Steamy haiku

I was noodling round the internet yesterday looking for suitable illustrations for another project when I came across this lovely vintage tourism poster.

Issued by the NZ Railways publicity branch in about 1932. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library.

‘Taking the waters’ in Rotorua has been popular since the 19th century and in the early 20th century many of my extended family, yes travelling by train, would stay for a week or so and bathe to help relieve the pain of arthritis (a condition which fortunately seems to have petered out in more recent generations).

day spa
paying a stranger
to touch me

Marianne Paul, Wishbone Moon (Jacar Press, 2018)

The iconic Tudor-style Bath House opened as a treatment centre in 1908 and closed in 1966. At its height the spa gave 60,000 to 80,000 baths annually and about 30,000 special treatments. In 1969 part of the building opened as Rotorua Museum, which gradually took over all the space. The building was closed in 2016 due to a need for earthquake strengthening and is due to reopen in 2021.

bath house2 - Copy

The Bath House pictured during the 2016 Tulip Festival, before the ‘keep out fences’ went up. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I was in Rotorua only a fortnight ago, soaking at the Polynesian Spa and in a hot tub on the deck of my hotel room. It was a fine, but cold weekend (scraping ice off the car windscreen on Sunday morning) which made the hot pools even more of a treat – and even then we didn’t feel the need for the hottest of the lakeside pools (42°C), Priest’s Pool, named for a Catholic priest from Tauranga who was carried to Rotorua by Maori to soak in this spring. It so relieved his arthritis he was able to walk back to Tauranga (about 64km).

hotpools –
my breasts weightless
in your hands

Joanna Preston, the taste of nashi (Windrift, 2008)

Water from the Rachel Spring (a natural antiseptic due to its sodium silica content) is piped from the surface beside the historic Blue Baths in Government Gardens to the Polynesian Spa and used in several pools. We went to look at the art deco Blue Baths but they were shut with the attendant saying they were having trouble with the naturally heated water (it’s not mineral water here) – the pool should have been about 30°C, but was achieving only 15°C! And no one could figure out why.

The Blue Baths feature on this booklet cover by Leonard Cornwall Mitchell and issued by the NZ Tourist and Publicity Department in about 1937. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library

We were fascinated by the sign at the Rachel Spring: “Water from this boiling cauldron is alkaline and reaches 212°F [100°C]… Whangapipiro was renamed Rachel Pool after Madame Rachel, a notorious English cosmetician who promised youthful complexions because of the softening effect of silica water on the skin.”

Madame Rachel (I’ve since found out) was Sarah Rachel Russell (Levison), born in about 1814 to a Jewish theatrical family and dying in 1880. Madame Rachel operated a prominent London beauty salon at 47a New Bond Street from which she sold “fabulous preparations”, such as “magnetic rock water dew from the Sahara Desert”. She personally guaranteed her clientele everlasting youth if they used these products – which were, of course, made from quite ordinary things. She later became well known for blackmailing many of London’s upper class wives and was jailed for 10 years. Her date of birth is unsure because, unlike many women, she claimed to be older than she was, thus demonstrating the efficacy of her products!

New Year’s eve bath –
I fail to become
a swan

Fay Aoyagi, Chrysanthemum Love (Blue Willow Press, 2003)

Madame Rachel was the subject of a 2010 biography by Helen Rappaport, Beautiful for Ever. Read a review here. “This barely literate woman went from frying fish near Covent Garden to setting up shop in Mayfair and acquiring a country house at Blackheath.” Why is there no movie?



Soaping fabulously 2

Here’s part 2 of my Year of Soaping Fabulously … read the earlier review here.

Ginger & Lime Luxury Soap is billed as “naturally European and “savon de luxe” on the cellophane wrapper – made in Portugal with the company based in England (the eccentric-sounding Chew Magna which may, or may not, be near Chew Bacca!). The website listed on the wrapper has been “parked” (ie, it no longer works, but the above link will take you to some information).

I bought this from a Life Pharmacy, attracted by the light but invigorating scent that was apparent through the wrapper and knowing that Haiku Husband loooves ginger so figured it would at least appeal to him (I’m not such a fan of the root spice).

But I fell in love with it as soon as I used it. The soap retained its delightfully zingy scent almost to the end and was a pleasure to use – although as always with larger bars my little hands have problems holding on to start with. The bar was sudsy without feeling like it was leaving a film on my skin and despite having a long list of ingredients, only a few are unpronounceable so maybe the “natural” appellation isn’t too far off. It contains ginger (extract and oil), lime (extract and oil) and extracts of lemon, orange, mandarin, plus poppy seeds, the last being well distributed right through the bar for a bit of gentle exfoliation.
Cost: $12.99 for 230g. Rating: 5 stars.

In the interests of sourcing my soaps far and wide for this survey, the next bar came from The Cargo Shed in Dive Crescent, Tauranga, a weekend arts and crafts market through the winter (more days in summer). I am assuming that the soap is made in the Tauranga area as the market is for locally-produced goods but there is no address on the label, apart from the name “Naturally Native Bath & Body Treats”.

Orange, Petitgrain & Calendula Cold Process Soap is, the label says, hand-made in New Zealand and uses no palm oil or animal products. The scent lasted well and small pieces of peel emerged on a regular basis (although peel isn’t listed on the label, only essential oils). The ridging on the top of the bar gave a kind of pleasant scrubbing effect. Again, it felt soapy without being filmy.

Petitgrain, in case you’re wondering (I was), is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of the bitter orange (Citrus aurantium). This plant is also known as the Seville orange, where the marmalade comes from. When I was much younger and in Seville I couldn’t work out why all the oranges were left on the street trees. So I pulled one down and tried a piece. Instantly, there was no saliva in my mouth and my face felt like was turning into a prune! Yep, it was bitter.
Cost: $6 for 110-130g. Rating 4 stars.

my mother’s breasts
we both giggle

– Joanna Preston, from the haibun “Shoulder Reconstruction”, winterSpin, 2000.

Read Joanna’s blog here, and more of her haiku here.