Babies and Bathwater
Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.
England after the War was a far different place from the country of today. Our family was poor, very poor, but probably no poorer than most other families. One of my first memories was of us moving house to a terraced house, tall with a downstairs, upstairs and attic that stood on an “unadopted” road, which meant that the road was not paved and nobody cared for it. People even dumped rubbish there. But there was no traffic; the road led to nowhere, and there was only one family on St Leonard's Lane with a car. Dad drove a fish truck, then a bread van. Mum cleaned people's houses.
We had no bathroom, and the toilet was outside across the yard where the concrete air raid shelter stood. That's where we fled to when German bombers filled the night skies. Every Friday night, mum and dad brought out the tin bathtub, quite a sizeable one, and placed it in front of the kitchen fireplace, the only heating in the three-storied house; all the other rooms were freezing cold in winter and only slightly above zero in summer. We bathed on Fridays but we did not have the luxury of warm water. Pots and pots of the stuff were boiled on the gas range and added to the chilly water from the tap until there was enough warm water for our sister to sit in and be bathed. She, being a girl, always got to bathe in clean water. Then it was the turn of the boys, my brother and I, in the same water, of course.
I suppose my parents bathed later, and I am sure they had great fun, but by then the children were safely tucked up in bed. Upstairs, there were two bedrooms, one for mum and dad and one for our sister. My brother and I slept in the attic. It seemed the higher up you went in the house, the colder it got. I remember we shared a potty that lived under the bed we shared. In winter, we would discover a layer of ice on the urine we'd shed during the night, and it was quite a feat, and quite fun, melting the ice with nice warm pee in the morning. Carrying the potty down two flights of stairs and out across the yard was always the first morning challenge, come rain, hail or snow! It was my early duty, as far back as I can remember, to make the fire in the kitchen using “paper sticks”, newspapers rolled into sticks, and small bits of coal to get the place warm. On Saturdays I had to empty the Friday-night bathwater, pan by pan, until the tub was light enough to be dragged outside and emptied. I hated the job.
“Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater” is an idiomatic expression used to suggest an avoidable error in which something good is eliminated when trying to get rid of something bad, or in other words, rejecting the essential along with the inessential. A different explanation might suggest that this catchphrase has to do with discarding the essential while retaining the superfluous. In other words, the idiom is applicable not only when throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but also when someone might throw out the baby and keep the bathwater.
The idiom derives from a German proverb, “das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten” that first appeared in 1512 in “Narrenbeschwörung” (Appeal to Fools) by Thomas Murner. In 1849, the Scottish philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, adapted the concept when urging his readers to join in the struggle to end slavery while also encouraging them to be mindful of the need to avoid harming the slaves themselves in the process. “And if true, it is important for us, in reference to this Negro Question. The Germans say, ‘you must empty-out the bathing-tub, but not the baby along with it.' Fling-out your dirty water with all zeal, and set it careening down the kennels; but try if you can keep the little child!”
Some claim the phrase originates from a time when the whole household shared the same bath water. The head of household would bathe first, followed by the men, then the Lady and the women, then the children, followed lastly by the baby. The water would be so black from dirt that a baby could be accidentally "tossed out with the bathwater". In our family, it was the other way round, and I cannot imagine father being tossed out with the bathwater anyway.
Time and again our politicians prove themselves to be dumb, vindictive and selfish, with little or no respect or consideration for the good of the country or its people when they “toss out the baby with the bathwater” every time there is a change in government. Okay, the Jufalli Immunity saga was a bit of a mess, but his WScience Project that promised to provide a research and treatment “hospital” for Saint Lucia is still on the table after being approved by the Anthony administration. The money is there, according to Ernest Hilaire, or so I am told; all that is lacking is a letter from the government via the Ministry of Health to set the ball rolling. Dear Ministers, just get off your high horses, and act for the best of the country. Don't let your past criticism of a man now gone ruin a perfectly good project. Saint Lucia can ill afford yet another set of leaders who discard their babies with the bathwater!