Every now and then, seeking to shed the melancholy and body aches that have marked my middle years, I take myself into a nice warm bath. This, combined with my status as the father of young children, means I know more about bath products, specifically toys and bubbles, than I have known at any time since I was happy and small.
I’m not above taking a bath with my boys, so long as the bubbles are lustrous enough to provide appropriate cover. And I can tell you, these days, commodities have nothing on the bubble market. The volume and variety of products available is stupendous. To give you an idea: if I were to take three baths a week, excepting school and religious holidays, there would be more than enough new, special, and otherwise tempting products to make each bubble bath a new experience for 1,000 years. There is, for example, Kiehl’s Lavender Foaming Relaxing Bath, (£18); Coconut Foaming Bath by the Body Shop (£4); Gloomaway – a Joycean construction – grapefruit body wash and bubble bath (£18) by Origins; bath bubbles from the Yippee Playtime range (£3.99) by Little Me Organics; and Les Bulles d’Agathe ($20), a tube of scented soap by Maison Francis Kurkdjian that comes with an old time bubble wand, because – well, why the hell not?
Meanwhile, for those of us who remember, and wonder about, Mr Bubble, let me say this: he has apparently left the business, gone back to school, and now answers only to “Dr Bubble”.
Here is my routine for a family bath: place boys in tub, turn on water, add bubble bath, turn on Jacuzzi jets, whipping bubbles into a foam, add self. This I applied, without change, to three new and varied products.
I began with Vanilla Birthday Cake, a shampoo, shower gel and bubble bath by Philosophy (£13, www.philosophy.com). It is wonderful in surface ways: it’s golden and thick, and the smell will make you 10 years old, blind-folded and dizzy, looking for the donkey’s behind with the needled tail in your hand. The ensuing bubbles are big and soft.
Indeed, it occurs to me there should a bubble scale, like the scale astrologists use to indicate the brightness of stars.
Affixed to the label of every tube of bubble bath, it would indicate the average size of the bubbles: soft King David-like curls or tight afro-style coils. A second measure would indicate the bubbles’ lifespan: do they expand and vanish like the black holes ginned up by the Large Hadron Collider, or do they linger?
Vanilla Birthday Cake, while ranking high on coil circumference, barely registers on a duration index. The bubbles came and went like Captain Spaulding, leaving two things behind: a golden residue on the water surface and me terribly exposed. Its companion product, a chocolate cookie formula, resulted in the same anti-climax and shame.
So the next time out I decided to play it safe, going with tubes of bubble bath from Earth Friendly Kids; minty lavender or zingy citrus (£4.08 each, from selected Waitrose stores and www.healthqueststore.com). This time the effects were reversed: the bubbles, small coils, came early, appearing even before the application of the jets, and stayed for ever. I believe you can still find a few in the dark corners of my bathroom. Days later, my boys couldn’t stop talking about the moment that Nate vanished beneath that tower of power that is Earth Friendly Kids bubbles. If you are looking for lots of action, this is the ideal. Add a splash, and a kid, and watch it happen.
Finally, though, I tried Crème Brûlée honey bath by Laura Mercier (£31, www.selfridges.com). If you see her, give her a hug for me, for she is the Louis Pasteur of the water closet. The product, which is stored in a honey jar and looks and smells like honey, comes in a silver box with a wooden stirrer to mix the product into the tub, resulting in a bubble as grand as the tech or housing bubbles. Unlike those, however, you can recreate this one again and again – or pop it as and when you want.