It's a Mann's World: It's Hot Tub time

Olly Man 15 September 2021

This month our columnist says we need to cut hot tubs some slack and appreciate them for what they are: heaven on earth

I have always been a hot tub person. I’ve loved them since I was eight years old, when I first hopped into a hotel jacuzzi (which felt delightfxully transgressive, because there was a “16 & Over” sign, and my fellow bathers were a 30-something couple sipping Pina Coladas).

I still recall the fragrance of the eucalyptus tree, sheltering us from the Sardinian sunshine. It was pure heaven.

I am always outraged if a posh hotel or spa fails to provide me with a hot tub. Indeed, if I worked for VisitBritain, I would automatically refuse five-star ratings to any establishment that lacks one.

My favourite get-away ever was to an all-inclusive in Mexico, which had a hot tub in each bedroom. IN. EACH. BEDROOM. Who needs booze?

Illustration of Mann in a hottub while being given an unimpressed look by his wife

I know they’re "naff," but this strikes me as try-hard snobbery, like pretending to dislike Dairy Milk.

Bubbles + heat = pleasure, simple as that, and it baffles me that saunas are considered to be serious and sexy and Swedish—whereas actually they’re stifling, shallow-breathing torture chambers—while hot tubs (champagne for the skin!) are derided as vulgar and gauche and obscene, as if somehow we’re all supposed to deny the pure truth that it feels awesome to be vibrated around in a whirlpool of warm soapy suds (so long as you can supress any suspicion you have about what else might be floating about in there…)

"I know they’re "naff," but this strikes me as try-hard snobbery, like pretending to dislike Dairy Milk"

Despite my ardour, hot tubs have always seemed to me a strictly "holiday" phenomenon. It’s not that I wouldn’t want one at home, of course—it’s just that it’s not particularly practical at my property.

I have fantasised about it, in the same way I’ve dreamed up a daily itinerary if I lived in a Marbella mansion: breakfasting on fresh fruit prepared for me by my personal chef on my sun terrace, followed by a massage in the afternoon, before a Spanish guitarist accompanies my pre-dinner cocktails… but all of that would feel faintly ridiculous at my three-bed semi in Hertsmere.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t made this last point plain to my closest friends, who recently all clubbed together for my 40th birthday to surprise buy me… a hot tub.

This was presented as a fait accompli, at my birthday party—the tub having been chosen, ordered, and winging its way to me (it took six weeks to arrive. It’s amazing how popular hot tubs suddenly became in Lockdown #3. I imagine this was a reaction to all that Joe Wicks stretching-on-the-sofa stuff in Lockdown #1). 

I tried to appear gracious, but there were a couple of panicked thoughts darting around my head as soon as the gift was revealed. Firstly, price.

It is of course theoretically delightful to get together and buy your mate a £350 gift rather than a load of £50 gifts, but the bottom line is the hot tub of my dreams is a £10k job, so in my heart I knew this wasn’t going to be it. This would be like drinking Aldi Baileys at Christmas.

"We do have a front lawn, but even I—hot tub devotee that I am—would not want to greet the milkman in my Speedos"

Secondly, where would I put it? I could well understand why my friends, who only visit my property occasionally, might have thought, he’s got a back garden, problem solved.

But they wouldn’t have twigged that the garden is subtly sloped—hardly ideal for any bathing-based activity—and that all four corners of it are already allocated to something else: namely, an apple tree, garden shed, chicken hutch and patio seating area.

It was hard to imagine enjoying the full hot-tub experience with either a roasting hot BBQ leaning on it, or the smell of chicken faeces wafting by (no match, to be sure, for that Sardinian eucalyptus).

We do have a front lawn, but even I—hot tub devotee that I am—would not want to greet the milkman in my Speedos.

Hot tub next to a lake

My most pressing concern, though, was, how am I going to get this past my wife? Having a hot tub was MY dream, after all, not hers. She doesn’t especially like hot tubs. And she is notably nervous about the safety of our toddler son, Toby.

"When the hot tub arrived, we inflated it (yes, it was a blow-up one—what did you expect for £350?)"

This last point turned out to be the clincher. When the hot tub arrived, we inflated it (yes, it was a blow-up one—what did you expect for £350?) and experimented with the child-proof clasped lid included in the kit.

And—well, it didn’t seem entirely child-proof. It was all too easy to imagine Toby (one of those kids who’s always sticking his hands into drawers, jumping on to tables and climbing into crannies) leaning on the side of the inflatable wall, getting underneath the lid and—not to put too fine a point on it—drowning.

So, the tub went up into the loft, where it will remain until Toby is four years old, and the summer weather is favourable, and/or we extend our garden considerably. When that happens, though, it will be EPIC.

Despite everything, it was a really thoughtful gift from my friends, and I will, one day, invite them for a hot-tub party! Perhaps for my 50th? 

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