey around the building. The whole place was open for wandering, including the caretaker’s flat upstairs, and the both of the empty pools. My partner was visiting for the first time, and was blown away by its beauty. Such a stunning hidden gem in our city, and well worth a look if you get the chance. I only had my iPhone to take pictures this time, but managed to recreate some of the shots I took first time round.
My big sister and brother-in-law know me well. For my birthday last year they very kindly booked me in for a book spa at Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. With not much interest in real spas, the book spa had peaked my interest the first time I visited Mr. B’s a few years back. With the promise of a comfy seat, a cup of piping hot tea, a slice of homemade cake and a pile of recommended reading to take home… there was absolutely everything to look forward to!
Arriving at the shop for my spa I had a quick browse around before being taken up to the newly refurbished reading room, where my spa would be held. Quickly handed a fresh brew made just the way I like it and invited to make myself comfortable, I was in my element. The room was fab – deep green walls and cool chequered floorboards, as well as the odd cockatiel…
Soon I was introduced to my book spa companion – the lovely Lucinda who proceeded to ask me some vital reading questions to gauge my interest in literature. I’d already emailed over a list of favourite reads, which formed the basis of our discussions. We covered my day-to-day work, hobbies and interests, and even talked about some of the books that I really haven’t got along with (the latest being my failed Franzen attempt). I found out quite a bit about my reading habits just from having this quick chat. My penchant for female literature has grown a great deal over the past few months, with favourites including AM Homes for her snappy, witty dialogue; and Ruth Ozeki for her Eastern wisdom coupled with fantastical storytelling. These were used to help Lucinda pick some books she knew I’d love, as well as some that would take me a little bit out of my comfort zone. After our chat I was left alone with my chocolate brownie and a brew whilst Lucinda toured the bookshop in search of some future favourites.
Coming back with a pile of titles towering over her head, Lucinda proceeded to talk me through every title she had found for me. With a fantastic knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for every book recommended, it was so hard not to take home every single one. This was the most enjoyable part of the spa – and I’ve found that Lucinda’s way of storytelling has really stuck in my head. I was able to excitedly recite the plot of each book back to my partner when I got home to Manchester that evening.
After a lot of careful consideration, I came away with six shiny new reads. A pile on the chair in the reading room was begrudgingly left behind – but will be duly emailed to me so I know just where to head when I’ve finished the ones I took home. Overall, I had a fantastic hour at Mr. B’s, and would heartily recommend a book spa not only to those after a bit of literary pampering, but to those struck in a reading rut and looking for a little inspiration.
Books I took home:
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned – Wells Tower
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis – Lydia Davis
All My Puny Sorrows – Miriam Toews
The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng
That Old Ace in the Hole – Annie Proulx
The Next Step of the Dance – Tim Gatreaux